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5 bold predictions for Eagles’ 2019 draft

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NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of year, gang. Time for the most absurd of takes. Time for Daniel Jones = QB1. Time for Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock locking themselves in a dimly-lit conference room and Greco-Roman wrestling over how high to rank Drew Lock.

I can’t prove the last one happened, but you can’t prove it didn’t. Let’s call it a draw and move on.

The NFL Draft is 10% draft and 90% pageant. It’s a live-action melodrama in the worst way, and I spend all season thirsting after it just to be driven mad by the excruciating drumroll of foolish hot-takery beforehand. And, in the spirit of not beating them, I’m joining them.

Of course, I did the same last year: my 5 bold predictions of 2018 were wildly accurate, as I correctly predicted they would select a punter (lol), not make any selections after Round 5 (they made 2), and that they wouldn’t draft a running back (that one was actually right!)

Accordingly, I’m back for my second brush with destiny. These are my 5 bold predictions for the Eagles’ 2019 NFL Draft, in order of ascending hotness.

1) The Cowboys trade up to a pick in front of the Eagles

In 2017, the Eagles traded up from Pick 139 to Pick 132 to get in front of the Dallas Cowboys (Pick 133) and know what, it doesn’t matter who they picked. It was a player. That’s all that matters.

It was Donnel Pumphrey. The Cowboys were interested in him.

In 2018, the Eagles traded up from Pick 52 to 49 to get in front of the Dallas Cowboys (Pick 50) and select Dallas Goedert. This was a year in which the Cowboys were reportedly interested in getting a tight end.

That’s back-to-back years — once in Philly, then in Dallas! — that Howie moved right in front of the Cowboys to grab a player they wanted more than Dallas did. I think that’s interesting, and also hilarious.

Most likely coincidence? Sure. But Jerry Jones — who doesn’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft — likely doesn’t appreciate it. He probably also knows that both Dallas and Philadelphia could be looking at safeties and defensive ends in Round 2, where Philadelphia holds the 53rd and 57th picks, and Dallas holds the 58th pick. 58, of course, sources say, is behind 53 and 57.

Is Jones vindictive enough to trade in front of the Eagles just to spite Roseman? As I often say: never underestimate the pride of NFL executives. When you don’t have a first-round selection, you can get itchy for that impact player, and it can spur on a trade-up.

2) The Eagles select Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf

Here’s how you construct quasi-hot takes. You take something that is well-known, combine it with something that’s basically unknown, and then zest on a bit of self-imposed incredulity, to emphasize the unknown bit over the known bit. Watch closely:

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there’s a chance that D.K. Metcalf — yes, that D.K. Metcalf — will be the Eagles first-round selection.

“How could that be?” you ask. “After that Combine performance, after his incredible play in college, how could he be available at 25 overall?”

A few factors influence the perceived Metcalf fall here. Firstly: this is a very deep WR group, and we know the league loves the value on Day 2. Secondly, Metcalf is coming off of a neck injury that may worry teams, especially those who think his huge frame and love of the weight room may lead to further injury. And finally, he isn’t as universally loved among teams as he is among the media.

It seems like Green Bay likes him — but they have bigger Round 1 needs than WR. Carolina might as well, but again, they have more pressing concerns. Both squads have enough at WR currently to address the position on Day 2.

Meanwhile, teams who have WR as a bigger Round 1 need — Buffalo, Washington — have been surprisingly quiet on the Metcalf front. Washington particularly seems to prefer other players at the position.

We know the Eagles are super interested in an early WR — but we don’t know exactly where Metcalf’s going to go. We anticipate the Eagles being willing to trade up this year, so if Metcalf begins to circle into range, Howie Roseman could choose to add the class’s best deep threat at the position with a small trade-up.

3) The Eagles don’t draft a RB. At all.

Last year, this was my third hot take, and it comes back this year as well. Let me walk you through it.

Firstly and foremostly, the Eagles certainly have to bring Darren Sproles back. If he doesn’t come back, they need a contributor at running back, especially in the passing game. So let’s say that he does.

