DiCecco's Draft Notes: Hurts Vs. The Field(s)
As the Eagles prepare to undergo an arduous roster reconstruction, team brass confronts a crossroads as it attempts to identify and develop young talent through the draft to ensure long-term success. While the No. 6 pick will surely be a hot-button issue over the next two months, I delved beneath to cover a multitude of topics in my draft notes.
The latest buzz surrounding the Eagles points to the possibility of investing premium draft capital on yet another quarterback.
From my vantage point, it's irresponsible to squander a prime opportunity to fix any of the other roster shortcomings – and there are several – with the No. 6 pick just to keep circling around for another year of quarterback musical chairs.
Jalen Hurts, who the team selected with the No. 53 pick merely 10 months ago, proved that he's capable of commanding an NFL huddle. Sure, the blemishes in his game were apparent and need to be refined for long-term success. But for a rookie playing the most scrutinized position in football – without an offseason, nonetheless – Hurts handled himself admirably.
While some rookie signal-callers struggle to find their footing in the early goings, Hurts demonstrated innate poise, leadership, and competitiveness almost immediately.
Several other variables contribute to the Eagles' dismal outlook in 2021, so it’s paramount the team prioritizes restocking the roster and building through the draft while allowing Hurts to develop under a new regime.
As intriguing as BYU’s Zach Wilson and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance might be as prospects, neither hardly classifies as “can’t miss." Justin Fields, who is decidedly superior to Hurts in nearly all facets, would be the only quarterback worth considering when the Eagles are on the clock. Fields is incredibly accurate with his ball placement and has a strong enough arm to make throws at all three levels of the field. He’s also far more mechanically sound than Hurts.
That said, general manager Howie Roseman can't afford to repeat the mistake he made with Carson Wentz. The best course of action is to add pieces around Hurts to give him the tools he needs to be successful before closing the book.
The 2020 NFL Draft provided a historically strong class of wide receivers, as a record 13 went in the first two rounds.
In 2019, the defensive line was considered the cream of the crop.
This year, however, it’s not quite as apparent. In fact, it figures to be fairly balanced across the board.
After an early run on quarterbacks, I suspect that cornerbacks like Caleb Farley and Patrick Surtain will round-out the top-10, followed by a healthy mix of offensive linemen and edge rushers.
If there’s one position Eagles fans can confidently rule out in the first round, it’s linebacker. However, there's no shortage of second-level talent in this class, so there will be opportunities to upgrade one of the league’s most uninspiring units.
Beyond blue-chippers Micah Parsons and Jeremiah Owusu Koramoah, the second- and third-round offers a wealth of talent.
Were it not for his slight build (6’0”, 232) Missouri’s Nick Bolton would be a surefire first-rounder. Still, while Bolton’s measureables underwhelm, his elite athleticism, instincts, and football IQ suggest he can become a Day 1 starter at MIKE linebacker. His downhill attack-style would seemingly fit perfectly in this new-look Eagles’ defense.
North Carolina’s Chazz Surratt, a converted quarterback, possesses high-level athleticism and tremendous range. He’ll thrive in pass coverage and his pass rush acumen is notable (12.5 sacks the past two seasons) but likely won’t be ready to bare the title of a three-down linebacker until he improves as a run defender.
Then there’s LSU’s Jabril Cox, a player I mocked to the Eagles at No. 70 in my Mock Draft 1.0. When assessing that next tier of linebackers, I personally have Cox rated higher than Surratt. Depending on how the remainder of the pre-draft process unfolds, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Cox earn second-round consideration. Cox fits the mold of the new-age NFL defender. He thrives in man and zone coverage, and can stick tight ends and running backs in coverage. His size (6’4”, 231), ability to flow sideline-to-sideline, and coverage prowess would be an ideal answer to defend the growing trend of hybrid tight ends and dynamic pass-catching running backs.
Also in my Mock Draft 1.0, Central Arkansas cornerback Robert Rochell was selected with the team’s final seventh-round pick. Rochell is immensely raw but has intriguing traits and plus ball skills. I’d be interested to see if defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and DB coach Dennard Wilson could help him realize his potential at the pro level.
Other small school players of interest…
Quinn Meinerz, OL, Wisconsin-Whitewater: Meinerz was unanimously regarded as a Day 3 prospect before the Senior Bowl, but like Ben Bartch last year, the Division III standout held his own against the nation’s best in Mobile, Ala. Meinerz dominated 1-on-1 drills and proved to be a mauler in the run game. Versatility is another selling point with Meinerz, who can play any position along the interior. He will likely settle in as a center at the next level.
Cade Johnson, WR, South Dakota State: Johnson combined for 139 receptions for 2,554 and 25 touchdowns between the 2018 and 2019 seasons. At 5-foot-10, Johnson projects as a slot in the NFL but can run a diverse route tree and provides more explosiveness than Greg Ward. Johnson is also remarkably refined as a route-runner and fearlessly attacks the ball in traffic.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.