2024 NFL Draft

How much will Eagles draft picks play in 2024?

Here's a look at the Eagles' draft class in 2024, trying to figure out how much these guys will play as rookies.

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Eagles rookies haven’t played very much in recent seasons and there are a few reasons for that.

One is that they have a pretty strong group of veterans on this roster. The other is that Nick Sirianni has clearly shown deference to those veterans. Perhaps that’s just his nature or perhaps that’s because of the high expectations for these Eagles teams.

But the Eagles did get some contributions from their rookie class in 2023 and now it’s time to figure out roles for their nine rookies in the 2024 draft class:

Round 1-22: Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo

General manager Howie Roseman showed patience in Round 1 and let Mitchell fall to him at 22 overall. The Eagles had their pick of cornerbacks and ended up with Mitchell, who seemingly checks every box.

The Eagles know that one of their starting outside cornerbacks will be Darius Slay. Even though Slay is 33 now, he still played at a high level in 2023 and is under contract.

Mitchell should be the starter on the other side. The Eagles, of course, have some options. Incumbent starter James Bradberry is still on the roster but after a really down season in 2023, it’s hard to imagine him starting again. The Eagles also have some young players in Kelee Ringo, Eli Ricks and Isaiah Rodgers on the team. But Mitchell was a first-round pick for a reason and he should be given every opportunity to earn a starting job. I think we’ll see him working with the second team early in training camp but he should mix in with the starting group and I expect him to eventually wrestle away that job.

Over the last three years, there have been 12 cornerbacks taken in the first round of the draft. Here’s a look at their rookie seasons:

2021: 1-8: Panthers: Jaycee Horn (South Carolina): 3 starts. Started first three games of season before breaking his foot and going to IR for rest of the season. In three games, had 1 INT, 1 PBU. Returned in 2022 to start 13 games and had 3 interceptions, 7 PBUs.

2021: 1-9: Broncos: Patrick Surtain II (Alabama): 15 starts. Surtain didn’t start the opener but was a starter in Week 2 and ended up playing very well as a rookie with 1 INT and 14 PBUs. Over the next two years, Surtain has started all 34 games and has been a two-time Pro Bowler and was an All-Pro in 2022.

2021: 1-26: Browns: Greg Newsome II (Northwestern): 11 starts. Newsome began his rookie season as a starter from Week 1 as the CB2 opposite former first-round pick and Pro Bowler Denzel Ward. In his three years in the NFL, Newsome has been a solid CB2 with 39 starts. While he has just 2 interceptions, both came in Year 3.

2021: 1-29: Packers: Eric Stokes (Georgia): 14 starts. Stokes played in 16 games and started 14 as a rookie in Green Bay. He began his rookie season as a backup but  Stokes was bumped up to starter by Week 3. In the two years since, Stokes has been limited to 12 games because of injuries and the Packers didn’t pick up his fifth-year option.

2022: 1-3: Texans: Derek Stingley Jr. (LSU): 9 starts. Stingley began the season as a starter and started the first nine games before suffering an injury, which shut him down for the rest of his rookie season. An injury shortened his second season too. But in the 20 starts of his career, Stingley has looked very good.

2022: 1-4: Jets: Sauce Gardner (Cincinnati): 17 starts. There was no waiting for Gardner, who started every game as a rookie and was an All-Pro. In two seasons, Gardner is a two-time All-Pro with 33 starts, 2 interceptions, 31 pass breakups. He’s already one of the best corners in the NFL.

2022: 1-21: Chiefs: Trent McDuffie (Washington): 11 starts. McDuffie was a Week 1 starter before suffering an injury that landed him on IR. But he returned that season and helped the Chiefs win the Super Bowl over the Eagles. He started 16 games in 2023, was an All-Pro and won his second Super Bowl ring to begin his career.

2022: 1-23: Bills: Kaiir Elam (Florida): 6 starts. Elam was not a starter out of the gate but played in 13 games with 6 starts as a rookie. In Year 2, Elam didn’t win a starting gig and played just 3 games thanks to injury and sometimes being a healthy scratch. His career is very much up in the air.

2023: 1-5: Seahawks: Devon Witherspoon (Illinois): 13 starts. Witherspoon was a star from Day 1 and was a Pro Bowler as a rookie. He finished fourth in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting behind Will Anderson, Jalen Carter and Kobie Turner.

2023: 1-16: Commanders: Emmanuel Forbes (Mississippi State): 6 starts. The slender corner took some lumps in his first year in the NFL as we saw when A.J. Brown bullied him when the Commanders faced the Eagles.

2023: 1-17: Patriots: Christian Gonzalez (Oregon):4 starts. Gonzalez won a starting job and was tremendous, winning Defensive Rookie of the Month for his first four games. But he suffered a torn labrum that required surgery and missed the rest of the year. But his future looks bright.

