Eagles Draft Analysis: Howie Roseman has stopped outsmarting himself
The story of Howie Roseman has long been about a man who tried to act like he was one step ahead of the league but constantly ended up falling on his face. Whether it was the disastrous 2019 NFL Draft where JJ Arcega Whiteside was picked before DK Metcalf or taking Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson in 2020 … it always felt like obvious answers were right there for Howie and he always unnecessarily zigged when others zagged.
But something has changed.
Going into last year’s draft, the team needed some stability. The Doug Pederson era ended in disaster, Carson Wentz exited stage left and the Eagles were left with a young quarterback, a rookie head coach and a GM looking to right the ship he capsized. Howie Roseman spent his first two picks on two of the most important players from the best team in the country that year: Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Landon Dickerson. Smith was fresh off a Heisman campaign that carried the Crimson Tide to a national title win and Dickerson had been a highly decorated member of the Tide’s offensive line. These were smart, obvious selections of players come at the highest level. Not to mention Howie Roseman walked out of that draft with an extra first round pick in 2022.
The payoff was obvious. DeVonta Smith was immediately and by far the best wide receiver on the team and Landon Dickerson eventually settled in as an ass-kicking guard next to Jordan Mailata. The top rookies made huge contributions while the rest of Howie’s 2021 class had some seriously bright moments. The end result was a surprise playoff berth and lots of hope for the future of the team.
Spring of 2022 and the Eagles were loaded with picks and money, with expectation for the whole team to take a great big next step. Howie pulled off another great trade to send one of the teams 3 first round picks to New Orleans for a 2023 first and 2024 second, so the Eagles went into the draft with two firsts and a handful of other picks.
Then Howie really went to work.
The Eagles could’ve gone in a million directions in the first round. Needs were still abound across the whole team: Basically any quality defensive player would’ve been welcome in the first round or maybe a wide receiver. Howie made his first move when he moved up ahead of Baltimore and selected Jordan Davis, the athletic marvel defensive tackle from the National Championship Georgia defense. Not even 30 minutes later, and Howie moved the other first round pick for Tennessee’s AJ Brown, one of the best young wide receivers in the NFL. Brown, a proven playmaker, is no doubt better than any receiver the Eagles could’ve gotten through the draft. It was clear the Eagles needed a more seasoned pass catcher in their offense full of young receivers and Howie Roseman made a play for one of the best.
And somehow, that is still not the end of the story on Howie’s masterful 2022 draft.
On Day 2, Roseman selected athletic center Cam Jurgens out of Nebraska. The team had been linked to Jurgens for quite a while and after the draft it was revealed that Jason Kelce himself put in the good word for Jurgens to be his heir apparent. When Jason Kelce tells you a center is good, you listen to him.
But the main storyline of Day 2 wasn’t the Eagles second round center, it was that linebacker Nakobe Dean was falling much further than anybody had projected. The heart and soul of Georgia’s National Title defense was projected by many to be a first or high second round pick, but he was free falling on day two.
His fall stopped with the 83rd pick in the draft when Howie Roseman drafted the speedy Nakobe Dean to a team desperate for high level linebacker play.
For the second year in a row, Roseman drafted two of the most important players from the best team in the country. A formula that worked so well last year, it would be silly not to do it again. The Eagles walked out of the draft with Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, AJ Brown, Cam Jurgens, some quality depth players and a handful of picks in 2023.
It really does feel like Howie Roseman was willingly self critical after the 2019 and 2020 drafts and he is now we one.
Enough about Howie though, here are some closer looks at the Eagles 2022 picks.
Jordan Davis, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
What he immediately brings to the team: Jordan Davis was my fourth ranked player in the class. His dominating run defense and ability to eat up blocks was enough to project him as a high NFL draft pick, but he also happens to be one of the best athletes to ever come out of college football. Jordan Davis’ immediate impact is someone who can dominantly play any interior defensive position in base or nickel defense. His one man wrecking crew ability against the run will allow the Eagles to play with lighter boxes to be more ready to defend against the pass. Having such an immediately dominating run defender is a perfect way to consistently get defenses into third and long situations, elevating the play of the whole unit.
Long term outlook: Much was made about Jordan Davis’ lack of pass rush production at UGA, but in reality it had less to do with ability and more to do with UGA’s defensive philosophy. Davis was asked to control the line of scrimmage and create opportunities for blitzers. Davis was reading run-first on every play he was on the field, which meant he was always playing a step slower to run up and rush the passer. In the few times Georgia asked him to shoot upfield, Davis flashed world destroying ability to blow by guards and centers to create interior pressure.
