With the 2021 NFL Draft one week away, the Philadelphia Eagles find themselves needing to address several positions. Once again, the wide receiver position needs to be upgraded. Lucky for them, there is a loaded draft class at the position, with players like Jaylen Waddle, Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith destined to be high first round picks, followed by Terrace Marshall Jr. and Rashod Bateman in the later half of the first round. The team’s cornerback group needs a major upgrade, and they are in position to take one of Patrick Surtain II or Jaycee Horn, the top two cornerbacks in the draft. Either of these positions can and should be addressed in the first round, and you can’t really argue otherwise. There is one position that you can argue shouldn’t even be thought of with using their first round pick, and that is the offensive line.
As the roster is currently constructed, the Eagles just have too much invested in their offensive line to afford to take a project pick or someone that will not be on the field immediately. The 12th overall pick needs to be an impact player and start for the team Week 1 of 2021. If they take an offensive lineman, that won’t happen.
Let’s just look at the team as it currently is. Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata are going to be one of your starting left tackles in 2021. A first round pick was already used on Dillard, who has had an underwhelming start to his career. Mailata has the chance to be the starter in 2021 and beyond, and if he performs well he’s going to become expensive, as he enters the last year of his rookie contract. Isaac Seumalo is a quality starting left guard who has the chance to become the heir apparent to Jason Kelce when he retires. Picking either of those guys replacements at 12 doesn’t make sense for 2021. Brandon Brooks is an All-Pro guard when healthy. Yes, he is coming off of another Achilles tear, but he’s too good and too expensive to move off of after 2021. Lane Johnson rounds out the starters as the most expensive of the group, and he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. A reasonable dead cap hit release for Johnson isn’t until 2024, and even though he has to remain healthy as well, he is one of the best at his positions.
When you look at the group as a whole, they’ve found a way to get great value and production out of their later round guys. Mailata was a seventh round former rugby player who played no meaningful snaps until 2020, and he held his own and earned the starting left tackle job. Nate Herbig was a UDFA and became a decent starter when thrown into action. Jack Driscoll was a fourth round pick who showed nice flashes of being a solid depth piece at the tackle position. Even Big V, when he was here he was a fifth round pick who filled in amazing for Jason Peters at left tackle during the 2017 season. It’s a credit to Jeff Stoutland above everything else, but the Eagles tend to find great value with offensive lineman in the later rounds of the draft.
The talent at the top of the offensive lineman position is not debatable. Guys like Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater and Alijah Vera-Tucker are going to make teams very happy with their play. As nice as it would be to add one of those players, it would really be a luxury pick for the future, and that is not what this team needs right now.
The Philadelphia Eagles need players who will step on the field as a starter Week 1 of the 2021 season. Drafting an offensive lineman 12th overall will not accomplish that, and it will ignore every other major position of need the team has for 2021 and beyond.