The Eagles have drafted particular athletic testers over the last three years. Who fits their preferences in the 2021 class?
The Eagles made 10 picks in the 2020 draft. After all of those selections were made, I realized something about the class.
Eagles draft class (positional %ile of 40/vertical jump/broad jump)
Tega: Injured but he once ran a 4.64 in Jordans
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) April 26, 2020
Save for Shaun Bradley’s vertical jump, each Eagles draft pick had a 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and broad jump all of at least 60th percentile for their position. (Jack Driscoll, who I initially forgot in this tweet and added later, also hit all of these benchmarks.) 6 of their 10 selections were at least 90th percentile in the broad jump as well — elite numbers.
It’s tough to call all of that a coincidence. It was the Eagles’ first year with a heavy number of picks in the last few seasons, and Roseman himself called the draft a “retool” opportunity after a few years of heavy veteran investments. While 40 yard dashes get a ton of pub, and the Eagles were clearly prioritizing team speed altogether, jumps are arguably more important than the 40 itself, and reflect short-are explosiveness critical for trench play and open-field tackle breaking.
The Eagles’ interest in good jumpers isn’t fully restricted to the 2020 draft. Going back through the 2018 and 2019 drafts, the Eagles drafted with a focus on 40s and jumps, with just a few exceptions. In the 2019 class, Andre Dillard and Miles Sanders both hit every qualification, while J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Shareef Miller were only qualifiers on the 40 yard-dash, and Clayton Thorson (remember him?) didn’t test at all. In 2018, only Matt Pryor failed to pass the 60th percentile threshold in any metric (he failed all three), with Dallas Goedert not testing in the 40, and Jordan Mailata not testing on the jumps.
And in 2017? The last year in which the Eagles had a substantial number of picks? Not a single draft pick qualified in more than one of the three fields.
So this is a recent but meaningful shift to better athletes in terms of linear explosiveness and speed. We shouldn’t expect the Eagles to stick to it hard and fast, but it is interesting to filter through the names at each position that hit the required measurements, and see if we can winnow the deep pool of NFL players into smaller list of Eagles interest.
First, the target measurements. I filtered for 65th percentile on all of these lists, as Pro Day numbers tend to be a little friendlier, and all we’re using this year are Pro Day numbers, as there was no Combine. I used, as always, the Mockdraftable database to find the percentile figures across 20+ years of data. I should also thank Twitter user @alexkatson, a writer for Draft Rite, whose spreadsheet of Pro Day results I used for this class.
So these are our measures. Now the big question: who hits them?
Not the most athletic running back class by any means. The Eagles are a good candidate to take a middle round back, as Nick Sirianni’s offenses were heavily by committee, and even with the signing of Jordan Howard, the Eagles’ backfield remains fairly thin after Miles Sanders.
Chuba Hubbard is an interesting name. The Oklahoma State back was in the Heisman conversation in 2019 following a 328 carry, 2,094 yard, 21 touchdown season. His 2020 season was substantially worse, as he dealt with a backfield rotation, some health issues, and a generally worse offense. His stock has fallen this year, making him a potential bargain add.
Kene Nwangwu and Chris Evans were both not the primary ball carriers for their teams; Deon Jackson and Elijah Mithcell were in pretty even rotations. Maybe there are higher ceilings there, but you’d like your future NFLers to be clear bellcows at the college level.
Far more options for the Eagles at wide receiver, as the class is as athletic as ever. Interestingly, there are options at all three levels of the draft: Day 1, Day 2, and even late on Day 3. In that the Eagles need to add starting talent and depth to the position, all of these players are legit options.
Ja’Marr Chase is a qualifier for the Eagles’ measurements, which is worthy of note exclusively if Chase endures a Draft Day fall and the Eagles indeed execute their Top-10 trade up, which has only recently been rumored. It is also worth remembering that both Alabama WRs Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle did not test this season, so we don’t know whether they qualify for the Eagles interests. We can infer, however, that both are pretty doggone good athletes.
