Eagles better off keeping fourth overall pick

There are times to wheel and deal, to treat a top-five draft choice as an asset to be auctioned off. For the Eagles, this is not one of those times. (Matt Rourke/AP file photo)

There are times to wheel and deal, to treat a top-five draft choice as an asset to be auctioned off.

For the Eagles, this is not one of those times.

There is little doubt, based on recent history, that general manager Howie Roseman could spin the fourth pick in Thursday's NFL draft into half the fifth round, were he so inclined. And yes, by turning one high pick into a handful of lower picks, Roseman could improve his chances of hitting on a later-round gem.

There is logic to that approach. This is one of those times when that logic doesn't carry the day.

(Caveat: Of course, if a team offers a ridiculous amount in return for the No. 4 pick, that would change the conversation. There are offers you simply cannot refuse. We're assuming here that the offer is a later first-round pick plus one or two picks in lower rounds.)

With their highest pick since taking Donovan McNabb No. 2 overall in 1999, the Eagles need an impact player. If new head coach Chip Kelly is going to build a championship team, he is going to need some championship players. The fourth pick of this draft is the best place to start.

Yes, they could improve their odds with sheer numbers, but that would be a cop-out here. If Roseman and his revamped staff can't identify a Pro Bowl-caliber player from the hundreds available this week, the Eagles have a bigger problem than a single draft bust.

Roseman (smartly, considering the market) added depth and breadth to the roster during free agency. Now is the time to add a difference-maker to the top. This draft should be about grabbing an elite player you believe in strongly, not settling for two or three players who aren't as high on your list.

If that means taking an offensive tackle who will be the Tra Thomas or Jon Runyan of the Kelly era, that's fine. There are three available who are worthy of the fourth overall pick.

If it's a stud defensive player - Dion Jordan or Sharrif Floyd or Star Lotulelei are three who stand out - that's fine, too. The Eagles haven't drafted a defensive Pro Bowler since Trent Cole in 2005. Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendrick, and Brandon Graham may get there, but their chances will be increased exponentially by adding a great player to the mix.

And yes, if it's a quarterback, you do that. It would be a franchise-altering mistake to reach too high for West Virginia QB Geno Smith. But if Kelly believes in Smith, or any other QB, it would be an even bigger mistake to let that player slip away out of timidity.

The experts would have torn their meticulously styled hair out if someone had taken Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson with the fourth pick of their respective drafts. But those picks would have looked visionary right now.

You can use those blossoming stars to argue that the Eagles can get their QB of the future in the second or third round. I see it the other way around. Target your guy and make a bold move to get him.

The St. Louis Rams eventually may benefit from the assets they amassed from trading out of the second overall spot last year. Most of us would rather have Robert Griffin III, the guy Washington shot the works to draft.

We can all agree that the New England Patriots are savvy in these matters. But in the 2009 draft, they traded down in the first round twice. In so doing, they contributed to Super Bowl titles - one in Baltimore, which got Michael Oher with the 23d pick, and one in Green Bay, which took Clay Matthews 26th overall.

The Pats added quantity in the third and fourth rounds. The Ravens and Packers shot for quality, and their boldness paid off.

The Eagles need both, as evidenced by their 4-12 record last season. But quantity is easier to come by. They earned the fourth overall pick the hard way, through the humiliation of a brutal losing season. They should treat the pick accordingly: as a precious asset that, used well, will help prevent them from drafting this high again anytime soon.


Contact Phil Sheridan at psheridan@phillynews.com. Follow @Sheridanscribe on Twitter.

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