It was a wild ride, to say the least. The Eagles put a year's worth of preparation into three days of the 2020 NFL Draft and netted themselves 10 draft picks, a 13-man post-draft class, a veteran wide receiver in Marquise Goodwin (obtained Sunday from San Francisco for a swap of sixth-round picks), and Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay (acquired at the cost of third- and fifth-round selections from the Lions in March). The Eagles added everything Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman said the team wanted when he walked into Head Coach Doug Pederson's office following the playoff loss to Seattle in January – players who had speed, who were healthy, and who loved to play the game of football.
It's premature to analyze the immediate roles for the picks, and the coming weeks of the virtual offseason program will impact the development of the rookies in a way the league has never seen, so more than ever patience is required here. Did the Eagles have a great 2020 NFL Draft? All we can say for certain at this point is that they did it their way – staying true to their evaluation board and their draft position for the first three rounds and then blowing the joint up on Day 3 with four Roseman-engineered trades.
Some observations …
1. The Eagles wanted speed, and they got it. No. 1 pick Jalen Reagor ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and wanted better, and he timed at 4.22 at his "virtual Pro Day." He says it "was completely real." Wide receiver John Hightower, a fifth-round pick, ran a 4.43 40 at the Combine. Sixth-round selection Quez Watkins, another wide receiver, ran a 4.35 40 at the Combine. Goodwin is a former Olympian who ran a 4.27 40 at the Combine in 2013. The Eagles added speed at linebacker with third-round pick Davion Taylor (4.49 40) and sixth-round selection Shaun Bradley (4.51).
From an offensive standpoint, after seeing how difficult it was to get "chunk" plays last season after wide receiver DeSean Jackson was injured, adding speed was critical and welcomed.
"Adding the speed element to that obviously factors in," Pederson said. "Look, I mean, we played a ton of teams these past couple of seasons where it was hard to push the ball down the field, whether it was injury or whatever it was. This just allows us to, I think, open some things up."
2. With all of that, the Eagles restocked the wide receiver room and will certainly have a competitive situation in 2020. It's all going to be complicated by the lack of on-field reps in the spring because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The Eagles have historically kept five receivers on a 53-man roster. They just added four in a three-day period to go along with Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and a handful of young players on the current roster. That's a lot of names for five spots.
"We knew we needed to get better at that position. I know I've talked about it in the offseason, but we really feel like we've added (depth). We've added DeSean back, Alshon (Jeffery) back. We need to get him healthy, get him right. Then when you look at this draft and this draft weekend, adding Marquise. Marquise is one of the fastest men in the world. And I mean that when I say that. He's one of the fastest men in the world. He is so fast," Roseman said. "Obviously (Eagles Senior Offensive Assistant) Rich (Scangarello) had the opportunity to be with him, and so he recommended him to Andy (Weidl, vice president of player personnel), Coach, and I. And then again, we go into this draft and we got some young players that can really run, but they can also play the game. They understand how to run routes. They're not just track guys. They're guys that we really felt passionate about.
"I know when we drafted Hightower, we had a lot of conversation about Hightower versus Watkins. And then when we moved back and picked up a bunch of picks, we had an opportunity to get Watkins, too. We sat there and we said, 'Let's get both of these guys.' These are guys that we feel passionately about, and let's add them to the team and let competition dictate what's best for our football team."
3. The defense is changing its look at linebacker and it's going to take some time to sort it all out. Returning for 2020 are players like Nathan Gerry, a starter in 2020, second-year man T.J. Edwards, who showed promised in limited time as a rookie, Duke Riley, acquired in a midseason trade last year from Atlanta, and Alex Singleton, who moved from the practice squad to the active roster in '19. The Eagles signed Jatavis Brown in free agency and then drafted Taylor and Bradley. You would have to think that Gerry, Edwards, and Riley are the leaders at this point to man the positions early in 2020, with the possibility that defensive back Jalen Mills and hybrid safety Will Parks will have a chance to take reps in the role of quasi-linebacker in certain packages.
4. Roseman entered the 2020 NFL Draft with eight picks and turned it into 10 and also added a fifth-round selection in 2021 (the Eagles are without a fourth-round pick next spring, having traded it to Cleveland to acquire Genard Avery). He literally used a compensatory draft pick, No. 146 overall, and brought back four selections. Roseman started by trading 146 to Dallas for 164 (fifth round) this year and the fifth-round pick in 2021. Then Roseman traded 164 to Miami for No. 173 and No. 227. Those picks didn't remain in the Eagles' possession for long. Roseman traded both picks to Chicago for picks 196, 200, and 233. To add it all up, pick 146 – originally acquired as a compensatory selection for net losses in the 2019 free-agency period – turned into linebacker Shaun Bradley, wide receiver Quez Watkins, and seventh-round defensive end Casey Toohill. The fourth pick is the fifth-round selection from Dallas next spring. Amazing.
