2023 NFL Draft Preview: Philadelphia Eagles

After covering the Philadelphia Eagles in Phoenix during the week of the Super Bowl, Drew DeLuca presents a positional breakdown of the NFC Champions and predicts how they might solidify their roster during the 2023 NFL Draft.

With Super Bowl LVII in the rearview, the Philadelphia Eagles are marching forward on a mission to repeat as NFC Champions and take home their second Lombardi Trophy in seven years. In a recent press conference, quarterback Jalen Hurts eloquently led the charge, setting the tone early for the upcoming season: “I didn’t walk through all that fire just to smell the smoke.”

Gone from last year’s Super Bowl squad are defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson and running back Miles Sanders, arguably the two biggest losses from each side of the ball; they have since joined the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers, respectively. I was fortunate enough to interview both players in Phoenix before the Super Bowl during one of their final press conferences as members of the Philadelphia Eagles. Both players loved playing in Philadelphia and wanted to return, but their agents and General Manager Howie Roseman were unable to come to terms.

Clearly, there were opportunities to improve a star-studded defensive unit that underwhelmed in the Super Bowl by allowing 38 points to a Kansas City Chiefs offense led by a gimpy Patrick Mahomes. The architect of that unit, Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon, stayed behind in Phoenix to become Head Coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Enter Sean Desai from the Seattle Seahawks, who employs a similar scheme that hopefully does a better job of incorporating in-game adjustments.

In addition to Gardner-Johnson, who roasted Gannon in a since-deleted Tweet, four other defensive starters left town earlier this offseason: safety Marcus Epps (Las Vegas Raiders), defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (San Francisco 49ers), and linebackers Kyzir White (Arizona Cardinals) and T.J. Edwards (Chicago Bears). Let’s break down who’s left on the roster and review the list of new free agents who’ll be defending the end zones in the City of Brotherly Love in 2023, starting where the Eagles so often do on Draft Day: on the front lines.




Last year, the Eagles selected Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis with the 13th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. However, he missed a few games due to injury and was mired in a very deep rotation with Hargrave, veterans Fletcher Cox, Linval Joseph, Ndamukong Suh, and 2021 Round 3 selection Milton Williams. However, when Davis did play, his presence was immediately felt. Williams likewise turned heads when given his opportunities last year.

Longtime interior stalwart Cox returns on a one-year deal in what is presumably his swan song, but Joseph and Suh are not slated to return, leaving the door wide open for Williams and Davis to play larger roles. Free agent addition Kentavius Street, a fifth-year veteran with only two starts to his credit, will compete with Marlon Tuipuloto for a spot in a rotational depth role. At a minimum, the Eagles will draft a developmental interior lineman to mix in, but odds are high that the Eagles will spend one of the team’s two first-round picks on the position. The team brought in three interior defensive linemen for Top 30 visits: Georgia’s Jalen Carter, LSU’s Jaquelin Roy, and Florida’s Gervon Dexter. The Eagles would likely need to trade up from the 10-spot to acquire Carter, but Clemson’s Bryan Breese and Michigan standout Mazi Smith are alternate targets in Round 1. Roy and Dexter could be in play with the 94th pick in the 3rd Round.

On the outside, Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, and veteran Brandon Graham will all be back after notching 11 or more sacks apiece last season. While the position doesn’t appear to be a pressing area of need, the team interestingly brought in Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV for a Top 30 visit, a player projected to go in the back end of the first round. Additionally, according to the Draft Network’s Tony Paulie, Roseman “absolutely loves” edge rusher Adetomiwa Adebawore from Northwestern; his name is one to remember when the Eagles come on the clock with the 30th pick late Thursday night. Given the pieces the Eagles already have, Clemson’s Myles Murphy, who offers size, speed, power, and versatility, might be the best option if the Eagles decide to go this route.




Sandwiched in between the defensive backs and linemen is the linebacking corps, another position group that’s traditionally ignored by Howie Roseman on Draft Day. Unfortunately, T.J. Edwards signed a lucrative deal with the Chicago Bears, well-deserved in the eyes of Brandon Graham and others who saw the hard-working Wisconsin Badger as the most underrated player on the entire defense. Another off-ball linebacker left town when Kyzir White followed Gannon to Arizona, so opportunities abound for Nicholas Morrow and Nakobe Dean.

Morrow was recently signed after stints as a starter with the Chicago Bears and Las Vegas Raiders. Dean, who won the 2021 Butkus Award as the college football’s top linebacker while at Georgia, finally gets his shot after spending most of his rookie season watching and learning from the sidelines. Both players appear to have inside tracks to fill the shoes left behind by Edwards and White, but Shaun Bradley returns to throw his helmet into the mix.

