The Philadelphia Eagles 2019 NFL Draft was a fairly quiet one. The Birds made just five selections which was due, in large part, to a day one trade they made with the Baltimore Ravens. That move saw Philly move up to the 22nd overall pick in exchange for their first (25th), fourth (127th), and sixth-round (197th) picks in this year’s draft.
Below are the Eagles picks listed by round, pick number, as well as the players’ position and school.
First round, 22nd overall: Andre Dillard, offensive tackle, Washington State
Second round, 53rd overall: Miles Sanders, running back, Penn State
Second round, 57th overall: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, wide receiver, Stanford
Fourth round, 138th overall: Shareef Miller, edge rusher, Penn State
Fifth round, 167th overall: Clayton Thorson, quarterback, Northwestern
Eagles 2019 NFL Draft Grade: 8.2/10
Philadelphia Eagles 2019 NFL Draft Review
The Best Player: Andre Dillard
Given where teams had a chance to draft certain prospects, many of them can double as both the team’s best draftee as well as a steal. Dillard undoubtedly falls into this category. Many mocks had the Washington State product going as early as the top 10. Yet he ends up falling into the Eagles’ lap at 22 even though they did have to sacrifice some draft capital to get him.
Most experts tabbed Dillard as the best pure pass-protector in this year’s draft class. The 6’5″, 315-pound tackle is exceptionally athletic, exhibits hugely impressive footwork, and effortlessly kicks laterally as a means of taking the outside route to the quarterback away from opposing defenders. The one thing that potentially caused Dillard to slide to the late first round is that there were concerns over his run-blocking acumen. Washington State’s air-raid offense is extremely pass-happy which means he wasn’t used in run support too often. But overall, Philly is getting a potential Pro Bowl-caliber player who should have no problem stepping into the starting left tackle spot once veteran Jason Peters calls it a career.
The Head-Scratcher: Clayton Thorson
The Eagles certainly needed to use the late rounds to add depth at the quarterback position given Nick Foles‘ departure. They did so by taking Thorson with their fifth and final pick of the draft. There are certainly quite a few things to like about the signal-caller out of Northwestern. He’s about as experienced as they get, having started more games in college than any other quarterback in Big Ten history. He throws with solid mechanics, has good footwork in the pocket, and can make a wide variety of throws.
Ultimately, this is more of a head-scratcher if the Eagles drafted Thorson with the aim of eventually naming him a starter, which they aren’t with Carson Wentz the man for now. Perhaps the biggest concern regarding Thorson is his arm strength which does not stand out on tape. He’s also way too static in the pocket which won’t cut it against NFL-level speed on defense. There’s also the issue of him having ball security issues as he threw 45 interceptions during his college career. Either way, expect a healthy competition to be Wentz’s backup between him and Nate Sudfeld.
The Surprise: Shareef Miller
With Jordan Hicks departing for the Arizona Cardinals via free agency, middle linebacker appeared to be one of the most pressing needs on defense. And there were some potential difference-makers when the Eagles went on the clock with the final pick of the fourth round. In the end, their lone defensive selection in the draft turned out to be Miller. He was the second player to stay in-state after playing collegiately at Penn State, joining Sanders who we’ll get to later.
Miller fits the profile of an NFL-level edge rusher from the standpoint of overall size and physical traits. He’s also scheme versatile, with the ability to play in both 4-3 and 3-4 alignments. That said, Miller is still a work in progress when it comes to playing with the technique necessary to win against pro-caliber offensive linemen. He’s not a particularly effective hand-fighter and plays with too high a pad level which siphons away any consistent leverage-generating potential. But there’s much to suggest his weak points can be addressed with coaching.
The Steal: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
The Eagles endured a bit of a wide receiver exodus during free agency. Gone are Golden Tate and Jordan Matthews who signed for the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers respectively. Though the team brought DeSean Jackson back and have a tandem of capable pass-catchers in Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, drafting an instant impact player would certainly serve to augment this team’s wide receiver depth.
That’s exactly what the Eagles did in selecting Arcega-Whiteside. The ex-Stanford receiver might be the best prospect in this year’s draft when it comes to winning the ball in contested catch situations. It’s likely a product of his basketball bloodlines as both his mother and father played the sport. He’s a highly intelligent player who speaks four languages and shouldn’t have too pronounced a learning curve in adjusting to NFL concepts. Add in his ability to generate yards after the catch and you have someone who should be able to contribute immediately.
Most Likely to Turn Heads in Training Camp: Miles Sanders
Sanders is a refreshing story in the age of college players constantly transferring in search of playing time. He certainly could’ve done so himself. But he patiently waited his turn behind Saquon Barkley and finally had his chance to shine as a senior in 2018. He didn’t disappoint either, rushing for 1,274 yards which were second among Big Ten running backs. The Eagles drafting him late in round two obviously means that he and Barkley are now NFC East rivals.
Though he does come into the pros with just one season of starter reps, he’s essentially the equivalent of a sports car that got driven off the lot fairly recently. He’s highly elusive in space and extremely capable of creating for himself downfield. His vision is also a significant strong suit as he’s able to transition inside if defenders clog up pathways to the perimeter. He does join an Eagles backfield with plenty of mouths to feed as Corey Clement, Josh Adams, and new signing Jordan Howard should all figure prominently on the stat sheet. But Eagles fans should have confidence that Sanders can prove himself in training camp and help spearhead a third straight playoff berth.
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