The Philadelphia Eagles couldn’t live up to the expectations they set for themselves following their victory in Super Bowl LII. Granted, a 9-7 regular season followed up with a playoff win over the Chicago Bears would be a success to many. But injuries mounted as the season progressed, hindering any chance at defending their title.
The 2019 NFL Draft brings with it newfound hope that Philadelphia can continue to build a championship-caliber roster, especially after adding guys like defensive tackle Malik Jackson, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and running back Jordan Howard this offseason.
Philadelphia has seven picks in this year's draft, including two in both the second and fourth rounds. With that in mind, here are five players the Eagles should target to help get them over the hump in 2019 and beyond:
1. Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware
It’s time for Philadelphia to start considering injecting some youth into the safety position. Malcolm Jenkins, while still effective, will turn 32 before the end of the year, and Rodney McLeod has struggled to stay healthy over the last couple of years.
There have been several draft pundits who have pointed to Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson as a possible candidate to be taking at No. 25 overall. While that’d be an excellent pick, an argument could be made that Adderley is an even better fit.
Like Jenkins, the small school prospect has experience as both a safety and cornerback, which has helped Adderley develop skills in man coverage. Overall, he is a balanced safety who displays range, fluidity, sound tackling, and a physical style of football. After measuring in at 6-foot, 206 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, he checked the “size” box off a short list of question marks.
Expect Adderley to be strongly considered in the first round, if he’s available.
2. Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
The Eagles recently dealt a conditional sixth-round pick (that could turn into a fifth-rounder) to the Bears for running back Jordan Howard. In three seasons since being taken in the fifth round of the 2016 draft out of Indiana, Howard has produced 3,370 rushing yards, another 568 receiving, and 25 total touchdowns.
While Howard seemingly upgrades a position that struggled last year, it doesn't mean Philadelphia won't add another option through the draft.
Jacobs didn’t test off the charts during Alabama’s recent Pro Day, but the 5-foot-10, 220-pounder did have arguably the most impressive tape of any running back in this class. As a result, he could still be an option for Philadelphia, whether that’s at pick No. 25 or in the second round, where the Eagles have two selections (Nos. 53 and 57).
The Alabama back saw limited usage during his time in Tuscaloosa (251 rushes, 48 receptions), but he’s capable of being a three-down back in the NFL. The former three-star prospect coming out of high school continues to run with a chip on his shoulder, and that could make him a valuable piece in Philadelphia’s offense.
3. Jerry Tillery, DL, Notre Dame
There’s a consensus that Tillery will hear his name called sometime on Day 1 or 2 of the draft. Now, where exactly that ends up being is still a question mark. As of right now, people’s opinions of the defensive lineman range.
Those who see Tillery as a first-round prospect typically point to his performance against Stanford in Week 5 of last season. The 6-foot-6, 295-pounder was a force, racking up six tackles, four sacks and two more quarterback hurries in that game.
As dominant as Tillery was against the Cardinal, there are still a few concerns regarding the Notre Dame prospect. He was suspended for the bowl game as a freshman due to a violation of team rules, and he’s also been labeled a dirty player by some.
As far as on the field, Tillery’s motor has been somewhat inconsistent, as has his play. But there’s an unquestionably high ceiling for him, if he’s ever able to put it all together. The first round seems a bit rich, but pick No. 53 seems like the perfect spot to take a chance.
4. Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State
As much as this will pain Eagles fans to hear, longtime starting left tackle Jason Peters isn’t going to play forever. At 37, it’s quite remarkable that he’s managed to continue to play at a high level for as long as he has – even though his performance did somewhat drop off in 2018.
In other words, Philadelphia should find more depth at the position. Lane Johnson is locked in as a starter. And Halapoulivaati Vaitai has filled in admirably when he’s had to, but he’s not the long-term answer at the critical left tackle spot. Is that massive former rugby star Jordan Mailata (6-8, 346)? No one really knows at this point.
It’s no secret that Jeff Stoutland loves Howard. The Eagles’ offensive line coach even went as far as personally putting the Alabama State standout through his Pro Day workout. If Howard is available on Day 2, it’s a very real possibility that he could be the next FCS product (Carson Wentz played at North Dakota State, Dallas Goedert came from South Dakota State) to end up in Philadelphia.
5. Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford
Nigel Bradham, L.J. Fort, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Paul Worrilow, Nathan Gerry, and B.J. Bello currently make up Philadelphia’s linebacker group. Do you see anything that stands out with the names listed? If not, don’t beat yourself up. While it’s not a terrible group, there’s not a lot to love.
The front office needs to do whatever it can to upgrade this unit during the draft.
While there are options such as Hawaii’s Jahlani Tavai, Maryland’s Tre Watson, Minnesota’s Blake Cashman or New Mexico State’s Terrill Hanks, Okereke could be the most viable one late on Day 2 or early on Day 3. The Stanford product is a rangy linebacker who can get sideline-to-sideline when needed.
From a statistical standpoint, Okereke has been the definition of consistent in each of the last two seasons. Here are his numbers:
2018: 96 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 FF
2017: 96 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks, INT, FF
Philadelphia could use that sort of consistency from its linebackers.
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.