A couple caveats. 1). I haven’t seen a single down of any of these guys play. So, all my understanding of them as players is from what I’ve heard. 2). Many of these opinions are totally stolen from people I respect. But, whatever, that’s all the internet is these days, right? Uneducated people spouting strong, stolen opinions to make themselves sound smart? I figure I’m novel and refreshing for admitting it, right?
Here are a few general things that I’m looking for from the Eagles draft this weekend.
- We’re Picking #32 – This is Awesome!!! Alright, not really a “thing,” but TOTALLY a thing. The Eagles – for the first time in the Super Bowl Era are picking 32nd in the draft (without a trade). That’s amazing. But, it’s not even just that. The draft is IN DALLAS, so F you guys. And, the Giants are PICKING SECOND – and not from a trade. The Eagles won the Super Bowl, the Cowboys fans have to do live with that every day of their lives, the Giants were the second-worst team in the NFL, and the Redskins are still owned by Daniel Snider! Life is f’ing good!!!
- Look to Trade Down on Day One It’s gonna suck to stay up all night only to see the Eagles NOT make a pick, but I’m hoping that happens. There are quite a few guys whom I think will really help the Birds that could/should be available at #32. But, without a single Day Two pick, I think if there’s a deal to be made, Howie should pull the trigger and get more picks in those middle rounds. #32 is pretty valuable to teams because it’s the last pick that gives the team a 5th-year option on a player. That value is multiplied when it’s a position, such as QB, OL, or DL, that may need time to develop and/or could cost a fortune to retain once you lose full control.
- Look to Trade Up from Day Three This team is pretty deep at a lot of positions right now, and I heard one guy say that he wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t make a single pick after the 4th or 5th round because a lot of those guys wouldn’t even make this 53-man roster. That makes a lot of sense to me, so if there’s a guy in the 3rd or 4th that they like, I don’t see a huge downside to packaging a couple late picks to move up and get him because those “lost” picks may just have been August cuts anyway. Or, just as good, maybe move the late picks this year for future picks, which leads into…
- Play This Draft for 2020 Another point I heard from that same analyst (I think it was Solak) was that what he wanted to see from the Birds this weekend was a “win-now” mentality at the top and a complete focus on the offseason between 2019 and 2020 seasons. That is when a lot of the big-name players deals run through and that is when Carson will be looking to get paid. So, that is the year to keep an eye on as to whether or not this team can turn this dream roster into a Patriots-type success plan (indefinite) or a Seahawks-type success plan (burned hot for a few years and is about to fizzle). That means taking developmental guys and guys with staying power at positions of long-term need (OL, in particular).
Alright, now if the pick does happen (or we move down slightly), here are the guys I would like to see us target at #32.
- Saquon Barkley……for the Giants at #2 I know he’s great, but man do I hope they stay at #2 and take a RB. That would be monumentally dumb and set them back for a while. I do love the player, but this pick doesn’t address QB and probably helps them win a few more games ensuring that they won’t be able to get a top QB any time soon (without paying a STEEP price). I’m terrified that they trade down to #5 or so, get a king’s ransom for a QB and still get Barkley (or even one of the QBs plus the picks). And, I’m also worried that they pick Darnold or one of the others and they have their franchise QB. Any way this shakes out is a bad situation for Giant haters…..UNLESS they are stupid enough to pick Barkley.
- Slot Corner (Jaire Alexander, Mike Hughes, Isaiah Oliver) Slot corner is a starter in today’s NFL. Patrick Robinson played 70% of the Eagles snaps last year – more than Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, or Mychal Kendricks. In fact, only 4 Eagles (Jenkins, Mills, Bradham, and McLeod) played more defensive snaps than Robinson (who also played the 10th most snaps on special teams, so there’s a hole there). So, to draft a guy in the 1st round even if he never projects to be an outside guy isn’t so crazy any more. Yes, with Sidney Jones on board, there is the thought that Mills can slide inside seamlessly, but are we sure of that? Personally, I want them to take a guy like Jaire Alexander or Mike Hughes at #32 if they stay there. Plus, both of them can help with return duties, which is also a big need. Alexander has that awesome F-you attitude that I love in my corners (think Asante Samuel), but can be very hesitant to tackle anyone ever (think Asante Samuel). But, I’ve heard him described as having the perfect supreme confidence and “amnesia” as a corner. He’s a cocky MF’er, but hasn’t had any off-field problems, from what I’ve heard, and this locker room can absorb a guy like that pretty well. Hughes, on the other hand, has had some off-field stuff, as he was booted from UNC for something before going to Community College and then UCF. Hughes is smaller and stockier than the lean and quick Alexander, but is quick enough to project inside. Both are big-play guys, who create turnovers, and both project as potentially ELITE return men, which makes them doubly enticing to me here. I don’t think Denzel Ward or Josh Jackson will last to #32, and I’m not sold on guys like Donte Jackson or M.J. Stewart who have a lot of technical flaws (apparently). Isaiah Oliver is also a name to consider, but he doesn’t project as a quick-movement slot guy and much more as an outside lockdown guy, and is still very raw. But, we have depth, so to take a guy like Oliver with the idea of replacing Darby before we have to pay him also makes some sense to me.
