The Eagles have gotten plenty of scrutiny for some misfires in their recent draft selections. The 2020 NFL Draft will be the first opportunity for them to shift the narrative on that.
In the 2019 draft, there was a bit of a combination of hits and misses with the Eagles’ selections, though that is typical. First-round pick LT Andre Dillard has emerged as a legitimate starter to protect QB Carson Wentz’s blindside, while second-round pick RB Miles Sanders has quickly developed into one of the teams most explosive offensive weapons. Meanwhile, second-round pick WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside has struggled to develop any role on offense, and fifth-round pick QB Clayton Thorson isn’t even on the team anymore.
Over the years, the Eagles’ spotty drafting success has become a pattern. In the 2017 NFL Draft, a draft that’s widely regarded as one of the best RB classes, the Eagles selected Donnell Pumphrey over players of the likes of Marlon Mack, Aaron Jones, and Chris Carson. On the other side of the picture, the Eagles landed DBs Avonte Maddox (fourth-round selection) and Jalen Mills (seventh-round selection), both of which have developed into key contributors in the secondary.
However the past draft successes and failures are painted for the Eagles, the 2020 draft is an important one for the organization. The Eagles currently have the third-oldest roster in the NFL, and next season is the final year before Wentz’s $128 million extension sets in. Cheap and young talent is desperately needed, which means there isn’t much room for error when it becomes drafting time for the Eagles.
The Eagles have a slew of key players set to hit free agency following this season, including RB Jordan Howard, WR Nelson Agholor, DT Tim Jernigan, CBs Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills, and S Rodney McLeod. LB Nigel Bradham could also see his contract to get voided to open up money as well.
With the 2019 season more than halfway in the books, it has become clear some of the needs the Eagles have: the speed at receiver, help in the secondary, and starting-caliber talent at linebacker. Luckily for the Eagles, the 2020 draft offers plenty of talent to address some of those needs, along with others.
Here is an early look at five prospects the Eagles should take a look at for the 2020 draft.
S Grant Delpit, LSU
After this season, the Eagles only have two safeties under contract: Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Epps. Jenkins turns 32 in December, and Epps isn’t quite ready yet to be relied upon at safety. Re-signing Rodney McLeod is a possibility, but that has yet to be addressed. Safety could become a real need following the season.
The Eagles rely upon safeties more than most teams, and if they go into the 2020 draft with just Jenkins and Epps on the books, that position could skyrocket towards the top of their needs. If that’s the case, LSU safety Grant Delpit would be a prime option to address the position.
Delpit is projected as a top-15 pick, which means the Eagles would likely have to trade up to select him, but that’s not something they’ve shied away from. Just in last year’s draft, the Eagles made a push to trade up and select DT Christian Wilkins, who was eventually selected 13th overall by the Miami Dolphins.
Delpit is a player who realistically could come in and start right away for the Eagles. In 2018, Delpit was a unanimous All-American, and was voted as First-Team All-SEC. That season, Delpit notched a personal-high 74 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss, along with 5.0 sacks as a sophomore. Delpit also added five interceptions and nine pass deflections, both of which were also personal-highs.
LSU is called ‘DBU’ for a reason, and Delpit fits that mold. Delpit possesses the classic ball-hawking skills that all great safeties have, and he’s the most versatile player at his position for the 2020 class, as he’s comfortable in playing both in man and zone coverage.
Delpit does need to work a bit on his tackling, but getting him the opportunity to be mentored by Jenkins may be the perfect way to solve that. If the Eagles were to make a move and trade up in the 2020 draft, Delpit is the guy to do it for.
WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
It’s no secret that the Eagles need help at wide receiver. DeSean Jackson is out for the remainder of the regular season after undergoing core muscle surgery, and both Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor have seen a significant dip in their production this season. With Wentz close to entering his prime (and a recently-signed mega-contract), the Eagles need to surround him with as much talent as possible.
It would be unprecedented to take a wide receiver early in the draft for two consecutive years, but the need is there. Receiver prospects such as Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama’s Jerry Juedy may be a bit out of the reach for the Eagles, but Juedy’s teammate, Henry Ruggs III, could fall more into the Eagles’ range and would be quite the consolation.
Averaging 20.0 yards/reception this season, Ruggs certainly possesses the ability to stretch the field on offense, something the Eagles are badly missing right now. Ruggs caught a career-high 46 passes in 2018, going for 741 yards and 11 touchdowns. Ruggs is following up a personal-best season with 29 catches for 581 yards and 6 touchdowns through nine games thus far in 2019.
For those who love speed, Ruggs should suffice: Ruggs ran a 4.25-second 40-yard dash back in March. The Eagles need speed, and boy does Ruggs possess that.
Ruggs would be a great fit in the Eagles offense if he falls to them in the 2020 draft.
WR Laviska Shenault Jr, Colorado
The Eagles need speed at wide receiver, but they also need a true number one receiver that Carson Wentz can depend upon. Alshon Jeffery used to be that guy, but his play this season makes it hard to believe that’s still the case.
If getting a true number one receiver is what the Eagles are looking for, Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr could develop into that guy. At 6’2 and 220 pounds, Shenault does possess the size to be the go-to guy, and the production has been there as well.
In 2018, Shenault caught 86 passes for 1,011 yards and 6 touchdowns, landing him on All-Pac-12 first-team. This season, Shenault has followed that up with a handful of dominant performances.
Just a few weeks ago, Shenault posted nine receptions for 172 yards and a touchdown against USC, showing just how dominant he can be on the outside. Shenault’s numbers this season are a bit deflated since he’s been a bit dinged up, but he’s recently told people around him that he’s close to being 100%.
There is a chance that Shenault can catapult himself up draft boards if he finishes the season strong, but right now, he’s shaping up to be picked somewhere in the 20s, lining him up perfectly in the Eagles’ sights.
CB Kristian Fulton, LSU
There was a chance the Eagles were going to select a corner in the first round of last year’s draft, but they ultimately decided against it. That possibility has a chance of coming to fruition once again in 2020.
With both Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills slated to hit free agency, the Eagles only currently have Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas, Cre’Von LeBlanc and Sidney Jones under contract at cornerback following this season. While there is potential in that group, none have shown the ability to be a consistent starter in the NFL yet.
If the Eagles decide to go with a CB in the first round, LSU’s Kristian Fulton is a guy who is expected to fall right in the range of their projected pick. Fulton opted against entering the 2019 draft, despite some viewing him as the better prospect than his teammate, eventual second-round pick Greedy Williams, and it looks like the decision is paying off.
Fulton has posted 23 tackles on the season along with one interception, but it’s his style of play that has scouts salivating. Fulton is a guy who can line up across any receiver and stay with them stride-for-stride.
Fulton’s size, standing at 6’1 and 200 pounds, isn’t ideal, which may restrict him from being the top cornerback taken, but the talent is undeniable. Fulton would certainly be an upgrade in an Eagles secondary that has failed to be consistent all season long.
DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
The Eagles sure love having talented pass rushers, and that could become a need once again following this season. At defensive tackle, Tim Jernigan is set to be a free agent, and Malik Jackson will be coming off a severe foot injury. Due to that, selecting a defensive tackle in the first round can’t be counted out.
South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw would be a prime option for the Eagles to consider. Kinlaw is a talented pass rusher, and also has the ability to be a real factor in defending the run.
This season, Kinlaw has logged 27 tackles, including 5.5 for a loss, and also has a career-high 5.5 sacks through 10 games. The production is there for Kinlaw, and another added bonus is his versatility — he’s able to line up at both defensive tackle and on the edge.
Kinlaw’s size alone at 6’6 and 310 pounds makes him a tough force to combat offensive lines, which should allow him to continue wreaking havoc once he gets into the NFL. Kinlaw is another player whose stock could rise as the weeks go on, but for right now, he’s a great piece at defensive tackle that the Eagles should have their eye on.