The Eagles did a wonderful job with the 2018 draft – in 2017.
Certainly, the 2018 moves and picks might work out nicely, too. But, last year, questions about where the Eagles would be after the 2018 draft seemed ominous. Remember, the Eagles were 7-9 in 2016. As the 2017 training camp wore on, and even as they charged toward the playoffs, the Eagles had holes.
They made a few gambles. They took out a few mortgages. They invested.
After the 2018 draft, Howie Roseman looks like Warren Buffett.
Deals involving the 2018 draft have given Roseman, the Eagles' top executive, a roster that includes Pro Bowl defensive lineman Michael Bennett, running backs Darren Sproles and Jay Ajayi and cornerback Ronald Darby.
Roseman also invested a second-round pick in 2017 on blue-chip cornerback Sidney Jones, whose Achilles injury made him unlikely to play in 2017. Jones should be the most important player in the conversation; he was, for all intents, a 2018 pick.
"Being able to get Sidney Jones last year, and basically redshirting him and having him right now – we view that as a big part of our draft," Roseman said Saturday, after the three-day bazaar had ended. "In fact, in our draft room, on our draft board, we view Sidney Jones as part of this."
They should. The Eagles badly needed corners last spring and they spent a precious second-round pick on a guy who wouldn't play. Doug Pederson, the coach, and Roseman, a year removed from exile, were hardly guaranteed their futures. Drafting Jones indicated three things.
First: Both Pederson and Roseman believed the Eagles were close to contending for a playoff spot. Second: Roseman was trusting his new lieutenants, player personnel director Joe Douglas and his assistant, Andy Weidl – and the troika has hardly put a foot wrong since their alliance in May 2016. Third: Neither Roseman nor Pederson cared a whit about their supposedly tenuous futures. Instead, they cared only about making the best picks that would make the team the best it could be for the longest time. That's professionalism.
That's why Roseman sent a 2018 third-round pick to the Bills along with Jordan Matthews, the team's top receiver, to acquire Darby during the preseason last summer. Darby was the team's top corner before he dislocated an ankle in Game 1. He returned for Game 10 and was clearly affected by the injury the rest of the season, but he and Jones will be a fearsome tandem in 2018. Roseman considers the price – a third-round pick – a superb value: "Getting a starter, a guy who played for us, played in big games, had big moments, [and is] under contract this year."
That's why, in October, Roseman – still looking to offset the loss of Sproles in Game 3 to a broken arm and a devastating knee injury – sent a fourth-round pick to Miami at the deadline in exchange for Ajayi. The Eagles were wary of Ajayi's injuries and used him judiciously. He touched the ball just 12.8 times per game, but he averaged 5.3 yards per carry and 10 yards per catch.
Roseman also traded out of the first round Thursday night and he saved money by doing so. He spent some of it before the weekend was over. He re-signed Sproles, the most respected player on the offense last season.
"Some of the things about trading back, when you're able to get some cap room and free up some money, it allows you to do things like this," Roseman said. "We're really excited about bringing Darren back."
He should be. Sproles, 34, will help Bennett, 32, assimilate to the Eagles' culture the way he helped veteran running back LeGarrette Blount assimilate last year. Bennett won't need any help assimilating to the defense. His skills translate to any scheme. It's almost criminal that it only took a 2018 fifth-round pick, along with little-used receiver Marcus Johnson, to acquire Bennett (and a seventh-rounder) last month.
By the way they ran their draft, it's obvious the Eagles are investing in their future again.
Roseman dropped back from No. 32 overall to No. 52 overall in exchange for the Ravens' second-round pick in 2019, and he moved up seven slots in the fourth round, to boot.