Possible pass-rushing options for the Eagles during Round 1 of 2023 NFL Draft

Nolan Smith, #4, Georgia University Bulldogs (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Nolan Smith, #4, Georgia University Bulldogs (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /
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Philadelphia Eagles
Lukas Van Ness #91, Iowa Hawkeyes (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images) /

Eagles history suggests a defensive lineman could be one of the early additions come draft time.

Since 2010, the Eagles have spent eight of their twelve first-round draft picks on an offensive or defensive lineman. Five of those selections came between the 10th and 15th picks, and the Eagles picked a lineman with four of those picks.

If the Eagles select a safety or a running back, they’d probably do so by trading down or using the 30th overall pick, and even still, adding a defensive back or tailback seems unlikely.

They have four above-average starters on their offensive line. One is believed to be Jason Kelce’s replacement (Cam Jurgens), and he might wind up playing guard as Isaac Seumalo’s replacement in the meantime.

So let’s say the Birds roll with a D-lineman in Round 1. Let’s explore some options. Here are a few guys that are making some waves.

Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa

Aiming to be the first Iowa defensive end selected in Round 1 in 12 years, Lukas Van Ness has the potential to be disruptive in the Eagles’ defense. He has great size for his position, standing at six-foot-five and weighing 273 pounds. He collected 13.5 sacks, 42 quarterback hurries, and 19.5 tackles for loss in just two seasons at Iowa. He also shined against the draft’s top two offensive linemen; Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr.

Van Ness is a player that never gives up on a play and uses his arms to attack and moves blockers. He also makes smart and effective tackles. He has a high football IQ that you would expect from a first-round prospect from a Big Ten university and could be a cornerstone in the Eagles’ defense for years to come.

Van Ness is widely viewed as one of the top four pass rushers in this class. As an added bonus, he may also provide a clean style of play in run defense that other 4-3 defensive end prospects are lacking.

He only had four missed tackles in 2022 according to Pro Football Focus, and it’s easy to see why he was the Eagles’ pick in Daniel Jeremiah’s latest 2023 mock draft.

Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh

Calijah Kancey turned heads at the NFL Scouting Combine when he clocked a 40-yard dash time of 4.67 seconds. That’s an event record for defensive tackles. He is best described as an undersized tackle who excels in the pass-rushing game. Kancey had eight sacks in back-to-back seasons, as well as 30 quarterback hurries. His elite play in 2022 at Pitt also earned him AP All-American honors in 2022.

Kancey’s game is centered around winning against blockers quickly, and his elite ability to get a quarterback on the ground. He plays fast and uses his height as a way to gain leverage on offensive linemen from underneath, and his tape is filled with spectacular athletic plays such as the following.

Standing at six-foot-one and weighing 281 pounds, he possesses elite athleticism. He’d be a perfect long-term replacement for Hargrave. Javon was also seen as being an undersized defensive tackle who came to Philly following his own stint in Pittsburgh (with the Steelers).

Most fans are familiar with Aaron Donald being drafted as an undersized defensive tackle. He also played at Pittsburgh University, and even though comparisons between Kancey and Donald might be premature, it’s easy to see why they exist.