February 5, 2024   9 MIN READ

Sooner For Later

DiCecco: Birds Take OT Round 1


The all-star circuit is officially over, beckoning the dawn of the next phase in the months-long pre-draft process.

Much can be gleaned from these events that can’t be learned throughout the season – as reflected in big boards and mock drafts across the web – as prospects pinball up an down like a volatile stock market.

Some small-school prospects optimize the showcase, playing themselves onto the map and embedding themselves in the minds of evaluators.

The Eagles, who hold nine picks in April’s draft, have plenty of work to do in replenishing a flawed roster.

But circumstances such as these are typically when personnel chief Howie Roseman is at his best – and he’ll need to be to capitalize on a shrinking window of opportunity.

It’s important to note that it isn’t feasible for the Eagles – or any team – to address every shortcoming in one offseason. The team must answer some difficult questions in terms of free-agent retention before turning its attention solely to the 2024 NFL Draft.

Below is my first of four mock drafts this season for InsideTheBirds.com, with a reminder that there are no hypothetical trades included.

Here we go:

Tyler Guyton

GETTY IMAGES: Mammoth OT Tyler Guyton could be the heir apparent to Lane Johnson.

No. 22: Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma

There figures to be a wealth of enticing tackle prospects available when the Eagles are first on the clock. Sure, they have more pressing needs at other positions, and players will be available who could theoretically yield an immediate return on investment. But it would be difficult for the Eagles to bypass selecting the heir apparent to stalwart right tackle Lane Johnson, even though Guyton likely wouldn’t factor into the 2024 equation, barring something unforeseen.

Guyton (6-7, 328)  started nine games at right tackle last season for Sooners, earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors. The mammoth tackle, who originally began his collegiate career at TCU, is a nimble, fluid mover in space who packs a punch. Far from a finished product, Guyton would have the luxury of learning behind Johnson – the best in the business – while also absorbing the tutelage of renowned offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.

Guyton would be a crucial building block who’d grow alongside Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, and Cam Jurgens. The rich get richer, ensuring the Eagles won’t miss a beat up front.

No. 50 Ennis Rakestraw Jr., CB, Missouri

Perhaps the Eagles’ most high-priority offseason restoration project is rebuilding its much-maligned secondary, which often resembled a sieve in 2023. While first-year players such as Kelee Ringo and Eli Ricks offered long-term optimism – Ringo could find himself in starting contention this summer – the cornerback room is in dire need of a youth movement and bonafide playmaker.

The Eagles miss out on Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell, who should see his stock soar thanks to a show-stopping Senior Bowl by the time they are on the clock at 22. Alabama’s Terrion Arnold is also likely to be out of reach. Still, the Eagles stumble on tremendous value with their initial second-round pick in Rakestraw Jr., a plug-and-play starter.

One of my favorite cornerback prospects in this class, Rakestraw – sporting a relatively slender build (6-0, 188) is a technically savvy cover man offering an enticing blend of length, positional versatility, and range. But what jumps out when watching Rakestraw is his play recognition and high-level football IQ, traits that typically translate to prominent roles for first-year players.

His ball production was scarce at Missouri, just four turnovers in four seasons, but Rakestraw is the polished product needed to reinvigorate a beleaguered Philadelphia secondary.

Calen Bullock

GETTY IMAGES: USC product Calen Bullock conjures images of former Eagles S CJ Gardner Johnson.

No. 53: Calen Bullock, S, USC

The addition of distinguished defensive coordinator Vic Fangio likely forces team brass to go against the grain of their typical line of thinking, prioritizing positions such as safety and linebacker. The former is arguably the most crucial component in Fangio’s storied scheme. While the team needs two new starting safeties – I expect one to arrive via free agency – the urgency to add young, game-changing talent is further compounded with 2023 third-rounder Sydney Brown recovering from ACL surgery.

Bullock boasts a lengthy build (6-3, 190) and possesses the ball skills (nine interceptions), instincts, and range to defend tight ends and proficiently shore up the back end. Bullock’s play strength needs some work, but his intelligence and eye discipline – coupled with his physicality – suggest a moveable playmaker for Fangio.

Watching Bullock play recalled images of C.J. Gardner-Johnson in his ability to get his hands on the football and alter momentum. Pair Bullock with a notable veteran free-agent – Reed Blankenship would settle into a better-suited third safety role – and the Eagles will have remedied a longstanding shortcoming.

No. 97:  Trevin Wallace, LB, Kentucky

The second-round might be a little rich for the Eagles to go linebacker – even with players such as Edgerrin Cooper and Cedric Gray likely on the board – but they land a upside-laden fast-riser in Wallace. The two linebackers who finished the season as starters – Zach Cunningham and Nic Morrow – are free agents facing uncertain futures. With the position in need of an upgrade, Wallace (6-2, 240) bolsters a thin unit that includes just Nakobe Dean and Ben VanSumeren.

