PHILADELPHIA - Need is often described as the worst talent evaluator in sports.
Typically NFL teams have to be very mindful of that up and down the draft board. When it comes to the 2021 process, however, Howie Roseman could stand blindfolded with a dart in his hand and hit a need at No. 6 overall.
It shouldn't be about favorite flavor or even positional value for the Eagles at the top of the process, it’s got to be about adding the best piece of talent to an aging and expensive roster in what Jeffrey Lurie himself described as a transition phase.
That said the organizational philosophy is what it is and that means a default setting that points to quarterback first and then the offensive and defensive lines.
There are four potential top-10 selections at the game’s most important position with two of those seemingly out of reach even if Roseman is willing to trade up - Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, who is earmarked for No. 1 overall, and Jacksonville and BYU’s Zach Wilson, likely headed for old friend Joe Douglas and the New York Jets at No. 2 unless the Deshaun Watson miracle is pulled off there.
That leaves Ohio State’s Justin Fields and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
There are no defensive linemen in the conversation for Philadelphia’s rarified air and two offensive tackles - Oregon’s Penei Sewell and fast-rising Northwestern product Rashawn Slater.
For the fans, the sexy comes in at the skill positions with receivers Ja’Marr Chase of LSU, hyped as better than former teammate and breakout 2020 star Justin Jefferson, and the usual suspects at Alabama, this time Heisman winner DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, who is actually the more explosive of the duo. Add in Florida hybrid Kyle Pitts, who most list as a tight end but is more of a flex weapon, and you have more “can’t miss” than slots.
The only other potential is likely cornerback where Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley and Alabama’s Patrick Surtain III could force themselves into the conversation.
Understand, the pre-draft process typically has stages, and right now Fields seems to be taking some hits with the film showing a QB who was rarely asked to come off his first read with the Buckeyes and when he did, bad things tended to happen.
As an example, former Eagles scout and lead NFL Network lead draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah dropped Fields to No. 12 overall on his top-50 big board.
For now, that concern over on-field processing has an elite talent falling to the Eagles at No. 6.
FIRST ROUND (No. 6 overall)
JUSTIN FIELDS, QB OHIO STATE
This will be the fifth time the Eagles have selected in the top 10 of the draft and twice in the previous four times in that position they have taken a quarterback - Donovan McNabb in 1999 and Carson Wentz in 2016. They make it three times in five trips to the top 10 with this pick of Fields.
SECOND ROUND (NO. 37)
KADARIUS TONEY, WR FLORIDA
A versatile playmaker in the mold of Deebo Samuel minus a little size, Toney could be the modern offensive weapon that helps put the pieces together in the WR puzzle.
He’s more natural at the things Jalen Reagor was supposed to be good at like lining up in the slot and being used as the eyewash with jet sweeps and orbit motions but also producing when he gets the football on those kinds of looks thanks to his strength as a runner and burst.
He’s also a game-breaker as a returner as well and while some will see a redundancy with Reagor, his presence will allow Reagor to focus on being a deep threat outside.
While most see Toney as WR5, his raw route-running skills and status as a manufactured-touch player might push him out of the first round.
THIRD ROUND (NO. 70)
ERIC STOKES, CB GEORGIA
The speedy Stokes would fit outside on the Eagles defense which has struggled to find CBs other than Darius Slay, who could be on the trade market with the Eagles entering a rebuilding phase.
Stokes was tested at the highest level in the SEC and has the length and catchup speed to make up for mistakes, but is a work in progress when it comes to ball skills and run support, something that might be addressed by adding a little weight to his 185-pound frame. Once thought of as a potential top-50 player, Stokes seems to be slipping a bit and would provide good value at this point.
(No. 84 FROM INDIANAPOLIS)
PATRICK JONES, EDGE PITT
The Eagles have to figure out what to do on the edge with Derek Barnett, who is set to play out his expensive fifth-year option on his rookie deal. The better alternative would be to work out a more cost-effective extension but Philadelphia is under the gun while trying to get under the cap by the start of the new league year on March 17.
Set to turn 33 in April Brandon Graham isn’t getting any younger and Genard Avery has already been moved to SAM linebacker by the new coaching staff so the Eagles need to keep adding and Jones is a lengthy edge rusher with a terrific ceiling who could pair with Josh Sweat to provide the consistent pass rush Jonathan Gannon will crave.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.
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