April 22, 2024   8 MIN READ

Tide Is Right

Birds Nab 'Bama OT First Round In Final Mock


The hay is all but in the barn.

Big boards are set, final evaluations are logged, and NFL scouts countrywide can only anxiously wait to see their arduous travel schedules and scouting reports come to fruition.

Additional housekeeping – such as cross-referencing the best contact numbers for prospects – are being confirmed.

Draft week is here.

With the Eagles controlled by Howie Roseman, executive vice president of football operations, the team is hardly averse to wheeling-and-dealing, moving up and down draft boards.

All eyes will be on the Eagles throughout the three-day event. Philadelphia, which currently holds eight total picks, will look to add to a roster in transition and will presumably get creative with its allocation of resources.

For this exercise, I’ve again avoided any hypothetical trade scenarios. Here’s my final Eagles-only mock draft of the season.

JC Latham

GETTY IMAGES: Alabama product JC Latham is a versatile offensive lineman who some project as a potential guard and tackle.

No. 22: JC Latham, OT, Alabama

After much deliberation, my instinct tells me the Eagles stick to the script, adding another young centerpiece to fortify the trenches. While I have Latham rated higher than 22, I’ve seen tackles get pushed down the board. Second-year lineman Tyler Steen is waiting in the wings to take over at right guard and deserves an opportunity to challenge for the role, but he didn’t look natural when pressed into duty as a rookie and is probably better suited to serve as a swing tackle. When you have the chance to land a premier talent, you gamble on the more likely probability with high-end traits.

Latham, a powerful, physical mauler with long arms – 35 1/8 inch and an 84 3/8 wingspan – moves surprisingly well for his size and carries his 340-plus pounds well. Toughness and durability should also be taken into account here, as Latham failed to miss a game over his three-year career in Tuscaloosa.

He’ll start at right guard – a position at which he logged some snaps earlier in his career – before eventually pivoting to right tackle whenever stalwart and mainstay Lane Johnson decides to call it a career.

Max Melton

ITB PHOTO: Former Rutgers CB Max Melton speaks to reporters after a standout showcase at the Senior Bowl.

No. 50: Max Melton, CB, Rutgers

The projected strength at the cornerback position within this range likely plays into the decision to bypass taking one in the first round, but the Eagles land my fifth-rated player at the position in Melton. Eagles new defensive backs coach Christian Parker took a first-hand look at Melton at Rutgers’ pro day last month, even leading the on-field portion of the workout.

Like he did during his head-turning Combine showing, Melton showcased his explosion and agility. Melton also visited the NovaCare Complex earlier this month. The former Scarlet Knights standout – who at his pro day referred to himself as the “most versatile player in the draft” – offers inside-outside versatility, though he projects as a Day 1 starter at nickelback.

Melton, who clocked a 4.39 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, provides speed, ball skills, the ability to flip his hips, and plenty of feistiness. Notably, Melton also takes great pride in his special teams coverage, far from commonplace in regard to top prospects.

No. 53: Ben Sinnott, TE, Kansas State

If their recent history is any indication, the Eagles are likely to begin grooming an heir apparent to Dallas Goedert in the not-so-distant future. They did in 2013 – when Brent Celek was climbing in age – by selecting Zach Ertz with the No. 35 pick. And when Ertz eventually became the elder stateman, Goedert was selected with the No. 49 pick in 2018.

Well, Goedert turns 30 before this season’s end, so this feels like a spot where the forward-thinking Eagles will expedite the process. Sinnott, a former walk-on who started 28 of the 38 games in which he appeared, accounted for 82 receptions for 1,138 and 10 touchdowns over his Wildcats career.

Sinnott is a fluid-mover with soft hands and excellent body control, thriving most in the short-to-intermediate levels of the field. Should be the second tight end off the board.

Cedric Gray

GETTY IMAGES: North Carolina product Cedric Gray is the kind of athletic linebacker the Eagles need.

