The Philadelphia Eagles love to make their NFL Draft trades, and they made another on day two. They moved down three spots in the first round from 70 (it was previously reported that pick 70 was given to the Dallas Cowboys, it has since been made known it was actually pick 84) to 73 and picked up a sixth rounder for their troubles. Let’s take a look at the Eagles draft grades for the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Eagles Draft Grades for Day 2 | 2021 NFL Draft
Round 2: Landon Dickerson, IOL
For their first pick on Day 2, the Eagles selected Alabama center Landon Dickerson. After years of being criticized for not taking SEC players, Howie Roseman took two Alabama players in a row. While center is not an immediate need, with three-time All-Pro center Jason Kelce on the roster, Kelce’s been seemingly close to retirement for the last three years. In addition, Dickerson played at basically every single offensive line position during his college career. Even if Kelce plays a year or two more, Dickerson will be able to contribute elsewhere.
There’s a lot to like about Dickerson. He was second-team All-SEC in 2019, then improved on that by winning basically every lineman award possible in 2020. Dickerson was first-team All-SEC, an unanimous All-American, won the Rimington trophy for best center in the country and co-won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy (with first-round pick and teammate Alex Leatherwood). He was PFF’s top-rated center. Honestly, he was likely a first-round pick, if not for his one gigantic weakness.
Dickerson’s only flaw is his own body. He suffered three season-ending injuries in his first three years, including his ankles twice and his knees once. Dickerson had a healthy 2019 and most of 2020, but he also tore his ACL in the SEC Championship game last year. That’s four season-ending injuries in five years (he had a medical redshirt). There’s no doubting this kid’s talent, hard work, dedication and leadership, but his body may simply not let him play. The Eagles have a history of talented offensive linemen suffering injuries, and Dickerson could very well be the next in that line.
As always with these injury risks, you either get a steal or a pretty massive bust. We’ve seen it fail with guys like Marcus Lattimore or Sidney Jones (and arguably Carson Wentz). Then again, guys like Adrian Peterson were also thought to be an injury risk, and that clearly worked out. It’s a bit disappointing to go for a center when there were seemingly bigger needs on the Eagles and some really nice players on the board. Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah at linebacker and Asante Samuel Jr. at cornerback were still available. Still, offensive lines are very important, and the age and health of ours is getting suspect.
Round 3: Milton Williams, DL
After trading down three spots with the Carolina Panthers, the Eagles took DT/DE Milton Williams out of Louisiana Tech. Williams wasn’t a massively-touted prospect, but he has some real tools. His athleticism is almost literally off the charts. He posted fantastic numbers in the 40 and in the cone and shuttle drills, as well as both jumping tests. His explosive power and agility are definitely there. Of course, that is compared to other defensive tackles and while his smaller size (6’3” 284 pounds) should mean he is faster and more agile. He also performed well on the bench press. Make no mistake, as far as testing goes Williams is an athletic freak.
The biggest knock against Williams is his size. Not just his height and weight, which are low for a defensive tackle, but his arms are also very short. This could be problematic in getting leverage and being able to make solid contact and push on offensive linemen. The size problem can be somewhat mitigated if he goes outside to play defensive end (which he did in high school and his first two years in college) but the arms problem cannot.
The saving grace for Milton is Aaron Donald. Much like DeVonta Smith hopes to be the next outlier size wise since Marvin Harrsion, Williams profiles similarly to Donald. The Rams DT is just 6-1, 285 pounds, with 32.5” arms. Williams is 6-3, 284 with 31.5” arms. The comparisons don’t end with just size, they also had the same crazy testing numbers. Donald had a 4.68-second 40, 35 bench press, 32 vertical jump, 116 broad, 7.11 cone drill and 4.39 shuttle. Milton (in his Pro Day, which is usually looser than the combine to be fair) tested at a 4.61-second 40, 34 bench press, 38.5 vertical, 121 broad, 6.87 three-cone and 4.25 shuttle.
All this means is that there is precedent for Milton’s size and wingspan to succeed in the NFL and that athleticism won’t be the thing that holds him back.
Strengths or Needs?
While the Eagles didn’t address either position considered a need after wide receiver on Day 2, and actually took two positions considered strengths, the picks aren’t really bad. D-line and O-line are strengths, but they are short-term strengths. Both positions are good, but not deep, and both are old and rather injury-prone. The Eagles have heavily-valued the trenches, and that hasn’t changed. With these two picks, those two strengths will theoretically remain strengths for quite a while longer, even when the current guard is gone. For a team that probably isn’t planning on competing in the short term, that’s rather smart.
As for the players themselves, all three first-round picks are rather high-risk, high-reward. They all have very obvious issues (Smith’s size, Dickerson’s injury history and Milton’s wingspan) but they all have the production and other measurables that outstrip those concerns, at least enough to take them rather high. If they pan out (which they could easily do), it will be an incredible draft, the best ever under Howie Roseman. If they don’t (and there is a very real possibility none of them do) then Roseman is gone. For many Eagles fans that’s a win-win.