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Eagles NFL Draft Day 1 Analysis: Georgia Kids ‘Love Football’

The Philadelphia Eagles added Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith, teaming them with two picks on the defensive side of the ball from Georgia last year in Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean
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PHILADELPHIA – It was a wild first day of the 2023 NFL Draft, with three trades inside the top 10 picks.

Not surprisingly, the Philadelphia Eagles made one of those deals.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, however, was that the Eagles spent their two first-round picks on players who helped the University of Georgia win a second straight national title last year.

They selected defensive tackle Jalen Carter after trading up one spot with the Chicago Bears, then, a couple of hours later, sitting tight at No. 30 and picking outside linebacker, edge rusher Nolan Smith at No. 30.

The Eagles took a pair of Bulldogs last year - defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean after that duo helped Georgia start its back-to-back national championship run.

Carter and Smith had good visits with the Eagles in the pre-draft process, but finding a way to get them both was another story.

Many mock drafts had the Eagles taking Smith at No. 10. Instead, Carter slid within range and general manager Howie Roseman made his move up to No. 9.

Roseman admitted afterward that he didn't think Carter would be available to them at pick 10 heading into the draft.

Carter comes with questions, which the GM attempted to answer.

“I think all of us when we were 21, 22, hopefully, have grown a lot from that time,” he said. “You really want to get to know the person and what’s in his heart, and I think when we got to know Jalen we just felt like here’s a kid that does love football.

"Obviously he’s a winner. He won in high school, he won in college and we felt we have really good people in this building, a really good support staff, really good players who are good people, we have really good coaches, and we felt like it was a good fit for us.”

It was the third year in a row the GM went up in the first round.

Two years ago, the Eagles went from No. 12 to No. 10 to take University of Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith and last year they traveled from No. 15 to No. 13 to nab Davis.

The Eagles also took another of Carter’s teammates last year when they made linebacker Nakobe Dean their selection in the third round.

“The relationship is very close,” said Carter of Davis and Dean and before he knew Smith would be the Eagles’ selection at 30. “I actually talked to Jordan Davis I think it was (Wednesday). Nakobe, we've been texting a little bit.

"I know they're probably texting my phone now, so when I get my phone, they're probably going to have a little message for me, or we might have a little FaceTime call real quick and just talk about what we're about to do.”

Carter bolsters a defensive line that lost Javon Hargrave and his 11 sacks from a season ago when he signed a free-agent deal with the San Francisco 49ers.

Pairing him with Davis worked at Georgia, as the Bulldogs won a national title with them together. Carter won another this past season.

The Eagles’ rush defense was ranked in the middle of the pack last year at No. 16 and Carter’s strength is stopping the run.

“I'm a good pass rusher, run stopper.,” he said. “At Georgia, it was always run stop, stop the ball from running first, so I got that down pat, and now I'm opening up with my little pass rush moves. I feel like just both of those will help a lot.”

Per, Carter should sign a fully guaranteed, four-year deal with $21.8 million, including $12.8M signing bonus with a $3.9M salary-cap hit in 2023.

At 6-2 and 238 pounds, Smith is cut from a similar cloth as Eagles edge rusher Haason Reddick, who had 19.5 sacks last year.

In 38 games with Georgia, he had 12.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss, an interception, and three forced fumbles.

He missed six games with a pec injury, but Roseman said there are no medical concerns that would have caused him to slip to 30.

“You go into the draft and you say here are a couple of names at 30, then you see guys sitting up there like Nolan and, again an incredible person, has unbelievable traits in his body, a leader and a winner,” said Roseman. 

“We were fielding calls at that time and coach (Nick Sirianni) and I just looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, this is the guy.’ We didn’t want to get too cute.”

Both players are expected to be in Philadelphia for in-person news conferences Friday evening before the second and third rounds of the draft begin at 7 p.m. The Eagles hold selections in the second and third rounds, Nos. 62 and 66 overall.

Ed Kracz covers the Philadelphia Eagles for SI's EaglesToday.

Please follow him and our Eagles coverage on Twitter at @kracze.

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