No. 120: Cedric Gray, LB, North Carolina

Gray never logged an official visit with the Eagles – his mid-April 30 visit was cancelled, per a source – but the Tar Heels product checks off most of the boxes that typically match the team’s criteria. Gray (6-1, 234) demonstrates exceptional instincts, is very good at keying and diagnosing plays, and boasts above-average range.

Gray’s aggressive tackling prowess and urgent pursuit was consistently evident as well. He also offers extensive special teams experience. The Eagles have added some pieces at the position in free agency, enough so that Gray could be eased in situationally as a rookie, while building his play strength and refining his intriguing box of tools. For reference, Gray is my fifth-rated off-ball linebacker in this class.

No. 161: Evan Williams, S, Oregon

The word I got is that the Eagles have an early Day 3 grade on Williams, whom the team met with at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine while also being on hand for Oregon’s Pro Day. But an opportunity to nab Gray, who could potentially come off the board late Day 2, was too tempting to pass up.

Williams (5-11, 200) is an instinctive, versatile defensive back who can play both safety spots and nickel. The appeal likely stems from Williams’ ranginess, positional versatility and high-level football intellect – all hallmarks and characteristics shared by most Vic Fangio defensive backs. Think sub-package contributor, core special teamer as a rookie.

No. 171: Leonard Taylor III, DT, Miami

Fair or not, it’s the Eagles’ second- and third-year defensive tackles – Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis, repsectively – who are likely to fall under the most intense scrutiny entering 2024, especially in the wake of Fletcher Cox’s retirement. Assuming the duo performs to standard, the depth beyond fourth-year pro Milton Williams is razor-thin.

Perhaps Fangio has a plan for Marlon Tuipulotu, or maybe Moro Ojomo is primed to take a major sophomore leap. While the Eagles could use a veteran to fill out the room, they’d be doing standard operating procedure by looking for another prospect in the defensive trenches.

Taylor (6-3, 303), a three-year team captain and 2023 first-team All-ACC recipient, is active and powerful and the point of attack, though his over-aggression sometimes works against him. The 21-year-old appeared in 52 games (39 starts), collecting 12 career sacks, 25 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles.

Jha'Quan Jackson

GETTY IMAGES: If they’re feeling the need for speed, the Eagles can look to Tulane WR product Jha’Quan Jackson on Day 3.

No. 172: Jha’Quan Jackson, WR, Tulane

A source confirmed that the Eagles have shown considerable interest in the Tulane speedster throughout the pre-draft process. While slight in stature (5-9, 188 pounds), Jackson is twitched-up, electric in space and an delivers turbo-charged acceleration.

His speed and lethal after-the-catch acumen would, in theory, present unique challenges to opposing secondaries, where he could do damage as a move player and vertical slot. Jackson, who totaled 1,743 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns over five seasons, averaged 16 yards per catch for his career.

Dylan Laube

No. 210: Dylan Laube, RB, New Hampshire

The splashy addition of Saquon Barkley in free agency considerably diminishes the need to supplement the running back position any earlier. In this scenario, the Eagles finish things off with a bang.

Laube, 24, fits the bill of a third-down back at the next level. A compactly built 5-foot-9, 206 pounds, the former New Hampshire standout presents a differing dimension to the Eagles’ backfield. He’s a natural pass-catcher both from the backfield and in the slot, and has a really good feel for zone runs.

Laube also demonstrates notable decisiveness and power when getting north and south and has enough juice to break off chuck plays when he finds a crease. What’s more, the veteran running back comes equipped with inherent intangibles.

“He was a great captain for us this season vocally and leading by example,” Laube’s former runnings back coach, Thomas Herron, said in an email to ITB.

“He worked as hard as anyone I’ve been around and brings people along with him. He lived in the weight room throughout his time here. From a game preparation standpoint, he was great. We threw a ton on his plate from a personnel aspect to the point where he was learning the game plan from a WR perspective as well as from an RB perspective. He was detailed with his notes and was always in the office with us watching extra tape.”

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

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