The depth of the Eagles defensive line means Davis will be an important role player in year one that gives the Eagles flexibility with formations on the defensive front. They can play 3-4 alignments with Davis at 0-tech, 4-3 over and under fronts with Davis playing 1-tech and field nickel defenses on early downs with Davis playing defensive tackle knowing teams will have trouble running. As Davis gets more reps where he can rush up field, he will improve at it. If he even takes a small step as a productive pass rusher, the Eagles defensive front will be formidable for years to come.
Cam Jurgens, Center, Nebraska
What he immediately brings to the team: Cam Jurgens was selected to eventually step into Jason Kelce’s shoes, so it is fair to assume he (hopefully) will not see the field much in his rookie year. Unlike Landon Dickerson last year, Cam Jurgens lacks the size and experience to play guard in his rookie year. So Jurgens will get to sit and practice behind Jason Kelce in year one.
Long Term Outlook: Jason Kelce does so much to catalyze the Eagles offense with his athleticism, toughness and intelligence. Replacing what he does is a tall, tall task. So drafting Jurgens, whose athletic profile is very similar to Jason Kelce, was a step in the right direction. The hope is that Jurgens’ athletic tools and on-field mentality will be a great foundation for Coach Stoutland to turn him into the next great Eagles center.
Nakobe Dean, Linebacker, Georgia
What he immediately brings to the team: The Eagles have been lacking a true difference maker at linebacker for a while now. Nakobe Dean not only brings playmaking speed, but also brings a mentality the Eagles have not had on their defense since Malcolm Jenkins left. Nakobe Dean was a leader on Georgia’s national title team and the heart and soul of their defense. Dean’s energy was something that was clearly infectious for the Bulldogs and he will bring that to the Eagles locker room.
Schematically, Dean will be a defensive asset as soon as he can step on the field. While he is smaller than the average NFL linebacker, he used speed, instincts and physicality to evade and run through blocks in college. While it is fair to assume he will have a harder time with NFL lineman, his speed will still be a difference maker. He will immediately be a game changing blitzer and having him on the field with Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, and Kyzir White give the Eagles so much flexibility to move their linebackers around and create pressure from anywhere on the field. Dean will see most of his early snaps as nickel linebacker. Luckily the talent the Eagles have on the defensive line should make things much easier for Dean in terms of flowing to ball carriers against the run.
Long term outlook: Dean might not immediately be an every-down linebacker immediately, but that should be his projection as he gets more comfortable. Dean was considered a first round talent for a reason. By late in his rookie season, Dean should be comfortable enough as an NFL linebacker to take the majority of the snaps back there.
Kyron Johnson, Linebacker, Kansas
What he brings to the team immediately: Kyron Johnson got time playing edge and off-ball during his tenure at Kansas. His speed, physicality and hot motor made him a productive and valuable member of the Jayhawks defense. In the All Star circuits, Johnson impressed in practice, often winning one on ones with some offensive linemen who went much earlier than him in the draft. Johnson’s size at six foot and about 235 pounds is not ideal for an edge player in the NFL, but his speed and smarts could make him valuable depth at linebacker. The Eagles also highlighted his special teams contributions in college (Howie said he had 17 career ST tackles), showing their hand that Johnson will be used on special teams early in his NFL career.
Long term outlook: Johnson’s most likely path is eventually playing his way into being a defensive role player. His edge experience could make him a chess piece in a defense that values flexibility. Most likely, Johnson will see most of his time as a special team contributors.
Grant Calcaterra, Tight End, SMU
What he brings to the team immediately: The Eagles have a huge hole behind Dallas Goedert in terms of viable pass catching tight ends. Jack Stoll was an excellent blocker in his rookie season but was only targeted five times for four catches. The team has high hopes for Tyree Jackson, but he is still making his way back from an ACL injury. JJ Arcega Whiteside recently was moved to tight end, but it is hard to tell how that experiment will go. That all being said, Grant Calcaterra was a dynamic and valuable pass catcher during his college career. He is big, very athletic for his size and has good hands. He is coming into a rare position where he could compete for number two tight end despite being a late round pick.
Long term outlook: The biggest concern with Calcaterra is health. He briefly stepped away from football due to concussions before returning to play a season at SMU. Talent is undeniable for Calcaterra and he could be an important role player for a team that loves two tight end sets. The main thing for him will be staying on the field.