The Howie Roseman story has long been about a man who tried to act like he was one step ahead of the league, but constantly ended up falling flat on his face. Whether it was the disastrous 2019 NFL Draft, in which JJ Arcega Whiteside was taken over DK Metcalf, or when Jalen Reagor was selected over Justin Jefferson in 2020… Howie always felt the obvious answers were there. and he always zigzagged unnecessarily when others zigzagged.
But something has changed.
Going into last year’s draft, the team needed some stability. The Doug Pederson era ended in disaster, Carson Wentz exited the stage to the left and the Eagles were left with a young quarterback, a rookie head coach and a general manager looking to right the capsized ship. Howie Roseman spent his first two picks on two of the biggest players on the best team in the country that year: Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Landon Dickerson. Smith had just come off a Heisman campaign that led the Crimson Tide to a national title, and Dickerson had been a highly decorated member of the Tide’s offensive line. These were smart and obvious picks from proven players at the highest level. Not to mention, Howie Roseman came out of that draft with an additional first-round pick in 2022.
The reward was obvious. DeVonta Smith was immediately and by far the best wide receiver on the team and Landon Dickerson eventually settled in as a shooting guard alongside Jordan Mailata. The top rookies made big contributions, while the rest of Howie’s 2021 class had some truly brilliant moments. The end result was a surprise playoff berth and a lot of hope for the team’s future.
The spring of 2022 and the Eagles were loaded with picks and money, with the expectation that the entire team would take a big step forward. Howie pulled off another big trade to send one of the teams’ 3 first-round picks to New Orleans for a 2023 first and a 2024 second, so the Eagles entered the draft with two first-round picks and a handful of other picks. .
So Howie really got to work.
The Eagles could have gone a million directions in the first round. Needs still abounded throughout the team: Basically any quality defensive player would have been welcome in the first round or maybe a wide receiver. Howie made his first move when he moved ahead of Baltimore and drafted Jordan Davis, the wonderful athletic defensive tackle from Georgia’s National Championship defense. Not even 30 minutes later, Howie moved the other first-round pick for Tennessee’s AJ Brown, one of the best young wide receivers in the NFL. Brown, a proven playmaker, is arguably better than any wide receiver the Eagles could have gotten during the draft. It was clear the Eagles needed a more experienced pass catcher in their offense full of young receivers, and Howie Roseman made a play for one of the best.
And somehow, that’s still not the end of the story of Howie’s masterful 2022 draft.
On Day 2, Roseman selected athletic center Cam Jurgens from Nebraska. The team had been linked to Jurgens for quite some time and after the draft it was revealed that Jason Kelce himself gave the good word for Jurgens to be his heir apparent. When Jason Kelce tells you a center is good, you listen.
But the main story of Day 2 wasn’t the focus of the Eagles’ second round, it was that linebacker Nakobe Dean was falling far more than anyone had projected. Many projected that the heart and soul of Georgia’s national title defense would be a first- or second-round pick, but he was in free fall on day two.
His slide was halted with the 83rd pick in the draft when Howie Roseman drafted speedy Nakobe Dean to a team desperate to play high-end linebacker.
For the second year in a row, Roseman selected two of the most important players from the best team in the country. A formula that worked so well last year that it would be foolish not to do it again. The Eagles came out of the draft with Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, AJ Brown, Cam Jurgens, some quality safety players and a handful of picks in 2023.
It really seems like Howie Roseman willingly self-criticized after the 2019 and 2020 drafts and now it’s in one.
Enough about Howie though, here are some closer looks at the Eagles 2022 picks.
Jordan Davis, defensive tackle, Georgia
What he immediately brings to the team: Jordan Davis was my fourth ranked player in class. His defense against the dominant run and his ability to eat the blocks were enough to project him as a top NFL draft pick, but he also happens to be one of the greatest athletes to ever come out of college football. Jordan Davis’ immediate impact is someone who can dominantly play any interior defensive position at point guard or nickel. His one-man demolition ability against the run will allow the Eagles to play lighter boxes to be more prepared to defend against the pass. Having such an immediately dominant run defender is a perfect way to consistently drive defenses into third-and-long situations, elevating the game of the entire unit.
Long-term prospects: Much was made of Jordan Davis’ lack of pass rush production at UGA, but it really had less to do with skill and more to do with UGA’s defensive philosophy. Davis was asked to control the line of scrimmage and create chances for the blitzers. Davis was reading run first on every play he was on the field, which meant he was always playing a slower pace to run and rush the passer. In the few times Georgia asked him to shoot upfield, Davis showed a world-shattering ability to get past guards and centers to create interior pressure.
