Following the 2015 NFL Draft last year, I wrote about how the Eagles' draft picks were becoming easy to predict under Chip Kelly's reign. A long story short: the Eagles basically only drafted players who were brought in for pre-draft visits. Only two of the 13 players the Eagles drafted in 2014 and 2015 combined did not have pre-draft visits in Philadelphia. One of those players was Oregon Ducks receiver Josh Huff, who already shared an obvious connection with Kelly. Kelly even admitted that he had no interest in trying to mislead other teams about who the Eagles wanted to draft.
"I think [pre-draft visits] are really valuable," Kelly said. "Any time you get an exposure, you get a better idea of what they are all about. And I know some people, [Ed Marynowitz] mentioned, use them as smoke screens or things like that. We're not into that. I want to find out as much as we possibly can about each individual prospect so that when we are really involved and kind of looking at them we are making accurate decisions."
Kelly didn't care about being predictable. Unsurprisingly, his style clashed with what Howie Roseman believes in. Roseman has admitted to using pre-draft visits in the past in order to throw other teams off Philadelphia's trail. Now that Roseman is back in charge, the way the Eagles operated in the pre-draft period is noticeably different from Kelly.
Of the eight players the Eagles selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, only three picks were known to have visited Philadelphia prior to being picked. Those picks were Carson Wentz, Alex McCalister, and Blake Countess. The Wentz pick was hardly unpredictable but that was a special circumstance. McCalister broke the news of his visit by tweeting it out himself. The Countess visit wasn't even reported until the window for visits had closed. I didn't even get the chance to include him in my annual pre-draft interest tracker. After the draft, Wendell Smallwood revealed he had a visit with the Eagles. Roseman and his staff did a good job of keeping that one quiet.
Beyond pre-draft visits, the Eagles didn't show much reported interest in the other players they drafted. Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai weren't connected to the Eagles at all. The Birds put Jalen Mills through a workout and that's it. Eagles scouts were spotted at Oregon's pro day, but that hardly tipped their interest in Joe Walker.
The importance of predictability is up for debate. On one hand, it's not good when other teams know who you want and trade up ahead of you to get that guy. Earlier this offseason we demonstrated how NFL teams keep taking advantage of the Giants' predictability in the draft. On the other hand, just because the Eagles are making their picks unpredictable doesn't guarantee they're making good picks.
There are plenty of examples how the Eagles are operating differently now that Kelly is gone and Roseman is back. The role of predictability is just one of those differences.