Figuring out which Eagles will have major roles in 2021


The Eagles are in the middle of a youth movement so it’s no surprise that they will have young players with significant roles in 2021.

But when asked about the importance of drafting players this season who can step in immediately, Howie Roseman confirmed as much during his press conference on Thursday.

“After meeting with our coaching staff and getting their evaluations of our players, and some of our young players, I mean, it's clear that some of our young players are going to play right away, whether it's from last year's draft class, the year before, or players that we draft this year,” Roseman said.

The Eagles have 11 picks in April’s draft and we obviously won’t know how much those players will play until they actually make the picks. But whomever is drafted at No. 6 will very likely have a huge role. After that, we’ll see.

But what about the guys who are already on the roster?

Well, here’s a list of young players — mostly drafted in the last couple years — who could see increased roles in 2021:

Shaun Bradley (23): The linebacker was a sixth-round pick out of Temple last year. He played mostly on special teams but played a handful of snaps on defense and might have opportunity with Duke Riley and Nate Gerry hitting free agency.

Andre Dillard (25): The 2019 first-round pick will probably battle Jordan Mailata for the starting left tackle job. And as much as everyone loves Mailata, we can’t completely rule out the possibility of Dillard winning that job. After all, the Eagles liked him enough to draft him in the first a couple years ago.

Travis Fulgham (25): No, Fulgham wasn’t drafted by the Eagles, but he was a sixth-rounder in 2019 and he had a magical month-long stretch with the Eagles during 2020. Is he ready to be a starting receiver? Not sure. But he’ll get his chance to prove it soon.

John Hightower (24): The 2020 fifth-round pick out of Boise State played a lot of snaps early in his rookie season but struggled and seemed to fall out of favor with the coaching staff. He was an afterthought by the end of 2020 but has some talent and will get a chance to compete in training camp.

Jalen Hurts (22): Unless the Eagles draft a QB with the No. 6 pick, Hurts will be the Eagles’ starting quarterback a year after he was taken in the second round of the 2020 draft out of Oklahoma.

Jordan Mailata (23): OK, so Mailata was a 2018 draft pick but he was so raw that I still decided to include him here. And he’s still just 23. Mailata looked good as the starting left tackle at times in 2020 and if he just gets some more consistency, the Eagles might have their LT of the future.

Jalen Reagor (22): It wasn’t a great rookie season for the No. 21 pick from 2020 as he struggled through a rough first season that included a few injuries. But he still has a ton of athleticism and ability and maybe the new coaching staff will figure out the right ways to use him.

Miles Sanders (23): Sanders is still just entering Year 3. He already had a big role as the starting running back in 2020 but now he’ll be in an offense that might actually run the ball. That should help.

Josh Sweat (23): Sweat was actually a member of the 2018 class but he’s still really young. And with Vinny Curry unlikely to return, Sweat might be the clear-cut third defensive end in the rotation this season.

Davion Taylor (22): Taylor barely played on defense as a rookie. We all knew he was raw but how long are the Eagles supposed to wait to play him on defense? Taylor was a third-round pick and it’s not crazy to expect him to play in 2021.

K’Von Wallace (23): Even after landing Anthony Harris, there are still questions at safety as Rodney McLeod is coming off an ACL tear and Jalen Mills is gone. The Eagles will also use a third safety. So Wallace, the fourth-round pick from Clemson, might have some real opportunity. I’d really like to see him play more in his second NFL season.

Quez Watkins (21): It took a while but Watkins, a 2020 sixth-round pick out of Southern Mississippi, showed flashes late in his rookie season. He seems to have a great connection with Hurts, which should help him now that Hurts is the presumed starter.

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