Wallace, a Kentucky product, sports the prototypical build for a Fangio linebacker, while providing physicality, lightning-quick closing speed, and exceptional tackling prowess. Wallace is a fast processor equipped with the sideline-to-sideline range to swarm to the football.

Though not quite as highly regarded as some of his contemporaries, Wallace’s script is beginning to flip, courtesy of a head-turning Senior Bowl. Sure, the unit will need an established veteran to start alongside either Wallace or Dean, but the contingent would be a major improvement.

No. 159: Isaiah Davis, RB, South Dakota State

The only running back from 2023 certain to return is Kenny Gainwell, and it’s unclear how new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore envisions roles for his backfield. Even if the team manages to retain D’Andre Swift, who rushed for 1,049 yards in his lone season in Philadelphia, it would be prudent to add a bigger-framed complement for balance and preservation purposes.

Davis (6-0, 220) is a decisive power runner adept at navigating traffic, finishing runs and keeping his legs churning. Urgent and explosive through the hole, he makes defenders pay. The former Jackrabbit isn’t equipped with home-run hitting speed – that role would be reserved for Swift or someone else – but he would provide a sorely-needed physical element at a low cost. He’ll need volume to optimize his effectiveness, but Davis would be a seamless fit.

Fabien Lovett

GETTY IMAGES: Florida State DT product Fabien Lovett would be another addition to the Eagles’ interior D-line.

No. 169:  Fabien Lovett, DT, Florida State

Given the team’s established philosophical approach, don’t be shocked if the Eagles double-dipped in the trenches. Veteran pillar Fletcher Cox, an all-time franchise great, is a pending free agent. Lovett (6-4, 318) would be a tremendous developmental addition at this spot, as the traits-laden prospect needs to work on his technique and consistency but could learn the ropes behind Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis, and Milton Williams.

Explosive get-off, heavy, active hands, and unrelenting motor are Lovett’s strongest assets. It’s worth noting that Lovett garnered rave reviews coming out of Shrine week. He missed time during the 2021 and ’22 seasons with shoulder and lower-leg injuries. Though likely not a three-down defender, the Eagles would add another impactful interior mauler.

No. 170: McCallan Castles, TE, Tennessee

The Eagles could stand to add some more competition to the tight end room. Fourth-year pro Jack Stoll is likely entrenched as the team’s resident blocking tight end, but he’s a restricted free agent. Beyond Stoll, the landscape is muddied. Grant Calcaterra and Noah Togiai round out the depth chart, but the need for another dependable pass-catcher to complement starter Dallas Goedert was woefully apparent in the games in which he was sidelined due to injury the past two seasons.

Like Stoll, Castles (6-5, 252) would give the Eagles another strong blocker and physical presence, but conversely, the former Tennessee Volunteer is the better athlete and much more of a threat as a pass-catcher, where he reeled in five touchdowns in his lone season in Knoxville.

No. 177: Joshua Cephus, WR, UTSA

With the  offense under newly appointed coordinator Kellen Moore, the Eagles will look to get more out of the team’s No. 3 wide receiver, which last season depicted a disjointed rotation of Quez Watkins, Julio Jones, and Olamide Zaccheaus.  The trio, all pending free agents, combined for just 36 receptions and 380 yards (6 touchdowns) on 60 targets. Third-year wide receiver/punt returner Britain Covey did positive things in his limited opportunities late in the season and his short-area quickness presents a different dimension that could help with spacing. Perhaps Moore taps into Covey’s skill set and gets him involved.

The Eagles also need to add to the room, and while it shouldn’t be a priority given the needs elsewhere, this is the point in the draft in which you bet on upside. I’ve watched quite a bit of Cephus (6-3, 185) and the Roadrunners over the years, and the big-bodied target was a frequent savior for quarterback Frank Harris. Cephus would give the Eagles a reliable target to threaten the intermediary levels with enough speed to threaten the seam. Very good on the move after the catch.

Cephus is a raw prospect with a skill set in need of refinement, but the talent is evident. Throw him into the mix and let him compete with the  Joseph Ngata, Austin Watkins Jr., Shaquan Davis, and Griffin Hebert.

Joe Milton

GETTY IMAGES: The Eagles could gamble a late-round flier on former Tennessee QB Joe Milton, who has enviable traits.

No. 188: Joe Milton, QB, Tennessee

With their final selection, the Eagles take a swing at a tantalizing developmental project with high-level traits to contend for a reserve role behind Jalen Hurts. A crash-course period with new quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier could work wonders in preparing Milton to push incumbent second-year signal-caller, Tanner McKee.

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

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1 Comment

  • Hasan

    I hate the idea of taking an OT this high this year. I understand the thought behind it but I hate it. Lane says he’s playing 2-3 more years so that OT will be on the bench wasting away when we can grab a player who’s going to immediately contribute. We can get a developmentmental OT in the 3rd round.