Grading the Eagles 2021 Draft Class


The Philadelphia Eagles draft class is full of talent and questions. Each player is individually graded below.

In what has been an offseason with confusing moves, big trades, and key departures, the Philadelphia Eagles had to conduct arguably their most important draft since 2016. General Manager Howie Roseman had the chance to add a lot of talent to this team. The fate of this team rests in his hands.

The Eagles draft class is full of puzzling picks. This is what is expected from Roseman. Yet, at the same time, some of the great picks can drastically change the outlook for the upcoming season. With new talent and new questions, the Eagles hope that they go into the season proving they made the right decisions. Here is a pick-by-pick analysis of each player the Eagles drafted.

Pick 10: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

After trading with their division rivals, the Eagles chose a consensus top 3 wide receivers of the 2021 draft class to add to their lackluster offense. The Heisman Trophy-winning receiver is one of the best there is. Last season, he had 1,856 yards on 117 catches, turning 23 of those into touchdowns. This is an upgrade. Smith will be an instant improvement for this offense, whose wide receivers had the third-fewest yards (2082). Travis Fulgham led the Eagles’ receivers with 539 yards. The impact Smith will have can boost every facet of the team moving forward. Jalen Hurts reunites with his former team and gets a true number 1 to throw to.

The concerns with Smith are limited only to his size, but in the NFL, this is not a worry. While he is only 166 pounds, he played 54 games without any issue against some of the best college competitions. He is instinctive, fast, intuitive, and perfect for the Eagles’ competitive spirit. The phrase “heart over height” is true for Smith.

Grade: A


Pick 37: Landon Dickerson, C/OG, Alabama

Dickerson might end up being a steal for the Eagles. Dickerson is a player some scouts and analysts had as a first-round draft pick. In his years at the collegiate level, he played 1546 snaps of football, 871 of which were passing downs. On those 871 passing snaps, he only allowed 1 sack and 4 total QB hits. That is elite for any offensive linemen. Dickerson also led the nation in pancake blocks.

Last season, the Eagles had one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Plagued by injuries and young players filling in, the line needed a new answer. While Dickerson will not be an immediate starter, he can end up as the long-term successor of All-Pro center Jason Kelce.

The reason Dickerson fell so far is that he had sustained a lot of injuries. He tore his right ACL in November 2016; had season-ending surgery on his ankle the following year; tore his left ACL in December 2020.

This pick was a risk. The gamble, however, can be worth it. Within one month of tearing his ACL in December, he returned to play in the championship. Dickerson is highly touted and is one of the best leaders in college football. He is tough and ready to be the man whenever needed. Versatility is also his specialty, playing at all 5 positions on the line at some point. A high-risk-high-reward player can become an All-Pro for years to come if he stays on the field. If he fails, it will be another blemish on the Roseman draft record.

Grade: B


Pick 73: Milton Williams, DT, Louisiana Tech

While a video showing dysfunction in the Eagles’ draft room, does not change the fact that they had drafted Williams. The Eagle defensive line has had its fair share of issues, with a pass rush that struggled at times. Either players are aging or new players not living up to their expectations. The addition of Milton Williams addresses both issues. Williams is one of the most athletically gifted linemen. His bench press is 500 pounds, and his 3-cone drill, broad jump, vertical jump, and 40-yard dash all rank in the top 1% for all DTs who have recorded these measures in every draft since the combine was put into place. This explosiveness has been able to translate on the field and resulted in 10 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. Williams has been able to play inside and outside, which provides the missing depth the team needs.

In typical Eagles fashion, the slightly dramatic pick. The issue with this pick is that it fails to address other larger issues. At this point of the draft, no corners, safeties, nor linebackers have been taken. Williams is a great player and can eventually be great next to Fletcher Cox in a 4-3 scheme, but it might not be the best pick. The Eagles should have addressed other positions first.

Grade: B-


Pick 123: Zech McPhearson, CB, Texas Tech

The first and only corner taken by the Eagles in the 2021 draft was McPhearson, who had 4 interceptions last season. A lot of corners were on the board at 123, so the Eagles are confident in McPhearson. He has great ball skills and has the potential to become great; however, he is raw. McPhearson likely will start in the Eagles’ defensive back rotation.