- Safety (Justin Reid) With Jenkins getting older and McLeod only here for probably another year, safety should be an area of need addressed in this draft. Plus, safeties take a year or two to get in the flow of the NFL, so now would be the time. The problem is that the only two sure-fire 1st-round talents – Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James – are easily Top Ten talents and will be long gone at #32. But, I have my eye on a guy at #32 that I would LOVE to wear midnight green – Justin Reid. The younger brother of All-Pro safety, Eric Reid, Justin could be just as good, if not better. First of all, he has all the athleticism and willingness to play anywhere from in-the-box safety to center field. He can cover backs and tight ends and isn’t afraid to mix it up as a tackler. Secondly, he is ridiculously smart. Not just “I went to Stanford smart,” but more “I went to Stanford, am likely to graduate in three years with an engineering major and have been called the ‘smartest player in the draft’” smart. Even if he doesn’t reach his brother’s high expectations, I think the floor on the younger Reid is very high. Sign me up! Ronnie Harrison might be another safety in that range, but I’m not sold on him and definitely don’t want to spend a 1st on him.
- Offensive Tackle (Kolton Miller, Connor Williams) This tackle class is not that great. Mike McGlinchey seems decent, but he’ll be gone by #32. Kolton Miller is a name to look for for the Birds because he’s good and athletic and would seem to fit exactly what they like to do on their line. But, at #32, I kind of doubt he’ll be there, especially with the dearth of tackles this year. I wouldn’t totally mind Connor Williams there because he seems like a brawler, but I’m not sure he has the athleticism that this line thrives on. Other guys that will be there are either not that good (Tyrell Crosby, Orlando Brown) or too raw (Chuks Okorafor, Brandon Parker) to really warrant using a 1st on them.
- Running Back (Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones, Sony Michel) I know I’m notoriously down on teams taking a RB early in the draft, but that’s for three main reasons: (1) opportunity cost, (2) career longevity, and (3) the ability to get a star in the middle rounds. The biggest one to me is the opportunity cost of taking them in the Top Five or so – PARTICULARLY for teams that are bad enough to PICK in the top five. Case in point is the Cowboys. Everyone loves the Elliott pick, and understandably so since he’s pretty awesome. But, do you know who else is awesome? Jalen Ramsey. I submit that the Cowboys would be in a MUCH better position right now with a top-2 corner than a top-2 RB. And, then there is career longevity. NFL running backs – even high picks – just don’t have long careers, so you’re investing a high pick for a smaller return. And, finally, there are the Kareem Hunts, Alvin Kamaras, Arian Fosters, Jamal Charles, Darren Sproles, etc., etc., etc. who were picked in the mid-rounds or not at all. But, let’s look at these one by one for the Birds. (1) Opportunity cost – they don’t have a ton of holes thanks to having a locked-up Super Bowl roster and they’re picking #32 because they won the f’ing Super Bowl, so this is not a huge deal. (2) Career longevity – again, they have a LOADED roster, so are in win-now mode. Go for it. (3) Middle-round stars – they don’t have all that many picks this year in the middle rounds, so if they want a back, they should probably just go get one. As for whom? Well, there are likely to be plenty of options. Obviously, Barkley will be off the board, but there’s a really good chance that every other back in the draft is available to them at #32. Derrius Guice is probably the consensus #2 back in the draft, and he seems like he’d be a pretty awesome addition to this (or any) offense. He’s a workhorse early-down back who can move the sticks. He’s smart and strong, but not a great blocker (most aren’t yet). He has big play ability, but isn’t your prototypical 3rd-down back and isn’t a great route-runner (though he did have 600+ receiving yards and 2 TDs at LSU this year). While I’d love to have him, he seems more of a replacement for Ajayi/Clement than a complement. An upgrade, though, for sure. On the other hand, a guy like Ronald Jones might not be quite the player Guice is, but could be the PERFECT fit to this offense. Often compared to Jamaal Charles, Jones is small and lightning-quick, but still doesn’t mind running right up the gut or right at people (like Charles). He didn’t have a ton of production catching balls out of the backfield, but