When Eagles' General Manager Howie Roseman stepped up to the podium at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday afternoon, he seemed to speak with a sense of relief. Last year at this time, the Eagles were dealing with a lot of transition and changes. Gone was Andy Reid and brought in was Chip Kelly. The arrival of Kelly as the team's new head coach meant new schemes were being brought into place. And those changes presented a new challenge for Roseman, especially when it came to the Eagles' defense.
"One of the good things about last year was it was the unknown how some of our players who had never been in a 3-4 would fit," Roseman said. "We didn't have the answer to all those questions last year at this time. We had guesses, but we didn't know for sure. And so now you have a year's worth of film to watch and grade the players and see how they handled it, which gives us a much better handle on our own roster than maybe we had last year at this time."
One year later, Roseman is much more comfortable with his assessment of the team as it stands. There are less guesses and more known quantities. The Eagles' needs stand out more clearly. But Roseman knows the draft is not the place to solely rely on filling those areas.
"You have to take the best player and you have to build your team for the long term and look at the draft as long-term decisions for your franchise and for your football team," Roseman explained. "[You] don't want to force a position and you don't want to not take a position just because of what you have at the moment and I think, for us, when you look at the difficulty of getting good players in the draft, it becomes increasingly difficult when you narrow it down to a particular position that you have to get, not taking into account the strength of the draft."
Roseman is alluding to the draft strategy of taking the best player available, as opposed to reaching in order to fill roster needs. The latter of those two strategies has come to burn the Eagles in past year. The abysmal turnout that was the 2011 NFL draft, where the Eagles took Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett in the first two rounds, proved that drafting for need wasn't a great strategy. Roseman seemed to learn from his mistakes and add talent through the 2012 and 2013 drafts, without worrying so much about needs and instead focusing on bringing in talented football players.
Roseman's approach to the 2014 NFL draft will be no different than it was the past few years, when the Eagles brought in good hauls. So can they make it three straight years in a row with a quality draft class? That remains to be seen, but using a proven process is the right start.