2018 NFL draft: What to watch for in the first round

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Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown announcing a Cleveland Browns pick during the second round of the NFL draft last year at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

It’s almost draft night, and when Thursday is minutes away from turning into Friday, the Eagles will be on the clock for the first time ever as Super Bowl champions – in the Dallas area, of all places.

Then again, they might not even make a pick.

In one of the most-anticipated drafts in recent memory because of the uncertainty at the top, the Eagles are relative afterthoughts in predraft discussions, because of a dearth of overall draft picks (six) and their place at the bottom of the first round. But Thursday night’s first round and the entire three-day draft will have long-term reverberations for the Eagles’ roster building and will also be significant for some of their chief rivals.

Here’s what to watch:

Poll

Should the Eagles trade out of the first round to get more draft picks?

If the Eagles pick at No. 32The Eagles will be motivated to trade down, but they’ll stay at No. 32 if a prospect slips who is too appealing to pass at that pick. Joe Douglas, the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel, learned from famed Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome’s success with late-first-round picks to allow the board to fall to him. With a playoff-caliber roster, the Eagles don’t have any clear needs. They’ll always prioritize the offensive and defensive lines. This could be a good opportunity to try to find Jason Peters’ eventual replacement as a starting tackle, which is why Texas’ Connor Williams and UCLA’s Kolton Miller could be possibilities. The Eagles can use a third safety and a slot cornerback, and there are prospects – such as Stanford’s Justin Reid – who can fill both those holes. The offense would be better with another back, so Georgia’s Sony Michel, USC’s Ronald Jones, and LSU’s Derrius Guice could go off the board in that range.

If the Eagles trade: The Eagles do not have a pick in the second or third rounds. They don’t want to take Friday off. Top executive Howie Roseman made clear the Eagles are “open for business,” and they might not see much of a difference between a prospect at No. 32 and a prospect in the early to middle of the second round. Another team might be compelled to trade up to No. 32 if a quarterback is there, because a first-round pick carries a fifth-year option, so the team could have the quarterback on contract for another year.

It could also be an appealing spot if there’s a drop-off at a certain position and a team wants to address the position before another team grabs that player. There are also teams with a surplus of picks that might want to upgrade. If the Eagles drop to an early second-round pick, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to add a third-rounder, too. But if they move to the middle or late second round, they might be able to land two Day 2 picks. The Eagles also have five picks on Day 3, which could serve to sweeten a deal.

First-round quarterbacks: It’s rare to go into draft day without knowing who will go No. 1, but there does not appear to be a clear consensus this season. The Cleveland Browns are expected to select a quarterback, with speculation ranging from USC’s Sam Darnold to Wyoming’s Josh Allen to Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. UCLA’s Josh Rosen is also a top quarterback prospect who could go in the top 10, and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is expected to be a first-round pick, too. There haven’t been five quarterbacks selected in the first round since 1999, when the Eagles came away with Donovan McNabb. The Browns, New York Jets, and Buffalo Bills are believed to be locks to take a first-round quarterback. The Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, and Baltimore Ravens could also be in the quarterback market – and you can’t rule out the New England Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers, or New Orleans Saints, either.

[ TV information and schedule, Eagles draft history and where local prospects might land ]

Reshaping the NFC East: The Giants have the No. 2 pick and will try to take a player who will give the Eagles headaches for years to come. If they don’t select Eli Manning’s replacement, they could come away with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley or North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb. If they take a quarterback at No. 2, that passer will need to compete with Carson Wentz and Dallas’ Dak Prescott for division titles for the next decade. If they take Barkley, the Eagles defense will be tasked with defending an offense that also has Odell Beckham Jr. Washington picks at No. 13, its highest selection since Brandon Scherff was taken fifth in 2015. The Redskins might try to fix the league’s worst run defense. The Cowboys have the No. 19 pick. Will they seek a replacement for Dez Bryant at wide receiver or try to improve their defensive line?

Made in Philadelphia: This is a good year for local prospects. Look for Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey (Penn Charter) and Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore (Imhotep) to be likely first-round picks. Both are rated as the top players at their positions by NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, another Philadelphia native. It would be a boon for the Eagles if McGlinchey slipped to the bottom of the first round, but that’s not expected to happen. It’s possible Moore could be there. He could end up catching passes for the Cowboys, too. The last time two Philadelphia-area natives went in the first round was 2015, when Will Fuller and Eli Apple both heard their names on the first night.