2023: 1-24: Giants: Deonte Banks (Maryland):15 starts. Banks was a starter from Day 1 and started the first 15 games of the season before missing the last two games with a shoulder injury. Banks had an up-and-down rookie season but will be the Giants’ CB1 in 2024.

Basically, all of these recent examples show that there can be some hiccups early for a highly-drafted cornerback but they can contribute — sometimes at a really high level — from Day 1. The Eagles should be expecting that type of output from Mitchell.

Round 2-40: Cooper DeJean, DB, Iowa

It’s a little tricky to figure out exactly what the Eagles’ secondary will look like in 2024 because of all the moving parts. We know Slay and C.J. Gardner-Johnson are starters but we don’t know much beyond that, although Mitchell seems likely to start too at outside corner. They also have Kelee Ringo, James Bradberry and Isaiah Rodgers.

At safety the Eagles have CJGJ at one safety spot and Reed Blankenship at another. They also have Sydney Brown coming back from a torn ACL suffered late in his rookie season.

At nickel, the Eagles brought back Avonte Maddox on a cheaper deal but don’t have to commit to him. They have some other options like CJGJ, Rodgers and Eli Ricks, who might be able to play there too.

So where does DeJean fit in? Maybe everywhere. The nice thing about DeJean is that he has the ability to play at multiple spots. While the Eagles believe in DeJean’s ability to play outside cornerback, that path to a starting gig doesn’t appear to be open. So he can be a backup at the boundary corner spot while also filling in to a hybrid safety/nickel role depending on depth and matchups. Vic Fangio has a lot to figure out.

But it does seem likely that DeJean will find his way on the field one way or another — the Eagles drafted him at 40 overall, so they should find a way to get him on the field. My best guess is we see DeJean on the field 20-25 snaps per game on defense unless there’s an injury and then he could become a starter. He should also have a role on special teams, perhaps even as a returner and/or gunner, from Day 1.

Round 3-94: Jalyx Hunt, OLB, Houston Christian

There’s no doubt that Hunt (6-4, 252) is a raw prospect. He was a 195-pound safety at Cornell just a few years ago so he’s still got a lot to learn in terms of playing on the edge and playing in his bigger body. But the Eagles traded down a couple times in the third round before taking a big swing with Hunt at 94. This was not a pick with 2024 in mind. Hunt is a developmental player and it’s hard to see him having any sort of significant role on defense as a rookie.

Here’s the pecking order at edge right now: Bryce Huff and Josh Sweat are the starters. And Brandon Graham and Nolan Smith are the top guys in the rotation. And then there’s a guy like Zack Baun, who figures in as a hybrid edge rusher/linebacker. So at best, Hunt could earn the No. 5 spot in the rotation and there just won’t be a ton of reps for the fifth guy. And that’s assuming he wins that over Patrick Johnson, Julian Okwara, Terrell Lewis and Tarron Jackson.

The biggest change in the overhang room from last year is that Haason Reddick is gone and has been replaced by Huff. If that’s a 1-for-1 swap, then these snap counts from 2023 are useful:

Haason Reddick: 862 snaps (74%)
Josh Sweat: 828 snaps (71%)
Brandon Graham: 395 snaps (34%)
Nolan Smith: 188 snaps (16%)
Derek Barnett: 99 snaps (9%)

The Eagles used that five-man rotation early in the year and really went down to a four-man rotation after they parted ways with Barnett — and Smith still didn’t see a big bump. We’re expecting to see way more snaps for Smith in Year 2. And with him and the other three edge rushers, there just doesn’t seem to be a ton of work on defense for Hunt.

But Hunt is super athletic so he should be a good special teams player as a rookie. That will likely be his major role: A core special teamer who occasionally sees the field in some minimal sub packages.

Round 4-127: Will Shipley, RB, Clemson

A few days after the Eagles drafted Shipley, former No. 3 running back Boston Scott signed a deal with the Rams. It seems possible that Scott would have been back in his role as the No. 3 had the Eagles not drafted a running back. But now Shipley is the No. 3 on the roster behind Saquon Barkley and Kenny Gainwell.

The Eagles kept four running backs on the roster in 2023 but the fourth — Rashaad Penny — barely saw the field and was actually inactive for most of the season. As a reminder, here’s a look at how snaps broke down at running back last year:

D’Andre Swift: 630 snaps (55%)
Kenny Gainwell: 442 snaps (39%)
Boston Scott: 68 snaps (6%)
Rashaad Penny: 31 snaps (3%)

The Eagles let Swift walk in free agency and went big with their three-year deal for Barkley, who projects to play an even greater percentage of the Eagles’ snaps in 2024 than Swift did in 2023. Because of that, it’s hard to see Shipley having a huge role. The Eagles have Barkley and bring back Gainwell so if Shipley is the No. 3, there just won’t be a ton of snaps unless there’s an injury.

