Knowing Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas, Doug Pederson and Jeffrey Lurie, it’s easy to envision that group spending a lot of time this past weekend gazing pensively at the big silver football, sitting there on its sleek silver pedestal in the Eagles’ draft room, while the picks and rounds rolled by.
The Eagles emerged from the draft with five players, their lightest haul since 1989. They seemed to do a solid job in what they knew was going to be a tough spot; a spot they knew they would be in when they were trading 2018 picks for Carson Wentz, Jay Ajayi, and Ronald Darby – players they needed to bring home the first Lombardi Trophy in the history of the franchise.
Of course, they don’t regret any of those moves.
But it still pained them to sit and watch players they’d extensively scouted, hosted and projected into hypothetical lineups get snapped up by rivals. Would the Giants have been able to add guard Will Hernandez in the second round (34th overall) if the Eagles had possessed both first- and second-round picks going into the draft? Would the Eagles have still ended their weekend without drafting a safety had they been able to select in the third round, when six players who project as NFL safeties flew off the board?
“I think we don’t want to be in the position where we have this few picks again. I think it’s a hard first couple of days for people who put a lot of time and effort into the process, and you see that,” Roseman said Saturday evening. “The last two days, it’s hard. A lot of guys get off the board, so we don’t want to do that again. I think that’s the first takeaway.”
Douglas, who runs the scouting operation, felt the frustration deep in his gut.
“It’s hard going through three rounds and having one player taken,” he said. “You see these magnets come off the board, and each of these magnets [with a player’s name] are hours and hours of work. Driving, staying at a hotel.”
The Eagles finally had four picks on the draft’s final day, and then they set to work on a trove of undrafted free agents they’d targeted to try to entice to NovaCare. Roseman and Douglas got everyone together Saturday morning to rally the troops.
“We had one more meeting, kind of a ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ meeting,” Douglas said. “‘Put your name on this guy. If you’re excited about this guy, we need to know about it.’ It brought the juice and intensity level up, and we had a great day today.”
As you’ve probably heard, the post-Super Bowl free-agent exodus will garner compensatory picks next year, and Roseman acquired an extra 2019 second-rounder when he moved out of the first round Thursday night. The Eagles presumably aren’t going to have to put together a trade-up for a top-of-the-draft quarterback again anytime soon, and they have paid the last installment on their acquisition of Wentz.
Future drafts look promising, and will need to be, given the realities of what Wentz’s pending second contract is going to look like and the necessity of moving on soon from aging veterans such as Jason Peters, Chris Long and maybe even Brandon Graham, who turned 30 this month and is looking for an extension heading into his final contract year.
The good news about the 2018 draft is that the Eagles didn’t go into it needing to add anyone who will play a ton of snaps as a rookie. Right now, there are no starting jobs open. Dallas Goedert, the tight end who was the Eagles’ first selection at 49th overall in the second round, will have a successful rookie season if he can do what Trey Burton did last year – play 27 percent of the offensive snaps, catch 23 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns, play a key special-teams role and throw a TD pass in the Super Bowl. (Goedert assured reporters that he has an excellent arm.)
The Eagles’ next pick, fourth-round cornerback Avonte Maddox, might have a chance to emerge at the nickel – particularly if Roseman ends up trading Darby, but that is hardly a given. Roseman planned ahead for 2018 with his 2017 second-round selection: corner Sidney Jones, who almost certainly would have gone in the top half of the first round if he hadn’t been early in the process of recovering from Achilles surgery.
“In our draft room, on our draft board, we view Sidney Jones as part of this,” Roseman said Saturday.
Going into the draft, many observers thought tight end would be a priority, and it was. But after that, given how few picks the Eagles had, placing need too far ahead of the best available talent could have really created a mess. In a perfect world, Maddox might have been a safety or a running back or an offensive tackle who easily projects as a starter. The Eagles didn’t get any of those things. Clearly, they thought Maddox – who could have gone much higher if his 5-9 stature didn’t make him a gamble to project as an outside corner – was a surer bet as an impact player than the guys they might have reached for at those other positions.
But as great as it would have been to have more young talent in the pipeline at those positions, we’re talking about spots filled last season by players like Corey Graham and LeGarrette Blount. Those kinds of guys are going to be available again. In fact, Graham is available right now. And adding Darren Sproles to the running-back corps might be equivalent to adding Blount a year ago.
The names of the undrafted free agents the Eagles are reported to have signed are trickling out. So far those include Jeremy Reaves, a big-hitting South Alabama safety who also has played corner, and Notre Dame power back Josh Adams. Can those guys matter? Well, right now the Eagles have a starting safety (Rodney McLeod) and a Super Bowl hero running back (Corey Clement) who weren’t drafted.