After Pick 12 comes and goes, the main names that flash are LSU’s Terrace Marshall, Florida’s Kadarius Toney, and Purdue’s Rondale Moore. The builds are absurdly different: Marshall is 6-foot-2 and 200+ pounds, while Moore is 5-foot-7 and 180 pounds, and Toney is decently in the middle at 193 pounds, a hair under 6 feet. But all are talented players who figure to go around Pick 38, the Eagles’ second-round selection. Marshall is a bit of a longer shot to go at that range, but the Eagles figure to love his vertical ability and flexibility; Moore should be around, but has injury concerns, and seems destined for slot play. I’d still prefer Moore as a route runner and natural catcher to Toney, who is a high school QB convert still raw for the NFL. The Eagles might have the same issues integrating him in Year 1 as they did integrating Reagor.
Iowa WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette is one of my favorite receivers in the class, and has the returner ability that the Eagles desperately need. He starts making sense in Round 4, as does Nico Collins, another top receiver recruit to Michigan who suffered under poor quarterback play with the Wolverines. Super late? Jalen Camp from Georgia Tech is an intriguing guy: only started playing football as a sophomore in high school.
The Eagles won’t go early at tight end, but don’t worry — there’s no way they were gonna take Kyle Pitts anyway, as he only jumped 33.5” in the vert. He needs 34” in the vertical jump to be good enough for the NFL.
In all seriousness: it isn’t the most athletic tight end class, but Quintin Morris out of Bowling State, Briley Moore from Kansas State, and Zach Davidson from Central Missouri are all fun Day 3 options. Davidson is a particularly entertaining option on Day 3: he both punted and played tight end for the Mules, and the Eagles do have an opening at punter after the release of Cam Johnston.
That’s a lot of tackles! The Eagles are likely to take an offensive lineman at some point, as they have long-term questions at center (Jason Kelce’s retirement), guard (Brandon Brooks’ health), and tackle (Lane Johnson’s health and Jordan Mailata’s talent). While it would be surprising to see them go there at 12, whereabouts Rashawn Slater figures to go, but as early as 38 overall it’s a reasonable expectation.
Texas’ Samuel Cosmi and North Dakota State’s Dillon Radunz could both be around at 38 as high-ceiling developmental options, while Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood and BYU’s Brady Christensen represent more pro-ready options given their college experience and current play. Leatherwood is viewed by some in the league as a guard convert, which may particularly interest the Eagles, who aren’t sure exactly how their offensive line will shake out over the next few years.
Interior Offensive Line
Just as there were plenty of tackle prospects, plenty of guard and center prospects stand out for the Eagles. The measurement thresholds are very close between tackle and guard, so view these prospects in a bucket with the tackle prospects to fill out the Eagles’ target list.
Kendrick Green from Illinois and Drew Dalman from Stanford are two of the most enticing Day 3 options in the media, and that testing from Green is particularly stunning. But two big-bodied guards from the SEC stand out: Trey Smith of Tennessee was a high caliber recruit who has some tackle versatility, but didn’t develop much with the Volunteers; Sadarius Hutcherson was a stout interior starter for the Gamecocks over three seasons who got better with each consecutive year. The Eagles love tackle-sized player at guard, and both of those guys fit the bill.
Interior Defensive Line
This list of athletes is of particular interest, as the Eagles seem unlikely to go early at defensive tackle in this draft. With Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave already in hand and Hassan Ridgeway on the depth chart, the Eagles should grab a developmental player, but only on Day 3 and no earlier. This list helps us define their targets.
There are a lot of sub-300 pounders on this list, and most of the 300+ guys, like North Carolina State’s Alim McNeill and Texas A&M’s Bobby Brown III will go early on Day 3, if not on Day 2. With that said, Jonathan Marshall has some hype as a worthy developmental gamble, so if size remains a priority, I’d imagine he’s the ideal target. If length is the goal instead? Check Mike Boykin from North Alabama and Marquiss Spencer from Mississippi State.