How many touches are you giving Sproles? 6-8 sounds about right to me — in those games in which he was active last season, he averaged over 7 touches/game.

How many touches are you giving Jordan Howard? 10 seems like a reasonable number, maybe even on the lower side. Let’s call it 10-12, mostly on the ground, as the primary ball carrier for the Eagles.

That’s 16-20 touches at RB between Howard and Sproles.

Last season, the Eagles split touches between five running backs, to the tune of 26 touches/game. So we’ve got anywhere from 6-10 touches left over for the next back in the rotation.

Do those belong to Corey Clement, or a rookie? Even if it is a rookie, 6-10 touches/game doesn’t warrant anything more than a late-round selection. But with the Eagles’ success in recent seasons, finding UDFA backs who stick...why waste the late-round pick?

If there’s a back they really like in the early rounds, they could add him — but that will disrupt the current touch distribution we expect. It’ll take touches away from Howard or Sproles — maybe both, depending on the player. If it isn’t that early-round guy, then heck — why not just give the 6-10 touches to Clement, or see if you can hit on another UDFA.

4) The Eagles make two first-round picks

This team wants to win in 2019, in case you didn’t notice from the overwhelming signings of older veterans, the retention of older veterans, and the efforts made to open the 2019 cap. The Birds are all-in on Carson Wentz’s rookie contract.

So that’s one.

This team currently has two second-round selections and two-fourth round selections — that second-round pick, of course, coming via the Ravens when they traded back up into the first round for QB Lamar Jackson. The Ravens sent two second-rounders to get the Eagles’ pick at 32 overall, and the teams also swapped fourths.

Well, the Eagles have two seconds and two fourths — so if they want to move back into the end of Round 1, they most certainly have the firepower to do so.

That’s two.

Now, with no third, that may you leave you a little skint on Day 2 selections, but this is a very deep team without much room for developmental rookies. I hear the concerns, that the team is old and needs to get younger, but you get younger after you exhaust your Super Bowl winning window, which Howie Roseman clearly thinks is this season.

Two first-rounders — say, a EDGE and a WR — can immediately add to the Eagles’ pass-rush and improve their deep passing attack, while still anticipating the future departures of key players. It’s hard to get high-impact contributors after Round 2, so if Philadelphia really is all-in on 2019, they should pour resources into those two rounds. That could spell double-dipping into Round 1, if the board falls a way they like.

5) This is the draft that gets Joe Douglas hired somewhere else

I really enjoyed Jeff McLane’s profile on Joe Douglas, his stint with the Eagles thus far, and the expectations around this Draft. As I expressed above, I’m not as concerned as others are with the need to get young on the team, but it is true: we haven’t seen much return on Joe Douglas’ personnel acumen.

I think that changes a bit in 2019. You should expect strong contributions from Derek Barnett, Rasul Douglas, and Avonte Maddox — anything from Sidney Jones, Mack Hollins, and Josh Sweat is just cherries on top. It will be Year 3 of Douglas’ tenure, and as McLane notes, that’s when you really expect to start seeing stable returns on your young classes.

But it’s important to note something about NFL teams: sometimes, they do things that aren’t very smart. And very frequently, they look to draw new hires exclusively from teams that run deep into the playoffs. That’s the rub here: if the Eagles make an NFC Championship run; a Super Bowl run in 2019...teams are going to want to pilfer their talent. Douglas makes the most sense.

Douglas has already received general manager buzz before — that’s important as well. Owners will perceive that he’s “done his time waiting” and has “earned his chance” through simple persistence in the league, even if his drafting in Philadelphia hasn’t been particularly strong.

The Eagles’ front office is perennially one of the most lauded, and a lot of that has to do with Howie — so maybe it’s Alec Halaby who gets poached instead. But the league wants to see Douglas be a general manager at some point, and if the Eagles go deep into the 2019 playoffs with some young contributors in tow, Douglas will finally get his shot.