Why Eagles drafted Landon Dickerson despite his injury history originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
A couple years ago, after the Eagles limped their way to the finish line in the 2019 season thanks to a rash of injuries, general manager Howie Roseman said something that is worth bringing back up now:
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“Hope is not a strategy when it comes to injuries,” he said, pointing out that when you bring in players that are injured, it increases the risk they’ll get hurt again.
That brings us to Friday night.
Because in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Eagles selected interior offensive lineman Landon Dickerson from Alabama with the 37th pick. Dickerson likely would have been a first-round pick in this draft if not for a laundry list of injuries he suffered during his five years in college.
Roseman on Friday night said they didn’t “think that there was any chance” Dickerson would be available at No. 37 if not for these serious medical concerns.
“I think you understand there’s risk-reward in it,” Roseman said. “It think we rely on our medical staff to figure out the best way to handle these.”
Dickerson (6-6, 333) has an extensive injury history that includes two ACL tears (one in each knee) and injuries to each ankle as well, one of which required a tightrope procedure, which is what Lane Johnson had before the 2020 season.
Dickerson was completely healthy for just one of his five college seasons:
2016: Played 7 games. Season-ending ACL injury (right knee) at FSU
2017: Played 4 games. Season-ending ankle injury (right ankle) at FSU
2018: Played 2 games. Had severe ankle sprain (left ankle) at FSU
2019: Played and started 13 games at Alabama
2020: Played 12 games. Tore ACL in SEC Championship Game (left knee) at Alabama
Does Dickerson worry about any cumulative effects of these injuries as he begins his NFL career?
“I do not because I come to work, and I want to compete every day,” Dickerson said. “I don't let the past bother me. What's in the past is in the past. You can't change it. Just got to live with it and move on.”
Of course, it was impossible to hear about the Dickerson pick on Friday evening without having flashbacks to 2017, when the Eagles took a cornerback out of Washington with a torn Achilles. Just like Dickerson, Sidney Jones was a first-round talent who was only available with the 43rd pick because of the injury.
This isn’t exactly an apples to apples comparison. Jones basically had a redshirt season in 2017 and while Roseman didn’t give a firm timetable for Dickerson’s return, he said the Eagles are confident Dickerson will be able to play during his rookie season.
But the notion of risk-reward as it pertains to injured players isn’t anything new. It’s something the Eagles talked about when they drafted Jones in 2017 and it’s something they talked about when they released him at final cuts last year after three disappointing seasons.
“I think that what I look at is that it's hard enough to hit on draft picks that when you get guys that maybe have preexisting conditions or things that they come into the league with,” Roseman said last September, “you're already decreasing the odds of something.
“I think for us, you want to take some chances. You want to be aggressive on talent at times but you also have to weigh that with other factors, and I think when you talk about Sidney, he wants to be a really good player. Unfortunately when you look at what happened this training camp, we didn't have a much — as much opportunity to evaluate him as we would have liked to."
The Eagles have been burned on both sides of draft medical evaluations before. In 2017, they took Jones despite the Achilles tear. In 2019, they passed on DK Metcalf because of the medical concerns about him.
Dickerson might end up being a home run pick. In a decade, we might look back and see this as a moment the Eagles landed a long-term replacement for Jason Kelce or a future All-Pro guard. It’s possible. Folks around the league rave about Dickerson as a player and the people at Alabama rave about all the intangibles he brings on and off the field.
The reward could be great.
But there’s no question there’s a ton of risk.
“Well, we think this is a special player and a special person,” Roseman said. “We don’t think that there was any chance this guy would be available with the 37th pick without those concerns. When we think about what kind of player this guy can be, what kind of person this guy can be for our football team, it was just really exciting for us.”
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