One common question from many Eagles fans is whether the Eagles will try to trade down in the first round, moving out of the No. 4 pick for a package of picks that could help them address a bevy of needs.
The obvious answer is they would probably like to trade down -- as would many teams in the top of the draft. The problem is finding a willing partner who has enough interest in a player to sacrifice the steep price. The other option is taking 50 cents to the dollar so a trade occurs for less of a price than in past seasons.
This draft is considered to be lacking high-end talent, although there's considerable depth late in the first round and through the second round. So if there is not clear separation between No. 4 and No. 24 in this draft, then it's hard to think a team would be so inclined to get into the top 10. However, teams have not yet set their boards, and there's still more than two weeks for a team to fall in love with a player.
It’s early for all that," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said in March when I asked him about the market for the Eagles' pick. "Everyone’s focused on their own team in the free agent market. It really won’t pick up until a week before the draft. We talked a bunch about trading for Fletcher Cox and moving up there, and that wasn’t really finalized until the night before the draft. And a lot of times you’re not doing it until the day of the draft.”
When I asked specifically about the perception that this draft lacks the type of player that a team would want to trade up to acquire, Roseman pointed out that the comparison must be made against the talent in this draft and not the talent in past drafts.
That's an interesting point. In other words, if a team wants a cornerback, they can assess how Alabama's Dee Milliner compares to a cornerback prospect later in the first round (say, Desmond Trufant or Xavier Rhodes), not how Milliner compares to Morris Claiborne, last year's top cornerback whom the Cowboys moved up eight picks to acquire last season, surrendering a first- and second-round pick.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to have the fourth pick of the draft," Roseman said. "You don’t compare it to what’s happened in the past couple of drafts, you compare it to what’s in this draft. We think there’s really good players, guys who have Pro Bowl potential, and it’s how teams rate them. It’s the same as any draft. There’s always players people want to go get, there’s always players teams are excited to get.”
With the No. 4 pick, the Eagles can look at two trades in recent seasons as precedent -- the Falcons' trade to acquire Julio Jones in 2011 and the Cowboys' move to acquire Claiborne last season.
The Falcons moved up to the No. 6 pick and gave up their first-round pick (No. 27), their second (the No. 59 pick), their fourth-round pick (No. 124) AND first-round and fourth-round picks in 2012. That was a huge haul, but worth it considered Jones turned into a premium player.
In the case of Claiborne, the Cowboys traded the No. 14 pick and the No. 45 pick for the No. 5 pick.
One person prominently involved in both deals was Les Snead, the Rams general manager who traded throughout last year's draft and was part of the Falcons front office in 2011. I asked Snead about his philosophy for trading up or down during the draft, especially because Snead has two first-round picks this season (Nos. 16 and No. 22).
"When speaking of drafts I don't know that you're ever going to be able to figure out a pattern with us," Snead said. "I think it's going to be, what we need is the best available player and we are going to try to get the player we want whether it's trading back and acquiring more players or if it's going up. Throughout my career, I have been a part of one in Atlanta where we decided we are going to give up some things and go get a player. And it looks like it's worked out well there. But I think it's figuring out as an organization who in the draft you are targeting."
So who could teams potentially target at the Eagles' No. 4 pick? Geno Smith would be an obvious name, but it does not seem like a robust market has generated for him. Frankly, it seems as if the Eagles might be one of the team's who have the greatest chance of drafting him.
More realistically, pay attention to Milliner. If the Lions seem like a possibility for Milliner at No. 5, then the Eagles are in good position as potential trade partner for a team that likes the Alabama cornerback. It would allow a team to jump over the Lions (and Browns at No. 6, who also figure to be a possibility) to get the top cornerback in the draft.
It's also worth considering scenarios in which Sharrif Floyd falls to No. 4. If the top three picks are Luke Joeckel, Dion Jordan, and Eric Fisher -- certainly a possibility -- then Floyd would be the top player available and perhaps not an ideal fit for the Eagles. He's the type of player a team would be sacrifice picks to acquire, although Eagles fans might be just as happy if the Eagles took the hometown defensive lineman and found a way to use him.
One other name to watch is Lane Johnson. If Joeckel and Fisher both go in the top three, then Johnson is the next best tackle. Many teams need tackles, and Johnson's name is hot right now. At that point, though, he might very well be on the Eagles' radar as well.
This will be one of the top story lines to watch. As Roseman said, the trade discussions heat up the week of the draft. Eagles fans should hope there's a players team fall in love with and covet in the top 5. Then again, the Eagles might also fall in love with a player and not be inclined to move. But consider every pick available -- especially in a draft with as many question marks as this year's class.