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Five questions ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft

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Every pick affects the Eagles

Photo by Lisa Lake/Getty Images for NAMM

We’re just a day away from the 2017 NFL Draft, and what the 31 other teams do impacts the Eagles as much as what the team does. You can only take what’s available, and the possibilities are almost endless. Here’s five things we’re looking at that will shape the draft for everyone, and could give a few teams some breaks.

1 What the hell is Cleveland doing?

Whenever two QBs are drafted closely together, they are linked until it’s clear that one team made a big mistake. Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, even Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers. When one of them is acquired in a trade with a team that could have used a QB, it adds a third dimension. Such is the case with Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and the Cleveland Browns.

A year after trading back rather than draft Carson Wentz 2nd overall, the Browns still need a QB. There isn’t one worth taking with the 1st pick. And you can make a case there isn’t one worth taking with the 12th pick either. But that doesn’t mean they’ll once again pass on a QB. They might even need to trade up for one, which will only enlarge the microscope they will be under. The Eagles are obviously hoping that the Browns take a QB and give them a better shot at a player they want at 14. For fans and the media, the Browns taking a QB, especially with the 12th pick acquired from the Eagles, would set up a story to follow for years.

2 What is going on with QB?

In a league dominated by one position, it’s no surprise that QB is one of the more entertaining storylines to follow. Not only is there no QB considered a consensus top pick, there’s no consensus of who is the top QB. And yet, the top half of the draft might see three QBs taken.

But by who? Teams usually wait until their franchise QB’s career is over to reboot, but every once in awhile they grab a guy in advance. With Drew Brees 38, Carson Palmer 37, Eli Manning 36 and Philip Rivers 35, there are obvious draft and develop options. But with Kirk Cousins, Matt Stafford, and potentially Blake Bortles on the last year of their contracts, could there be surprise in the early rounds?

It’s a great year to not need a QB. If only a few teams disagree with that.

3 When will the runs start?

Whenever there is a deep pool of players at a position, at some point in the draft they’ll go quickly on day two. This year there are two such scenarios, at corner, where a few teams are going to pass on a top tier one in the first knowing they can get a nearly as good one in the second or a pretty good one in the third; and running back, where there is a trove of backs who are starter material that will be available on day two. For both positions, it’s matter of when, not if, there will be a run.

For teams like the Eagles, Colts, and Titans who could have a top CB on the board when they pick in the 1st, can they wait another 32 picks for a corner they want to be on the board, or will they have to move up in the 2nd to get one?

And the top half of the 2nd round looks like a good place for RBs to start going quickly too, with the Jaguars, Eagles, Panthers, Colts and Ravens all in need of a starter by the midpoint of the round.

It’s the paradox of a run on a position in the draft: as teams move up to grab a position to make sure they get ahead of a run, they create or extend the run. Teams that need both have a dilemma: sit out one run to get ahead of the other, or get caught up in one and risk missing out on the other.

4 Where do the talented red flags go?

There seem to be quite a few top prospects with character concerns this year, even before Gareon Conley was accused of sexual assault, marking the third time in as many years that a highly rated prospect had a late breaking red flag, after La’el Collins went undrafted in 2015 and Laremy Tunsil went later than expected at 13 in 2016. Both of those issues were cleared up shortly after the draft, and perhaps Conley’s will too. But for now, he’s a tremendous risk.

Joe Mixon’s transgressions are well known, but it doesn’t appear to be hurting his stock too much, as he’s expected to go in the top half of the second round. Caleb Brantley’s pending battery charge could hurt him. Reuben Foster has a medical concern with an arthritic shoulder, but also off the field concerns after failing a drug test along with being sent home from the Combine and mental and immaturity issues. Jabrill Peppers has a similar drug test failure, but after being clean in college his seems more a result of trying too hard to add weight for the Combine than any serious wrongdoing, but a few teams may disagree. Dalvin Cook has his own set of concerns as well. That’s a lot of name prospects who need a PR spin when drafted.

A team like the Eagles, who have shown a willingness to take on players with character concerns, could make out pretty well. Dalvin Cook could fall to them as well as Mixon, and if Conley is still available late and the team feels that the allegations against him are another case of late breaking misinformation, they could have themselves a late round or UDFA steal.

5 Who is this year’s big faller?

Beyond the red flag players, there’s always someone who goes much later than the public perception thinks he will go. We call it “falling”, but they never truly do: only the media and fans put those players pedestals, not the teams. For everyone but the player and his loved ones, it’s one of the most entertaining parts of the draft. Watching Aaron Rodgers, Brady Quinn, Teddy Bridgewater and others sit in stunned silence while pick after pick goes by is good television.

Sometimes it’s just a player expected to go very early in the first who goes in the middle or late end of the round. There’s a few players that might fit that bill this year, with tweener Solomon Thomas and undersized Jonathan Allen fitting a general profile of players that get overrated by the fourth estate.

Or could it be someone who goes later than expected for reasons out of their control? Corey Davis started the draft process as a potential top 10 pick but then was unable to do anything due to an ankle injury. Ten years ago Leonard Fournette would be a lock for the top half of the draft, in a league where the RB is increasingly devalued, he might be waiting a while to hear his name.

Of course, if we could accurately predict someone to fall, they would no longer be falling. But chances are that in one of the first two rounds, if not both, someone that is thought of as not an option for the Eagles is going to be on the board.