This is not an instant analysis of the 2021 Philadelphia Eagles NFL Draft because it is far too early to know what kind of production the nine selections will offer as rookies. But the three-day draft did offer some insight into the kind of players the Eagles want to build around with Nick Sirianni as head coach. Starting with first-round choice DeVonta Smith, there are characteristics that translate throughout the 2021 Class – talent, production, toughness, high football IQ, love of the game, versatility, leadership.
"You just want guys that are going to carry the flag, as they say," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said on Saturday night following the end-of-draft press conference. "We're going to be preaching a different message as coaches and saying the things that we want and how we want the program to look. My experience is that guys who have those qualities – the football IQ, the competitiveness, the toughness, and that love football – they have a better chance of reaching their potential because of those things. Those are the things that we really focus on. It was really great to get those guys in the draft that have all those things. They love ball. They want to get better and they want to be coached hard. That's a good thing.
"We see players who can reach their ceilings because they have those qualities. Talent is huge, too, but that's why they're in the conversation in the first place. Those are the guys you want to be around and those are the guys you want to start your program."
It was an eventful three days. Here are some notes from the weekend to take away …
• The Eagles entered the weekend with the goal of adding good football players. They didn't reach for positions. They were judicious with their moves – jumping up to take Smith in Round 1, a player who was rated far higher on their draft board than No. 10 overall was the headliner – and picked players who will come to Philadelphia and develop for the long haul. This was never a one-man draft for the Eagles, a team that is transitioning the roster. For the most part, the Eagles allowed the draft to come to them and they trusted their board to bring some young talent to Philadelphia.
Get an up-close look at the Eagles' 2021 first-round pick, DeVonta Smith.
• Smith is clearly the player who has the clearest chance to make an immediate impact after his record-setting career at Alabama. But that doesn't mean he's the only one with that chance. A new coaching staff is here and every player has a clean slate. Second-round draft pick Landon Dickerson is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in December and he said he's feeling great in his rehabilitation. Howie Roseman said 2021 won't be a "redshirt year" for Dickerson, an immensely talented interior lineman who could play guard with Isaac Seumalo sliding to center at some point in the future or who could play the center position, one he played at Alabama and dominated the college landscape.
Third-round selection Milton Williams offers great versatility as a defensive lineman who can play up and down the line of scrimmage. Fourth-round pick Zech McPhearson had a brilliant career at Texas Tech and comes to Philadelphia aiming to compete in an unsettled defensive secondary. And so on. It's really hard and extremely unfair to project here, especially given the lack of on-field time NFL rookies have in the spring and summer.
• Building from the line of scrimmage out is important to every football team and it sure was for the Eagles during the weekend as the team selected Dickerson, Williams, defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu, and end Tarron Jackson. These aren't the flashiest additions, but as the Eagles transition the trenches, the development of these four players will be critical.
• Versatility was a key theme of the 2021 Draft Class. Smith is expected to move around the offensive formation as the Eagles take advantage of his multiple skills. Dickerson is seen as a guard/center who also played tackle in college. Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon can't wait to get his hands on Williams and see how the young man looks setting the edge in early downs and then slides inside to rush the quarterback on third downs. McPhearson has the skills to play inside and outside at cornerback.
• Something to remember is that the Eagles added throughout the offseason for next year's draft. Potentially a No. 1 draft pick from Indianapolis from the Carson Wentz trade. Miami's first-round pick in the March trade that moved the Eagles from No. 6 overall to No. 12. And a fifth-round pick in 2022 from Washington that only cost the Eagles the 225th overall pick (sixth round) and the 240th (seventh round) pick on Saturday. The Eagles have a total of 10 draft picks for 2022, as it stands now, including (potentially) three No. 1 selections. That's huge in what should be a very strong draft class.
• We're waiting for the official post-draft signings, a fertile area every year for the Eagles. Don't underestimate the impact here, even with the limited on-field spring ahead.
• Roseman is going to continue to keep his eyes open for quality talent, and there still is some on the streets. He is always working the phones, so stay tuned in. This roster isn't finished building. We've got a long way to go before the regular season begins and the Eagles know the roster is open for competition.
"To get DeVonta Smith, to get Landon Dickerson, to get Milton Williams with those first three picks it's like, 'Yeah. This is the way we want to start this thing,'" Sirianni said. "I love all of them. I'm excited about all of them. It felt like every time we picked a player, we got a guy who had the qualities we were looking for. There was a picture I saw today of Landon picking up DeVonta after they scored at Alabama and I was like, 'I've got to get that picture in my office. Look at the connection that they have. They've been teammates before and they have that love of football.' To start that way with those two players, it's exciting for me. It's exciting for all of us."