The Eagles went into the 2020 NFL Draft with a need for speed. Like Tom Cruise’s Maverick character in the movie Top Gun, they delivered.
GM Howie Roseman explained his strategy in a lengthy post-draft video conference with reporters and talked at length about getting faster. And not just at the skill positions, all over the field. This guided the bold decisions to take receivers like Jalen Reagor, John Hightower and Quez Watkins — and it played a factor in the selections of linebackers Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley, plus safety K’Von Wallace.
“When we went back and looked at our team over the last year, we wanted to get more explosive, we wanted to get faster, and I told that to you guys after the season,” Roseman said. “It was important we stuck to that. I know a bunch of our scouts over the last couple days and certainly, today when we talked about it, they kind of threw it back in our face. You know, they said, ‘Hey, if we are looking to get faster, this guy is still on the board.’”
Here’s a look at how every pick should be graded.
Round 1 — Jalen Reagor, WR
This was the No. 1 speed threat on my draft board for pick No. 21. Henry Ruggs wasn’t going to be there (and he wasn’t). It would have cost too much to trade up for CeeDee Lamb (reportedly a second-rounder) and Justin Jefferson projects more as a slot receiver than an outside burner. But the drops, right? Time will tell how great Reagor’s hands are but he had some atrocious quarterback play in college. Now he has a Pro Bowl quarterback throwing to him, and a mentor in veteran wideout DeSean Jackson.
Round 2 — Jalen Hurts, QB
If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I thought this pick was dumb. Two days later, I still don’t love the move. Why waste pick No. 53 at a luxury position that you don’t need? But, I do understand the thinking behind it after listening to both Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson emphasize building a “quarterback factory” in Philly. Hurts is a true game-changer, an electrifying player with a Lamar Jackson kind of wow factor. The main concern here is how Hurts may affect Carson Wentz’s confidence. Eagles fans can be fickle. If Wentz goes down to injury or if he gets off to a rocky start, watch out. Instant controversy.
Round 3 — Davion Taylor, LB
Taking Taylor this high seems like a reach pick. Then, you start reading the scouting reports and put on the tape. The 6-foot, 228-pounder is a blur in the middle of the field, with explosive speed (4.49 in the 40) and impressive closing burst. He’s a good tackler and his biggest asset may be in matching up against athletic tight ends in the NFL. Taylor’s major flaw is that he is extremely raw. Remember, he didn’t play high school football. That could be a benefit.
Round 4 — K’Von Wallace, S
Wallace is an intriguing Swiss Army Knife with blazing speed (4.53 in the 40) who can play multiple positions. The do-it-defender played safety, linebacker, big nickel and excelled as a willing blitzer off the edge in college. He also has a little bit of Philly attitude in him. He told reporters: “I’m going to fight you until I get what I want.” The natural comparisons will be to Eagles legend Brian Dawkins, thanks to the Clemson connection. They share similar physical traits and an aggressive style of play but Wallace is not Dawkins. Not yet.
Round 4 — Jack Driscoll, OL
One of the most versatile offensive linemen in the draft, Driscoll (6-foot-5, 305) was a four-year starter at right tackle for Auburn but has the athleticism to move inside and even play center. Driscoll told reporters that he has already talked to the Eagles about playing center. He could be a possible replacement for Jason Kelce. One thing, he’ll have to bulk up to last in the NFL. He has a bit of a dad bod.
Round 5 — John Hightower, WR
The Boise State speedster is a legit track star (ran the 400-meter hurdles) and may have been a higher pick in a draft that wasn’t so deep. Hightower is another lightning bolt, a guy who was a triple threat for the Broncos where he caught 51 balls for 953 yards (18.5 yards-per-catch). They also used him on sweeps out of the backfield (9.6 yards per carry) and on special teams as a kickoff returner. He’s going to come in and push both Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside for playing time.
Round 6 — Shaun Bradley, LB
Slightly undersized for a linebacker (what else is new?) but the Eagles prefer speed over huge size at the position. Bradley will get brownie points from the fan base because he’s a local kid — Mount Holly, NJ native, attended Temple — and told reporters he knew “every crevice” of Lincoln Financial Field. It’s hard to see him starting in 2020 despite the team being very weak at linebacker. However, he’s a tenacious worker who should make an impact on special teams.
Round 6 — Quez Watkins, WR
Watkins is another receiver that probably would have been selected higher in a normal draft, not the most loaded in history. In fact, GM Howie Roseman confessed that he had the 6-footer almost equally rated next to John Hightower. He took Hightower in Round 5 but never took Watkins off his board. When they saw he was still out there in Round 6, they pounced. The need for speed was too intoxicating. Watkins ran the third-fastest 40 time at the Combine.
Round 6 — Prince Tega Wanogho, OT
Yes, there is a medical red flag due to a lingering knee injury (lateral meniscus tear, to be exact). But Wanogho is a freak of nature, both physically and mentally — and he’s a certified Nigerian prince to boot. He could be the biggest steal of this draft. The 6-foot-5, 308-pounder would have been a third-rounder if healthy. Now he joins an offensive line in Philly looking to get younger and deeper. He started 32 games at left tackle for Auburn. If Andre Dillard falters, the Prince will be ready to usurp his crown.
Round 7 — Casey Toohill, DE
It’s hard to find good value in the seventh round. The Eagles did so with Toohill. He played outside linebacker in college — and was listed at linebacker on the draft board — but he’s a pure pass-rusher. He recorded eight sacks during his senior year at Stanford and finished with 14 total sacks in four years. Philly desperately needed an edge rusher. Toohill, at 6-foot-4, 247 pounds, will have to do. The fact that he knows fellow Stanford alums Zach Ertz, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Nate Herbig should serve him well.
Philadelphia Eagles — Overall Draft Picks
Look, it’s going to be hard to ever evaluate this draft without putting the first two picks under the microscope. If Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb outperform Jalen Reagor, there will be criticism. If Jalen Hurts turns into a gadget-play specialist — four or five plays a game, at a second-round price — there will be criticism. But give GM Howie Roseman a ton of credit for hitting on virtually all his Day 3 picks.
They had a plan to get deep at the skill positions and to put speed all over the field. They succeeded, above and beyond. The major area they failed to address was defensive end. I really wanted to see them get an impact edge rusher, someone like K’Lavon Chaisson. He wasn’t available and the Eagles ignored the position entirely. Now they’ll head into the 2020 season once again rolling out Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and hoping Josh Sweat continues to develop.
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