Written By: Cody Shackelford @Blitzalytics
If there was anything that I've taken away so far in preparation for this year's draft, it's that there is defense, defense, and yeah, DEFENSE. This year's draft may very well be the best NFL defensive draft class we’ve ever seen. The downright baffling 40 times of the defensive linemen alone at this year’s combine shows this class is absolutely stacked with versatile talent in every position. This is music to your ears if you’re a true, kelly-green bleeding Eagles fan.
With a young, injury-prone secondary that showed towards the end of the season and into the playoffs last year, there was potential for this draft to be a blessing. The Eagles own three of the top 60 picks, the 25th pick in the 1st round and two 2nd rounders (53,57), giving the potential to keep this team competitive and in the mix for Super Bowl contenders for years to come.
The linebacking corps, led by veteran Nigel Bradham, is also young and unproven, but with such a late 1st round pick, there wouldn't be any linebackers worth taking without trading up. Instead, a few secondary players really stand out to me at that draft position.
Rock Ya-sin, a corner out of Temple, is an ideal first rounder for the Philadelphia Eagles. Besides all the physical intangibles (6 foot 1 and 192 lbs with 9 and ⅞ hand size), this kid is mentally tough as well. Transferring from Presbyterian, he played 11 games as a true freshman and started 11 games in the following year, proving he could play with division one talent. In 11 starts at Temple, he had 12 pass breakups, 47 tackles (two for loss) and two interceptions to go along with a first-team All-American Conference selection as a senior. As a bonus, being from Temple adds to the homebound feel of Philadelphia; he's a very moldable corner who is willing to be coached, and it would be exciting to see this kid after a full year of practice and meshing with an experienced defensive coordinator.
40 yard dash: 4.51
Bench reps : 18
Vertical : 39.5
Broad jump: 120
3 cone drill: 7.21
20 yard shuttle: 4.31
My other choice with the 25th pick for the Eagles would be safety Gardner Johnson out of Florida. This Gator has an uncanny resemblance of a young Earl Thomas, with a smaller frame at 5’10 210 lbs, yet possesses the immense tackling ability. He can do almost anything you ask of him; a real gritty hard nose player who’s not scared to get his jersey dirty. In his last season at Florida, he started 11 of 13 games and racked up 71 tackles (nine for loss) to go along with 3 sacks. His collegiate career at Florida began with the special teams and more of a role player; he played his way into a starting role and his numbers increased significantly each of his three years. He's got the speed to play man-to-man and cover the sidelines as well. This is evidenced by in two of his three years at Florida, he led or tied the team-high in interceptions. If somehow the football gods are willing to let this all-around player fall to 25, say hello to Brian Dawkins 2.0, Philadelphia.
40 yard dash : 4.48
3 cone drill:7.21
20 yard shuttle :4.2
For the second round of the draft, the Eagles find themselves in a very favoring situation with the 53rd and 57th picks. To me, with the depth of talent on defense this year, these picks will arguably be more important than the first round. There is going to absolutely be starting-capable players well into the later rounds. And with no third round picks this year (without trading up), these second rounders have to be spot on and more than roster fillers. With our defensive linemen signed to long-term deals and older guys on the last year of theirs (i.e. Chris Long), it leads me to my next set of guys I'd like to see Philly draft.
Chase Winovich is a perfect fit for the revolving packages of defense and schemes Jim Schwartz is accustomed to doing. Winovich is a high motor, an every-down player with no ounce of quit in him; a real coaches player that brings a spark to a locker room. He’s a real edge rusher and tone-setter who possesses the speed and the hands to be a game-changing, disruptive force in the backfield. This guy has all the makings of a young Clay Matthews (hair and all), posting a 4.59 40-yard and 6.94 cone drill, and his edge rushing skills are impressive. A versatile weapon with potential nightmare matchup written all over it, his talent enables coordinators to put him all over the field, allowing him to be established as a rushing threat from anywhere. He’s a true steal in the 2nd round.
40-yard dash: 4.59
Bench reps: 18
Broad jump: 116
3-cone drill: 6.94
20-yard shuttle: 4.11
When you talk about ideal linebackers in the NFL, guys that can cover, fill the gaps, and stretch the sidelines in pursuit, Mack Wilson is your man. This guy is the definition of a three-down player with his ability to cover the middle of the field and fill any run gap. He was a huge contributor in the 2018 national title game against Georgia, finishing with 12 tackles (two for loss) and is a tone setter on defense. The only reason in my eyes why this guy has fallen to the 2nd round is he is young and did not do much at the NFL Combine as far times and drills go. That said, he would solve a lot of problems for the Eagles front seven, who have had a lot of recent changes as far as personal in the linebacker position. This guy is used to the big moment, proving he doesn't let the moment outshine his play. Wilson has great hands as a rusher and a coverage linebacker with sound mechanics and would be a great pick for the Eagles.
I'll conclude on a few favorite late rounds picks to keep an eye on in this draft. Safety Taylor Rapp out of Washington is a more than capable coverage safety with great tackling ability in the open field. He gives you everything he's got on every play, and with good coaching could be an every down starter in the near future. I know I said early that this draft is all defense, but there's an abundance of offensive players as well this year. With that said, look for offensive tackle Tytus Howard from Alabama State, an athletic big man with huge upside and untapped potential. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Eagles trade up to get this kid, who is a projected late-round steal and would fill the aging shoes of Jason Peters. He is seriously undervalued coming from a lower major school, but don't pass him up- he's a true diamond in the rough if he's still there late in the 3rd/early 4th. Can't wait to watch this draft play out and which direction the Eagles decide to take this already talented team.