April 1, 2024   5 MIN READ

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5 Draft Edge Options For Birds

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While the Eagles’ trade of sack artist Haason Reddick hardly sent shockwaves through the Delaware Valley, the finality of the move has initiated a ripple effect.

Sure, free-agent addition Bryce Huff is expected to give the unit a boost, but the former Jets edge rusher merely traded places with Reddick. He’s also a well-compensated projection who’ll  be undertaking an expanded role for the first time in his career.

And for all of second-year pro Nolan Smith’s promise and optimism , the 23-year-old hardly saw the field last year despite the glaring need for another pass rusher to step up and reduce the exorbitant snap share from Reddick and Josh Sweat. There are also durability concerns.

It’s also worth mentioning that Sweat, who wore down late in the season, is likely playing his final season with the Eagles. The same can also be said for Brandon Graham, now remarkably approaching his 15th NFL season.

Of the players mentioned, only Huff and Smith are under contract in 2025.

A forward-thinking franchise with a trench-driven philosophical approach – coupled with the same thin numbers which plagued the team last year – means selecting an edge rusher early shouldn’t be discounted.

Laitu Latu

GETTY IMAGES: Laitu Latu, an explosive EDGE product from UCLA, could be an early Eagles 2024 draft pick.

Taking into account the Eagles’ first three picks (22, 50, 53), I’ve listed five realistic options who could bolster the unit:

Chop Robinson, Penn State

Supremely athletic and bearing an enticing blend of otherworldly traits, Robinson remains among the more polarizing projected first-round picks. The twitched-up edge rusher failed to factor prominently into the stat sheet throughout his collegiate career, registering only 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss over three seasons.

Trepidation from clubs would certainly be warranted considering the investment, but if drafting with projection and refining and dialing in a freakish skill set is part of the forecast, it’ll be difficult to find a more intriguing, tools-laden pass-rusher mid-to-late first-round.

The technical aspects of the position – hand usage, formulating a pass-rush plan and evolving his rush repertoire – would be baked into the selection. But as part of a rotation, Robinson would be lethal while developing and honing his skill set. It’s also worth noting that Robinson visited the Eagles on a 30 visit in March. He would, in theory, add another fastball to a group in need of depth and long-term viability.

Laiatu Latu, UCLA

A debilitating neck injury nearly sidelined Latu indefinitely. He missed the entire 2020 season as a result, and team doctors refused to clear him the following season. Since then, however, Latu has garnered first-team All-Pac-12 Conference honors in consecutive seasons. He even earned the 2023 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

While no one’s short-changing Latu’s resume, medicals and age could be a deterrent for some teams. A slam-dunk first-round pick on talent, Latu (6-5, 260) is a crafty pass-rusher who wins in a multitude of ways and consistently showcases advanced hand usage.

Latu is a tough, relentless edge rusher who punishes opposing blockers. His ability to drop into coverage should also appeal to Eagles defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Latu probably comes off the board a tick before Robinson, but if the Eagles are to take a first-round pass rusher, it would presumably be between Latu and Robinson given where they sit at No. 22.

Darius Robinson

GETTY IMAGES: After a strong career at Missouri, EDGE prospect Darius Robinson has eyes on being a first-rounder in 2024.

Darius Robinson, Missouri

Robinson has the build (6-5, 285) and play strength to anchor and set the edge, though his build likely renders him scheme-specific. Boasting multi-alignment flexibility, Robinson kicked outside in 2023 after spending his first three seasons disrupting the pocket from the interior.

Showcases powerful, heavy hands and uses his length extremely well. While Robinson is still largely a work-in-progress as an edge rusher, the former Tiger offers traits, versatility and undeniable upside that cannot be taught and should hear his named called early into the second-round.

Adisa Isaac, Penn State

Isaac, the slightly-less heralded of the Penn State pass-rush contingent, currently slots in around the middle of the second-round. Isaac is a technical, high-effort defender who could stand to develop his play strength to hold up as an every-down player. While hardly as much of a projection as Robinson, Isaac also has some areas of which to refine, but could help a team right away as a sub-package player.

Marshawn Kneeland, Western Michigan

One of my favorite edge rushers in this class, Kneeland would smartly be a name to highlight on Day 2 should the Eagles bypass selecting a pass-rusher with their top pick. You wouldn’t know it looking at Kneeland’s modest resume of 12.5 sacks and 28 tackles for loss over 38 games, but his tape tells a vastly different tale.

Boasting prototypical dimensions (6-3, 267, 34-inch arms and a near-84-inch wingspan) and a wide-ranging skill set to fit a multitude of schemes, Kneeland is a dense power rusher perpetually on the attack who uses his leverage and short-area quickness to his advantage. The supercharged rusher relentlessly combats opposing tackles with violent hands and qualifies as multi-faceted, also playing the run well.

Kneeland’s stock has gradually been on the ascent since the Senior Bowl, and the Western Michigan pass-rusher has since comfortably catapulted himself from “sleeper” terrain early in the process, into the early Day 2 conversation. Kneeland will also reportedly visit Philadelphia for a 30 visit. He also met with the team at the NFL Scouting Combine.

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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1 Comment

  • Bill Petrick Jr.

    Forseeing that Vince Fangio will be switching to a 3/4 defense and that Jalen Carter will be one of the DEs.

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