Eagles Add ‘Punishing’ LB & ‘Violent’ DE in Wild NFL Draft Finish

Eagles Add ‘Punishing’ LB & ‘Violent’ DE in Wild NFL Draft Finish


Former LSU safety JaCoby Stevens could be moving to linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles.

It took 223 total picks to come off the board, but they finally did it. The Philadelphia Eagles drafted a linebacker in the sixth round. And, in what has become typical Philly fashion, he’s not a traditional one.

The Eagles selected JaCoby Stevens with the 224th overall pick. The 6-foot-1, 212-pounder was a stud safety at LSU for the past three seasons after converting to the defensive side from wide receiver. Hybrid players have always been prized by Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and Stevens is a human Swiss Army Knife. Stevens was listed at linebacker in a Twitter announcement and in his official team bio.

Stevens was a one-man wrecking crew at LSU where he literally played everywhere on 1,093 snaps: free safety, linebacker, nickel corner, edge rusher, special teams. He made 29 starts and finished his career with 190 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, four interceptions, four fumble recoveries.

The scouting report on Stevens indicated that he struggled to play deep safety, hence why the Eagles might want to move him to linebacker. But the talented 22-year-old earned a reputation for filling up running lanes and being physical at the line of scrimmage (see: a very unpolished Malcolm Jenkins).

Philadelphia took Tulane edge rusher Patrick Johnson at pick No. 234, another guy they apparently intend to move to linebacker. Scouts had projected him to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme at the next level. He recorded 24.5 sacks and 135 tackles (40 for loss) in 49 collegiate games. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder left Tulane as the school’s all-time sack leader.

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Eagles Add Defensive Tackle, Defensive End

The Eagles put a huge emphasis on defense in the later rounds. The team only drafted one offensive player on Day 3 — running back Kenneth Gainwell — and bolstered their defensive line with back-to-back picks in the sixth round. They took former USC defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu at No. 189 and then grabbed ex-Coastal Carolina defensive end Tarron Jackson at No. 193.

Jackson suffered a deep-thigh contusion four games into his freshman year. He received a medical redshirt and went on to record 195 tackles (44.5 for loss), plus 26.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in 48 career games.

His 10 sacks in 2019 set single-season school record at Coastal Carolina while leading the Sun Belt Conference. Bleacher Report called Jackson a “rapid, violent pass-rusher” who could develop into an NFL starter with the proper coaching. The 6-foot-2, 254-pounder lacks great first-step quickness but his change of direction is off the charts.

Tuipulotu sprained his left knee during his freshman season at USC, then suffered a back injury that shut him down after three games. He turned into a three-year starter for the Trojans following a medical redshirt and recorded 104 tackles (15 for loss) in 38 career games. The 6-foot-2, 302-pounder also tallied 8.5 sacks while earning first-team All-Pac 12 honors in 2020 at nose tackle.

He was a state wrestling champion in high school, so strength has never been a problem. Bleacher Report said “tackling is a suspect area of his game.” And scouts have knocked his athleticism and arsenal of pass-rushing moves.

Philadelphia started Day 3 with eight total picks but surrendered two in a trade. They sent picks No. 225 and No. 240 to the Washington Football Team in exchange for a 2022 fifth-round pick.

Philadelphia Eagles Connections Run Deep

Funny how life works out sometimes, right? Neither Tuipulotu nor Jackson hail from the Philadelphia area but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to bleed green. Both rookies have family members who support the Eagles and now they get to represent those colors every Sunday. Amazing.

“It’s funny, my oldest brother, he’s a big Eagles fan,” Tuipulotu told reporters. “So every Sunday when he is watching the NFL he’s always talking about his Eagles.”

Jackson’s story is a bit more emotional since his uncle was the Eagles’ fan in the family. He started to get teary-eyed talking about him since he died last year.

“My uncle, he actually passed before the season,” Jackson said. “The crazy part is his favorite team was the Eagles. I’m kind of getting emotional now. Being drafted to the Eagles, it means a lot to me.”