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Breaking down most likely positions for Eagles in 1st round of draft

Breaking down most likely positions for Eagles in 1st round of draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Howie Roseman has been the Eagles general manager since 2010 (minus the 2015 season) and has made 13 picks in the first round.

Because of his lengthy tenure, we have a lot of history to look back on. Here’s a look at how those 13 picks have broken down by position:

Edge: 4 (Brandon Graham 2010, Marcus Smith 2014, Derek Barnett 2017, Nolan Smith 2023)

DT: 3 (Fletcher Cox 2012, Jordan Davis 2022, Jalen Carter 2023)

OT: 2 (Lane Johnson 2013, Andre Dillard 2019)

WR: 2 (Jalen Reagor 2020, DeVonta Smith 2021)

iOL: 1 (Danny Watkins 2011)

QB: 1 (Carson Wentz 2016)

The Eagles enter this year’s draft with eight total picks but their prized pick is No. 22 overall. While the Eagles are never hesitant to trade up or down the board, they should have a chance to land a really good player even if they stay at 22.

Here’s a ranking of the least likely to most likely positions for the Eagles to use that first round pick on later this month:

14. Long snapper: Rick Lovato’s job is safe.

13. Punter: Nice 2023 season from Braden Mann.

12. Kicker: Are you mad that I included the specialists in this? Just get to it already.

11. Running back: The Eagles just paid Saquon Barkley on a huge contract. They might draft a running back at some points in this draft (that would make sense) but it won’t be in the first round. It seems highly unlikely that any team will take a running back in the first round of this class. There’s not even a running back in the top 50 prospect list from NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah.

10. Quarterback: There will be plenty of quarterbacks taken in the first round of this draft but the QB Factory is in good shape with Jalen Hurts, Kenny Pickett, Tanner McKee and Will Grier. Now, if there’s a quarterback on the board at 22 and another team comes calling, the Eagles would probably listen.

9. Safety: For all the talk about how the Eagles don’t take linebackers in the first round, they’ve actually never, ever taken a safety in the first round. And it’s looking unlikely that a safety will go in the first round this year, although guys like Minnesota’s Tyler Nubin and Georgia’s Javon Bullard should be picked in Round 2. And while some think Iowa’s Cooper DeJean could be a safety at the next level, if the Eagles were to take him, it’s because they like him at corner. The Eagles right now will likely start C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Reed Blankenship at safety. Second-year player Sydney Brown is recovering from an ACL tear.

8. Tight end: It seems very unlikely the Eagles would draft a tight end this high but Dallas Goedert is 29 now and the Eagles lost their TE2 of the last couple seasons when Jack Stoll left for the Giants this offseason. The Eagles probably should draft a tight end, although it won’t be in the first round … unless Brock Bowers falls. If Bowers, the impressive tight end from Georgia, somehow lasts until 22 or gets close, the Eagles should think about it. Sure, the position isn’t as important as some others but the Eagles tried to win on the margins by signing Barkley this offseason. It was a chance for them to get an elite talent regardless of position and they took it. Drafting Bowers could be looked at similarly.

7. Linebacker: We all know the history here. The Eagles haven’t drafted an off-ball linebacker in the first round since Jerry Robinson in 1979 and it’s unlikely they buck that trend this year. But the Eagles definitely have to rethink the way they went about linebacker last year because that wasn’t good enough. This offseason, they signed Devin White and Oren Burks and should have Nakobe Dean coming back from injury. But that’s probably not good enough either and they don’t have great numbers at the position so expect them to draft a linebacker at some point. There might not be a linebacker taken in the first round at all but some of the top prospects are Edgerrin Cooper from Texas A&M, Payton Wilson from NC State and Junior Colson from Michigan.

6. Defensive tackle: Would the Eagles do this again? They have gone with a defensive tackle with their first pick in back-to-back drafts with Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter and they used a third-round pick on Milton Williams a few years ago. So it’s probably just time to let those guys take over after the retirement of Fletcher Cox. But if Byron Murphy II from Texas or Jer’Zhan Newton from Illinois are available and are the BPA, then it’s not crazy to think about the Eagles adding again to a position they care about.