The good thing about McPhearson is that he has a lot of experience. Coming from the Big-12, he faced a lot of passing throughout the season and is constantly tested. He has poised control and plays the ball aggressively. He also has no jarring red flags compared to other corners on the board. While these corners might be more specialized, McPhearson is the most well-rounded.

Grade: B-


Pick 150: Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis

The running back attack last year was one of the few surprises. Miles Sanders and Boston Scott each had great seasons but also left something to be desired. The backfield ranked 9th in total yards but had an up-and-down season. In comes Gainwell, a versatile player who can play multiple roles for the Eagles’ offense. With a unique skill set, Gainwell can play from the backfield and line up in the slot. His route running for a running back is exceptional.

He is a bouncy and elusive player who relies on his ability to make a man miss to create big plays. This leads to his one problem. Gainwell is a player who relies too heavily on his athletic ability and elite agility. When he is in the open field, instead of sticking to his reads, Gainwell tends to freestyle. While the ability to create space in any place is a great skill, avoiding the obvious reads can lead to small gains and missed opportunities. Nonetheless, Gainwell is a player to be excited about. He fits the Darren Sproles archetype, except he is taller and stronger.

Grade: B


Pick 189: Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, USC

The Tuipulotu draft pick is interesting for Roseman. Earlier. Roseman chose to take one more defensive tackle. Tuipulotu is the opposite of Williams, complimenting him with a powerful frame perfect for run stuffing. His arms are longer and have a good punch to them. Not nearly as athletic, but have the strength to bully interior offensive linemen.

Tuipulotu primarily played at the A-gap and B-gaps, rarely ever moving to go outside. This pick is not exciting but has its merit to it. Tuipulotu’s mentality is one intangible that is overlooked. In the 2020 season, he was able to find an opportunity with other linemen opting out, having one of the greatest developmental periods in his collegiate career. The issue with this pick is doubling up on defensive tackle when other positions are in much higher need. The Eagles, at this point, do not have a legitimate safety to start alongside Rodney McLeod, who will be returning from a torn ACL. This is cause for concern. A good defensive line is nothing without a secondary.

Grade: C+


Pick 191: Tarron Jackson, DE, Coastal Carolina

Defensive end has quietly become a need for the Eagles. Brandon Graham is aging, and Derek Barnett is in the final year of his rookie deal. Jackson was a consensus All-American first-team player and a 2-time team captain at Coastal Carolina, but he is also another defensive linemen. This pick ends up being questionable. There is no denying that Jackson is talented. He plays with explosiveness at the line and has a high motor. He lacks bend and flexibility but could end up as a long-term replacement if Graham retires and Barnett leaves.

Grade: C-


Pick 224: JaCoby Stevens, S/LB, LSU

Stevens is the 2nd player off the board for the Birds who can play in the secondary. In his years at LSU, Stevens often played the role of safety in the box. He excels as a special teamer and knows how to run his defense.

The problem is all of his skills are linebacker skills, but his athletic build is of a safety. Stevens is an inbetweener and will be complicated to scheme. Defensive coordinator Jonathon Gannon does have something in mind for him, so time will tell what Stevens will be doing for the Eagles.

Grade: B-


Pick 234: Patrick Johnson, LB, Tulane

Finally, with their last pick, the Eagles chose a linebacker. Johnson is a productive pass rusher who can be used as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. He was one of the four FBS players who reached double digits sacks in the 2020 season. What he lacks in physical size is made up in awareness of what is going on, but this is not the whole story behind the pick.

Even though Johnson can help the linebacker core in Philadelphia, he is not the linebacker the team needs. No one knows how Johnson will fit with the defense but the Eagles’ major struggle last season was coverage; Johnson is not a coverage linebacker. The ideal fit is not in Philadelphia either, as Gannon runs a 4-3 scheme. The Eagles will have an interesting hand of cards with their defensive selections, but Johnson is sort of a head-scratcher. He does not add anything more than the Eagles had already addressed.

Grade: C-