All along, the plan has been to follow their draft board and not "reach" for a position, to stay patient and let the 2021 NFL Draft come to them, and then be ready to pounce when the moment is right. The Eagles pounced on Thursday night, trading from 12 to 10 in the first round and selecting Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith. Friday night was the time to wait for the draft to come to their spots, and when that happened the Eagles drafted the best players they thought could help them for the long term in the trenches.
If Thursday night was the flash and dash part of the 2021 NFL Draft for the Eagles, Friday night was the meat and potatoes. You build a team from the line of scrimmage out, and that's the philosophy the Eagles had on Night 2 of the NFL Draft.
In Round 3, pick 37 overall, the Eagles picked offensive lineman Landon Dickerson from Alabama, a dominating and versatile lineman with the Crimson Tide who suffered a torn ACL in December. Had he been healthy, Dickerson would easily have been gone in the first round of this draft. He's that good as an interior offensive lineman. He played every position up front in his college career and crushed defenses with his athleticism, toughness, and love of the game – he came back from the ACL injury to line up in the victory formation in the National Championship Game win over Ohio State.
The injury – and his history of injuries -- is something the Eagles thoroughly vetted and came away convinced he would have a full recovery. Dickerson suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during his freshman season at Florida State, had two season-ending ankle injuries there, played his fourth season injury-free at Alabama, and then tore his left ACL last December. Otherwise, he dominated at the collegiate level and earned All-American status and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation's best center last year.
Dickerson is 6-6 and 333 pounds with toughness, athleticism, versatility, and everything that Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland looks for in a lineman. The Eagles have Jason Kelce entering his 11th NFL season at center and Brandon Brooks, coming off back-to-back injured seasons, at right guard. They're looking beyond 2021 with the selection of Dickerson.
"When we talk about our overall philosophy and our team building, we always talk about the lines of scrimmage," Howie Roseman said after his end-of-night press conference. "Landon Dickerson is a guy throughout this process that our scouting staff, our front office, our coaches, fell in love with. Not only the personality, because you don't just want to fall in love with the personality, but the player and what kind of player he is and what he can do for us going forward. When we look at the offensive line and the success we've had along the offensive line and the type of people we've had success with, he fits right in. I think our fans are going to fall in love with Landon Dickerson, not only the person, but the player."
One round later, after trading out of the No. 70 overall pick to move to No. 73 and pick up a sixth-round selection on Saturday – the Eagles now have eight picks in Rounds 4 through 7 – the team chose Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Milton Williams. Williams entered the draft a year early after producing 19 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback sacks in the last two seasons in college.
The picture at defensive tackle is a healthy one for the Eagles with Fletcher Cox still an outstanding player, Javon Hargrave healthy and a strong complement to Cox inside, Hassan Ridgeway signed to a one-year deal in free agency, second-year man Raequan Williams in the midst of an important offseason as he looks for a big jump in his second NFL season, and with veteran T.Y. McGill here to compete for a roster spot and playing time.
Again, this is about 2021 and beyond. Cox is in his 10th season with a lot of wear and tear and game reps on his body. Hargrave enters his sixth season. The Eagles want to get younger and more explosive and add depth along a defensive line that must be disruptive for coordinator Jonathan Gannon.
Head Coach Nick Sirianni said of Williams on Friday night, "Jonathan Gannon and our defensive staff are juiced to work with Milton to help him realize the potential he showed in college and throughout the scouting process. Versatile players like Milton make it tough on opposing offenses because they open up so many options for a defense. With the players we have in that D-line room, we know Milton will be able to develop his game and find a role to contribute."
"Milton is a twitched-up, explosive player who's got scheme versatility," Roseman said. "He can play 3-technique and he can get quick pressure on the quarterback. He can bump outside and set the edge and play early downs in the run game."
Now we look to Day 3 of the draft and the Eagles are going to be busy with a whopping eight selections. This is where the work of the scouting department really pays off. This is where drafting reputations are earned. The Eagles still have needs across the roster. They know it. They are looking for hits in the latter portion of the draft.
"The third day is always the most fun," Roseman said. "It's the most amount of picks. We have a meeting in the morning that Andy (Weidl, vice president of player personnel) runs and that we're all a part of. It's really the scouts' meeting. They put stars on guys that they want us to pick and we try to get as many of them as possible. We'll see if we get more than eight (picks), less than eight, but it's a fun day tomorrow."