Underrated Prospects Eagles Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IApril 5, 2021

Underrated Prospects Eagles Must Prioritize in 2021 NFL Draft

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Without the financial flexibility to be big spenders in free agency, the Philadelphia Eagles haven't made many additions to their roster this offseason. But that's soon going to change, as the 2021 NFL draft is quickly approaching. The three-day event is set to take place April 29-May 1.

    The Eagles have 11 picks in this year's draft, including the No. 12 overall selection, which they acquired when trading down from the No. 6 spot in a recent deal with the Miami Dolphins. So Philadelphia will have plenty of opportunities to address the various holes on its roster ahead of the 2021 season.

    Nick Sirianni is now the Eagles head coach, and the team traded quarterback Carson Wentz earlier this offseason, so it's clear the franchise is heading in a new direction. How Philadelphia fares during the draft could help dictate how quickly it gets back to being a contender.

    Here's a look at some underrated prospects the Eagles should consider taking during the second and third days of the upcoming draft.

Jaelon Darden, WR, North Texas

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    There's a solid chance the Eagles could take a wide receiver in the first round for the second year in a row. That means it's possible they'll add one of the top playmakers in the class, such as LSU's Ja'Marr Chase or one of the top two Alabama receivers (DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle).

    But Philadelphia may end up taking more than one wide receiver during the draft, as its offense needs more talent surrounding quarterback Jalen Hurts in order to help him take steps forward during his second NFL season. And a receiver such as Darden could help that happen.

    Darden is only 5'8" and 174 pounds, but he has a ton of speed and set records during his time at North Texas, setting the program marks for receptions (230), receiving yards (2,782) and receiving touchdowns (38) in a career. He also had a huge 2020 season and was named a second-team All-American after recording 74 catches for 1,190 yards and 19 touchdowns.

    Yet, Darden is currently projected by many mock drafts to go either late on the second day or on the third day, perhaps because of his size and the fact he didn't play in a top conference (Conference USA). However, he has the potential to become a valuable weapon in the NFL because of his speed and ability, and he could fit into a nice role on the Eagles offense.

Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    After beginning his career at North Carolina as a quarterback, Surratt moved to linebacker when he was a redshirt junior heading into the 2019 season. That's not a switch you see too often, but it's one that worked out for Surratt as he solidified himself as an NFL draft prospect.

    Over the past two seasons, Surratt has had 206 tackles, 12.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions for the Tar Heels. And in a linebacker class that isn't too deep, Surratt, who is 6'2" and 227 pounds, has emerged as one of the top prospects at the position this year.

    "Surratt is a newbie at the position, but his combination of speed, athleticism and explosiveness has helped him emerge as a difference-maker while learning on the job," NFL.com's Bucky Brooks recently wrote.

    The Eagles need to add more young talent to their defense, especially in the linebacker corps. So it's possible they could even take more than one during the draft. One of them should be Surratt, even if that means Philadelphia has to make a trade to put itself in position to do so when he's close to coming off the board.

Kelvin Joseph, CB, Kentucky

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    The Eagles need another starting cornerback to pair with veteran Darius Slay in the 2021 season. Joseph isn't the type of prospect who is likely to move into that role immediately, but he's an intriguing prospect with plenty of upside who Philadelphia should consider drafting on the second day.

    Joseph only played one season at Kentucky after transferring from LSU, but he had a strong showing. The 6'1" cornerback started nine games and recorded 25 tackles and four interceptions.

    Because he missed a year due to transfer rules, Joseph doesn't have as much experience as some other top cornerbacks in the class. But as NFL.com's Lance Zierlein pointed out, Joseph has some strengths that should make him enticing to teams in the draft.

    "Joseph has physical dimensions and natural athletic talent that are easy to get excited about," Zierlein wrote.

    If Joseph continues to improve, he could become a valuable piece of Philadelphia's secondary.