The Eagles are unlikely to select a linebacker in Round 1, but a Day 2 or 3 pick could certainly be spent on the position. Iowa’s Jack Campbell is the cream of the middle linebacking crop this year and should go off the board on Day 2. Washington State’s Daiyan Henley, a converted receiver who tackles well, makes a ton of sense as a weakside linebacker, as does Clemson’s Trenton Simpson, who arguably offers more upside and versatility.




The Eagles resigned both Darius Slay and James Bradberry, both upper-echelon cornerbacks. As Jalen Hurts told me in Phoenix, these two elevate the offense, not just the defense. Avonte Maddox remains under contract for two more years, and a trio of depth options remain in Josiah Scott, Andre Chachere, and Josh Jobe. Instead of bringing back Gardner-Johnson, the Eagles welcomed former LSU star Greedy Williams to Philly in March, a 2019 2nd-round selection of the Cleveland Browns. After the shrewd signing of Williams, the Eagles appear set in the short-term at cornerback, but a developmental long-term option at the position makes a ton of sense. Georgia’s Kelee Ringo might hear his name called by the Eagles on Day 2; he has the size and speed to dominate on the outside and would benefit tremendously from the tutelage of Slay and Bradberry.

At the safety position, the Eagles bring back 2020 4th Round selection K’Von Wallace and Reed Blankenship, a 2022 undrafted rookie free agent signee who showed promise but a limited ceiling as a fill-in when Gardner-Johnson missed time due to injury. New to South Philly this year is former Pittsburgh Steeler Terrell Edmunds, who has over 70 NFL starts under his belt. The Eagles also welcome Justin Evans, who returned to the NFL in 2022 with the New Orleans Saints after missing three seasons due to a multitude of lower body injuries that included Achilles surgery.

While quality cornerbacks abound, there is a dearth of options available in this year’s NFL Draft to address more pressing needs at safety. Alabama’s Brian Branch is the only safety with a Round 1 grade on most scouts’ boards, so even though the Eagles traditionally don’t invest a lot of draft capital at the position, he’d very much be in play if he happened to remain available at Pick 30. If history is any indicator, the Eagles are more likely to let Edmunds, Evans, Wallace, and Blankenship battle in camp and add depth via camp casualty signings or trade, as necessary. On Days 2 and 3, keep an eye out for depth options like Illinois’ Sydney Brown, Alabama’s Jordan Battle, Florida State’s Jammie Robinson, and Iowa State’s Anthony Johnson, Jr. 




The heart and soul of the Eagles can be found in the trenches in the form of center Jason Kelce, who returns in his quest for a second Super Bowl ring. He and right tackle Lane Johnson continue to offer elite production despite growing longer in the tooth: Kelce will celebrate his 36th birthday in November, and Johnson will complete his 33rd lap around the sun just days after the NFL Draft wraps up. Also on the minds of the Eagles’ front office is a more immediate need: filling the vacancies left by starting guard Isaac Seumalo and reserve tackle Andre Dillard, who are now members of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans, respectively.

Jeffrey Lurie bought the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994, and the team has since spent six First Round draft picks to shore up the offensive line, four of whom became Pro Bowlers: Jermaine Mayberry, Tra Thomas, Shawn Andrews, and Lane Johnson. A 67 percent hit rate is nothing to be ashamed of, but do yourself a favor and never utter the name “Danny Watkins” inside the city limits of Philadelphia. This year, the Birds could take Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski as early as 10th overall as a plug-and-play replacement for Seumalo. Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence also makes sense inside later in the First Round, and after watching Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland work wonders with starting left tackle Jordan Mailata, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for the Eagles to select an heir apparent to Johnson in the form of gargantuan Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones (6′ 8″, 374).




In February, I learned that Dallas Goedert was a walk-on at South Dakota State and received only one Division II offer to play collegiate football. Today, he’s one of the best all-around tight ends in the game: a respectable inline blocker and a force to be reckoned with as a receiver. His Round 2 selection in 2018 was memorably announced by former Eagles kicker David Akers in Dallas after the Eagles’ last Super Bowl appearance, an epic troll job in response to the one Drew Pearson dropped in Philadelphia on Draft Day the year before. When Goedert was drafted, Zach Ertz was at the pinnacle of his career, much as Goedert is today, and the tight end room behind him was quite bare.

Well, allow history to repeat itself.

