The Eagles were so high on Dawkins, they even touted him to cornerback Troy Vincent when they were recruiting Vincent in free agency. And that was nearly two months before they selected him in the draft.
"Emmitt called me and said, 'We think we've identified somebody who can be real special if he learns the game and we can get him under control,'' Vincent said. "They hadn't even drafted him yet.
"Emmitt said, 'We believe that with the three of you all' - me, Dawk and Bobby (Taylor) - exact words - 'we can compete with the Cowboys. We can knock the Cowboys off.' If I recall correctly, he called Brian a juggernaut. A little juggernaut.''
During the three years Thomas coached Dawkins in Philadelphia, he was intentionally frugal with his praise for the little juggernaut. Compliments, at least early on, were few and far between. Thomas saw greatness in him, but used tough love to draw it out.
"Emmitt rode him all the time, pushed him hard,'' said Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who was hired by Rhodes as the Eagles' special teams coach in '98. "He called him Baby Boy. It seemed kind of derogatory, but Emmitt actually meant it as a term of endearment.
"Brian was young and clearly didn't have a vision yet of how good he could be. Emmitt did. He knew he was special.''
By far, the best players are from the "trade up" group, and it's not even close.
"When we look back and we look at our drafts, specifically looking at where we were in the 20's, we've had some good success at 20 and higher," said Howie Roseman, speaking at the Senior Bowl. "I think there is a line where you don't get a difference maker. This is your opportunity, in the first round of the draft, to find a difference-making player. That's our first priority, is bringing in a difference maker to the Philadelphia Eagles.
"By trading back and getting extra picks, but not having somebody who can affect the game... I mean, you're watching these championship games, and you're seeing that there are difference makers making big plays in these games, so we need to make sure that we come out of (the draft) with that."
It feels a lot like the Eagles will be trading up, not back, if at all.
"Yeah, it kind of shocked me a little bit," Carroll said. "We were all learning the defense at the same time. It was all new to us. Learning the new technique that we had and the terminology and what Schwartz expected from us, we knew it was a learning process, he knew it was a learning process as well.
"Yeah, Eric had his ups and his downs but he was still improving. The guy, the thing about it, he was a second-year guy, this was his second year playing corner. Not everything is going to be perfect in your second year. It's one of those things where he had to keep developing and keep growing and that's what I thought he was doing. There were a couple times where he'd make plays and then probably some times where he'd have a lapse or something, but that's how it is for a young player. They're trying to process everything because he came from college to the NFL for his first year playing corner, then the next year the defensive scheme changes so he can't get comfortable with it.
"So you basically have to go back again and reprogram your mind to learn the new [defense] so fast. It did shock me a little bit but in the end, I think it's working out for him. Because you can see, especially when he played in the AFC Championship game, he made a few plays. So he feels comfortable now with where he is. … It looked bad at first for him, but he got used to it, he brushed it off, he thought about getting better and improving and that's what he's done."
Free Agency Preview: Running Backs - Over the Cap
2. Latavius Murray, Raiders
Murray should fall into that good, but not great category of running backs. He’s probably a bit too streaky for some tastes with games in which he looks like a high level player and others where he looks like a replacement level player. The Raiders have never really trusted him to be a workhorse player, and those are rare anyway in the NFL, so teams should view him as a complementary player. Murray probably had more to gain with the Carr injury than anyone but failed to make any impact down the stretch, which is a negative. It’s hard to see a non-contender looking at Murray unless they are just desperate for a name.
Murray should fit in with the CJ Anderson, Gio Bernard, Chris Ivory, and Lamar Miller grouping, with the high end depending on if there is a team that sees enough upside to reach in that $6+ million mark for him. I don’t believe that will happen at this point with him settling into the lower range of a lesser upside player.
Range: 4 years, $4.5-5.5M a year, $7-9M in guarantees, $7-9M guaranteed at signing
3. Eddie Lacy, Packers
If it wasn’t for injury Lacy would be the clear number 2. Despite whatever shortcomings he may have, he is a better player than Murray with far more upside, but he missed 11 games this season with an ankle injury. Lacy started out on fire with back to back 1,100 yard seasons but struggled in 2015 as his weight became a talking point. Lacy claimed he lost 20 pounds in 2016 and was back to looking like a 1,100 yard runner before the injury derailed his season.
In some ways his career arc is not terribly different than Alfred Morris who fell from his position as a star in the making to trying to grab a reasonable contract as a backup. Though Lacy’s last five games were better than Morris’ walk year numbers, I don’t know if five games erases a really bad 2015 campaign. Lacy could probably benefit from signing a 1 year contract and playing well, though at this position there is always a big risk in a 1 year contract. My guess is he’ll go longer term with an incentive laden contract that has more upside than Murray’s contract.
Range: 3 years, $3.5-$4.5M a year, $5-7M in guarantees, $5-7M guaranteed at signing, significant incentives