5. Interior offensive line: The Eagles lost a Hall of Fame center this offseason when Jason Kelce retired. Even if Cam Jurgens slides into that position, that means the right guard spot will go to either Tyler Steen or Matt Hennessy. This could be a spot to add. The reason iOL is so low on this list is because there are some offensive tackles who offer position versatility and we’re not including them here. The top interior guys in this draft are Jackson Powers-Johnson from Oregon, Graham Barton from Duke and Zach Frazier from West Virginia. All three of those guys have the ability to play center and guard and Barton could even play tackle in a pinch. If the Eagles use a first-round pick on one of those players, he would be penciled in at RG in the starting lineup.

4. Receiver: The Eagles have two stud receivers in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith but that WR3 spot isn’t necessarily spoken for, even after the additions of DeVante Parker and Parris Campbell this offseason. So the idea of adding a plug-and-play WR3 in the first round does make some football sense. But if you’re someone who worries about how to divvy up targets, things get a bit trickier. Still, receiver is a position where there’s some need and the value might line up with a few different players: Brian Thomas Jr. from LSU, Xavier Worthy from Texas, AD Mitchell from Texas, Keon Coleman from FSU, Ladd McConkey from Georgia.

3. Edge rusher: During his time as GM, Roseman has drafted more edge rushers in the first round than any other position. That’s likely because it’s a premium position where the Eagles believe in rotation. This might not be an immediate need even after trading Haason Reddick. The Eagles still have Bryce Huff, Josh Sweat, Nolan Smith and Brandon Graham. But Sweat is on the final year of his deal, Huff is a bit of a projection even at $17M APY, Smith is unproven and Graham is entering his 15th (and likely final) NFL season. So this is a need going forward. By most accounts, this isn’t the best edge rusher class but value could line up. Laiatu Latu from UCLA would offer a bigger body type at the edge rusher spot, while Chop Robinson from Penn State is a great athlete who has drawn some (fair or not) comparisons to Micah Parsons. Then you thrown in Jared Verse from FSU and Darius Robinson from Missouri and it’s not hard to imagine the Eagles going this route.

2. Cornerback: Roseman has never drafted a cornerback in the first round and the Eagles haven’t done it since 2002, when they took Lito Sheppard at No. 26 overall. But the Eagles have invested at cornerback in trades and free agency before and it’s clearly a position the organization values. Darius Slay played well last year but is 33 now, while James Bradberry is 30 and coming off an awful season. The Eagles have some promising players like Kelee Ringo, Eli Ricks and Isaiah Rodgers but none of them should stop the Eagles from trying to add more. And the value here might be strong. Even if Terrion Arnold from Alabama and Quinyon Mitchell from Toledo are gone, there will be some good value at cornerback. Cooper DeJean from Iowa, Nate Wiggins from Clemson, Kool-Aid McKinstry from Alabama and Ennis Rakestraw from Missouri could all be in play.

1. Offensive tackle: The Eagles are in a good position with their starting tackles, Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata. But Johnson will turn 34 next month and it’s time to start thinking about his long-term replacement. The Eagles typically like to get ahead of these things. It might surprise you to see the Eagles have drafted just two tackles in the first round under Roseman but that could be a product of having such great play at the position for the last decade and because they hit on the Mailata seventh-round lottery ticket. The Eagles have a need here for the future and also as a backup after Jack Driscoll left in free agency. Not to mention, some of these tackle prospects would probably have a chance to compete at right guard early in their careers while Johnson is still playing at a high level. Troy Fautanu from Washington is one of those potential dual-threat guys. But there there’s Olu Fashanu from Penn State, JC Latham from Alabama, Amarius Mims from Georgia and Tyler Guyton from Oklahoma who could be in their range.

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