Today, Goedert is at the top of his game, and when he missed time due to injury, a Delaware Bay-sized gap showed up between him and the duo of Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra in the passing game. The Eagles could certainly spend a draft pick on a Day 2 or 3 tight end such as Georgia’s Darnell Washington, Iowa’s Sam LaPorta, or maybe even Tucker Kraft, a fellow South Dakota State Jackrabbit. All are great values, offer significant long-term, upside, and represent upgrades from the current group of reserves.




Last week, the Philadelphia Eagles solidified the future of the franchise by inking Jalen Hurts to a 5-year, $255 million contract extension, including $179.3 million in guaranteed money. Not long before, backup Gardner Minshew left for greener, artificial, indoor pastures in Indianapolis Colts, so the Eagles brought in Marcus Mariota on a one-year deal in an ironic twist: the Eagles nearly traded up to draft Mariota many years ago when his former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly was running things in Philadelphia. The Eagles are set for the short and long-term at the position, but the Eagles are, in the words of Roseman, a “quarterback factory.” Therefore, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see the Birds use a late Day Three pick on a mobile, developmental third-stringer such as UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson or Louisville’s Malik Cunningham, both of whom enjoyed prolific NCAA careers in Power Five conferences.




After the aforementioned Miles Sanders signed a $25 million offer sheet from the Carolina Panthers on the heels of a career year, the Eagles resigned Boston Scott (1 year, $2 million) and brought in former Seattle Seahawk Rashaad Penny on a 1 year, $1.35 million deal. Kenny Gainwell, who outperformed Sanders at times last season remains. So does the forgotten Trey Sermon, chosen by the San Francisco 49ers in Round 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft before he was unceremoniously dumped and signed by the Eagles during the 2022 preseason. Sermon spend a lot of time on inactive gameday rosters in 2022, but Head Coach Nick Sirianni offered complimentary reviews of his behind-the-scenes contributions on the practice field, saying he “has a chance to be really, really good.”

Penny turned heads in the fantasy football community with his efficiency in Seattle, and many are salivating at the thought of what he’ll do behind an elite offensive line in Philadelphia. However, his injury history remains a concern, and the rest of the running back room lacks a proven every-down presence. The slight, shifty Gainwell will factor into the game plan and Scott will serve in a reserve role, but despite the flowery praise, I’m not sold on the amount of trust the Eagles will place in Sermon if Penny goes down. Some speculate that the Eagles will trade down from 10 (or up from 30) to select Bijan Robinson from Texas, but the Eagles haven’t called a running back’s name in the first round since they drafted Keith Byars and Michael Haddix in the 1980s.

In a recent television interview, Hall of Fame sportswriter Ray Didinger suggested Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs as an option at Pick 30, but the Eagles are more likely to select a running back on Day 2, such as Auburn’s Tank Bigsby, TCU’s Kendre Miller, or Tulane’s Tyjae Spears. Other names to watch later include Sean Tucker from Syracuse, UAB’s DeWayne McBride, and Roschon Johnson from Texas. More likely, the Eagles will see who slips to Round 7 from a very deep class, address other positions, and throw a few darts at priority undrafted rookie free agents.




A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith form one of the more lethal wide receiver duos in the National Football League, and the position group is in great hands with both under contract for years to come. Incumbent speedster Quez Watkins mans the slot spot, but the Eagles recently signed a challenger by welcoming home Olamide Zacchaeus, a graduate of St. Joseph’s Prep, after four years with the Atlanta Falcons.

The depth beyond those four is precariously thin, and the Eagles would be wise to bring in a developmental option who can simultaneously upgrade the kick and punt return game; Britain Covey was solid but unspectacular in that role and a game-breaker who elevates special teams while adding depth at wide receiver would be a welcomed addition. There is an abundance of slight, shifty slot receivers with return ability in this draft, too many to mention, but it would be a surprise to see the Eagles nab one when there will be solid options available late, including Liberty’s Demario Douglas and TCU’s Derius Davis.

The Eagles could alternatively add another “bully X” receiver and slide Smith into the slot, allowing Watkins to serve as a WR4 and field-stretcher role that he’s well-suited for. There aren’t many of those in this draft, but there will be upside values available on Day 2, such as Tennessee’s Cedric Tillman, Stanford’s Michael Wilson, or Jonathan Mingo from Ole Miss. Mingo and Tillman in particular offer intriguing upside.




ROUND 1 (10): Peter Skoronski (G/T), Northwestern

ROUND 1 (30): Mazi Smith (DT), Michigan

ROUND 2 (62): Trenton Simpson (LB), Clemson

ROUND 3 (94): Jammie Robinson (S), Florida State

ROUND 7 (219): Malik Cunningham (QB), Louisville

ROUND 7 (248): Demario Douglas (WR), Liberty



(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

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