We’ve seen their needs, we’ve targeted players and we’ve won a coin toss, now one week away, let’s spend an article mixing up the perfect draft cocktail for the Birds.
Step 1: Teams go quarterback crazy
The more quarterbacks that come off the board before the Eagles walk up to the podium, the better. The reasons for that are twofold: most obviously, the Eagles are hardly in the market for a quarterback a season removed from drafting Carson Wentz second overall.
And look, even if you believe in drafting the best player available firmly enough that you’d take another quarterback, we have a second reason for you: outside of Deshaun Watson, no signal callers in this class have a college resume that reads like a top 10 draft pick. That means the more NFL teams that talk themselves into loving a quarterback in the top half of the first round, the further the true top 10 talent slides down the draft board.
And yes, that means the Browns’ recent flirtations with Mitchell Trubisky are great news, especially considering Cleveland has two selections (courtesy of the Wentz trade) above No. 14. If Cleveland is considering taking Trubisky ahead of a player like Myles Garrett first overall, they almost certainly wouldn’t let him fall past their second pick: No. 12.
The Browns, 49ers, Jets and Cardinals are all realistic landing spots for a quarterback ahead of the Eagles’ pick, and even the Bears could consider one despite spending big money on Mike Glennon (Chase Daniel and Sam Bradford hardly stopped the Eagles from drafting Wentz, after all). What’s even better about there being all theseQB-needy teams at the top of the round means QB-desperate teams will be inclined to trade up and take them.
The Bears and Jets taking quarterbacks would be particularly great news for Philadelphia, since they’re strong contenders to select Marshon Lattimore, the Ohio State corner who should be the absolute top target in this draft for the Eagles. There are still several teams between the Jets’ sixth pick and the Eagles 14th though, and that’s why the Birds should …
Step 2: Trade up, not down
Jamal Adams, Leonard Fournette, Reuben Foster, Derek Barnett, Corey Davis, Mike Williams: that’s a list of players (among others) the Eagles have hosted for predraft private workouts. It’s also a list of players off the board before the Eagles pick in just about every mock draft. Adams and Fournette in particular are often listed going in the first five picks. With only 30 of these visits allowed, why are the Eagles expending such capital on players unlikely to reach them? They plan to trade up.
It’s true, they could also just be doing their due diligence on the best players that might fall to them at 14 under the “as many quarterbacks drafted as possible” scenario discussed above. But take a look at the recent track record the Eagles have experienced when targeting a specific player and trading up to draft them versus when they’ve let the chips fall as they may. Start with last season, when the Eagles traded up twice to select Carson Wentz, the quarterback they believed in. So far, they’ve been rewarded with a rookie season above expectations and a trade (for Bradford) that allowed them to recoup the most valuable asset they gave up for Wentz.
Jump back two years further to the 2014 draft: the Eagles are sitting at 22 and watch New Orleans jump to 20 to select Brandin Cooks, a player the Eagles have been heavily connected to even through this offseason. The next pick is the Packers, and Green Bay selects Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the highest ranked safety and another hypothesized Eagles target.
The Eagles, without a clear target, trade back to 26 where they select Marcus Smith multiple rounds before he is projected to go off the board. In return, they receive a third round pick they eventually trade back from as well, finishing with a fourth and fifth round pick that net them Jaylen Watkins and Taylor Hart, respectively.
In 2012, the Eagles moved up three spots to draft Fletcher Cox, and it cost them just fourth and sixth round picks. They earned picks back by trading Joe Mays, Tracy White and Asante Samuel. Howie Roseman and the Eagles have been rewarded so far, not punished, for being aggressive and going after the players they want in the first round. It will be interesting to see how this shapes the philosophy of the organization, compared to something like Washington’s selection of Robert Griffin III hamstringing the franchise.
Step 3: Corners falling into the Eagles’ lap
We don’t mean the Seahawks deciding to send Richard Sherman their way for a seventh round pick, though that’d be nice.
Cornerback has long been the most touted position in this draft, but circumstances have conspired such that it doesn’t look like one will be the best player available at the Eagles' first round pick. Lattimore has tested his way to being the consensus best corner and a top 10 pick. Sidney Jones has torn his achilles and fallen out of first round consideration. Teez Tabor turned in a terrible combine and pro day that left teams with serious concerns about his long speed.
The group behind Lattimore is shaping into a pack of perhaps as many as 10 corners with second half of round one to round two grades that 10 different analysts could rank 10 different ways. It’s a likely setup for a run on corners at some point, and that could help or hurt the Eagles depending on when it happens. It’s very easy to picture six or seven corners going off the board almost in a row, and unless someone the Eagles love happens to slip through, having this happen in the seven picks before the Eagles take the stage in the second round, this could be disastrous and they must be ready to act to prevent it.
The Eagles have spent the offseason shoring up positions of need, and they’ve done a good job making sure the team will be “fine” if help can’t be found in the draft almost everywhere. Everywhere except corner. Now they are in a situation where if they don’t come out of the draft with at least one but preferably two corners ready to step in and play, the position will be a major weakness for the sixth season in a row.
Tabor, Jones and others slipping out of the first round may mean the Eagles can pick up a star late. Or it may cause such a run on the position that it leaves them empty handed. This article is all about imagining the former.