Why do we even read pre-draft rumors? The sources -- when sportswriters have a source at all -- are front office staff and agents, whose job is literally to mislead everyone about what they plan to do. Most years, fans spend weeks chasing rumors like a dog playing fetch, always coming back for more. Too many "NFL insiders" like to do that move where the human just pretends to throw the stick, sending the confused dog running and twisting looking for it.
But every now and then you get something like Adam Schefter's career-making scoop in 2010. And that's what everyone really wants -- a prediction that's blunt, confident, surprising, and absolutely correct. (While Sam had won the Heisman, Bradford wasn't even in Mel Kiper's top 5 at the time.)
"I would like to record something here, on February 24th. Two months from the draft. And tell you who the number one pick is gonna be right now. On the basis of what I’ve talked to people around the league [about], everything I’ve heard... the Rams’ number one pick on April 22nd, two months from now, will be Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. I’m willing to take all bets on that one right now."
Then again, Schefter predicted the Eagles would win the Super Bowl last August, too. But that was more of a (bad) judgment call than an inside scoop.
So let's look at the track record of different sportswriters, and specifically their scoops about the Eagles. A writer with great sources in the Seahawks organization doesn't have much of an advantage forecasting Philly's picks. I'm also not interested in what writers say the team should do; everybody has an opinion about that.
Already this year, Fox News' Alex Marvez proved accurate in his report Tuesday about the terms of the emerging big Eagles-Cleveland trade.
He didn't have the final terms exactly right, but of course they hadn't finalized the trade yet at the time. The broad outlines were solidly on target, making it a near certainty that he had a good inside source. He also reported last week that the Eagles were the runner up in the competition for a trade up to #1 with Tennessee.
On the other hand, Benjamin Allbright (the Denver radio host who has been beefing with Jimmy Kempski lately) came out with a bold report that would be a shock to the Eagles front office.
#Rams source says Wentz is the pick. Said decision was made awhile ago. Said trade haggling took awhile.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) April 14, 2016
To his credit, though, he has already retracted that and (sort of) owned his mistake.
Welp, it appears I was sold smoke initially. Goff to Rams (Wentz to Eagles). My apologies for having been told wrong in the first place.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) April 21, 2016
For the most part, of course, we won't know who was right or wrong about this draft until it's over. So lets look back at last year's Eagles rumors and see which ones proved accurate. That way, we'll have a better idea of who to trust now (besides Alex Marvez).
WalterFootball helpfully tracks rumors for each team, each year. 2015 was unusual, as it was Chip Kelly's one year in charge of the process. Reporters with, say, a great source close to Howie Roseman were out of luck. And the Mariota trade rumors dominated the conversation, though nothing came of it.
Eliot Shorr-Parks had one of the best predictions, boldly calling Agholor as the top pick almost a month before the draft, on April 4th. And Tony Pauline named Eric Rowe even earlier, on March 26th:
"I'm told the Philadelphia Eagles are very high on Rowe, who's drawing intrigue based on his size/speed and ability to line-up at either cornerback or safety."
On April 7th, he went further and named the Packers and Eagles as teams interested in Rowe in the first round. (The Birds traded up five spots to get him at #15 in the second round.)
Other calls were less successful, and sometimes you never know. The Eagles may well have had interest in certain players or positions who weren't available when the Eagle were finally on the board.
It's a bit more clear cut when the player is available and passed over. Jeff McLane wrote last year that the Eagles couldn't hide their interest in Byron Jones, noting that they worked out the athletic DB three times:
"...the Eagles under Kelly don't waste time on prospects they don't have more than a passing interest in. As Marynowitz said last week, "We're not into going just to go. We're not into smokescreens."
On April 30th, though, the Eagles hid their interest very well by picking Agholor instead; nobody thought Jones would drop to the Eagles at pick #52. (Dallas selected him in the first round at #27.) Marynowitz's claim that they don't make smokescreens may have been -- surprise! -- a smokescreen. (That's the game.) McLane also said on 97.5 The Fanatic that ""Unless I'm missing something here, the Eagles are going to do whatever it takes to get [Mariota]." Most likely though, there was nothing the Eagles could have done to pry away that pick.
A lot of writers got the WR position wrong. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report cited "several general managers I spoke with this week" connecting the Eagles to Breshad Perriman. (He went six picks later to the Ravens).
Scott Bischoff of Football Guys wrote "From reliable source: Do not be surprised if the Philadelphia Eagles take Miami WR Phillip Dorsett with their pick at No. 20." They passed and he fell to the Colts at #29.
Chase Goodbread of NFL.com was even worse. On March 11th he named five possible replacements for Jeremy Maclin: Dorsett, Tyler Lockett, Justin Hardy, Antwan Goodley and Chris Conley. Not only did the team pass on all of them, most multiple times, but they didn't fit Chip Kelly's stated preference for tall receivers. All are 5'10" except Conley (6'2") who went to the Chiefs in the 3rd.
At QB, Benjamin Allbright had the Eagles interested in Garrett Grayson. The Saints snagged him in the third. And Walter Football itself, specifically writer Charlie Campbell, was fixated on the idea that Chip Kelly wanted to draft Brett Hundley out of UCLA. (Green Bay took him in the 5th.) There has been no indication the Eagles liked either player, and neither played a snap in 2015.
Tomorrow, I'll look at 2014 predictions and results.