Will Eagles Really Take LB in Round 1?
Tonight’s the night.
Despite the pandemic that’s taken sports away, there’s no stopping the NFL Draft from commencing tonight. It begins with the first round and carries through the weekend.
The last 24-to-48 hours has seen an all-out blitz of rumors, innuendo, speculation and reports about teams’ intentions and the fate of certain prospects.
The Eagles are slated to pick 21st in the first round. Here are some thoughts I have with just a few hours remaining before the start of the draft, observations based on discussions with league sources and personnel people – many of them familiar with the Eagles – over the past few weeks.
(Will Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray be the first inside linebacker drafted by the Eagles in the first round since Jerry Robinson in 1979?)
1. For the first time in a long time, I believe Howie Roseman is considering taking a linebacker in the first round. Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray would fit the ball. The Eagles do like him and believe he’s a superior talent.
As one personnel man who knows the franchise very well told me: the Eagles aren’t just looking for speed at receiver; they’re looking for it everywhere.
Still, I’m in the “believe it when I see it” camp, so I’ll remain skeptical about Roseman going linebacker in Round 1 until it happens. All of the top wide receivers would have to be off the board. Maybe 10 percent chance.
2. As I mentioned on the latest Inside the Birds TV, I believe at least three of these four prospects will still be around at 21: Brandon Aiyuk, Jalen Reagor, Kenneth Murray and K’Lavon Chaisson. If so, I believe one of them will be the Eagles’ first-round pick.
Along those lines, I’ve asked personnel people which receiver among the Aiyuk-Reagor-Denzel Mims trio is likeliest to be picked first. The feedback is that Aiyuk and Reagor are more likely to be first-rounders than Mims.
Reagor offers more perimeter explosion. Aiyuk has uncanny RAC skills, like a running back in the open field. Whoever goes first between Reagor and Aiyuk might just depend on what traits the picking team covets.
3. Unfortunately for Roseman, his second-round pick might have to be dictated by his first-round selection. If he takes any position other than wide receiver at 21 he’s then locked into taking a wide receiver in the second.
Ideally, you’d like to take your highest-rated players in every round, which is why it would be more beneficial for Roseman to get his coveted receiver in the first. Then he can be more flexible and judicious on Friday in Rounds 2 and 3 – perhaps linebacker and safety on Friday.
4. One final note on wide receivers: My sense is that this year’s class is elite based more on depth than otherworldly talent. It’s probably best to keep your expectations reasonable for whoever the Eagles pick and the class in general. There seems to be an asterisk attached to every receiver – Jerry Jeudy’s knee history, Henry Ruggs’ limited route tree, Justin Jefferson’s game speed, Brandon Aiyuk’s one-year breakout, Jalen Reagor’s production drop-off, and so on, and so on.
Most of the receivers fall into the category of “move Z” or “slot.” Very few have been labeled definitive “X.” Feels like the NFL will be chock full of some very good No. 2 and No. 3 receivers in the next few years.
5. Even though corner and safety are major developmental needs for the Eagles, the sense I’m getting is the Eagles aren’t likely to come out Round 1 with a player at either of those position. There’s a drop-off after the top corners, Jeff Okudah and C.J. Henderson, and there isn’t a safety expected to be there at 21 dominant that Roseman would take over a receiver or pass rusher. Xavier McKinney and Antoine Winfield Jr. aren’t going to trump Aiyuk, Reagor, Chaisson or Murray.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is a longtime Philadelphia Eagles and NFL reporter and co-host of Inside the Birds.
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