Eagles 2024 NFL Draft takeaways: Defensive needs addressed, RG remains question mark

The Philadelphia Eagles wrapped up the NFL Draft Saturday night, completing the player acquisition phase of an offseason in which a team that experienced one of the league’s most sudden and disastrous collapses wanted to reclaim its rugged mentality.

Two factors from the draft suggest the plan has been successful. First, one of the most bizarre opening nights in history helped the Eagles secure two players they’d given first-round grades. General manager Howie Roseman also uses the term “red star” players, which signifies prospects who received nearly unanimous “A” grades in terms of football character. The Eagles acquired five of them.

Philadelphia fulfilled this immediate goal while also adding future draft assets. Roseman executed eight trades that in part netted a third-, fourth- and fifth-round selection in next year’s draft. The Eagles had entered the weekend with only six 2025 picks, none in the fourth round. A team that considers the short term, midrange and long term in its decisions stuck to its core principles.

All told, the Eagles addressed their precarious secondary with their premier picks, added depth at edge rusher, running back, wide receiver and linebacker during the middle rounds, then capped off the draft with two late-round selections who will compete for the team’s vacancy at right guard.

The picks

Round Pick Name Pos. School



Quinyon Mitchell





Cooper DeJean





Jalyx Hunt


Houston Christian



Will Shipley





Ainias Smith


Texas A&M



Jeremiah Trotter Jr.





Trevor Keegan





Johnny Wilson


Florida State



Dylan McMahon


NC State



Eagles NFL Draft picks 2024: Grades, fits and scouting reports

Best value pick

It’s still somewhat absurd that Quinyon Mitchell fell to the Eagles at No. 22. He was the No. 11 overall player on The Athletic draft expert Dane Brugler’s big board, which underlines the rare scenario that benefited the Eagles thanks to a quarterback-heavy draft in which no defensive players were selected until No. 15 (for the first time ever).

The Eagles snagged the draft’s top cornerback without having to surrender any draft capital to trade up. That allowed Roseman to instead use his full allotment of selections in eight other draft-day deals for immediate acquisitions and future picks. Not bad at all.

Mitchell, who turns 23 in July, is a two-time All-American who could very well start in 2024. He’s got an enviable frame (6 feet, 195 pounds), undeniable speed (4.33 40-yard dash) and proved that coverage skills that yielded six interceptions and two pick-sixes in a zone-heavy scheme also translate to press-man by locking down top pass catchers at the Senior Bowl.

The Eagles, who typically draft players who played in Power 5 conferences, aren’t concerned about Mitchell’s pedigree. Neither was former Alabama coach Nick Saban. He said on the broadcast that Mitchell would’ve been Alabama’s No. 1 target in the transfer portal, “and he would never get in the portal.” For the Eagles, Mitchell playing in the MAC was also a strength. Said Roseman, “We wanted to bring in people here who had a chip on their shoulder.”



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Most surprising pick

The Eagles selected another cornerback immediately after picking Mitchell. But Iowa’s Cooper DeJean is an intriguing anomaly. To say he’s a cornerback ignores his versatility as a potential safety. To say he’s a versatile defensive back downplays his proficiency as an outside corner.

The Eagles needed to improve a secondary that surrendered the second-most passing yards in 2023. And drafting Mitchell alone wasn’t going to fulfill depth at safety and add insurance to a cornerback room led by two aging starters. DeJean, one of the best tackling defensive backs in the draft, per Brugler, held a first-round grade, Roseman said, and the Eagles considered taking him in the first.

So, from a value standpoint, with DeJean falling to No. 40 overall, it’s sensible that Roseman positioned the Eagles to acquire the Iowa standout by swapping picks 50, 53 and 161 with the Washington Commanders for Nos. 40, 78 and 152.

There’s no certainty yet where DeJean will play. He could fulfill several roles for the Eagles, including cornerback. Safeties Reed Blankenship (groin), C.J. Gardner-Johnson (pectoral) and Sydney Brown (ACL) all suffered season-ending injuries in 2023. Cornerback Darius Slay missed five games with a knee injury. There’s also no clarity at the nickel spot. Avonte Maddox, 28, re-signed on a one-year deal, but he struggled after missing 13 games with a torn pectoral.

