It’s said that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. The Eagles are putting a lot of it in their plan to turn around the franchise’s fortunes at cornerback. Whether by choice or by necessity due to the salary cap, the team hasn’t signed anyone to nominally replace either of their departed starters from 2016. Instead, they’ll turn to the draft, where the incredible depth at the position could see them be in position to take two strong prospects, and they should.
But there’s a problem. The Eagles front office hasn’t demonstrated that they’re any good at drafting cornerbacks.
Howie Roseman’s track record at drafting them is poor, at best. Under Roseman as GM—and this is giving him credit for when Andy Reid still held a lot of draft day power at the beginning of his tenure—the Eagles have drafted Trevard Lindley, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin, Jaylen Watkins and Jalen Mills. Boykin, who was a pretty good slot corner in 2013, not really used in 2014 and is now out of the league, is the best of the group, Jalen Mills has a chance to eclipse him. Then there’s Eric Rowe, the only corner drafted in the first two days of the draft since Curtis Marsh in 2011, and who wasn’t a Roseman pick but was shipped out by Roseman.
Joe Douglas is setting the Eagles draft board, but his track record at the position is equally incomplete and uninspiring. From 2012-2015, Douglas was the National Scout of the Ravens, then in 2016 was the Bears’ Director of College Scouting. To give him a lion’s share of credit for moves made during that time would be unfair, which is good for him because there’s not much positive credit to go around. These are all the cornerbacks that were drafted by teams Joe Douglas worked for during that time frame:
2012: Asa Jackson (5th round). Jackson spent part of the 2014 season as a slot corner, but for the rest of his career he’s been a special teamer, when he’s even played, his career high is 7 games played. He was twice suspended for PEDs in 2012 and 2013, and has been injury prone. He’s changed teams six times since the start of the 2015 season.
2013: Marc Anthony (7th round). Anthony’s next game in the NFL will be his first. He was in training camp with the Eagles in 2015.
2015: Tray Walker (4th round). Walker was a special teamer in his rookie year, then died in a dirt bike accident in the 2016 offseason.
2016: Deiondre’ Hall (4th). Hall played the first and last four games of the season, for a total of 79 snaps. Too early to make a decision, but that the Bears signed two veteran corners means that they aren’t over the moon with him as a corner. He might wind up at safety.
Four day three picks in five years is not much to go on. If you’re looking for inspiration or confidence that Douglas can turn things around, there’s no evidence he can, though there’s also no evidence he can’t. And in fairness to Roseman, drafting corners only on day three isn’t going to get a lot of good results.
However, simply having the 14th pick doesn’t guarantee anything either. Darrelle Revis was the 14th pick, but so was Kyle Fuller. The Eagles started a pair of top-14 drafted cornerbacks in 2016: Malcolm Jenkins was the 14th pick in 2009 and was moved to safety in 2010, Leodis McKelvin was the 11th pick in 2008.
After years of churning through stop gap or big money free agent solutions that never panned out, the Eagles will be right to add top talent in the draft. But they’ve got to get it right, and given the history of the men in charge, they’re putting a lot of faith into things unseen.