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Mel Kiper's first mock draft gives Eagles a LB and a WR originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The NFL playoffs are rolling along, but here in Philadelphia most football fans have officially shifted gears to offseason mode and are busy trade machining dream deals for Russell Wilson and poring over YouTube highlight reels of the Top 50 prospects in April's draft.
And nothing signals Mock Draft Season like the first mock from ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., the man who basically turned obsessing over the annual event into a micro-industry.
You can quibble over Kiper's bona fides and hit rates all you want, and we're still three-plus months away, but I know I always want to see who Kiper has the Eagles taking and what his thoughts are on prospects. So let's dive into his first mock draft of 2022, released Wednesday, and see what he's got Howie Roseman & Co. doing on April 28:
15. Devin Lloyd, ILB, Utah
"This is the first of three Eagles picks in the next five, this one coming from the Dolphins in last March's order-busting trade. And I know that some folks are going to connect Philly with a quarterback, but I'm not buying that; Jalen Hurts earned the 2022 job by his play down the stretch, even if he didn't have a great playoff game. This team needs more talent on defense, so that's where I'm going with the first two of these picks.
"I had to dive deep back into my research to find the last time the Eagles took a linebacker in Round 1, going all the way back to Jerry Robinson in 1979. I was 18 years old at the time of that draft. This is both a need and value pick, as Lloyd is coming off a tremendous season. I've compared him to Tampa Bay's Devin White -- he's an off-ball linebacker with speed, versatility, range and run-and-hit ability. He had eight sacks and four picks last season. This would be a major boost to the Philly D."
My take: Kiper and I both think the Eagles should seriously consider investing in Lloyd with one of their first-round picks. You love to see some continuity.
The idea that the Eagles could take a linebacker in the first round still doesn't feel entirely real - historically, they just don't do it - but this year's class has three linebackers in Lloyd, Nakobe Dean, and Christian Harris who have Top-20 pedigree and are considered high-ceiling options at a position the Eagles have neglected for far too long.
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Lloyd would be a fantastic pick on the field, and would be a home run selection with the fanbase because it would be an example of Roseman admitting he was wrong in the past for eschewing linebacker investment. Win-win.
16. Arnold Ebiketie, DE, Penn State
"The Eagles finished the regular season with wins in six of their final eight games powered by their running game, but again, this defense showed several holes. One of those was the pass rush -- they finished 31st in the league in sacks with just 29, 11 of those coming from the tackle duo of Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox. I see edge rusher as a priority, even if 2017 first-rounder Derek Barnett, a free agent this offseason, returns to the team. He has never quite put together a consistent season, and he had just two sacks in 2021. So let's use the pick from the Carson Wentz trade on a rising pass-rusher.
"Ebiketie, a transfer from Temple, is coming off a stellar season for the Nittany Lions. He had 9.5 sacks, 19 total tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He has long arms and is explosive at the snap, and he's strong enough to set the edge in the run game. I'm a big fan."
My take: I haven't seen a ton of top-half-of-the-first buzz for Ebiketie, so this one caught me by surprise, especially when Purdue edge rusher George Karlaftis was still on the board in Kiper's mock. Karlaftis is viewed by some as a half-rung down from Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux and Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson, and nearly on the same level as Michigan's David Ojabo. I'd have a hard time passing on Karlaftis if he was there at 16.
That said, Roseman picking a guy with multiple local ties - Temple AND Penn State?! - would probably go over well with the fanbase. He had a big breakout year in 2021 with the Nittany Lions which means he's trending in the right direction, another thing I can get behind.
But the small sample size certainly worries me, and while drafting based on production backfired with the Derek Barnett pick, I wouldn't mind avoiding a player who only put 28 games on tape across four years.
19. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
"Let's finish out the Eagles' picks with another wide receiver, which would make back-to-back-to-back drafts that Philly went wideout in Round 1. This is still an issue, though. DeVonta Smith had a good rookie season and looks to be the clear No. 1, but 2020 first-rounder Jalen Reagor underwhelmed and might never be more than a decent third option. Going back to the 2019 draft, the Eagles took J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in Round 2, but he has just 16 catches over three seasons. Jalen Hurts has to get some more help.
"Olave was a touchdown machine at Ohio State -- he had 35 in four seasons -- and he's one of the best deep threats in this class. At 6-foot-1, he can play inside or outside. He's a player who looks better and better when you watch all of his snaps in a game, because even if he didn't catch 10 passes, he was always open."
My take: Some Eagles fans seem reticent to spend yet another first-round pick on a wide receiver, more intent on adding a veteran in free agency. It's hard to blame them for being gun-shy after the Jalen Reagor and JJ Arcega-Whitside flameouts, but this year's wideout class has a lot of talent and it's a position worth tossing darts at when you have three first-round picks.
Olave's numbers this year weren't eye-watering - 65 catches, 936 yards, 13 TD in 11 games - thanks in large part to the Buckeyes' deep receiving corps. And like DeVonta Smith, he's not the largest wide receiver in the world - some Eagles fans want the Birds to go after a different body type to lineup across from the slight, speedy Smith.
But every time I watched Olave this year he jumped off the screen as a player who simply has talent galore. Like Smith he's a tremendous route-runner, he creates separation with speed and technical skill, and he could have a rookie year similar to Smith's. I might worry about some redundancy in the wide receiver room, but an Olave pick would still be a good one.