By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE – Opening Day, my eyeball.
This is the greatest time of the year in sports because the NFL Draft looms on the horizon.
Not a day passes that I don’t immerse my Draft Geek self in an online draft simulation, and I find myself emerging with different results each time.
While there are multiple simulators out there, the one I prefer is from Pro Football Network. Its ratings seem to be in lockstep from what is out there in real world and also my print draft guides (yeah, I’m that pathetic.). It also proposes trades along the way. Sometimes, for the heck of it, I accept almost all the offers and load up on talent in what is a draft made deeper in talent by high-end prospects opting out last season due to COVID. That gave others a chance to shine, creating almost a double draft this year.
It would be easy to just look at each round and follow a wish list and go from there, but experiencing it in real time, with targeted players going off the board a pick or two before you have the chance, is the ultimate challenge.
I am sharing today’s draft because it looked like a snapshot of how it really may go down. There were some disappointments, as you’ll see, but some needs may have to just wait for the second wave of free agency (or veterans getting cut loose after the draft) or for next year’s meat market for college prospects.
So, for now, let’s look at G2’s 2021 Mock Draft 2001 (with some tongue-twisting last names:
Round 1 (Pick 17, via trade from Las Vegas): Jeremiah Owsu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
Explanation: I was hoping to be offered New England’s pick at 15, if only because of swap there is the hot rumor, but the simulator offered three others. Two were ridiculous — offering a bunch of later picks and 2022 picks — so I dismissed them offhand. This one, from the Raiders (still weird not saying Oakland Raiders) made sense. For them to move up to the 12 spot the Eagles held after moving back from 6, the offer was the 17th pick along with a second next year. Truth be told, if offered New England’s choice at 15 (even with Micah Parsons on the board), this Swiss Army Knife of an athlete from Notre Dame would have been the pick anyway. If people can buy hybrid vehicles, why not a hybrid defender? He is the classic “player without a position” that is all the rage, and he is the best one in the draft. While a pick was spent on a similar player, Davion Taylor, in the third round last year, Owsu-Koramoah is as shovel-ready as a three-down player as Taylor wasn’t (and still may not be this year). He can cover backs, tight ends and even big slot receivers. He can blitz, and he hits like a truck against the run. The knock is his size (6-1 and in the 215-220 range) but his athleticism and ability to line up anywhere against any formation makes him the ultimate decade-long chess piece for a defensive coordinator.
Round 2 (Pick 37) Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
Explanation: There were sexier picks, like the craved receivers and corners, on the board. Others that I was hoping would fall (TCU’s Trevon Moehrig, the best safety in the draft by far, didn’t last this time around) didn’t. So, instead, I went non-sexy. Onwuzurike, a 2019 beast in the Pac-12 who opted out in 2020, fills what I see as a more desperate need than others do. Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox, who seems to be plagued by “stinger” injuries, isn’t getting any younger. While Javon Hargrave was one of the few players who actually got better as last year’s nightmare season refused to end, there is almost nothing reliable behind he and Cox on the depth chart. At 6-2 and pushing 300, this Huskie will likely carve out an immediate niche as an inside pass rusher while learning to gain more leverage at the point of attack in the run game.
Round 3 (Pick 70): Josh Myers, C, Ohio State
Explanation: The Eagles will hopefully be looking for Jason Kelce’s heir apparent, and give up on the fantasy of mixing up the whole line and sliding Isaac Seumalo over to center from left guard. Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey went first in the second round, and Alabama’s Landon Dickerson was gone, too. Myers (6-4, 315) is considered as plug-and-play as either of those guys and I had no choice but to bypass some talented skill position offensive players and cornerbacks and grab up a guy who combines technique with power and athleticism. The only real knock on Myers is that he may lack the versatility to play anywhere else along the line in the NFL, but that’s what I’m bringing him here for anyway, right?
Round 3 (Pick 78): Patrick Jones II, Edge, Pitt
Explanation: Still not overly sexy, and I apologize, but I’m not a sexy kind of a guy. Since the Eagles are in rebuild/retool mode, they need to plan ahead all over the field. They seem semi-set at defensive end this year with Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and the emerging Josh Sweat. However, a snapshot of 2022 and beyond shows a dire need. Jones (6-5, 265) is part of a solid DE class that starts falling off a bit on Day 3 (Rounds 4-7). He is a four-year starter and a second-team All-American who can be accused of being a squatter in opposing backgrounds. He could join Onwuzurike on obvious passing downs and make an immediate impact while being taught on how not to overplay the run.
Round 4 (Pick 188, from Los Angeles Chargers, for TE Zach Ertz and a conditional 2022 pick): Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame
Explanation: Hard to know how Ertz-gate will be resolved. Me? Since the Kyle Pitts possibility is all but gone, I sweet talk him into staying another year – and becoming the franchise’s all-time leading receiver as aPR stunt – but I think the SS Antipathy has ventured out to sea. I’m hoping instead that it isn’t one of those situations where he is cut loose for nothing. A team that is restocking its shelves can’t afford that type of move, even for salary cap relief. So, I cooked up this trade with a likely suitor. He won’t garner a fourth, or maybe not even a fifth, straight up. A spiced up the pot with a conditional 2022 Day 3 pick (fifth or sixth round) based on his performance and health. As for Tremble, I hate to put pressure on the kid by taking a tight end in exchange for the best at the position in the franchise’s rich history at the position, but the need is there and Tremble is good value as a 6-4, 250-pound two-way tight end with untapped upside and athleticism.
Round 4 (Pick 123): Caden Sterns, S, Texas
Explanation: A 28-game starter for the Longhorns, he is the quintessential two-way safety. Sterns has good size (6-0, 207) and athletic ability and he thrives on the big hit while being sound in coverage with nice ball skills. He may take some time to learn the pro game, like last year’s fourth-rounder K’Von Wallace, but will be a willing combatant on special teams in the meantime.
Round 5 (Pick 150): Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina
Explanation: I’m sure there is a school of thought that the Eagles should go receiver early, and Ja’Marr Chase as the Alpha Dog for their WR Room at 6 was what I would have done, even with Pitts on the board. However, beyond getting an obvious No. 1 to build around, I don’t really see the logic in stockpiling receivers after drafting three who showed glimpses of promises last year (same reason why I didn’t take multiple offensive linemen with the line hopefully healthy and the younger guys who played last year more experienced). They also return Travis Fulgham (led the team in receiving yards) and Greg Ward (led the team in receptions), and both are young as well. There is also a lingering hope that the new coaching staff can press reset on J.J. Arecega-Whiteside, a foolish second-round pick ahead of D.K. Metcalf two drafts back, and get some production, even if it’s as a red zone specialist. That is six receivers there, and it would not surprise me if a veteran with some mileage on the odometer — but some street savvy — was also added. However, the back end of the draft is loaded with receivers. It would make no sense not to grab a lottery ticket. Every year, a late-round receiver – or even an undrafted one – emerges (while a higher pick, like Arcega-Whiteside, flops). That brings us to a human highlight reel in the 5-10, 185 pound Smith. He has sub-4.5 speed and a productive career (174 catches, 2,204 yards) on his resume.
Round 6 (Pick 189): Tre Brown. CB, Oklahoma
Explanation: I know I didn’t take a corner earlier, and I was hoping to get one at the right value. Again, though, this was a real fire drill in real time. Also, I have a theory on corners. I have seen too many drafted high and, because of that, their team will throw them into the toaster and turn them into burnt toast. It gets to a point that psyches get so damaged from pro receivers making them look bad that they never fully recover. Sometimes, and history backs this up, it is wise to take a corner later on and nurse them along. Brown would provide an instant boost to the Eagles’ moribund return game while project as slot corner. Although he has 4.4 speed and doesn’t not back away from a challenge, his size (5-9, 190) would almost lock him into that role, where he could excel with what are considered pro-level ball skills.
Round 6 (Pick 224): Israel Mukuamu, CB/S, South Carolina
Explanation: This is my “steal” pick. Maybe I’m missing something, as the game film screams a much earlier selection to me. He has experience at a corner and safety. He deploys every bit of his 6-3, 205 frame to play physical with receivers and also hit hard in the running game. While it’s unclear where he will play – my educated guess is safety – the guy will find his way onto the field. Mark it down.
Round 6 (Pick 225): Trey Ragas, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette
Explanation: And now my “sleeper.” There are some intriguing backs all through the draft, but there are also too many other glaring needs. Ragas (5-11, 230) is the type of back the Eagles need to mix in with Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. While this “mean runner” barely cracks 4.6 in the 40, Ragas has a knack for consistently slamming it between the tackles for daylight. For his career, he gained 3,574 yards and ran for 38 touchdowns. Oh, and that was while operating out of a committee approach. He won’t break many long runs, but he could make a career out of runs of 5-10 yards on a consistent basis.
Round 7 (Pick 234): Shane Buechele, QB, SMU
Explanation: A quarterback might actually not be happy getting drafted this late because he would rather just choose his own best destination as an undrafted entity. However, the Eagles offer the perfect opportunity to draw a NFL paycheck as a developmental No. 3 behind Jalen Hurts and Joe Flacco. While Hurts is being given the chance to prove himself this year, there is no knowing right now if it will pan out. Flacco, meanwhile, is here one-year hitch. Buechele doesn’t have a whole lot of visible upside, as his arm and athleticism are not eye-popping. But he has a bit of former Eagle Jim McMahon in him. He is tough, accurate, intelligent and competitive. When the smoke clears, he could at least be a solid No. 2 down the road that you don’t fear putting into a game.
Round 7 (Pick 240): Ben Mason, FB, Michigan
Explanation: The odds are probably stronger that the Eagles even take a kicker or a punter here than a fullback, but I am now making an editorial comment. There is a fallacy that fullback is a dying breed. In reality, it is coming back. You are seeing it used more in college, and 21 of the 32 teams in the NFL – including a lot of playoff teams – had a fullback on their depth chart last season. Some only play 5-10 snaps a game on offense but are still core guys on special teams while others are more integral to their schemes. Like long snappers, most fullbacks who make it are undrafted, but Mason has the chops to be a late-round pick. Why not here? The new coach, Nick Sirianni did not have a fullback last year with Indianapolis, where he was the offensive coordinator, although he did use former Eagle – and thrower of the famed “Philly Special” – Trey Burton there from time to time. New offensive coordinator, Shane Steichen, had a fullback (Gabe Nabers) with the LA Chargers. Mason (6-2, 255) is a fierce lead blocker who always has soft hands out of the backfield. It’s also interesting to note that he played several positions in Ann Arbor, before landing at fullback, and mostly on the defensive side of the ball. That would make him an asset on special teams.
Summary: Again, not a sexy draft. I would have hoped to get a corner earlier, but it’s not the way the cookie crumbled this time around (we’ll try again after Easter). I had to go with the flow and what was a real-time draft and plug as many of the obvious holes as I could. The hated one, GM Howie Roseman, has already had prime draft picks for next year (at least two firsts a third) and I got another second here for moving from 12 to 17 and getting a three-down linebacker who can start Day 1.