After their loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16, the Eagles were simultaneously eliminated from playoff contention and secured a top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The questions now arise -- "What is the team's biggest need?", "Who is the best player on the board?" and the last question that needs to be asked, "Who do we want to build around"?
The Eagles struggled to find a sense of consistency with any of their players this season. They have shown time and time again that they don’t have enough elite talent to allow them to be a team that is feared. Carson Wentz’s future is up in the air now with the organization given his horrid outings with the Eagles this season, and with Jalen Hurts passing the eye test in the few games he started, he very well could take over as the Eagles franchise quarterback. With so much uncertainty within their roster, I’m here to look at a few players they could target to gain the consistency the team needs, and improve their talent throughout the roster with just one pick.
Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Last year the Eagles used their top pick to take former TCU receiver Jalen Reagor. Reagor, who was my wide receiver seven last season, was taken above receivers like Chase Claypool, Denzel Mims, Tee Higgins, and the worst of all, Justin Jefferson. Their overall draft was pathetic and very unsettling for Eagles fans, and it hurt most scouts in their core. This offseason, they have a chance to turn this team around given the proper draft they truly need. They drafted Reagor who, regardless of being a bad-value pick, is now on their team and still offers a high-upside given his electric speed. They got their deep threat wide receiver #2, but they still need a wide receiver #1. Given their current positioning in the draft, there is a pretty good receiver likely on the board for them in Devonta Smith.
Smith has had a breakout season with Alabama and is currently my favorite for winning the Heisman Trophy. His unbelievable season has allowed him to be my #2 wide receiver in this year's draft, behind only LSU's Ja’Marr Chase. Chase, who I’m expecting to go before the Eagles' pick, is an elite talent that doesn’t come around too often, but Smith is not that far behind him. Smith went back to Alabama to display what he could do as the primary wide receiver now that Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy are gone. With Jaylen Waddle going down early on in the season with a devastating injury, Smith stepped up even more than he already was, and he didn’t disappoint the Roll Tide fans.
When breaking down his film, Smith was one of the most exciting players to watch in all of college football. The thing that stands out on film was his ability to play as a versatile receiver. Within the league, there are a lot of players that seem to be great route runners, but don’t offer the ability to play as a deep threat, or play as a possession receiver. Then there are other receivers who can come down with the ball with what seems like 70% of the time, but they can’t take the top off the defense and aren’t great route runners. There is a wide variety of things a receiver can be good at, but they aren’t always good at all three, but Smith is.
Multiple times I see him on film displaying great football IQ and understanding the defensive coverages as he finds a weak spot on zone coverage. His ability to understand what is in front of him, but yet still finds a way to make the most out of the simplest of plays, is what makes him so extraordinary. There aren’t many guys who can transform a team as a receiver, but Smith seems to be one of those guys with his ability to break a defense down through his route running ability to create separation, his ability to be a redzone threat with his ability to come down with the football, and his ability to take the top off the defense. He is a great receiver, and will no doubt succeed at the next level.
Wyatt Davis, IOL, Ohio State
Davis would be very valuable and could prove to be a savior to the Eagles. The former amazing offensive line of the Eagles has been handicapped with age and countless injuries. With the need to bring in new, young blood, Davis should be ready to turn an Eagle. Davis is my number one interior offensive linemen, and an offensive line-needy team like the Eagles can’t afford to pass on what he offers.
It is no secret to followers of the NFL draft that offensive linemen get pushed up the board, but with Davis, this is his true value. He is an all-around elite offensive line prospect with the ability to be a great pass blocker and a very good run blocker from the guard position. If selected by the Eagles, they would have a solid foundation to build upon with their line between him and Andre Dillard/Jordan Mailata. They are an aging offensive line, but selecting Davis would quickly change that narrative.
This past draft they brought in Prince Tega Wanogho, and the year before they drafted Andre Dillard, they also have developmental pick Jordan Mailata performing well at LT. They are trying to rebuild their offensive line, but I don’t predict that Prince will succeed at the next level given his raw technical ability. Davis offers the ability to stand with Dillard/Mailata and create a young strong threshold for protecting Hurts at quarterback, and offering Miles Sanders the holes he needs to become a franchise running back. Davis at Ohio State has shown what he can do for Justin Fields as a pass protector. Davis’ athleticism at the guard position is also shown, with his ability to get upfield and block in the run game. His balanced nature and what he offers a team looking to run a balanced offense would undoubtedly improve with the acquisition of Wyatt Davis.
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
One of the more noticeable holes on the current Eagles team is their secondary. Darius Slay did an okay job in his first year in Philadelphia, and he still has a couple more years in him to help the younger players develop. He can still an average cornerback #1 in the coming years, but they need to add new talent that can go in as a day one starter. Patrick Surtain has been a phenomenal cornerback for Alabama, and given what was shown on film, I don't expect anything less of Surtain.
He is a very fun cornerback to watch on his film, and for how young he is, it’s truly impressive. To think of the talent that he faced as a true freshman and sophomore, and how he is handling it with great poise, and mental toughness shows the mindset he has. Surtain is extremely athletic, which is not uncommon to find in cornerbacks nowadays, but what he is able to do with his god-given athleticism is uncommon. His athleticism is extremely impressive to see on film. It’s one thing to show off your attributes and intangibles at the combine, it’s another to do it on film and as a freshman and sophomore. He offers a lot of attributes that connect directly to his athleticism such as his play speed, strength, and his coverage ability.
His play speed was extremely fun to watch on his film. Watching his freshman year game tape against LSU, his assignment was to go against Ja’Mar Chase, and he played extremely tight coverage. He was able to hang with Chase, Justin Jefferson, and Terrace Marshall down the sideline with nothing but pure speed; he also showed toughness and strength at the line of scrimmage. His toughness was displayed from the very first play I watched when he pressed Chase at the line of scrimmage and made it difficult for Chase to release off the line. He showed excellent coverage ability in both man and zone coverage, however he definitely strives in man coverage over zone coverage. He shows extreme natural and fluid hips within man coverage which is what allows him to succeed and strive. He is quick on his feet and is able to keep his eyes on the quarterback while still keeping track of the receiver.
Playing the cornerback position as well as he does is rare to find. One aspect of his game I'd like to see improved upon is his tackling. He tackles with a weak hit and doesn’t wrap the opposition up in order to bring him down. He shows the ability to tackle in a few scenarios, but he does struggle a majority of the time. He reminds me of Greedy Williams out of LSU in 2019 -- lots of potential due to his athleticism, but he struggles with tackling ability and that’s going to be something to keep your eye on. Williams had the problem and it dropped his draft stock greatly due to that. However, Florida's C.J. Henderson had tackling problems, but he didn’t waiver and was the 9th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Surtain has a lot of potential, but I’d like to see him improve his tackling ability to increase his production on stops.
Surtain, Davis, or Smith would all be great gets for the Eagles given the help they need on their secondary, offensive line, and receivers. There is a lack of linebackers worthy of a top-10 pick this year, and with that, I expect them to look for a second round linebacker, but any of these players here would be a great addition.