The depth of the Eagles’ defensive line means Davis will be an important player in the first year that gives the Eagles flexibility with formations on the defensive front. They can play 3-4 lineups with Davis at 0-tech, 4-3 over and under fronts with Davis playing 1-tech, and downfield nickel defenses on first downs with Davis playing defensive tackle knowing that teams They will have trouble running. As Davis gets more reps where he can run down the field, he’ll get better at it. If he makes one small step as a productive pass-rusher, the Eagles’ defensive front will be formidable for years to come.
Cam Jurgens, Center, Nebraska
What he immediately brings to the team: Cam Jurgens was selected to eventually step into Jason Kelce’s shoes, so it’s fair to assume he won’t (hopefully) see much of the field in his rookie year. Unlike Landon Dickerson last year, Cam Jurgens lacks the size and experience to play guard in his rookie year. So Jurgens will be able to sit down and practice behind Jason Kelce in the first year.
Long-term perspective: Jason Kelce does a lot to catalyze the Eagles’ offense with his athleticism, toughness and intelligence. Replacing what he does is a very, very high task. So recruiting Jurgens, whose athletic profile is very similar to Jason Kelce’s, was a step in the right direction. The hope is that Jurgens’ athletic tools and on-field mentality will be a great foundation for Coach Stoutland to build him into the Eagles’ next great center.
Nakobe Dean, linebacker, Georgia
What he immediately brings to the team: The Eagles have been missing a true marker at linebacker for a while now. Nakobe Dean not only brings playmaking speed, but he also brings a mindset the Eagles haven’t had on their defense since Malcolm Jenkins left. Nakobe Dean was a leader on the Georgia National Champion team and the heart and soul of defending it. Dean’s energy was clearly contagious to the Bulldogs and he will bring it to the Eagles’ locker room.
Schematically, Dean will be a defensive asset as soon as he can step on the field. Although he is smaller than the average NFL linebacker, he used speed, instinct and physicality to evade and break through screens in college. While it’s fair to assume he’ll have a harder time with the NFL lineman, his speed will continue to make a difference. He will immediately be a game-changing blitzer and having him on the field with Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat and Kyzir White will give the Eagles so much flexibility to move their linebackers and create pressure from anywhere on the field. Dean will see most of his first snaps at nickel linebacker. Fortunately, the talent the Eagles have on the defensive line should make things a lot easier for Dean in terms of flowing to ball carriers against the run.
Long-term prospects: Dean may not immediately be an all-down linebacker, but that should be his projection as he gets more comfortable. Dean was considered a first-round talent for a reason. By the end of his rookie season, Dean should feel comfortable enough as an NFL linebacker to take most of the snaps there.
Kyron Johnson, linebacker, Kansas
What he brings to the team immediately: Kyron Johnson had time playing on the edge and off the ball during his tenure at Kansas. His speed, physicality and hot engine made him a productive and valuable member of the Jayhawks’ defense. On the All-Star circuits, Johnson impressed in practice, often winning one-on-one with some offensive linemen who went way before him in the draft. Johnson’s size at 6-foot-3 and around 235 pounds isn’t ideal for a cutting-edge player in the NFL, but his speed and intelligence could make him valuable depth at linebacker. The Eagles also highlighted his contributions on special teams in college (Howie said he had 17 ST tackles in his career), showing that Johnson will be used on special teams early in his NFL career.
Long-term prospects: Johnson’s most likely path eventually is to become a defensive role player. His experience up front could make him a chess piece in a defense that values flexibility. Johnson will most likely spend most of his time as a special contributor to the team.
Grant Calcaterra, tight end, SMU
What he brings to the team immediately: The Eagles have a big hole behind Dallas Goedert in terms of viable passes to catch tight ends. Jack Stoll was an excellent blocker in his rookie season, but he was only targeted five times for four catches. The team has high hopes for Tyree Jackson, but he is still recovering from an ACL injury. JJ Arcega Whiteside was recently moved to tight end, but it’s hard to know how that experiment will go. All that said, Grant Calcaterra was a dynamic and valuable pass catcher during his college career. He is big, very athletic for his size and has great hands. He’s getting into a rare position where he could compete for No. 2 tight end despite being a late pick.
Long-term prospects: The biggest concern with Calcaterra is health. He briefly took a break from football due to concussions before returning to play for a season at SMU. Talent is undeniable for Calcaterra and he could be an important player for a team that loves two sets of tight ends. The main thing for him will be to stay on the field.