Let’s be clear: for all the predictions over the past weeks and months, no one knows what the Eagles are going to do in the draft. Andy Reid and Howie Roseman surely have a plan, but even that is contingent on how the teams ahead of them act. And when the Eagles have a big decision to make, they usually keep it very quiet. Did anyone, anywhere have them trading up for Brandon Graham last year? How about naming Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator?
What we do have is recent history, some draft patterns under Andy Reid, a set of obvious needs, public comments from Roseman and a ton of scrutiny on the available players. Put it together and even if there is no certainty, you can hash out some distinct possibilities. Here’s one reporters’ thoughts on the scenarios I think are most, and least likely Thursday:
Trade out of the first round: Roseman was selling this hard when he met with reporters last week. He gave every appearance of really wanting to move down, as the team has done several times in the recent past, including 2008 and 2007. Roseman dealt one second round pick three times last year to move down and accumulate choices. What makes me nervous, though, is that the Eagles rarely show their cards so openly. It makes me wonder if this was misdirection while the team actually tries to move up, which they also do pretty often. Arguing against the “opposite day” theory is the idea that Roseman just wanted to drum up more interest and competing offers for the pick. He’s been touting the depth of this draft – particularly on the offensive line -- for a long time, so I’m ever so gingerly saying trading down is the most likely of the possible scenarios Thursday night. Chances: 40 percent
Make a small trade up for a defensive lineman: Not every deal has to be a huge blockbuster that gets you into the top 10. The Eagles showed that in 2009 when they moved up two slots to make sure they could get Jeremy Maclin. Some highly regarded defensive ends are expected to come off the board in the mid to low teens – right within sight of the Eagles' 23rd pick, so I could see them making the small move up to get a guy they love without paying a massive price. There are lots of pieces that fit here: Roseman talked up defensive linemen in the draft, but said the group is top heavy, so if you’re getting one, he said you have to go early. Andy Reid loves defensive linemen and this is still a need. Guys like Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue) and Aldon Smith (Missouri) might be sitting there in the low teens. So might defensive tackle Corey Liuget (Illinois). Chances: 30 percent.
Make a moderate trade up for an offensive tackle: This is still a big need, and while Roseman touted the depth of the draft here, will the Eagles really want a rookie second rounder competing to protect Michael Vick’s blind side? There might be some line options available if the Eagles sit at 23, but they might not fit. Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin) is described as more of a mauler than an athlete – which is exactly the opposite of the kind of guy usually coveted by new offensive line coach Howard Mudd. Nate Solder (Colorado) is more athletic, but might not be ready to play right away. Meanwhile Anthony Castonzo (Boston College) is seen as having the best combination of talent and ability to start immediately. If he is still around in the teens, I say there’s a chance the Eagles will be looking at him. Chances: 15 percent.
Stay put and pick at 23: There could still be some good pass rushers here – maybe Adrian Clayborn (Iowa) or a defensive tackle such as Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple). If everything goes the Eagles’ way Liuget might last this long. Maybe Carimi is worth a shot at this spot, or they do take a chance on Jimmy Smith (Colorado), though I’m skeptical that they would. It’s unlike Roseman to sit still, but you have to allow that it’s possible the Eagles actually use the pick they already have. Chances: 10 percent.
Make a big trade up for a cornerback: You can’t rule out this team trying to make a big splash, as they did when they moved up 11 spots last season. While there are many defensive ends to choose from later, there are only two or three big time corners, so if there’s one guy who might be worth the steep price of getting into the 9-13 range, he’s Prince Amukamara (Nebraska), who would fill a huge need without the risk that comes with Smith. In reality, I think the odds are long that the Eagles would do it. They already have one Pro Bowl corner and few teams (if any) invest in two big stars at the position. One star and one very good partner are usually enough for even a great defense. Plus there are some potentially attractive free agents at this position, and the cost for getting Amukamara would be huge, leaving the Eagles without many picks to fill their other needs. I wouldn’t rule it out entirely, but I wouldn’t count on it either. Chances: 5 percent.
BONUS: The Eagles do something completely at odds with all of this and make me look silly: 85 percent.