Jerry Robinson is the answer to an Eagles draft-related trivia question.
Who is the last off-ball linebacker to be selected by the Eagles in the first round?
It was 41 years ago, in 1979, when the Birds selected the UCLA star in the opening round. Robinson became a full-time starter in his second season, earning second-team All-Pro honors in helping the Eagles win their first NFC Championship over the Dallas Cowboys. In six seasons with the Eagles, Robinson earned second-team All-Pro honors three times as well as a Pro Bowl selection.
On Thursday night, the Eagles and the rest of the NFL embark on the 2020 NFL Draft. Currently, the Eagles have eight picks overall, including the No. 21 selection in the first round.
Coincidentally, the Eagles picked Robinson with the 21st overall selection. And one prominent draft analyst with ties to the Eagles thinks that an off-ball linebacker could be the pick this year.
Daniel Jeremiah spent two years as a West Coast area scout for the Eagles before joining NFL Network's draft coverage in 2012. NFL Network promoted Jeremiah to lead draft analyst in 2019 after Mike Mayock accepted the general manager job with the Raiders. He knows Howie Roseman's thought process and philosophy, yet has the Eagles taking Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray in the first round of his most recent mock draft.
"I worked there. I know the history and what they traditionally do. I just know when I look inside that division and I've got to play Ezekiel Elliott twice a year and I've got to play Saquon Barkley twice a year, I'd like to have a guy like Kenneth Murray to match up against those players, and they do not have that player on their roster right now," Jeremiah said on a conference call with reporters Friday.
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro noted in a recent column how the team used four first-round picks on defensive linemen, three on offensive linemen, one on a quarterback, and one on a wide receiver over the past decade. At linebacker, the Eagles return last year's starter Nathan Gerry, a second-year player in T.J. Edwards, and two core members of the special teams unit in Duke Riley and Alex Singleton. The Eagles also signed former Charger Jatavis Brown in free agency.
In Jeremiah's mock draft, five defensive linemen, four offensive tackles, and four wide receivers are among the players off the board by the time the Eagles pick.
"I would also say if you're looking at high-batting-average picks, when you look at some of the linebackers that we've seen go in the first round over the last several years, they've all been impact players. We saw it with Devin Bush last year with the Steelers. We saw it with Devin White last year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We've seen it with (Leighton) Vander Esch, what he's done with the Cowboys while he's been out there. These guys have all played at a high level and been very impactful, and Jim Schwartz, with what he wants to do and asking some of those guys to be able to run and cover, I think he's a great pick," Jeremiah said.
"I also think with Murray, you're talking about off-the-charts intangibles with intelligence and just a high, high character individual who's a phenomenal leader. He started at Oklahoma as a freshman. This kid is made of the right stuff, and I think in a year where you don't have all the information on all these players and there can be more risk involved, I don't know that it gets much safer than him."
Murray is Jeremiah's 17th-ranked player overall in the 2020 NFL Draft class. In this exercise, Murray is the second off-ball linebacker to be selected after Clemson's Isaiah Simmons. The fun thing is that we only have to wait until Thursday to find out how this will unfold. Our live coverage of the 2020 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday evening with Eagles Draft Central presented by Dietz and Watson at 7:30 PM on PhiladelphiaEagles.com, the Eagles app, and our social media channels leading up to the start of the draft at 8 PM.