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The Eagles Draft Strategy

There is a lot of discussion going on about how the Eagles should approach the upcoming draft. Do they need a specific strategy?


The NFL draft is now less than a month away. As fans and the media discuss what the Eagles should do, some of the focus has shifted from specific players to different strategies the team should take.

Because this is a very deep, very talented group of players, many believe the Eagles would be wise to trade back and add additional picks. Other fans think that the fact that the class is deep and talented means that really good players will be pushed down. You might be able to get a Top 10 talent at pick 15. If that's the case, move up and add a top shelf talent.

Both groups are thinking logically. Those are sound arguments and you can argue that the team should go in either direction.

The problem with the Eagles is that the team is in a middle of the road situation. They aren't a single player away from being an elite team. Adding J.J. Watt or Richard Sherman would not suddenly turn the defense into the '85 Bears. Aside from Peyton Manning, I'm not sure that one offensive player would make the offense significantly better.

The Eagles also are not in rebuilding mode. Having 10 or 12 picks isn't a necessity. This team won 10 games last year and has a good amount of young talent already in place. The Eagles need quality more than quantity at this point.

Here is what the Eagles need to do, and likely will. They are going to have a list of about 125 players that they want to draft. I'm not sure how many fans realize how picky teams are when they put together a draft board. For example, Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock will have 20 to 30 pass rushers rated. The Eagles will only have a handful of them on their board. This is true for every position.

The Eagles need to study their draft board and decide if they covet any players. If they truly believe that one player is going to make such a difference that he's worth moving up for, then go get that player.

Often fans think of making bold trades to move up. Generally the trades are smaller. Teams see a player falling and then move up a few spots to get their guy. The Eagles did this with Fletcher Cox and Jeremy Maclin. They were patient and let the players get to a spot where the trade cost made sense.

As for staying put, the Eagles will have a list of three to five players that they realistically hope to be there for pick 22. If there is one player they really like, you just make the pick. Take your guy and don't over-think the situation. If several of the players are still there and have pretty even grades, try to move back a few spots. You'll add an extra pick or two and still get a player you targeted.

If the Eagles don't love the choices at pick 22 and a good offer comes in, then move back. How far back you go depends on the quality of the offer and the players on the board.

Scouts have spent the past 10 or so months checking out players. They have gathered tons of information about prospects, on and off the field. They passed that information on to the personnel department and then the coaches. That helped the Eagles build their draft board.

By the time the draft rolls around, the team will have a very specific list of players that they like. Smart teams focus on their board. They trust their scouts and the draft process. The goal is to draft players from that list.

The point is that you focus on specific players. Actual names. The draft isn't made up of positions, stats or 40 times. It is made up of prospects.

Most people had Geno Smith rated ahead of Matt Barkley last spring. The Eagles passed on Smith in the first and second round, then tried to trade up and get Barkley at the end of the third round. They couldn't pull that off, but were able to move up and get him with the first pick of the fourth round.

We don't know if the Eagles had any interest in Smith. We do know they liked Barkley quite a lot. The Eagles had a Top 50 grade on him. Kelly didn't want a quarterback. He wanted a very specific quarterback. I'm sure there were others on his list, but Barkley is the one he aggressively went after and got.

I would love for the Eagles to add a pass-rushing linebacker. I would love to get a safety. But you can't force those moves if there are other players with higher grades available. You are always one play away from needing someone. Be very careful before passing on talent.

I would rather have the Eagles spend every pick on offense rather than reach on defense.

I would rather have the Eagles spend every pick on offense rather than reach on defense. Andy Reid reached for Jaiquawn Jarrett a couple of years back and that proved to be an awful decision. Clearly I hope the Eagles have a mixture of offensive and defensive picks, but focusing too much on need is a bad idea.

You don't draft to plug holes in the lineup. You draft to improve the overall talent level of the team. You build for the long haul with the players you pick.

Soon enough we'll get to see the second draft class of the Howie Roseman/Chip Kelly era. I'll be very interested to see the approach they take and then to find out what the thinking was behind the moves they made or didn't make. There is no perfect strategy for this draft, aside from trusting the scouts and sticking to the board. Put simply, trust the process.

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