This is the first in a series of features looking at what some NFL teams might do with their first-round picks in the 2021 draft.
After making the playoffs in each of their previous three seasons, that streak came to a screeching half for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020. They finished 4-11-1. Injuries and poor play contributed to their disappointing season and to cap it all off, they fired head coach Doug Pederson. Currently holding the sixth overall pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, the Eagles have an opportunity to bring in an impact player right away at one of many key positions.
Some quick history. The following are the last five years’ worth of first-round draft picks for the Eagles:
- 2020: Jalen Raegor (WR)
- 2019: Andre Dillard (OT)
- 2018: No first-round pick
- 2017: Derek Barnett (DE)
- 2016: Carson Wentz (QB)
This year’s No. 6 pick will be Philadelphia’s highest draft pick since they traded up in 2016 to draft Wentz.
The following players mentioned below are players who could possibly be on the move, either through trade or being cut due to their 2021 cap hit (age in parentheses):
- Carson Wentz (28)
- Zach Ertz (30)
- Alshon Jeffery (30)
- Brandon Graham (32)
- DeSean Jackson (34)
With a pick this high in the draft for the first time in years, it will be crucial for Philadelphia to find a difference maker. Philadelphia has plenty of options. Below are some of the directions we can see them going:
Possibility #1: Alabama WR DeVonta Smith
2020 stat line: 13 games, 117 receptions, 1,856 yards, 23 TDs, 15.9 ypc
Why: DeVonta Smith was one of multiple Alabama underclassmen from 2019 who returned to school looking to improve their draft stock as well as get another opportunity at a national championship. Smith did both.
Philadelphia hasn’t had a wide receiver eclipse 600 receiving yards in either of their last two seasons. Smith dominated an all-SEC schedule this season and showed the ability to be a team’s No. 1 receiver at the next level. His only knock: at 6-1, 175, there could be durability concerns. Outside of that, Smith was dominant. Some would question the idea of taking a receiver with back-to-back first-round picks, but Smith would instantly become Philadelphia’s most talented receiver.
Possibility #2: LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase
2019 stat line: 14 games, 84 receptions, 1,780 yards, 20 TDs, 21.2 ypc
Why: Ja’Marr Chase’s 2019 season was arguably better than DeVonta Smith’s 2020 season. Even more impressive, Chase’s 2019 was accomplished while he was 19 years old. Chase was one of many players across the country who opted out of the 2020 season and prepare for the NFL draft and combine.
Chase and Smith are the top two wide receivers in this draft and for good reason; they both had a season in which they were the most dominant receiver in the country. Chase was the best receiver on his team in 2019, an impressive feat considering his team included 2020 first-round pick Justin Jefferson, who set the NFL rookie receiving yards record with 1,400 yards this season. It will be important for Chase to show scouts he improved during his time away from the college game; with the NFL combine getting cancelled, his pro day will be ever more important. But same as Smith, if Chase is drafted by the Eagles, he immediately fills a need at the WR position and becomes the best player at that position on their current roster.
Possibility #3: Penn State LB Micah Parsons
2019 stat line: 13 games, 109 tackles (59 solo), 14 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 5 passes defensed, 4 forced fumbles
Why: Parsons was another player who opted out of the 2020 college football season to prepare for the NFL draft and combine. Parsons was phenomenal in 2019, showcasing the ability to be a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker as well as having the athletic ability to be a three-down defender.
Parsons is another talented player who would immediately fill a position of need for the Eagles. Philadelphia’s inside linebackers were often injured this season and when they were healthy they weren’t particularly impressive. Parsons’ playmaking ability and ability to cover tons of field due to his athleticism would fill another hole on the Eagles’ roster and he would also immediately become the Eagles’ most talented player at the position.
Possibility #4: Florida TE Kyle Pitts
2020 stat line: 8 games, 43 receptions, 770 yards, 12 TDs, 17.9 ypc
Why: Kyle Pitts was the most dominant player for Florida’s offense this season. There was a huge difference in the way their offense performed when he was on the field compared to when he wasn’t. With the Eagles possibly moving on from Zach Ertz, drafting Pitts would then give them another talented young playmaker at the position to pair with Dallas Goedert. Philadelphia has had success with multiple tight ends and Pitts is more than just a tight end; he is a playmaker, something this offense desperately needs.