Any Given Thursday: Uncertainty At Top Makes Birds Draft Night Unpredictable
Updated: Apr 30
Following months of gathering information and closely examining every potential storyline and nugget in the lead-up, the 2021 NFL Draft is finally upon us. While the first couple of picks appear to be etched in stone, it's reasonable to anticipate that the often-unpredictable early stages will alter the complexion of the first round.
In an attempt to navigate through the inevitable chaos as it pertains to the Eagles, I outlined some scenarios to keep a watchful eye on.
Though the hours that remain between now and the commencement of the 2021 NFL Draft continue to dwindle, several factors that must be taken into account.
For starters, the Carolina Panthers represent the great unknown with the No. 8 pick following the Sam Darnold trade. Rather than pouncing on a signal-caller, the Panthers find themselves in prime position to revive their barren cornerback room with a blue-chip talent, such as Alabama’s Patrick Surtain or South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn. Conversely, perhaps head coach Matt Rhule opts to fortify the trenches and zeroes in on versatile offensive lineman Rashawn Slater. Either way, Carolina is poised to weaken the talent pool for Philadelphia, barring something unforeseen.
Next up, we have the Denver Broncos. Prior to the mid-week trade in which the Carolina Panthers shipped quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to Denver in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick, the Broncos figured to be among the team’s most primed to select one of the premier passers. Adding Bridgewater shouldn’t alter those plans, but the 28-year-old represents a stabilizing veteran presence who can effectively bridge the gap in the interim. Without a glaring need at quarterback, the Broncos and linebacker Micah Parsons appear to be the perfect marriage, should Parsons be available. With Von Miller and Bradley Chubb bearing down on the outside, Parsons’ athleticism can be fully maximized patrolling the middle of the field.
Denver added Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby to the secondary in free agency, and this particular class lacks a pass rusher worthy of a top-10 selection.
If you’re keeping score, that eliminates two potential draft targets for Philadelphia, with a third likely coming courtesy of the division rival Dallas Cowboys, who currently hold the No. 10 pick. As putrid as Dallas has been on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the secondary, a prominent reinforcement could be on the way.
Sure, the Cowboys selected cornerback Trevon Diggs in the second round last year, but another top corner could very well fall into Jerry Jones' lap, providing far too much value to pass on.
While these scenarios are far from a certainty, the Eagles must have a sound tactical approach for Thursday night.
Move up, Move down?
If the Eagles hold firm at No. 12, there's a realistic possibility that both top corners, Surtain and Horn, are off the board. You can also make a convincing case for both Alabama pass catchers having already been selected.
So, assuming the Eagles are all-in on either of these cornerback prospects, they will likely need to leapfrog both Dallas and New York to confidently secure one. The two teams I have circled as potential trade partners are the Panthers and Broncos. On the latest ITB pod, Adam Caplan said the Lions, who pick seventh, have shown interest in trading down. The Panthers could be enticed with a Zach Ertz throw-in as their current tight end room of Dan Arnold and Ian Thomas is less than ideal.
Should the Eagles aim higher, it probably wouldn’t be for anyone other than offensive playmakers Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase, although the price could be too rich.
On the other hand, there’s always the chance the team isn’t thrilled with the value at No. 12 and suddenly becomes ripe for a trade-down. Perhaps a quarterback-needy team like the New England Patriots at No. 15 or the Chicago Bears at No. 20 will be inclined to fork over some ammo and trade spots with Philadelphia.
In this scenario, you'd have to ask: Who are options that would be of interest in that 15-20 range? Well, here's two who'd make a ton of sense:
Assuming the Eagles miss out on Surtain/Horn, the next corner on the board would be Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II. Newsome, a pre-draft riser, slots perfectly within that range and boasts the requisite skill set to make an immediate impact. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound cornerback has the frame and athleticism to defend myriad pass-catchers. The former Wildcat demonstrates terrific eye discipline and technique, utilizes his length and physicality to his advantage in narrowing throwing windows, and rarely panics. The primary knocks on Newsome are injury concern, experience (17 games), and limited takeaway production – one interception in three seasons – but the upside is undeniable.
The other is Michigan edge rusher Kwity Paye.
In a year that lacks a clear-cut top pass-rusher, Paye represents solid value in the mid-late first-round. Paye provides tremendous power and athleticism to the trenches, possesses exceptional lateral quickness, and often wins the leverage battle. Paye offers positional versatility, but I’m not sure he has the necessary traits to make a successful transition as a standup linebacker in a 3-4. Paye must develop a more detailed pass-rush tactic once his initial plan of attack is stymied. He also gets caught over-pursuing a bit too much for my liking and takes himself out of plays. Paye has the tools to be an impactful building block once he hones in on the finer nuances of the position, though I don’t regard him as a double-digit sack producer at the pro level.
–– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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