Eagles’ top options at the edge

Exploring Eagles’ top options at the edge throughout the 2022 draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

As the 2022 NFL Draft nears, we’re taking a look at every position on both sides of the ball to find some options for the Eagles throughout the three-day event. We started with QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs, OL and DT. Up today: Edge.

The Eagles added Haason Reddick as their big free agent splash this offseason but they can still get better at the edge rusher position.

After a season with just 29 sacks as a team, they know that.

This season, the Eagles have Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett returning as their top defensive ends and they have Reddick as their SAM linebacker in Jonathan Gannon’s multiple defense.

Even after the Eagles’ trade with the Saints, they still have two first-round picks and 10 total:

1-15 (from Miami)
1-18 (from New Orleans)
2-51
3-83
3-101 (from New Orleans)
4-124
5-154 (from Washington)
5-162
5-166 (from Arizona)
7-237 (from New Orleans)

Here are some edge options throughout the draft:

In first round

Travon Walker (Georgia): We’re not including Aidan Hutchinson on this list because even if he’s not the No. 1 pick, he won’t be far after. And the same might be true of Walker, who has rise to the top 5 and potentially to the top overall pick. But since Walker (6-5, 272) began in the Eagles’ range, we’ll talk about him. He’s a physical freak of a player who had a very specific role at Georgia. So even though his production wasn’t off the charts, he has all the physical ability to project as a dominant player in the NFL.

Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon): Once thought to be a good bet for the No. 1 overall pick, Thibodeaux (6-4, 254) has been slipping in mock drafts because some are reportedly concerned about his level of commitment. Obviously, that’s a big deal for a team that might use a top 5 pick on a player. But Thibodeaux is certainly talented and has great potential after starting three seasons at Oregon.

Jermaine Johnson (Florida State): Before the Senior Bowl, I had the Eagles taking Johnson at No. 19 and it seemed like a stretch. Now, it seems like a stretch he’ll be there when they’re on the clock at 15. Johnson (6-4, 254) had a tremendous year at FSU after transferring from Georgia and has been rapidly rising over the last few months. . A former JUCO transfer, Johnson had trouble getting on the field for the Bulldogs but made himself a first round pick at Florida State. He’s a pure edge rusher who could start at Day 1 for the Eagles at DE.

George Karlaftis (Purdue): Karlaftis is the guy who will most likely be available when the Eagles pick. The 6-3, 266-pound power rushers had 14 1/2 sacks at Purdue in three seasons (27 games). He’s not a super twitched-up athlete but he has elite hands and a great speed-to-power move. Some wonder if he maxed out in college but the Greek-born Karlaftis didn’t start playing football until his teenage years.

In the middle rounds

David Ojabo (Michigan): Before he tore his Achilles at his pro day, Ojabo felt like a really good opportunity for the Eagles in the first round. But now he might be a Round 2 option with the slide. There would be a risk in that (as the Eagles certainly know from when they drafted Sidney Jones in 2017) but the payoff could be huge. Ojabo (6-4, 250) had just one year of college production but had 11 sacks in 2021 playing opposite Hutchinson. He’s still very raw and learning the sport but the upside is big.

Boye Mafe (Minnesota): Some mock drafts have Mafe sneaking into the first round but others have him lasting a bit longer. Mafe (6-3, 261) had seven sacks in 2021 and has the measurables to continue his improvement in the NFL.

Arnold Ebiketie (Penn State): Ebiketie had 9 1/2 sacks in 2021 after transferring to Penn State from Temple, where he began his college career. Ebiketie (6-2, 250) is a native of Cameroon and didn’t start playing football until high school in the United States. He could represent really good value in the second round and the Eagles had him in for a visit.

DeAngelo Malone (Western Kentucky): The Eagles had Malone (6-3, 243) in for a visit and he’s an intriguing speed edge rusher. Malone ran a 4.54 at his pro day and has an impressive burst who might be a late Day 2 option.

Nick Bonitto (Oklahoma): At 6-3, 248 pounds, Bonitto could be an OLB in a 3-4 or a hybrid edge player in a 4-3 like the one the Eagles run. He had 15 sacks in 22 games overs final two college seasons

Drake Jackson (USC): Another second-round option, Jackson (6-3, 273) has a solid frame and put on a bunch of weight between the combine and pro day – from 254 to 273. After playing pretty light in 2021, there are going to be some questions about what weight best suits him in the NFL and if he’ll be able to maintain his explosiveness when he’s heavier.

Dominique Robinson (Miami, Ohio): Robinson is a former wide receiver but converted to edge in 2020 so he’s still learning the position. At 6-4, 253 pounds, Robinson has some impressive athletic traits but is obviously still pretty raw. Another downside is his age. Robinson will turn 24 in July.

Josh Paschal (Kentucky): An option in the third round, Paschal (6-2, 270) played inside and outside at Kentucky and would offer the Eagles some versatility as a rotational player.

Alex Wright (UAB): At 6-5, 251 pounds, Wright has good height and length (nearly 83-inch wingspan), which make him in an intriguing middle-round option. He had 7 sacks in 2021. Not a finished product but good upside.

Jesse Luketa (Penn State): Kind of a tweener, Luketa (6-2, 253) probably projects as a SAM linebacker in Gannon’s scheme. He had an impressive week at the Senior Bowl, often beating much bigger offensive tackles with ease. Definitely a tweener, which can be viewed as a positive or negative. But a Day 3 pick who can play special teams and develop into a rotational / backup on defense.

Late-round sleeper (s)

Micheal Clemons (Texas A&M): There are plenty of reasons why Clemons will be available on Day 3. He’ll be 25 in August. He’s missed a bunch of games with injury. He’s had some off-the-field incidents and run-ins with the law. So there are a ton of reasons to stay away from him. But the flashes from Clemons are impressive and he’s 6-5, 263 pounds with an 83+ inch wingspan and the potential to enter the NFL as a rotational 4-3 end with potential as a future starter.

Carson Wells (Colorado): While he would likely be a standup rusher at 6-2, 241 pounds, Wells projects as a hybrid player at the next level. He had 38 TFLs and 15 1/2 sacks in his college career. He played for former Eagles DL coach Chris Wilson at Colorado. Wells wasn’t a combine invite but ran an impressive 4.59 at the Buffs’ pro day.

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