Coach Nick Sirianni also hinted that DeJean could be weaponized within the NFL’s new kickoff rules. The league is attempting to incentivize more returns on special teams, and DeJean totaled 406 yards on 31 career punt returns at Iowa, including a 70-yard touchdown against Michigan State. It’s going to be fascinating to see how the Eagles deploy DeJean.



Cooper DeJean joins Quinyon Mitchell as new Eagles DBs hoping to shore up secondary

Biggest question mark

Why did the Eagles not invest more heavily in an interior offensive lineman? Are they that confident in Tyler Steen? Do they think a competition pool that includes Steen, Matt Hennessy, a fifth-round pick (Michigan’s Trevor Keegan) and a sixth-round pick (NC State’s Dylan McMahon) will produce a right guard who won’t become a liability?

Interior defensive pressure is a considerable threat. The Eagles may have gotten a sneak peek of a potential problem during the 2023 season. Steen, in his only start as a rookie, surrendered six pressures while filling in for Cam Jurgens against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9, according to Pro Football Focus. The Eagles won 28-23, but Jalen Hurts was sacked three times and a limited rushing attack averaged 3.3 yards per carry.

The easy answer: Yes, Roseman said the Eagles are “excited” about Steen. Roseman also often said the Eagles “stuck to our board” and drafted the best available prospects. Since the Eagles used pick Nos. 50 and 53 to trade up for DeJean, then traded back twice from No. 78 — eventually to 94 (and selected an edge rusher) — it can be inferred that they simply had lower grades on the interior linemen other teams drafted in that range.

Perhaps if Washington’s Troy Fautanu (No. 20 overall, Pittsburgh Steelers) fell to the Eagles and not Mitchell, I’d instead be writing, “Why did the Eagles not invest more heavily in a cornerback?” But I still find the Eagles drafting a running back at No. 127 at the very least questionable. They made Saquon Barkley the highest-paid running back in team history because he’s an every-down player. And if Kenneth Gainwell remains in the offense’s plans, it’s worth wondering how much Will Shipley will see the field in 2024 (if at all).

Gainwell’s contract expires after this season. So, there is a future need for depth. Shipley began an eight-pick sequence in which five running backs were selected. That indicates the Eagles acted on a market trend before it occurred. But there’s an immediate need for a right guard. Was there really no one the Eagles liked until the fifth round?

Remaining needs

Since we already discussed the right guard vacancy … the Eagles could use more bodies at defensive tackle. Jalen Carter should continue his ascent after finishing second in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting, but Jordan Davis acknowledged he needs to prove he can be more consistent in 2024.

Both former first-round picks are expected to help the Eagles smoothly transition into an era without franchise pillar Fletcher Cox. But defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will still rotate his defensive tackles frequently, and a depth rotation that currently includes Milton Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu, Moro Ojomo, PJ Mustipher and Noah Elliss could use at least one more reliable veteran.

This is the first draft since 2020 that the Eagles didn’t select a defensive tackle. Of course, that partly indicates the ones they picked in the three previous cycles have panned out. But Roseman fundamentally believes in a roster whose foundation is in the trenches, and it would do the Eagles well to search for more defensive tackles before entering training camp.

Post-draft outlook

Philadelphia’s draft looks productive in terms of restoring the defense to a respectable form. It brought in Mitchell and DeJean, who should be able to contribute immediately, while acquiring longer-term projects such as Jalyx Hunt and Jeremiah Trotter Jr., who could yield some future dividends when given time to develop.

The offense’s needs were more schematic this offseason. The Eagles were aggressive in free agency and locked up their talented young core by signing A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Landon Dickerson and Jordan Mailata to lucrative contract extensions. The players they added in the draft must only become supportive cogs in a machine that already looks like The Terminator.

Now it’s about how this team comes together under an overhauled coaching staff.

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(Photo of Quinyon Mitchell: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

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