The last time the Eagles took an early EDGE, it was Derek Barnett, who failed to hit the goal metrics and has been a bit of a disappointment at 14 overall; in next year’s draft, they grabbed Josh Sweat, who’s coming along nicely as a pass rusher after testing in the 90th percentile across the board. Given the EDGEs drafted in Indianapolis during Jonathan Gannon’s tenure there (Ben Banogu and Kemoko Turay) and the lessons learned between Barnett and Sweat, I’d be surprised if that priority on athleticism has changed.
It is worth immediately highlighting Kwity Paye, who has been of rumored interest for the Eagles at 12 overall. Paye qualifies for the Eagles’ athletic thresholds at 260+ pounds, so check that box for Paye’s chances of filling the Eagles’ draft slot. Other potential early-drafted edges, like Miami’s Jaelan Phillips, Penn State’s Joseph Ossai, and Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham also hit the marks. Pretty much the only early EDGE who doesn’t hit their thresholds is Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, who only missed on the vertical jump.
Later, there are two more developmental EDGEs from Florida State that could be of interest to the Eagles: Joshua Kaindoh and Janarius Robinson (my preferred of the two). They have the testing, but also the necessary size to play with their hand in the dirt. If the Eagles defense is working to a lighter archetype, like that used in Indianapolis, then Penn State Shaka Toney has pro ready rush moves.
Goodness, the Eagles could use a linebacker. Everyone knows they’re not going to take an early one, of course — but hopefully they’re at least willing to take a Day 2 player. And at this position, athleticism should be prioritized, as they’ve suffered for poor athletes in the middle for too long.
I’m a big fan of Pete Werner from Ohio State, who has great coverage work at the college level — he’d likely cost at least 70 overall, the Eagles’ first third round pick. Purdue’s Derrick Barnes could also be there as a bigger, more versatile option with experience playing on the line of scrimmage. He’s more of a SAM linebacker — something the Eagles are lacking on the current set-up with Eric Wilson and T.J. Edwards as the starters.
I’m not sure how he’d fit on the defense, but I love Jarell White from Cincinnati. Glue guy.
Cornerback, like wide receiver, is an important position for these lists, as the Eagles can go both for starters and depth on all three days of the draft. This list isn’t as deep, which helps us narrow our scope on where they might hit their targets.
Both Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain qualify here, which doesn’t help us with the debate of who the Eagles want at 12 (or with a trade up). If they miss out on corner in Round 1, Georgia’s Eric Stokes is the best option at 38. Round 3 is disturbingly thin, as almost everyone remaining on the list is considered a Day 3 pick at best. Looking at this list gives me more confidence that the Eagles go cornerback with one of their first two picks.
Robert Rochell of Central Arkansas has been a small-schooler of big NFL interest for multiple seasons now, and BYU’s Chris Wilcox is an ideal scheme fit with his background in zone coverage and excellent tackling with the Cougars. I’d personally want to steer clear from Florida’s Marco Wilson. He’s the guy who threw the shoe that lost Florida the game against LSU.
And here at safety, we have the lightest list of all. I’m not sure why it’s such a small group this year of athletes, but most of the top safeties missed on the 40-yard dash: Ar’Darius Washington, Trevon Moehrig, and Richie Grant all missed on the 40, while Oregon’s Jevon Holland was just short on the vertical jump.
With Rodney McLeod, Anthony Harris, and K’Von Wallace all in hand, the Eagles don’t have to go after a safety early. But given how well the Colts defense drafted and developed safeties (Khari Willis, Julian Blackmon), it’d be nice to see them add a middle-round guy to the group to potentially beat out the veterans.
I love both of the Cinci safeties. Wiggins has an injury history that may push him to Day 3, but he’s more of a box/slot player, while Forrest is the more natural single-high safety, so who they target depends on what they want. I was stunned to see Texas’ Caden Sterns test this well, and off his film, I don’t really know if I would draft him.