Hard to find many NFL Draft classes that topped what the Philadelphia Eagles did in 2023. Somehow the Eagles maximized the opportunity of having two first-round picks, trading up just one spot to land Jalen Carter at No. 9 overall while having Nolan Smith fall to them at No. 30.
The Eagles also continued selecting Georgia players in this draft (picked five in the last two drafts, all on the defensive side of the ball) by trading up in the fourth round to select Kelee Ringo. They also traded future draft capital to acquire Detriot Lions running back D'Andre Swift -- another Georgia product.
Philadelphia ended up making six picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, but only one of them was in its original selection (Smith). Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was wheeling and dealing throughout this draft, making one of the best rosters in the NFL better while making sure he has enough draft assets for 2024 (projected 10 draft picks with compensatory selections, including two second-round picks).
Here is a rundown of the Eagles' 2023 draft class, along with a review of what they missed and what they knocked out of the park:
Eagles 2023 draft class
What did the Eagles fail to accomplish?
Philadelphia's draft class is one of the most impressive ones in the league, factoring in the value of the selections picked and strengthening already strong units. However, the Eagles did fail to address two areas that could have used a slight upgrade -- and one of these areas depend on how Philadelphia uses Smith in year one (he played the JACK at Georgia and dropped back in coverage more than most pass rushers).
The Eagles had a massive free agent loss when T.J. Edwards signed with the Chicago Bears, then lost Kyzir White to the Arizona Cardinals days later. Philadelphia does have 2021 third-round pick Nakobe Dean (another Georgia player) in line to start and did sign Nicholas Morrow to compete for a starting role. Did the Eagles add any off-ball linebacker depth with their seven selections?
Behind Dean and Morrow at the off-ball linebacker spots are Christian Elliss, Shaun Bradley, and Davion Taylor. The Eagles like Elliss and Taylor, but the two have combined to play 311 defensive snaps. Taylor, a 2020 third-round pick, missed all of last season with an injury. Bradley and Elliss are core special teams players, but are they ready for more significant roles in this defense?
Philadelphia reportedly signed Michigan State linebacker Ben VanSumeren amongst its undrafted free agents. The athletic linebacker has a strong shot to make the team based on the depth at the position. The Eagles just don't value off-ball linebacker like other franchises do.
The Eagles could have tried to add more depth at wide receiver to compete with Quez Watkins, yet they accomplished that with Olamide Zaccheaus in free agency a week prior to the draft. Zaccheaus and Watkins will compete for the No. 3 spot at wide receiver, but Zaccheaus is a more natural fit for that role while Watkins can be that deep-ball wideout and get opportunities.
A top four of A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Zaccheaus, and Watkins is very good. Who gets the fifth wide receiver spot will be an intriguing battle this summer, with Britain Covey, Tyrie Cleveland, Greg Ward, and Devon Allen competing for those spots. Clemson's Jordan Ngata and Arkansas' Jordan Haselwood are two of the undrafted free agent signings to watch.
The Eagles didn't need to draft a punter, but Arryn Siposs could use competition. Philadelphia did sign Kansas State's Ty Zentner amongst its undrafted free agent signings.
Hard to complain about what the Eagles didn't do in the draft, but it wasn't perfect.
What the Eagles certainly got right
Jalen Carter was the player the Eagles wanted heading into this draft -- and they didn't have to give up much to get him. There were rumblings heading into the draft Carter wouldn't go past No. 6 (Detroit Lions) and he certainly wasn't getting past the Eagles if he fell to them. Carter was going to be a top-10 pick in this draft despite the off-field concerns leading up to the draft.
Once Carter got past the Las Vegas Raiders at No. 7, the Eagles' plan to trade up and get him was going to be a reality. The Atlanta Falcons ended the Bijan Robinson nightmare at No. 8 (Philadelphia was never taking him at No. 10), allowing the Eagles to work out a deal with the Chicago Bears and move up one spot to No. 9 and draft Carter (only giving up a 2024 fourth-round pick to swap spots with Chicago).
If Carter wasn't available for the Eagles, Philadelphia would have looked to trade down and acquire more picks. The Eagles had potential suitors willing to move into the top-10, but their target was Carter heading into Thursday.
If Philadelphia did trade down, Nolan Smith would have been one of the targets with the extra draft capital in tow. The Eagles were able to get Smith at No. 30 thanks to teams drafting valuable players at need for other positions. Philadelphia also really liked Lukas Van Ness, who would have been an intriguing pick in the mid teens -- but the Eagles liked Smith a bit more had they traded down.
The Eagles were able to get Carter and Smith in the first round, getting younger on the defensive line while adding two impact players to an already strong pass rush. They filled the void left when Javon Hargrave departed for the San Francisco 49ers in free agency, as Carter will compete with Jordan Davis and Fletcher Cox to start at defensive tackle (with Carter and Davis the future long-term starters). Smith will get to learn from Haason Reddick in his role as an edge rusher, giving more depth to a unit that already has Reddick, Josh Sweat, and Brandon Graham.
At the end of the day, a pass rush that had 70 sacks last season (third-most in a season in NFL history) got even stronger. The Eagles were able to get Carter AND Smith with their first-round picks, which seemed highly unlikely coming into the the draft.
Patience paid off for Howie Roseman.