Judging the Eagles' 2018 NFL draft three years later

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Judging the Eagles' 2018 draft three years later originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles had just five picks in the 2018 draft, just one in the first three rounds for the first time in 40 years.

They didn’t have a first-round pick. They didn’t have a third-round pick. They had just one of the first 124 picks.

And here we are three years later, and it looks like one of the Eagles’ best drafts in years.

Dallas Goedert in the second round, Avonte Maddox and Josh Sweat in the fourth round, Matt Pryor in the sixth and Jordan Mailata in the seventh.

We spend so much time detailing the poor drafts — 2011, 2014, 2017 — it’s only fair to focus a few minutes on the 2018 draft, especially in light of the contract extensions the last two weekends for Mailata and Sweat.

Goedert is a top-10 tight end, period, and I still think the Eagles will find a way to get him signed to a long-term deal before he hits free agency. He’s never had that bust-out season we feel he’s capable of, but his receiving ability and blocking ability are a rare combination. He’s really good.

Maddox is strictly a slot, but we saw Sunday in Atlanta that he’s just a different guy when he’s playing inside rather than outside, like he was forced to last year. 

Sweat will be the Eagles’ best pass rusher very soon, if he isn’t already. He’s relentless and honestly, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t hit double digits in sacks this year. And he’s still 24. There’s a reason Chris Long said last week he’s the Eagles’ most talented defensive lineman.

Pryor never panned out, but he did start 10 games last year and drew the Eagles a seventh-round pick in a late-August trade, an OK return for a sixth-round pick.

And Mailata, what a story. He’s going to the Pro Bowl soon. Maybe this year. He’s a beast. And he’s still getting better.

There's your 2018 draft. That was a very good weekend for Howie Roseman and his staff. And the Eagles desperately needed it.

This 2021 Eagles team is largely built on draft picks, especially on offense and the defensive line. The Eagles started 13 draft picks in the opener Sunday, 10 of 11 on offense. And the 2018 draft delivered great value in just five picks, only one before the fourth round.

The real beauty of the draft comes in the Sweat and Mailata contract extensions. It’s so important when you’re trying to build a championship roster to sign your own players to cap-friendly deals before they hit free agency so you don’t have to overpay for free agents.

The Eagles signed Mailata after just 10 career starts and Sweat after just three. There’s an element of projection here, but even if Mailata and Sweat don’t become Pro Bowlers, these are still extremely team-friendly deals even for decent starters.

Ever since the days of Andy Reid and Joe Banner, the Eagles have believed in building the lines first, and the Eagles just locked up two potentially elite linemen at prices that will look like bargains this spring.  

With the salary cap about to make a huge jump, these sort of extensions are the lifeblood of a football team. 

The 2018 draft hasn’t produced a Pro Bowler. The Eagles have only drafted one of those since 2014, none on defense since 2012. But it really began the process of helping the Eagles replenish the roster with some young talent when the Super Bowl roster got very old very fast.

The 2019 draft wasn’t a particularly strong one but it did bring the Eagles Miles Sanders; 2020 was Jalen Hurts, Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins and a few others who have a shot; and this year’s draft looks very promising.

Young players. Draft picks. Manageable contracts. They all go together. And for the first time in a while, they just might be adding up to something special around here.

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