As the city of Philadelphia rejoices with the news of James Harden officially being traded to the 76ers, Philly sports teams have now traded both of their 2016 top-2 picks who were thought to be the future of their franchises in Ben Simmons and Carson Wentz. Admittedly different situations, but there are some interesting parallels in the way the fallout ensued.
The year is 2016/2017…Philly teams have five top-2 picks. They end up with:
Crazy that these players were supposed to be the future & only one remains pic.twitter.com/Xn3lxvhW0c
— Eagles Nation (@PHLEaglesNation) February 11, 2022
NBA trade deadline news aside, the next big ticket event for the NFL will be the NFL Draft on April 28th. As we start to get closer, it’s exciting to think about the opportunity the Eagles have in front of them. Thanks to the Carson Wentz trade, and the Dolphins draft trade, the Eagles will own the 15th, 16th, and 19th picks in this year’s draft.
The areas the Eagles need to improve in are fairly clear. The secondary clearly needs an infusion of young talent, the defensive end position needs improving, and once again the WR position.
To get a better idea of which players will be available at 15-20, and who are the standouts in my opinion, here is my ideal scenario for who the Eagles select in the first round.
15th: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner CB Cincinnati
Ahmad Gardner out of Cincinnati fits the bill as a day one starting cornerback that could make an immediate impact. He’s a 6’2 ball hawk with Cover 3 skills that should translate immediately to the NFL. In only 33 career games, Gardner finished with 9 interceptions (2 for a touchdown), and defended 16 passes. Quarterbacks know not to throw his way, and miraculously over 1,100 coverage snaps Gardner did not allow a single touchdown.
Ahmad Gardner didn’t allow a single TD in coverage over his three years at Cincinnati.
— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) January 4, 2022
Gardner is a player with extremely high pedigree, and would immediately be a great running partner across from Darius Slay. The only dilemma is that before the Eagles pick at 15, 2 cornerback needy teams in Jets (10th pick) and the Vikings (12th pick) will select ahead of the Eagles. But with plenty of secondary talent available through the first 14 picks, there’s a good chance Gardner will be available, and to me this is definitely the right pick.
16th: Drake London WR USC
While Garrett Wilson could end up being the first receiver off the board in this draft, he’s not really what the Eagles need at the position. The Eagles need a long possession receiver that can give Jalen Hurts stability on the outside and that’s exactly what London provides. Standing at 6’5 210 pounds, London is a force to be reckoned with. In his final season at USC, London had 88 receptions for 1,084 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Drake London is going to be special pic.twitter.com/IZcTLQKxlS
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) February 1, 2022
London would immediately become this team’s WR 2 (barring any free agency acquisitions) and be a great compliment to Devonta Smith. He doesn’t let his size slow him down, and with such a large frame, he has great body control and will be able to make contested catches in traffic. He’s shown great burst after the catch, and can be used in the screen game along with his obvious talent on the outside. This would be the WR I’d like to see the Eagles select.
19th: Jermaine Johnson II DE FSU
Jermaine Johnson II directly addresses the Eagles’ need to get younger on the edge. His unique blend of strength and athleticism should establish him as a dynamic playmaker right away. With Brandon Graham at age 33, Johnson would be the perfect player to pair with Josh Sweat for the future.
Inject Jermaine Johnson into my veins.
— Michael Balko (@MichaelBalkoJr) February 4, 2022
In his first full year starting for FSU he piled up 34 solo tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 12 sacks. Johnson has become an extremely fast riser in mock drafts after clips of him dominating Senior Bowl practice began to surface last week. There’s a chance he could be a fit for a team like the Ravens who pick at 14, but if he’s still available at 19, I think he’s the answer for an Eagles D-line that needs a spark.
Overall, if the Eagles were to come away with these three players in the first round, I think there would be a considerable difference in how this team looks and plays next year. Free agency will undoubtedly give the Eagles a chance to improve at these positions of need, but the draft is what I get excited for.
The Eagles will need to nail free agency and the draft to continue their ascension and make a run at an NFC East title. Making the playoffs was a great step forward, but with another year of familiarity for the coaching staff and players, they should be an even better team this year. It’s not very often you find yourself with three first round picks as an NFL franchise, and if Howie Roseman can nail this draft, there’s no denying the potential this team has moving forward.
Featured Image: (Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports)