ARLINGTON, Texas — The Eagles will have the opportunity to trade out of the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night, and they probably should do it. At least, that was the narrow consensus among NFL analysts interviewed Wednesday at AT&T Stadium.
“I’d be stunned if they [make] this pick,” said Rich Eisen, who will host the NFL Network’s draft coverage from AT&T. “That’s a valuable selection,” given that only first-round contracts come with a fifth-year option, so the difference between the final selection of the first round and the initial pick of the second is significant, especially at pricey positions, such as quarterback.
Eisen added that even if a team thinks a player it covets ought to last until the second round, the fact that Thursday night only includes the first round induces jitters.
“You’re always afraid that from Night 1 to Night 2, other teams put their heads on the pillow and sleep on it, maybe take the player that [you] want,” Eisen said. “Philly’s obviously in a great spot. A great spot.”
Eagles’ executive vice president Howie Roseman made it clear last week that the defending Super Bowl champions are “open for business” when it comes to dealing the first-round pick. They are motivated by the price they paid to assemble that championship roster – they don’t have a second- or third-round selection, and they hold only six picks overall. After 32, their next time on the clock is with pick 130, in Saturday’s fourth round. You have to go back to 1977 to find a draft in which the Eagles didn’t choose at least twice in the first 125 slots.
“I think without a doubt” the Eagles should try to move back, NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said. “How many places are they looking to get an instant starter? None. But can you fortify different places with extra picks? You certainly can. And it’s a draft where I think you can move back into the second round with extras, and get good football players.
“If they can find dance partners, I’ll be surprised if Howie doesn’t do that.”
Davis said he feels there will be such partners, especially if a quarterback slips in what is considered a deep quarterback draft. The fifth-year option there would be especially valued.
“We’ve all projected [Louisville QB] Lamar Jackson to go [earlier],” Davis said. “What if he doesn’t? Someone’s going to get excited.”
Steve Mariucci, the former 49ers and Lions head coach who also works for the NFL Network, cautioned that the 32nd pick’s value cuts both ways – it would allow the Eagles to take a good player and have him for five years, and they shouldn’t give up that opportunity easily.
“I don’t see them moving out of the first round, and I’ll tell you why,” Mariucci said. “The last few picks in the first round are like the golden eggs. Believe me, if he’s a good player, you want to have the right to exercise that option. It is a feather in your cap to be able to hang onto a guy another year. … You want to be in the first round. People will come up and try to get that pick from them. That’s the only way they would move out of there – is if they get a two, a three, and a four.”
The traditional trade-value chart for the draft predates the collective bargaining agreement and the fifth-year option. Even so, the final pick of the first round is given a 590-point value, equal to, say, the 53rd overall pick, in the second round (370 points) and the 74th overall, in the third (220 points).
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah was the Eagles’ West Coast scout from 2010 to 2012. He endorsed moving back.
“Just from a scouting background, the second and third rounds are my favorite rounds in the draft. To sit out Friday night would be brutal,” Jeremiah said.
He thinks the fifth-year option is significant, “especially if somebody’s enamored of a quarterback that might be still hanging out there. I don’t anticipate Lamar [Jackson] is going to be there, but if for some reason he was, that would be an obvious move for a team. [Oklahoma State QB] Mason Rudolph could be another one. If teams want a quarterback, I think it just makes sense to go get that extra year.”
Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt agreed with Eisen that teams get antsy when they covet a player and start thinking about waiting until the next day. But Klatt had a different take on what the Eagles should do.
“I think there’s going to be a market for them, but candidly, I think they should select for their defensive front at the end of the first round,” Klatt said. “It is their strongest suit, but remember, it’s such a fast cycle,” meaning players age quickly.
Klatt’s rationale is that the Eagles’ defense is built around the pass rush. “If you’re going to continue to win this way, you’ve got to continue to feed that pipeline,” Klatt said.
The Eagles’ decision will be dictated by what happens in front of them, he said.
“It all depends on who moves up into the Top 10 to get a quarterback, who moves back, and where do they move back to? And then they’ll go from there,” Klatt said.
Davis, meanwhile, said the Eagles’ dilemma should be a happy one, given that it arises from having won Super Bowl LII.
“Isn’t it a great spot to be in, though?,” he said. “Everybody wants to pick 32.”