Which Eagles Draft Picks Will be Impactful Rookies?
First Pick: DeVonta Smith, WR
2021 Impact: 10/10
The first pick should usually be the one that has the largest impact, and there’s no difference here. The Eagles have a lot of names on their wide receiver roster, but none of them inspire much confidence. Jalen Reagor and Greg Ward are probably the only ones guaranteed to get snaps, and they had 84 catches, 815 yards and seven touchdowns combined. Besides them, there’s Travis Fulgham, who was a non-factor outside of a five-week stretch, J.J. Arcega Whiteside, who’s one of the biggest busts in recent memory, and two second-year fifth and sixth-round picks.
There is ample opportunity for DeVonta Smith to come in and immediately be the best receiver on the team. In fact, that’s the expectation. If it doesn’t happen, Philadelphia fans will not be happy. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a young guy, especially since there is some evidence that the majority of wide receivers break out in years two and three. Notable examples of star wideouts having poor rookie seasons and breaking out include Davante Adams, Alshon Jeffery and Chris Godwin. That means there is hope for Jalen Reagor yet, and even if Smith doesn’t explode in 2021, that doesn’t mean it was a wasted pick.
Regardless, Smith will be on the field early and often for the Birds, and quarterback Jalen Hurts has played with Smith before. That connection and Smith’s talent should mean a big impact from day one, or at least the opportunity to have a big impact. His positional versatility to go outside or run in the slot will also help his playing time. Even if he doesn’t have a Justin Jefferson-type season, pretty much anything will be better than what the Eagles have been working with. They haven’t had a wide receiver (not including tight end) break 1,000 yards since Jeremy Maclin in 2014. The past two years, they haven’t even had a guy break 600.
Second Pick: Landon Dickerson, C
2021 Impact: (Hopefully) 2/10
Landon Dickerson isn’t a guy that should see many snaps. The keyword being should. Offensive line isn’t something that sees many backups play, barring something bad happening, like underperformance or injury. That second one is the problem, and why Dickerson might see some time.
The Eagles line is very good, when healthy. To start, they have three Pro Bowlers on the squad. Then, they have Jordan Mailata, who had a great 2020, and a solid fifth guy in Isaac Seumalo. There shouldn’t be much reason for Dickerson to play, unless someone declines massively. At the same time, Dickerson’s main positions he played in college were right guard and center. At center, the Eagles have three-time All-Pro Jason Kelce, who hasn’t missed a game in six years. For right guard, they have Brandon Brooks who made the Pro Bowl the last three years he played.
Talent-wise, it’d be surprising for a rookie to beat out any of these guys, especially at his primary two spots. He may not have to, though. As anyone who watched the Eagles play last year can tell you, the Eagles offensive line is injury-ridden. Lane Johnson has missed many games in his career, and more than that often goes in and out of games. Brandon Brooks has two Achilles tears and a season-ending dislocated shoulder to his name. Dickerson’s versatility and experience playing every offensive line position will help here, and he can fill in for basically anyone that misses time. Left tackle has two promising young guys, but the rest of the backup positions are open season for Dickerson.
Dickerson was drafted to be an heir-apparent to Jason Kelce, who is a retirement risk every season. Because of that, he shouldn’t be making a big impact in 2021. In an ideal world, he either is so good he takes Suemalo’s spot at left guard, or he plays only a few snaps filling in for guys who need a breather or to get checked up on.