But Shipley should be active on game days and will probably still see the field sparingly on offense. On special teams, he could make a mark as a returner or an up-back on the new kickoff play.

Round 5-152: Ainias Smith, WR, Texas A&M

The top of the Eagles’ depth chart at receiver is obviously spoken for with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. But the rest of the depth chart still needs to be filled out. The Eagles still have Britain Covey, who has really just been their primary punt returner the last couple of years. And they added DeVante Parker and Parris Campbell in free agency.

My guess is that Parker is the leading candidate to be the WR3 in 2024. He’s 31 now but has had some production in his career and has been a little more stable than Campbell. But Campbell offers some pure speed out of the slot and we know the Eagles liked the idea of a speedy slot based on how many chances they gave Quez Watkins in recent seasons.

Last year, the Eagles never really found their WR3. The trio of Watkins, Julio Jones and Olamide Zaccheaus shared that role and it was a weaker spot of the offense for much of the season.

So it’s not crazy to think that Smith could push both Parker and Campbell for that slot receiver job. And based on his usage in college, Smith projects best as a slot in the NFL. It’s probably a little wishful to think that a fifth-round receiver will overtake a couple of veterans, especially knowing how much deference Sirianni has shown toward veterans in his three years at the helm in Philly. But Smith is the Day 3 pick that I’m most excited about so I’d at least like him to get the opportunity.

If he doesn’t play a big role on offense, Smith could still contribute on special teams. He was a really good return man at Texas A&M and the new kickoff rules should open more opportunities for returners.

Round 5-155: Jeremiah Trotter Jr., LB, Clemson

Normally, a fifth-round player doesn’t have a great opportunity to really see the field as a rookie aside from special teams. But a linebacker in Philly? Yeah, there’s a chance.

The Eagles presumed top two linebackers right now are Devin White and Nakobe Dean. The Eagles signed White to a one-year deal this offseason and he projects as the starting MIKE linebacker in this defense. The former first-round pick hasn’t lived up to that status but the Eagles brought him in for a reason. After that, we’re assuming that Dean is next in line but the third-year pro is coming back from a significant foot injury that ended his second season far too early. The Eagles put so many of their eggs in the Dean basket last year and it didn’t work out; they can’t really afford to do that again.

The Eagles also brought in Oren Burks in free agency and still have second-year UDFA Ben VanSumeren to provide depth.

But it’s not crazy to think that Trotter could push for playing time or perhaps even a starting gig if Dean isn’t working out. Of all the Day 3 picks, Trotter probably has the clearest route to playing time on offense or defense, largely because of the position group he’s joining. Either way, he figures to be a core special teamer in Year 1.

Round 5-172: Trevor Keegan, OG, Michigan

Keegan was a three-year starter at left guard for Michigan but will likely have to be a position-versatile backup in the NFL. The big winner in the draft was last year’s third-round pick Tyler Steen, who is now clearly the frontrunner to be the team’s starting right guard. It’s his job to lose.

Is there a world where Steen really struggles and the competition opens to veteran Matt Hennessy and maybe even Keegan? Sure. But that seems like a relatively unlikely outcome.

Keegan should be able to make the Eagles’ roster but will likely be a backup in his rookie season. Still, he’s worth developing to the point where he can be a spot starter here and there. If he ends up having a career arc like former UDFAs Sua Opeta or Nate Herbig, then that would be a pretty good outcome.

Round 6-185: Johnny Wilson, WR, Florida State

Despite Wilson’s size (6-6, 231), they view him as a receiver and not a tight end. Wilson is obviously massive but he moves better than you’d expect for a guy of his size and because of that offers some intrigue.

But there are plenty of players ahead of him on the depth chart and he’ll have to work to make the team. Remember, the Eagles have Brown, Smith, Parker, Campbell, Smith, Covey and more on their roster. They will likely keep five or six receivers so Wilson will need a strong camp to make the team first. And even if he’s on the roster, there isn’t a very clear path to playing time unless the Eagles have some ideas to use his frame in the red zone. But I’d still rather throw the ball to Brown or Smith down there. Wilson is a developmental player in Year 1.

Round 6-190: Dylan McMahon, OL, NC State

The Eagles drafted McMahon with their final pick to be a developmental backup center. He played some guard in college but at 299 pounds, it’s hard to imagine him being a real option at guard in the NFL, especially for a team like the Eagles that has had mostly bigger-body guards over the last several years.

The Eagles’ starter at center is Cam Jurgens and it seems likely that they’re at least going to start the season with Hennessy as their top backup guard and center. Is there a chance for McMahon to win the backup center job? Maybe. Hennessy is coming off an injury so he’s a bit of an unknown. But McMahon probably needs this year to develop.

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