In a perfect Eagles world, Lamar Jackson – the Michael Vick clone from Louisville – would still be on the board on Thursday evening when the Eagles go on the clock with the final pick in the first round of the NFL draft.
Multiple quarterback-hungry teams would then frantically call them, and a bidding war would commence, with the Eagles walking away with a tantalizing package of draft picks in exchange for trading out of the first round.
With no picks in the second or third rounds, the Eagles have made no secret of the fact that they are very interested in getting out of the No. 32 spot. But it’s not something they can count on.
“Right now, we have 32 guys we’d be fired up to get,’’ Joe Douglas, the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel, said Thursday. “How it plays out, we’ll find out.’’
Douglas and Howie Roseman, the executive vice president of football operations met with reporters Thursday.
“We can’t operate under the assumption that we’re going to bow out” of the first round, Roseman said. “So we’re ready to roll.’’
The odds of striking gold at 32 aren’t nearly as good as they are with a top-10 pick. But it’s a price the Eagles are only too happy to pay in exchange for the Lombardi Trophy that is sitting in their lobby at the NovaCare Complex.
And just because they’re picking late doesn’t mean they won’t be able to find a keeper. Last year, the New Orleans Saints selected Wisconsin offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk with the 32nd pick. He started 16 games for them at right tackle.
The year before, the Seattle Seahawks took Texas A&M offensive lineman Germain Ifedi with the last pick in the first round. He’s started 29 games for the Seahawks the last two years.
Douglas, who spent 15 years as a scout with the Baltimore Ravens, is no stranger to picking late in the first round. During his time with the Ravens, they won two Super Bowl titles, made the playoffs 10 times, and had nine double-digit-win seasons.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end and one of the finest judges of football talent in the history of the game, regularly hit paydirt with picks in the basement of the first round.
Newsome, who is retiring after the 2018 season, got two-time Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs with the 29th pick in the 2007 draft. He plucked future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed out of the ’02 draft with the 24th pick. He got tight end Todd Heap, who played 10 years with the Ravens, with the 31st pick in the ’01 draft.
“Ozzie’s patient,’’ Douglas said. “He was able to have great success with late picks. Those guys you mentioned, they weren’t move-up or move-down guys. They were guys that Ozzie got by being patient and letting the [draft] board come to him.’’
Tom Donahoe, a senior personnel adviser for the Eagles, was the football operations director for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1990s. He drafted guard Alan Faneca, a nine-time Pro Bowler and three-time Hall of Fame finalist, with the 26th pick in the ’98 draft. Three years before that, he took tight end Mark Bruener, who played in the league for 14 years, including nine with the Steelers, with the 27th pick.
Like Newsome, the Eagles will let the board come to them next week. They have stacked their board and will see what players fall to them. They will see whether anyone calls with a trade offer. Then they will decide what to do.
They don’t have any pressing needs. If they stay at 32, they could take a player at almost any position, depending on who falls to them. Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch? Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore? Texas offensive tackle Connor Williams? South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst?
“Our draft board is going to be different than the 31 other teams,’’ Roseman said. “What we see and what we like isn’t going to be the same. We just have to stick to our process and pick players we feel really good about.
“We’re going to take the best player. If that player is at a position where we have some perceived depth, that’s OK. Because, at the end of the day, these guys are signing five-year deals in the first round and are going to be a part of our team for at least the next five years.’’
Said Douglas: “We’re never going to be a team that drafts strictly for need. We’re going to get the best player available.’’
Asked how many players the Eagles have on their board with first-round grades, he said, “Our grading scale isn’t really round-based. It’s more how this person can come in and fit with our team.
“Fit is a big thing,” Douglas said. “We discuss it in our draft meetings. Chemistry is hard to quantify. But you know when you have it. We had it last year, and we want to add to it.’’