Welcome to 2021 NFL Draft Week, one that is so very important to the roster building of this Eagles. We know that this draft and the one in 2022 will shape the roster for years going forward as Philadelphia holds 20 selections in the two weekends including, potentially, four first-round picks. This year's draft starts Thursday night. And it's imperative that the Eagles nail it, one that includes four picks in the first 84 overall. There is a real opportunity here to turn over the roster.
Where might the Eagles go in the draft? That, we don't know. But as Round 1 approaches, it's important to get a feel for what the team has at each position. There is no depth chart, and the players remain in the virtual part of the offseason program. But having a feel for the numbers at each position now might provide some insight as to where the team will go during the draft. So, with that, let's get after it ...
There are only two on the current roster – second-year man Jalen Hurts and veteran Joe Flacco, who signed a one-year contract in free agency to join the Eagles. Teams generally carry four arms into Training Camp and the preseason, but with only three preseason games this year and shorter on-field time in general for players in the offseason, it's fair to wonder if teams will shorten their numbers in this room. Nevertheless, the Eagles will add players here either in the draft or in the post-draft period.
Miles Sanders leads the way in the running back room as he enters his third NFL season. One of the best big-play backs in the league, Sanders has been highly productive in his first two seasons and is looking for more in 2021. Boston Scott is a versatile running back, and veteran Jordan Howard signed a one-year deal in free agency to rejoin the team. Jason Huntley saw sparse action last year after joining the team off waivers from Detroit, and young backs Elijah Holyfield and Adrian Killins are looking to impress the new coaching staff.
A young group looks for more production in 2021, with three draft picks from a year ago looking to take that big next step. The transition from the college game to the NFL for receivers is tough as it is, but pair that with lack of a normal offseason program and the likes of Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins had an uphill battle to acclimate. Although they had to learn on the fly, they all had moments last season and strive for more consistency and contribution to the offense in their second seasons. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside enters his third season hopeful to hit his stride. Greg Ward is the veteran of the group in his third real season as the team's slot receiver. Travis Fulgham wowed for four weeks in 2020 before his numbers diminished down the stretch. Khalil Tate is here as he makes the transition from a college quarterback (Arizona) to wide receiver.
Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert lead this group, even with public speculation about Ertz's future, but he remains on the roster. Behind those two veterans is a handful of young players trying to break through – Jason Croom, who caught a touchdown pass against Baltimore last season; Caleb Wilson, who joined the Eagles last year and played a bit on offense; Hakeem Butler, a converted wide receiver; and Tyree Jackson, a converted college quarterback.
It's great knowing that All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson is healthy and ready for action after missing much of last year, and that third-year man Andre Dillard is progressing in his recovery after missing all of 2020 with a biceps injury. Jordan Mailata played well at left tackle late in 2020 and could be ready to take a big step this season. Second-year man Jack Driscoll was thrown into action last year and showed a lot of promise. Brett Toth played in the final game against Washington and has a lot to build upon as he continues to get bigger and stronger.
A big key for this season is the health of Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks, who missed all of 2020 with a torn Achilles tendon. He is expected to return and that would be a huge boost for the offensive line. Isaac Seumalo returns after his 2020 season was limited to nine games because of a knee injury. Young linemen like Matt Pryor, Nate Herbig, and Sua Opeta gained valuable playing time last year with all of the injuries and provide valuable depth moving forward. Ross Pierschbacher joined the Eagles late in 2020 and looks to assimilate himself into the picture.
Jason Kelce returns as one of the best centers in the NFL in the last decade, and that is comforting and very important for the continuity of the offensive line. There are a host of other players who cross-train at center – Seumalo and Herbig – and the only other player listed on the roster as a true center is Luke Juriga, who saw limited reps last season to get a taste of what the NFL is all about.
Pro Bowl end Brandon Graham leads the way here in his 12th NFL season. Derek Barnett is also back and healthy and hoping to stay that way in his fifth season. Josh Sweat continues his rise after a strong 2020 campaign and will be counted on as a big contributor this season. Joe Ostman had a taste of play on the field after missing 2019 with a knee injury and Matt Leo is back for a second season. Genard Avery is listed as a defensive end, and his role could be multiple in Jonathan Gannon's defensive scheme.
Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave form a tough-to-block twosome, while Hassan Ridgeway, re-signed in free agency, helps as a third tackle. He hasn't been healthy in his two seasons here, but when he's played, Ridgeway has done a good job. Raequan Williams has promise entering his second season and the Eagles want to see him take another move forward, while T.Y. McGill rounds out the pre-draft defensive tackle room entering his seventh NFL season.
Alex Singleton was a revelation last season as he blossomed in his starting role and led the team in tackles. The Eagles added former Viking Eric Wilson in free agency after Wilson's breakout 2020 campaign in Minnesota. T.J. Edwards had some very strong moments last year, but also battled injuries. 2020 draft picks Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley hope to make impacts in their second seasons in Philadelphia. Joe Bachie came over from the Saints' practice squad late in 2020 and Rashad Smith wants to make a positive impression in his second season in the NFL.
Darius Slay is one starter after his gutsy and hard-fought and largely well-played 2020 season here. Avonte Maddox has bounced from the nickel spot to the outside and back and forth for most of his three seasons here and his versatility is a plus. Those are the only two experienced cornerbacks on the roster. Craig James had some moments on special teams and at cornerback in 2019 and followed up with a fine Training Camp in 2020, but injuries limited him to just 15 defensive snaps in the regular season. Players like Michael Jacquet, Jameson Houston, Lavert Hill, Kevon Seymour, and Shakial Taylor are young prospects who need to develop.
Signing Anthony Harris in free agency gives the Eagles a player who knows the defensive system and who is a proven playmaker. Andrew Adams also joined in free agency and has been a starter and a special teams standout in his five NFL seasons. The Eagles have to see where Rodney McLeod is physically after he suffered a torn ACL last December. Second-year man K'Von Wallace was a fourth-round draft pick in 2020 who wants to take that next big step. Marcus Epps and Grayland Arnold gained valuable reps and made some plays last year and they both look to build off that experience. Elijah Riley saw action on 65 special teams snaps and four defensive snaps in 2020 and has some versatility.
There are changes here for the first time in a few seasons. With Cameron Johnston off to Houston in free agency, the Eagles have Arryn Siposs listed as the only punter on the roster. Siposs, a former Australian Rules footballer, signed in January after spending last season on Detroit's practice squad. Jake Elliott is the team's placekicker and Rick Lovato returns as the long snapper. Johnston also held on field goals, so that's another void the Eagles need to fill when the players get on the field at the NovaCare Complex