Predictor reveals favorite for Eagles' pick at No. 12 in 2021 NFL draft

PHILADELPHIA -- With the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select ... Jaycee Horn, cornerback, South Carolina.

That's the most likely outcome when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks to the podium next Thursday night according to ESPN's NFL Draft Day Predictor, which forecasts the range of draft outcomes for NFL prospects based on mock drafts, team needs and Scouts Inc. grades. The model has the chances of Philadelphia taking Horn at 14%.

It's a tight race, however, with three players tied at 12%, including Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, who holds a slight edge over his competitors by a fraction of a percentage point.

The current snapshot also gives Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields an 11% chance to be selected with the No. 12 pick. However, that is based on mock drafts from a week ago, which almost unanimously had Fields as the fifth quarterback selected in this year's draft. Since then, the QB picture seems to have shifted substantially, hence his omission here.

Overall, the current data has the Eagles favored to draft a cornerback or wide receiver in Round 1. But history suggests it will be a lineman at No. 12. Which will win out? Let's take a closer look.

A clear trend at No. 12

Dating back to 2000, there have been nine defensive linemen selected in the No. 12 slot, including eight defensive tackles. That represents nearly half of the 21 total picks. The next most-popular position group at No. 12 is running back (3) followed by quarterback, wide receiver and linebacker with two apiece.

The return on investment has been pretty strong with those D-linemen: Haloti Ngata (Ravens/Lions/Eagles), Fletcher Cox (Eagles) and Shaun Ellis (Jets) have 13 Pro Bowls among them. But the 12th pick has a good hit rate regardless of position, with linebackers Jonathan Vilma and Shawne Merriman, running back Marshawn Lynch, quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. all being selected in that spot.

Factoring in Eagles' past

Philadelphia's draft history also points to drafting a big man. The Eagles have made 18 first-round picks since 2000, and 12 have been linemen.

That meshes with the team's philosophy of building from the inside-out. It is also a sound strategy for keeping the bust rate low, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Drilling down even further on the Eagles' draft tendencies strengthens the case they will take a linemen. They have selected in the 12-to-16 range six times since 2000. All six of those picks were used to address the trenches, with five of the six picks being defensive players.

Piecing it all together

Team history and trends favor a lineman. According to ESPN's Draft Day Predictor, Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater (10% chance of being selected at No. 12) and Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye (5%) are within the realm of possibility.

The Predictor also indicates there's a decent chance at least one of those players will be available if the Eagles were to slide back a couple slots. If it's a lineman they're after, trading back (again) could be the move.

But if the Eagles stick at No. 12, or move up slightly to ensure they land their preferred player, the best value is at cornerback or wide receiver. The two players with the tightest odds of being available at No. 12 are Alabama's Jaylen Waddle (50% chance) and Surtain II (47%).

The Eagles have to bolster both positions. When need and value line up, there's no need to overthink things. Cornerback or wide receiver is the play, with corner being the most likely outcome.

-- ESPN Sports Analytics Writer Seth Walder contributed.