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What's next for each member of the Eagles' 2021 draft class?


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What's next for each member of the Eagles' 2021 draft class? 

Glenn Erby 
February 7, 2022 6:33 am ET

Philadelphia’s 2021 class of NFL rookies can be commended for successfully completing a 17-game regular-season gauntlet, coupled with a surprising NFC playoff appearance.

As we start to look towards the 2022 NFL draft, now is the proper time to reflect on the journey, offering the appropriate evaluation for all nine drafted rookies and looking towards an offseason of steady improvement.

Howie Roseman landed a solid class after debacles in 2019 and 2020, and most importantly, all nine selections saw game actions during key moments this season.

Here’s what the 2021 rookie class need to improve on moving forward.

first round: DeVonta Smith


Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Smith didn’t have the explosive moments that Ja’Marr Chase enjoyed with the Bengals, but the No. 10 overall pick was more than solid in a rookie season in which he set the franchise receiving yardage record for a rookie with his team-leading 916 receiving yards on the NFL’s No. 1 rushing offense.

For Smith, it’ll be about getting stronger this offseason, while continuing to develop that dynamic chemistry with Jalen Hurts that can take the Philadelphia passing game to the next level.

2nd round: Landon Dickerson


(AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

Dickerson was among the highest graded rookies during the wild card round, and his weekly development was a major key in the overall development of this entire class.

Draft to be Jason Kelce’s potential replacement at the center position, Dickerson posted 859 total snaps, his 5 total penalties were tied for 23rd in the league, and he allowed just 2 sacks as a rookie.

The 2022 offseason and summer will be about Dickerson improving as a pass blocker and continuing to develop his footwork.

3rd round: Milton Williams


Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The one player that skeptics believed Howie Roseman reached on, Williams saw time this season at nose tackle, the two-gap defensive end, a one-technique, and a three-technique in Jonathan Gannon’s system.

A powerful and athletic interior defender, Williams had 30 tackles, 19 total pressures, 2 sacks, 4 QB hits, 13 QB hurries, and he’s solidified a reserve role going forward.

In 2022, it’ll be about Williams developing enough for the Eagles to reduce Fletcher Cox’s snaps, without there being a major dropoff in production.

Williams is sound against the run game and increased development in his pass rush skills will take his game to a Javon Hargrave type of level.

4th round: Zech McPhearson


Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

A raw defender, McPhearson logged 16 tackles in 16 games with one pass breakup. An elite special teams gunner, McPhearson has a role in the NFL, and this summer we’ll be about continued work on his footwork, development in his hip-turns, and reading the quarterback’s eyes while in zone coverage.

5th round pick: Kenneth Gainwell


Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Gainwell’s development should be more about Nick Sirianni and his approach to properly using the dynamic young running back in 2022 and beyond.

On other rosters, the former Memphis star would have made an all-rookie team.

A dual-threat back who was held back by Nick Sirianni, Gainwell logged 68 carries for 291 yards (4.3 YPC) and five rushing touchdowns. As a receiver, Gainwell logged 33 catches for 253 yards and a touchdown.

Next season is all about incorporating Gainwell firmly into the offense as a dual-threat nightmare.

5th Round pick: Marlon Tuipulotu


(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

A sixth-round pick with a reputation for being a game-wrecker at USC, Tuipulotu couldn’t beat out journeyman Hasson Ridgeway for snaps and he finished his rookie season with five tackles in five appearances.

His true NFL ceiling will be determined by his ability to become dominant as a run-stopper or develop into a high-value inside pass rusher.

If Tuipulotu is unable to improve tremendously this offseason, you could see a situation where he’s reduced to the practice squad or journeymen status.

7th Round pick: Patrick Johnson:


(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Johnson started a game (Dallas) and had 17 tackles, 1 tackle for loss in 17 appearances this season.

A pass-rushing linebacker, Johnson will likely be a special teams gem only but will need to use this offseason on developing his pass rush and pass defending skills.

It has to be one or the other.

6th round pick: JaCoby Stevens


Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz, right, catches a touchdown pass over Philadelphia Eagles linebacker JaCoby Stevens, left, during the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

A linebacker that’s transitioning from the safety position, Stevens struggled at the point of attack and dealt with injuries for the majority of the season.

This offseason will about improving his run recognition, tacking at the point of attack and better athleticism while in space.

Tarron Jackson


(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Jackson had 18 tackles (two for loss) and a sack in 17 appearances this season, displaying some solid pass rush prowess.

This offseason will be about getting with some of the top pass rushers in the league and continuing to progress in his craft. Jackson could turn into a younger version of Vinny Curry.


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