Finally, it's draft week. Turns out, when your team finishes 4-12 and has a chance to draft fourth, its fan base starts obsessing over that choice, oh, a couple weeks before the season ends. Especially when that fan base is prone to obsessing, in general. So, we’re only 4 months into the obsessing. Which is roughly the length of an entire NFL season.
People were asking me who the Eagles were going to get in the first round before they’d even hired a coach, which I tried to gently suggest might be somewhat integral to the process of deciding which guy to take.
But here we finally are, heading down the homestretch. And here is what I think:
The most likely scenario to me is a trade down, at least a few spots. Couple reasons — unless they’ve targeted one player they absolutely must have, they aren’t likely to get a real different guy at, say, seven, than they’re going to get at four. And they’re trying to rebuild, with only one pick per round through the first five. You know, in a deep draft, they’d love an extra second- or third-rounder, even an extra fourth-rounder.
My feelings on this matter only grew stronger last week when new coach Chip Kelly opined that he didn’t see a “can’t-miss” all-time All-Pro-type prospect in this draft, at any position.
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The problems with trading down are well-documented — the Eagles have to find a trading partner that does have a specific player that that team feels it won’t get wherever it is drafting. I wouldn’t move down much past the middle of the first round; after that, you aren’t drafting “real” first-round talent.
A trade down would mean the Eagles’ first pick could come at just about any position. It would make taking a quarterback first (Geno Smith? E.J. Manuel?) much more likely. It would put safeties and corners solidly into the conversation, and probably make a first-round offensive or defensive lineman a little less likely.
If they stay at four, then what? (I’m ruling out a trade up, that seems really unlikely, given the Eagles are looking to add picks, not give them up, and I don’t believe they would need to move ahead of one of the three teams in front of them to get a certain guy, in this draft.)
Offensive tackle remains the best bet, because there are three of them that many experts feel would not be a reach at fourth overall. The math works in the Eagles’ favor there — very hard to conceive of those guys going 1-2-3 and all being gone at four. So, Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson. Solid, safe choices, building blocks for the future. It was a mild surprise the Eagles didn’t address the offensive line in free agency; maybe they figured they’d end up drafting one of the OTs. (If they don’t, well, there are still FAs out there, Eric Winston for one.)
If not an offensive tackle at four, I’d say we’re talking about Oregon DE-OLB Dion Jordan. General manager Howie Roseman thinks the impact pass rushers are going to go quickly, which means the Eagles aren’t expecting to get one in the fourth round or anything. Kelly, who recruited and coached Jordan, has talked about his regard for Jordan’s talent and character. Roseman has talked about how significant it is that Kelly and other Eagles coaches know Jordan so well.
The only problem there is that there is a lot of projecting when it comes to Jordan; he isn’t a finished product, and at fourth overall, it would be nice to draft a finished product. Preferable, even.
Local guy by way of Florida Sharrif Floyd? Utah’s Star Lotulelei? Maybe. I see Floyd as a 4-3 DT, ideally. And I’m just not sure any 3-4 DL is something you need to draft fourth overall, given the requirements of the position.
I am absolutely not taking a quarterback fourth overall this year. I’ll be really surprised if that happens — but then again, this is Kelly’s first draft, he has his own ideas about many things, if he sees Smith or Manuel as a QB he can win with, he probably won’t care what the rest of the league thinks.
To me, if the Eagles take a QB fourth overall, that will mean Kelly has final say in the process, and that he is willing to stake his tenure on this decision, in a quarterback draft class that most observers don’t find compelling. Which might make that the most interesting possible outcome.