most scouts think that he could develop into an outstanding, possibly elite, pass-catcher and should be a legitimate 3rd-down back in the NFL from Day One. He is also very careful with the ball, as he only had 2 fumbles in close to 600 carries, and is more than willing to stand in and block. The biggest concern I’ve heard about him is that he’s lean and might not stand up to a full workload over an NFL season, but we’ve got Ajayi and Clement (and maybe Pumphrey) for that. The more I hear about this guy, the more I want him. The other guy I would really like to add to this offense is UGA’s Sony Michel. He split time with Nick Chubb in that ridiculous offense in Athens, which may be why he seems to be overlooked in the process. But, there’s chance we look back on this draft and talk about the two stud RBs that came out this year – Saquon and Sony. He’s not a great pass-catcher, but he’s fantastic in pass protection, so he isn’t a liability on passing downs. Apparently, he’s a great guy, who’s smart, vocal, and well-respected. #32 might be a bit rich for Michel, only because he’s not really projected to go this high, but if we trade down the middle of the 2nd, he’s a real possibility.
- Tight End (Hayden Hurst, Dallas Goedert, Mike Gesicki) With Celek and Burton gone, tight end is suddenly a need. I am really high on Billy Brown, for some weird reason, and also think that Richard Rodgers might be able to fill a void, so maybe I don’t think it’s as glaring as others do, but I wouldn’t be opposed to filling this need here. Hayden Hurst has been gaining a lot of steam lately and some even have him as the top TE on the board. He’s an older guy – 24-year old junior because he was drafted by the Pirates as a firstbaseman – but that shouldn’t bother the win-now Eagles. He’s probably not the best receiving or best blocking tight end in the class, but the fact that he can do both adequately might make him the best all-around one. He’s still a bit raw, but could be a nice second tight end behind Ertz because he’s a weapon without being a liability. 12 personnel with those 2 TEs could be deadly. I’m not as high on Mike Gesicki for the Birds as many are, but he’s a local kid who went to Penn State and just CRUSHED the combine. A former volleyball star, his athleticism is just ridiculous. He ran a 4.5 forty and jumped 41.5 inches. His 4.1 20-yard shuttle and 6.76 three-cone were elite. He also scored nearly 2,000 points in high school basketball and won the New Jersey state slam dunk contest. But, he doesn’t block. He’s really just a big slot receiver. I’m not saying that an Ertz-Alshon-Gesicki combination in the red zone wouldn’t be dreamy, but inside the 20s, it might be a little duplicative for such a high investment. The other guy to watch is Dallas Goeddert, who’s only real question marks are the fact that he played at South Dakota State and that he has a terrible first name. He has been constantly called the Next Zach Ertz, so pairing him with the Original Zach Ertz could be pretty nice. He has great hands and athleticism, but is a poor route-runner and not a great inline blocker. I think #32 is a bit rich for “another” Ertz, but the first one was pretty awesome, so might as well have a second.
A couple quick notes on guys that I’d like to see them target in later rounds.
- TE Ryan Izzo – Because Izzo exists, I actually would rather see them pass on a TE at #32 and target Izzo in one of the later rounds. He’s a good pass-catcher and blocker and would be the perfect complement to Mr. Ertz.
- CB Duke Dawson – Seems like Dawson could be a mid- to late-round pick that would fit the exact pieces that the Eagles need in the secondary. He’s not a great athlete and can get handsy, which is why he’s going to slip to the 5th or 6th, but I would love to take a shot on an instinctive, competitive guy like that.
- WR Dante Pettis – He’s not worth the pick at #32, and this is a notoriously bad WR class, so people might reach and Pettis might be gone by the time we’re on the board again, but a mid-round selection of the best return man in the draft would be just fine by me. He also has a chance to be a decent 2nd or 3rd wideout in this league, so there is value in more than just “teams.”
- CB Darius Phillips – If we miss out or pass on Alexander or Hughes, Phillips is like a poor man’s version of them and could be a nice consolation in the later rounds. A good athlete with great versatility and a terrific return man. I’ll take it.
- RB Rashaad Penny – Penny is a mid-round RB prospect who could be a great returner. And, why wouldn’t we want another San Diego State running back?