THE EAGLES couldn't have predicted the wild swings the draft would take before the theme from "Rocky" resonated down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway Thursday night, announcing their turn in the NFL draft, but the home team's decision-makers said there was no hesitation when the moment arrived for the 14th overall selection.
De facto general manager Howie Roseman told a story about player personnel vice president Joe Douglas rushing into Roseman's office last December to rave about Derek Barnett, the defensive end from Tennessee who broke Reggie White's sack record (32, Barnett finished with 33). Roseman said he'd showed Douglas a slip of paper on which he'd written "Derek Barnett," presumably as the Eagles' draft target.
Who knows, Roseman might have really written "Rosebud" or somesuch, but it made for a good story, when Roseman, Douglas and Eagles coach Doug Pederson descended to the NovaCare auditorium to discuss the selection of Barnett over a handful of players with whom fans might have been more familiar.
"We didn't have any scenarios like what happened here," Roseman acknowledged. "But . . . when we did these scenarios, Derek Barnett, where we had him on the board, in every scenario, was a great scenario for us."
Roseman obliquely referred to "character and medical" when asked about more heralded players the Eagles didn't take.
Roseman said Barnett "stands for what we want to be" and is "someone who could be here a long time."
It was no secret the Eagles were interested in Barnett, a junior eligible who is still just 20 years old until June 25, but there was considerable uncertainty over whether he would be there at 14 and whether the Birds valued him over, say, a wide receiver or a cornerback at that spot.
Barnett said he was at least mildly surprised - though he'd had a combine interview and a "top 30" visit to NovaCare (each team gets to bring in 30 players, excluding locals), he had that level of interaction with a lot of teams.
Now he will begin his pro career in the city where White made his name; if Barnett breaks White's Eagles sack record of 124, Roseman and Douglas won't have to justify the pick to anyone.
"It's just very ironic. It's crazy how everything all plays out," Barnett said. "He probably is the greatest football player ever to play the game."
Roseman called Barnett "a player throughout the process we've done a lot of work on . . . He fits our scheme, he fits the culture we're trying to build."
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz needs a top-notch four-man pass rush to make his scheme work. Schwartz doesn't like to blitz. The Eagles' pass rush faded badly down the stretch in 2016, one reason they plummeted in the standings after a strong first month.
Asked about Schwartz's attacking style, Barnett said: "That's my style. I fit it very well. Coach Schwartz said the same thing, too (on the call welcoming him). I think it's going to be a good fit."
Douglas said the idea that the Eagles would have to choose between Barnett and Alabama's Jonathan Allen, a player often mocked in the top 10, was among the scenarios they'd been discussing over the past month.
Douglas confirmed something Barnett had said, that Douglas had compared him to Terrell Suggs, the Pro Bowl edge rusher drafted by the Ravens when Douglas was a scout there. Douglas said what he meant was that like Suggs, Barnett, 6-3, 259, was more about production than fancy Scouting Combine numbers.
"High toughness, great people," Douglas said.
"I didn't test as well as I wanted to," Barnett said. Roseman said Barnett was battling the flu at the combine and an ankle injury at Tennessee's pro day. "I think when I come out on the field, I play a lot faster than what I ran (4.88 at the combine). I think I have three years in college to back it up. I think I was pretty consistent those three years. I got better each year."
Douglas also said he pays more attention to games than drills: "At the end of the day, the tape takes you to the player."
Barnett said he'd expected to go "between 8 and 20 . . . That's a pretty large gap, so I just went in with a positive mindset . . . be patient, everything's going to work out."
The Eagles entered the evening hoping quarterbacks would be drafted early. Since they didn't want one, every QB taken elsewhere theoretically would push a good player at another position down closer to the Birds. The Bears quickly obliged, giving up third- and fourth-rounders this year and a third next year to move up one spot (yes, one spot), from three to two, to take North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Corey Davis, the Western Michigan wide receiver frequently mocked to the Eagles, went fifth overall to Tennessee, which was a surprise. Suddenly, there was a wideout fire sale - Clemson's Mike Williams to the Chargers, seventh overall, and Washington's John Ross, the speedster who was in pretty much nobody's top 10, ninth overall to Cincinnati. In between, Carolina took another possible Eagles target, versatile running back Christian McCaffrey.
Former Eagles coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs traded up from 27th to 10th, giving up a third this year and next year's first. They then helped Reid's old team by taking Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Something else no one predicted: After all the talk about it being a great cornerback draft, the first corner didn't come off the board until 11th overall, when the Saints took Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore.
A third QB trade, between Cleveland and Houston, netted the Texans Clemson's DeShaun Watson, leaving the Eagles two spots away with several players pending that many experts hadn't expected to be there - Ohio State safety Malik Hooker, Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, Ohio State corner Gareon Conley, who has that rape allegation pending, Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, Allen and, of course, Barnett.
Arizona took Temple linebacker Haason Reddick, and the Eagles were on the clock. The NFL Network gave the estimated crowd of 70,000 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway some love, and then, the pick was in.
The selection of Barnett puts some added pressure on 2012 second-round pick Vinny Curry, who is going to have to earn snaps again, despite that five-year, $46.25 million deal he signed last year.
Roseman referenced something Barnett wrote this week for the Players' Tribune, a piece Barnett called "an NFL Draft Cover Letter."
"Achieving that sack record definitely meant a lot to me, but I would have traded it away in a heartbeat to have won a championship while I was in college," Barnett wrote in his conclusion. "So understand that even though I've achieved some noteworthy things and won some individual awards, they are not what drives me.
"I want to lead a defense. I want to be an important part of a winning team.
"I want to win a Super Bowl."