"We really wanted to have double-digit picks in this draft. It was important to us," Roseman said. "We had picked 10 picks in the last two years (total), and I know we didn't come out of yesterday with that. So we felt like there would be an opportunity to move back and get a bunch of picks. When the Cowboys call and they offer a trade, I'm going to be honest, that's hard for me. That's hard for me in the NFC East to make a trade with our competitors. So it had to be something that we felt was really good for our football team. The reality of it is that who we would've picked at that pick – I think it was 146 maybe – was the same guy that we were looking at when we were picking in the fifth round, so we picked up an additional pick and we kept moving."
5. The other trade Roseman made was swapping picks with San Francisco – sending the 49ers the 190th overall pick for the 210th pick (offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho) and Goodwin, who missed 12 games in 2018 and 2019 after a solid 2017 in which he set career bests with 56 catches for 962 yards and two touchdowns.
6. In the fourth round with the 127th overall pick, the Eagles selected safety K'Von Wallace and he's got the versatility to play in multiple positions in the secondary. The Eagles need to get him and work with Wallace to see how he fits, but the post-draft projections are that Wallace can play safety, can move into the box, and can line up at the nickel cornerback position. What does that mean? The Eagles talk about having "positionless" players in the secondary, players who can flow from one spot to another. Parks, signed in free agency, offers that versatility. The Eagles think Mills can provide some flexibility. Avonte Maddox can move around the secondary. Nickell Robey-Coleman and Cre'Von LeBlanc are going to compete in the nickel. This is going to be fun. The challenge is going to be having all of these new pieces working in a defense with limited on-field time before the season begins because of what many anticipate will be a virtual next several weeks.
7. Of course, the attention is still directed at the top of the draft with first-round pick Reagor and second-round pick quarterback Jalen Hurts. There is some development needed, of course, but it's exciting that the Eagles have added two players with so much explosiveness and playmaking ability. It's going to be fascinating to see how Head Coach Doug Pederson works Reagor into the offense not just as a receiver, but as a player who can attack defenses with the ball in his hands in creative ways. Hurts is here to develop as a quarterback. The thought that he is going to be a "gadget" kind of player is a bit far-fetched at this moment. His first priority is learning the offense as a quarterback and developing his skills in and out of the pocket as part of a quarterback room that includes Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, and Kyle Lauletta.
8. The offensive line has a couple of new pieces with the very solid and experienced Jack Driscoll, the fourth-round pick from Auburn who started at tackle there for two years after playing at Massachusetts and who may project more as a guard/center, and Nigerian-born Prince Tega Wanogho, who is an impressive physical specimen, a tremendous athlete and who was good enough to become a high-level starter at an SEC school. He has had some injury problems, but he's all good now. So, let the competition begin as the Eagles build depth. Jordan Mailata has to earn a roster spot. Same with players like Nate Herbig and Sua Opeta and even Matt Pryor, who showed up late in 2019 and played well when Brandon Brooks was injured in the game at the Giants and the playoff game against Seattle.
9. As the Eagles built up the interior of the defensive line with the signing of Javon Hargrave in free agency and the re-signing of Hassan Ridgeway, they didn't address the edge until the seventh round when they drafted Stanford edge rusher Casey Toohill. The plan is that tackle Malik Jackson can take some reps on the edge when the matchup works, but it's also clear that the Eagles think some of their young edge rushers – Josh Sweat, Avery, Daeshon Hall, Shareef Miller, and Joe Ostman – are prepared to take the next step to help starters Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett. The Eagles need much more production behind the starters than they had in 2019.
10. Finally, the Eagles are not yet finished building the roster. You know that. They have some cap space to sign their own veterans and they are going to keep their eyes open in the buyer's market of free agency. There are still some good players on the streets. This roster isn't yet complete, and we haven't taken into account the impact of the non-drafted rookies whom the Eagles agreed to terms with. It's going to be very difficult for those players to get noticed if the on-field reps are significantly reduced through the spring and early summer, but the Eagles always find some winners in that class. The point is, the Eagles got a lot better this weekend, and they have more work to do.