Mining Gold Late in the Draft will be Even More Challenging for Eagles

With five of their 11 picks in the final two rounds, barring trades, they will have to negotiate a tricky field of players, some without medical testing, to find serviceable players on Day 3
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PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles will try to spin gold out of a lot of straw on Saturday.

Yeah, Saturday. The 2021 NFL Draft begins on Thursday with the first round followed by the second and third rounds on Friday.

By the time the draft reaches the final two rounds late Saturday afternoon, most fans will have had enough, growing weary of the plethora of names few have heard of or care much about, and moved on to the mall, yard work, or even Kentucky Derby coverage.

The final two rounds are where the Eagles have nearly 50 percent of their draft picks, however. Of their NFL-high 11 total selections, they have three in the sixth round and two in the seventh.

It’s unlikely they will make all five of those picks in one of the trickiest drafting years in NFL history, thanks to a pandemic that wreaked havoc with the college football season, led to many players opting out and left medical checks teams usually like to have on players completely up in the air after the NFL Scouting Combine was canceled.

“I think the biggest deal is the medical information,” said NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah. “Last year, as weird as it was, we got the combine in, so you had 330 plus guys that had good medical. This year you only end up having 150 guys go to Indy and several players with COVID or other reasons you had some key players that didn't make it there. “

That has left teams scrambling for medical information and plenty of incomplete medical information on prospects, especially those available later in the draft, Jeremiah said.

“Nothing scares a general manager more than not having the medical,” he added. “When you look at the number of picks and you look at the number of physicals, there's going to be a lot of guys that get picked this year that teams are not comfortable with medically.

"That's why I think you're going to see teams very willing to part with late picks in this draft to move up in rounds 3 and 4 and all the way up into round 2, and you're going to see teams comfortable with trading some picks this year for picks next year just because once we get to the back half of the draft you're literally flying blind on these kids medically.”

With five picks in the final two rounds, Roseman will certainly try to do just that, but finding a willing partner may prove difficult.

“The flexibility of having those picks also gives you opportunity if you wanted to move up in a particular round,” he said.

The Eagles’ hit rate in the sixth and seventh rounds has not been terrible. It hasn’t been great, either, but, again, it is hard to be Rumpelstiltskin gold from straw once this year’s sixth-round begins at pick No. 185.

The Eagles will be on the clock at 189 with picks coming at 224 and 225. In the seventh, they will pick 234 and 240.

One of the organization’s best players, and a potential Hall of Fame candidate, center Jason Kelce came in the sixth round back in 2011.

They also found Jalen Mills, a starting cornerback in the seventh round of the 2016 draft, and Beau Allen, a sturdy rotational defensive tackle, in the seventh round of the 2014 draft.

All three players were integral pieces in delivering the very first Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia.

Linebacker Joe Walker also won a ring on that ’17 team after coming with Mills in the seventh round and starting three games that year before an injury late in the season landed him on IR.

The reviews have been solid for Jordan Mailata, too. The 4XL offensive lineman was a project taken in the seventh round just three years ago.

While the jury is still out on a pair of sixth-rounders a year ago – Shaun Bradley and Quez Watkins – judgment has already passed on washouts such as Elijah Qualls (sixth round, 2017) and others.

"We're constantly trying to study the guys who have hit late and the guys who have hit as undrafted free agents and trying to replicate that as we get into the later rounds," said Roseman. "...when we're looking for late guys, we are looking for guys who have traits. We're still looking to try to find guys who can be role players or even develop into starters in those rounds. We're not trying to draft backups."

Here are the Eagles picks in the final two rounds dating back to 2011:

2020

6: Shaun Bradley, Quez Watkins, Prince Tega Wanogho

7: Casey Toohill

2019

Nobody in either round. Eagles were done drafting after taking QB Clayton Thorson in the fifth round with the 167th overall pick.

2018

6: Matt Pryor

7: Jordan Mailata

2017

6: Elijah Qualls

7: Nobody

2106

6: Blake Countess

7: Jalen Mills, Alex McCalister, Joe Walker

2015 (the Chip Kelly draft)

6: JaCorey Shepherd, Randall Evans

7: Brian Mihalik

2014

6: Ed Reynolds

7: Beau Allen

2013

6: Nobody

7: Joe Kruger, Jordan Poyer, David King

2012

6: Marvin McNutt, Brandon Washington

7: Bryce Brown

2011

6: Jason Kelce, Brian Rolle

7: Greg Lloyd, Stanley Havili

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s EagleMaven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.