The Eagles select LB Kyron Johnson and TE Grant Calcaterra in Round 6


PHILADELPHIA — If you thought the Eagles were going to change course and suddenly get a draft for cornerback or safety, you weren’t paying attention.

After skipping position in the first three rounds, the Eagles continued to do so, taking Kansas linebacker Kyron Johnson with their first pick on Saturday in the sixth round for 181st overall.

With their second pick of the sixth round, in 198th place, they picked up SMU tight end Grant Calcaterra.

The Eagles made two trades to get that No. 181 pick, trading fifth-round Jacksonville at No. 154 for picks #188 and #198. They then boxed the No. 188 pick along with their seventh- Round pick at #237 to move up to #181.

So the Eagles finished the draft with five players after starting with 10. They took two linebackers, a defensive tackle, a tight end and a center.

Johnson joins Georgia’s Nakobe Dean, who went into the third round on Friday night. Johnson, who weighs 6 feet and 235 pounds, played on the defensive end in Kansas but appears undersized for the role in the NFL, despite his speed of about 4.4 in the 40. Johnson had 6.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles last season.

“I’m willing to play where the coaches are willing to put me,” Johnson said Saturday, adding that he compares himself to Eagles pass rusher Haason Reddick. “I’ve seen his style of play and how he moves from sideline to sideline and other coaches have also compared me to him. I can play anywhere, SAM, indoors, outdoors, MIKE linebacker. I’ve played it all before.”

Calcaterra, on the other hand, was a promising tight end in Oklahoma before suffering a concussion and retiring from football in 2019. That season, Jalen Hurts, now the Eagles’ quarterback, was the Sooners’ QB.

However, they only played three games together before Calcaterra was lost for the season with his head injury.

“I’m so excited to play with Jalen again,” Calcaterra said. “He’s a great teammate, a good friend and I have a lot of respect for him.”

In fact, Calcaterra said Hurts called him after he was selected.

Calcaterra took a long journey before rejoining Hurts. After retiring from football, Calcaterra began working as a paramedic and trained as a firefighter while also working in construction.

All along Calcaterra said “I kept one foot in the door” as far as football was concerned as he would train on the side to stay in shape.

Calcaterra said watching the 2020 NFL draft convinced him to try again. He said he feels just as good, if not better, than some of the tight ends that are being drafted.

“I didn’t want to be 30 and try one last shot,” Calcaterra said.

In his only season with SMU in 2021, Calcaterra had 38 catches for 465 yards. The Eagles are thin behind star tight end Dallas Goedert. They have Jack Stoll and Tyree Jackson, but Jackson is recovering from a cruciate ligament rupture. The Eagles recently moved wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside to the tight end.

The Eagles missed the run on cornerbacks in the fourth round. But they couldn’t trade back into that round even if they wanted to. That’s because they traded six of their ten picks in Thursday night’s first round for Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis and Tennessee Titans wide receiver AJ Brown.

They then took Nebraska center Cam Jurgens in the second round and Dean in the third.

So they waited until eight cornerbacks, including Cincinnati’s Coby Bryant, went into the fourth round.

The Eagles continued to wait while making their two trades.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Friday night that he’s not worried about not addressing defensive back.

“I think every team after this draft will have a hole somewhere,” he said. “We’ve got between now and September and hopefully we can add people… Unfortunately we’re picking where we’re picking and we’ve made some trades and we understand we’ll have work to do after that draft.”

But the Eagles took some risks with Jurgens and Dean.

Despite getting Jason Kelce’s seal of approval, Jurgens is unlikely to play this season unless Kelce gets injured. He’s only played center during his Nebraska career, so he didn’t seem able to fill in the guard.

And Dean, who many expected to be drafted in the first round, fell in the third round apparently with a chest strain. The NFL Network reported that Dean turned down surgery, but Dean said Friday night that doctors didn’t recommend it.

Both Dean and Roseman said Dean can attend the rookie mini camp next weekend. If he can play, the Eagles have a first-round linebacker. If he ends up needing surgery, it could end his season before it even begins.

“I think I called our doctors three, four times,” Roseman said, asking her, “‘Am I missing something? We brought him here. Because obviously this guy is way higher up on our board.”

As for Jurgens, there’s no telling how much longer Kelce wants to play. He has considered retiring each of the past four off-seasons before returning. He has a one-year contract worth $14 million.

But Kelce, who is 34, is still at the top of his game. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl five times, including each of the past three seasons. If Kelce wants to return again in 2023, the Eagles certainly won’t stop him.

Until then, Jurgens has the opportunity to learn from one of the NFL’s top centers. And Kelce is in love with Jürgens. He watched a video of Jurgens and told Bleacher Report that Jurgens is his favorite draft player.

Jürgens’ reaction?

“That’s great,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of his band and to see a guy who can move like him (does) and play as hard and with as much intensity as he does, that’s how I want to play.

“Just because you’re an o-lineman doesn’t mean you can’t run down the field and take out a safety. I want to do things like him and be able to fit into their system as much as possible. “

The Eagles also need the other players to fit into their system.

Contact Martin Frank at [email protected] Follow @Mfranknofl on Twitter.


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