Eagles 2021 NFL Draft preview: 6 options the Eagles could take at No. 12

Jaycee Horn Eagles NFL Draft
Jaycee Horn made his name as one of the best shutdown corners at South Carolina.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles haven’t necessarily boasted the best track record recently under general manager Howie Roseman, whose host seat continues to grow warmer after a horrendous campaign last season followed by the decision to trade down from the No. 6 pick in the draft to No. 12.

It leaves the Eagles potentially on the outskirts when it comes to picking up the very best options available at their most dire positions of need — mainly at cornerback and wide receiver.

The pass defense was sieve-like last season while the lack of playmakers on the outside for Carson Wentz led to a disastrous year that ultimately led to the Eagles trading away their once-perceived franchise quarterback.

Now, the reins are seemingly falling into the lap of Jalen Hurts with veteran Joe Flacco backing him up. There is a chance that the Eagles could draft a quarterback if one was available at No. 12, but it’s a fair assumption to believe that four of the top five available will be taken in the top-10.

Almost for certain, Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and potentially Mac Jones could be the top-three picks at the 2021 NFL Draft with other quarterback-needy teams — like the Chicago Bears or New England Patriots — potentially looking for ways to trade up.

New head coach Nick Sirianni admitted that he wants to create some form of quarterback competition for Hurts, but that might not happen if the Eagles don’t find a way to trade back up into the draft, which begs the question why they traded down in the first place.

If things stand the way they currently do, though, there is the opportunity for the Eagles to get an immediate contributor at either cornerback or wide receiver.

So here are three potential options they could pursue once they’re on the clock, though the New York Giants — who choose a pick before them at No. 11 — share much of the same interests in terms of needs at the cornerback and wide receiver spot, along with offensive line help.

Cornerbacks

Jaycee Horn, South Carolina

  • Height: 6’1″
  • Weight: 205 lbs.
  • NFL.com’s Prospect Grade (Out of 8): 6.46

Son of star Saints wide receiver Joe Horn, Jaycee made his name as one of the best shutdown corners in tight-man coverage at South Carolina. Average route recognition is made up for by an ability to close quickly on opposing wide receivers, though there are concerns regarding his reliance on roughing up receivers beyond five yards of the line of scrimmage. That won’t fly in today’s NFL.

 

Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 197 lbs.
  • NFL.com’s Prospect Grade: 6.38

There had been this notion that Farely would drop down draft boards on Thursday night due to past injury concerns — most recently a back procedure he underwent back on March 23. He’s also a wild card in that he didn’t play in 2020, opting out due to COVID-19 concerns to protect his father after losing his mother in 2018 to breast cancer. But Farely is still slated to be a first-half selection in the first round, if not a top-10 pick. His combination of size, strength, and athleticism are rare in a cornerback, which makes him such a desired prospect. However, he hasn’t played a ton of games at cornerback and his game will need plenty of polishing to get to a higher NFL level. 

 

Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 208 lbs.
  • NFL.com’s Prospect Grade: 7.02

If there is one thing that Surtain showed at Alabama, it’s that there is no kind of receiver that he cannot guard against. That’s a testament to the kind of versatility he can provide a secondary thanks to his elite blend of size, strength, and quickness. He was only beaten for completions of 29 yards or more five times in his career, making him a menace to deal with downfield, and is also a gifted tackler, ensuring there are limited yards after the catch should the opposition sneak a reception past him.

 

Wide Receivers

Ja’Marr Chase, LSU

  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 201 lbs.
  • NFL.com’s Prospect Grade: 7.12

Chase also opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns, but he was already a bona fide star. The Biletnikoff Award winner from 2019 led LSU to a national title where he caught nine passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns against Clemson. To put it simply, Chase is a playmaker who does everything possible to win the ball from the opposing cornerback. It far outweighs any minuscule worries about his route-running or occasional difficulties getting free from the press. 

 

DeVonta Smith, Alabama

  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 173 lbs.
  • NFL.com’s Prospect Grade: 7.13

The 2020 Heisman Trophy and Biletnikoff Award winner has heard all the concerns regarding his smaller frame, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the most tantalizing wide-receiver targets in the game. Smith is lightning fast with the agility to create the kind of separation to get open more times than not. It was on full display last year with a nation-leading 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. The resume speaks for itself. 

 

Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

  • Height: 5’9 1/2″
  • Weight: 180 lbs
  • NFL.com’s Prospect Grade: 6.86

If you think Smith is fast, his Alabama teammate in Waddle is even faster. That speed makes him a legitimate outside playmaking despite being just over 5-foot-9, which is only strengthened by a surprising ability to come out on top of 50-50 opportunities. Of course, his skill set and size make him a prime candidate to be a slot option as well, but that kind of versatility will only be cherished by an NFL offense. That includes being a threat on special teams.

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