Eagles scouting report: Early first and second-round prospects

Philadelphia Eagles (Mandatory Credit: Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
Philadelphia Eagles (Mandatory Credit: Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) /

With the sixth-overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select Will Anderson, a defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid from the University of Alabama. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? It could happen. The chances of landing Anderson would seemingly improve if the New Orleans Saints kept losing and the Birds got a top-five draft choice, but even if the Crimson Tide star is off of the board, Philly would still have some top-tier talent to choose from. Take Myles Murphy of the Clemson Tigers for instance.

At six-foot-five and 275 pounds, Murphy has the body type to set the edge versus the running game. He’s also one of the top ten prospects on Pro Football Focus’ 2023 big board. Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave are mostly penetrating pass rushers – though Hargrave has performed capably at nose tackle in Jordan Davis’ absence. Both are at the end of their current deals. They have Milton Williams and Marlon Tuipulotu waiting in the wins. Adding an edge rusher could be in play early in Round 1.

Here are a few other prospects besides Murphy that the Eagles should be paying attention to.

No one knows how things will play out, but Hargrave could be extended if he and the Eagles can agree on a number that is both fair to him and team-friendly, but keep an eye on edge rushers like Anderson and Murphy in the early stages of Round 1 come next April. Here are a few of the less-talked-about guys that could pique Philly’s interest as well.

Christian Gonzalez, cornerback, Oregon Ducks

James Bradberry has been performing well this season and is a perfect fit for Coach Jonathan Gannon’s Quarters system. Hopefully, he’ll stick around, but he may not. That means the Eagles would want to familiarize themselves with some of the young secondary stars that are expected to be available during next year’s selection meeting.

Howie Roseman has often been patient with how he constructs the Eagles’ secondary. He’s never treated the safety position as a premier position. There have been exceptions, but often, he steers clear of investing top-dollar into acquiring them (or paying them when their time comes), but he could elect to treat Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s extension as more of a priority. Keep in mind that, in their history, the Eagles have only drafted three defensive backs in Round 1… ever.

Regardless, creating depth in the secondary and a possible succession plan for Darius Slay is a priority. He’s getting older, and while Zech McPhearson is a nice special teamer, he isn’t what the Eagles would like him to be yet as an outside corner.

In terms of replacing Slay eventually, Christian Gonzalez has the body of a boundary corner at six-foot-two and 201 pounds. In match zone schemes like that of Jonathan Gannon’s, size is key and Gonzalez has plenty of that. He could be available in the back half of Round 1 or early on Round 2. Keep an eye on him as we move through the draft process.

Zach Evans, running back, Ole Miss Rebels

In terms of the Philadelphia Eagles’ running back room, they use a win-by-committee mentality. Miles Sanders has the speed, vision, hands, and explosion to succeed in this offense and so far this season has managed to stay healthy.

The one trait that Sanders seems to lack is consistent physicality which shows up in, at times, half-hearted pass protection.

Despite the fact that Kenneth Gainwell was drafted as a presumed third-down back, a job typically given to guys who are gifted at hauling in receptions out of the backfield and pass protection, Gainwell has actually been more physical as a runner, and even though he doesn’t have a great route tree or great hands, he’s gotten better at pass protection.

Boston Scott, Trey Sermon, and Kennedy Brooks round out the running back room. Scott does everything well and Sermon is impressive as a physical inside runner. At least we think he is. He hasn’t played much. Brooks is on the practice squad and has yet to see game action.

Zach Evans and Miles Sanders have similar skill sets.  They are explosive and can earn a lot of cheap yards for the offense, so taking a flier on the Ole Miss Rebels star on Day 2, though unlikely, could be what the doctor ordered regardless of what happens in terms of Miles Sanders’ contract situation.

Ronnie Hickman, safety, Ohio State Buckeyes

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps are a strong safety tandem this season and it’s possible that neither will be back in 2023.

Ronnie Hickman has experience both as a strong safety and at the linebacker position, which could make him, at a minimum, a fit to replace K’Von Wallace as the Eagles’ third safety and as some insurance at slot corner.

Hickman is widely regarded for his physicality so he will be highly valued in the defensive backs meeting rooms while he learns the intricacies of Jonathan Gannon’s quarters defense (if Gannon is still around at that time).

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