The 2019 NFL Draft is now in the books and its time to recap the Philadelphia Eagles draft haul and assign a preliminary grade.
As a sports writer and enthusiast, I have always found it extremely difficult to rate these players before they ever set foot on an NFL field. However; its easy to provide an early opinion and grade the picks based on where players were expected to be drafted.
Lets face it, the NFL is a totally different ballgame than college football. Draft experts are like meteorologists...there are plenty of them and they are generally wrong more than they are right.
The NFL Draft, like all other sports drafts is a crapshoot. However; the importance of the NFL draft has increased over the years and has become more vital in a salary cap league. Teams that have mastered the draft generally have success in the NFL. One team that has aced this process is the New England Patriots who have become the ultimate dynasty in sports.
The Eagles on the other hand have had mixed success at drafting players. Howie Roseman is undoubtedly one of the best GM's in the NFL; however, he has struggled when it comes to evaluating talent. In fact, it was this reason that led the organization to bring in Joe Douglas to assist Roseman in the draft process and constructing the roster.
The Eagles entered the 2019 draft with seven picks. In past seasons, the Eagles showed an affinity for a "draft for need" mentality as opposed to drafting the best player available on the board. This year, Howie made it known that the team would try and take the best players available when making their picks.
Well, with the 25th pick, the Eagles did not expect certain players to be available when their number was called at 25. One of these players was offensive tackle Andre Dillard. Andre Dillard is a left tackle who played at Washington State. Dillard was pegged by most top draft experts as one of the best offensive tackles available and many had him going in the top ten picks. In fact, a few draft experts and teams even had Dillard going in the top 5.
When Dillard began to fall, the Eagles began to tell themselves that they could have a shot. As many teams tried to take advantage of the depth at Defensive End and Tackle, Dillard continued to fall. At this point, Roseman decided to strike and he made a trade with Baltimore to acquire the 22nd pick. The Eagles traded the 25th pick along with a 4th and 6th round pick to leapfrog the Houston Texans, who were reportedly ready to draft Dillard.
By taking Dillard with the 22nd pick of the first round, the Eagles chose to draft their left tackle of the future who will be Jason Peters eventual replacement. It is no secret that the Eagles need to protect their franchise quarterback. In fact, keeping Wentz healthy may be the most important aspect for the franchise moving forward. Drafting Andre Dillard was a huge step in that process.
Andre Dillard was one of the top offensive line prospects and he is undoubtedly the best pass protector of the draft class. Dillard is also one of the most athletic tackles of the group which bodes well for him developing as a run blocker. While playing in Washington's air raid offense in college, Dillard did not have much exposure to run blocking but everyone agrees that he has the skill to develop that talent.
So, I give the Eagles an A+ for their first pick. Dillard is a top ten talent that fills their need of protecting Carson Wentz's blindside for many years to come. Left Tackle may be one of the hardest positions to fill in a roster and the Eagles believe they have a future all pro. With Jason Peters being 37 and close to retirement, the Eagles can now relax and concentrate on the rest of their roster.
The Eagles went in to day two holding two picks in the second round. Many experts speculated that the Eagles may take a running back with one of those two picks. Coming into the draft, many people had linked the Eagles to Josh Jacobs. Jacobs was viewed by most as the top running back available in the draft. However; the Raiders selected Jacobs in the first round so that scenario was no longer in play.
Needless to say, the Eagles did select a running back with their first second round pick. With the #53 pick, the Eagles drafted Miles Sanders (RB) from Penn State. The local kid who played his high school games in Pittsburgh, was viewed as one of the top running backs in the draft. In fact, once again the Eagles were shocked that he was still around when their pick was called.
Miles Sanders was the backup for Saquon Barkley for two years before starting last year at Penn State. Sanders is a 3 Down back that has major upside. He still has a ton of tires on his tread as well. One player that Sanders is comparable to coming out of college is LeSean "Shady" McCoy. Ironically, McCoy was the last running back to be drafted this high by the Eagles at you guessed it...Pick #53.
I give the Miles Sanders pick an A. Sanders may have been the second back taken but I believe that he has the most upside and he has a chance of being a star in the league. I think the Eagles nailed the pick and by doing so addressed a major need in the backfield.
I must say, the Eagles third pick had me scratching my head at first. With the #57 pick, the Eagles selected Stanford WR JJ-Arcega Whiteside. When I first heard the pick, my first thought was John Harris. Ughhhhh….Another reach here folks. But my opinion quickly changed when I switched over to YouTube and cranked out some highlights.
JJ-Arcega Whiteside is a huge body receiver that has surprising speed. The player comp that continues to ring true is Mike Evans and Alshon Jeffery. If JJ is even close to those two players, then this pick was an absolute steal. Whiteside is considered a red zone beast that can create matchup nightmares all over the field. My first grade for the pick is a strong B.
After going offensive heavy in the first three picks, the Eagles chose to finally address the defensive side of the ball. With the last pick of the fourth round, the Eagles selected another Penn State player, Shareef Miller. Miller is an edge rusher that can play either defensive end or tackle. Miller is a versatile defensive lineman that has strength and a high motor.
The 2019 draft was one of the deepest drafts as far as defensive line talent and Miller is a middle of the pack player. All of the top guys went off the board quickly in the first two rounds. Players like Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Clelin Ferrell, Brian Burns, and Montez Sweat were long gone by the time the Eagles were making this pick.
One local expert had an interesting player comp today...Ross Tucker called Shareef Miller "a poor man's Michael Bennett." Miller's ability to play multiple positions just like Bennett gives him a chance to be a key contributor for the Eagles defense. I don't know much more about Miller but I did watch some highlights and love what I see.
I give the Miller pick a B- grade. I wanted Montez Sweat coming into the draft but understand it was more important to get an offensive tackle to protect Wentz. With that in mind, and knowing that the Eagles did not reach for either of their second round picks, getting the next best defensive edge rusher with the fourth round pick was a solid addition.
Their final pick of the draft was Clayton Thorson in the fifth round. Once again, not a name that I was familiar with. Thorson is somewhat of a project but he does have size and athleticism, something the Eagles value with their quarterbacks.
One analyst did say that the Eagles probably give Thorson his best chance of success. Playing behind Carson and under Doug Pederson should give Clayton a chance of becoming a decent back up quarterback in the NFL. I am going to give this player a C grade with the chance of becoming a B if and when he becomes a solid backup.
So overall, I give the Eagles a B+/A-. Of course, only time will tell if these players are a hit or miss. I do think that the Eagles not only got the best players available on their board, but also players that can come in and be key contributors right away. So for that, I am extremely happy with the results of the draft and am looking forward to see these guys hit the field.
Dillard and Sanders have a shot at being stars in the league. Whiteside could be the sleeper of the draft. Miller will definitely be part of the Eagles defensive line rotation. And Thorson has potential to be Carson's backup. If you have not already done so...go to you tube and pop on some highlights of all of these players. Especially Sanders and Whiteside. I promise you it will give you chills.
Cant wait for training camp folks! Until then...#FlyEaglesFly!