The Philadelphia Eagles should NOT be drafting for immediate need.
It’s just not a good strategy. Besides, Howie Roseman has done a good job of plugging holes to the extent where the Eagles don’t absolutely require an instant starter via the 2019 NFL Draft. Roseman said as much last week when he stated he feels the roster is ready to play a game right now if they had to.
With that said, there are clearly some positions the Eagles could afford to address more than others in this year’s draft. And given how Philly really seems to be in win-now mode (see: Roseman’s aggressive cap management and acquisitions of older players), there’s some value in adding players who can contribute sooner than later. Best player available is a good concept but it’s not like the Eagles should be beholden to that idea if it means them drafting a tight end at No. 25 overall.
Here’s an overview of each position on the roster.
Carson Wentz is the starter and Nate Sudfeld figures to be his primary backup. Wentz’s injury history could encourage to keep three quarterbacks because Sudfeld needs someone backing him up if he has to play. Sudfeld is also a free agent after this season so it makes sense for the Eagles to look for a developmental project here.
Realistic goal in the 2019 NFL Draft: Take a quarterback on Day 3 or go hard after someone in undrafted free agency.
The Eagles acquired Jordan Howard to be a significant contributor to their running back rotation. But Howard’s skill set is limited and he’s set to be a free agent after 2019. The Eagles still have a need for a runner who offers third down back skills (pass-catching, pass blocking) and is elusive and/or explosive. It’s hard to merely count on Corey Clement to be that guy as he comes off an injured and uninspiring 2018 campaign. Guys like Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, Boston Scott, and Donnel Pumphrey will be fighting just to make the 53-man roster.
Realistic goal in the 2019 NFL Draft: Draft a running back by Round 4 at the latest. Day 2 could be the sweet spot, especially since the Eagles have two picks in Round 2.
Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor look like a pretty good starting trio on paper. They could serve the team well in 2019. The future of the position is less certain. Jeffery turned 29 in February. Jackson turns 33 in December. Agholor is due $9.4 million this year and, if he’s not already traded before 2020, he could leave Philly as a free agent next March. Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson are hardly surefire future starters in the NFL. There’s a reason the Eagles had more wide receiver pre-draft visits than any other position; this year’s class is talented and there’s a future need at this spot.
Realistic goal in the 2019 NFL Draft: Draft a player who has reasonable potential to be a starter in the future. Ability to play in the slot is preferred.
The Eagles are set at this position due to having Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, and Richard Rodgers on the roster.
Realistic goal in the 2019 NFL Draft: If anything, add a tight end late on Day 3. Or just sign a couple undrafted free agents to compete with Rodgers for a roster spot.
Jason Peters is 37 year old and likely playing his last season in the NFL. Lane Johnson is still very much in his prime but he’s also one failed PEDs test away from being suspended for 32 games. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is currently set to be a free agent after the 2019 season. The team does have Jordan Mailata waiting in the wings, yes, but he’s a total wild card. It’s difficult to project with much certainty what he can be in the future. In other words, there’s ample reason for the Eagles to draft an offensive tackle at some point.
Realistic goal in the 2019 NFL Draft: Don’t force the pick but do add a tackle at some point if/when the value is right. This player should be able to potentially compete with Mailata for a starting job in 2020.
When healthy, Brandon Brooks is one of the best guards in the league. Unfortunately, it’s unclear exactly when he’ll be ready to play in 2019 as he recovers from his Achilles injury. Isaac Seumalo received a contract extension this offseason but that deal is very team-friendly. The Eagles can easily move on from Seumalo in the near future if he struggles. Letting Stefen Wisniewski (and Chance Warmack, ha) walk in free agency means the Eagles could afford to add interior offensive line depth.
Realistic goal in the 2019 NFL Draft: Draft a player with either guard/center or guard/tackle versatility. Day 3 would be the ideal spot to find a player at this position but there could be an opportunity too good to pass up earlier on in the draft.
Jason Kelce’s future is somewhat uncertain considering he contemplated retirement earlier this year. Kelce, who turns 32 in November, is arguably still the best center in the league but he’s only got so much left in the tank. His current backup on the roster is Seumalo, who has previously struggled with snapping the ball.
Realistic goal in the 2019 NFL Draft: Find a guard/center type who can provide immediate depth in the short-term and eventually replace Kelce in the long-term.
Brandon Graham, 31, signed a contract extension this offseason so he’s staying for at least a couple more years. 2017 first-round pick Derek Barnett, who is still only 22, figures to be the other starter at defensive end. What about the guys behind them? The Eagles do heavily rotate their defensive lineman, after all. Vinny Curry, who turns 31 in June, is back in Philly on a one-year deal. Chris Long is currently under contract but he’s still mulling retirement and he might not be back. Josh Sweat has theoretical upside but is completely unproven. The Eagles could afford to add another edge rusher in this year’s draft, especially given the bevy of available talent.
Realistic goal in the 2019 NFL Draft: Draft an edge rusher who can contribute in the rotation, especially if there’s a sense Long isn’t going to be back. Landing an edge rusher with a premium pick would be ideal if the right guy falls to the Eagles.
The Eagles can afford to address defensive tackle despite signing Malik Jackson to start next to Fletcher Cox. The 29-year-old Jackson is coming off a season where he was admittedly benched for bad run defense. Even if Jackson bounces back in 2019, the Eagles still need another defensive tackle to contribute in the rotation. Cox had to play too many extra snaps last year due to a lack of depth at this spot.
Realistic goal in the 2019 NFL Draft: Draft a rookie who can contribute right away in a rotational role, at least. A quartet of Cox, Jackson, a talented rookie, and Treyvon Hester is a good group of defensive tackles. It feels like there has to be a quality defensive tackle option available to the Eagles at some point on either Day 1 or Day 2.
Some fans will argue linebacker is the team’s biggest need. The fact that the Eagles didn’t bring a single linebacker prospect in for a pre-draft visit could indicate the team doesn’t feel the same way. The Eagles don’t play a lot of base defense so usually they’re only using one or two true linebackers on the field at a time. Nigel Bradham, who turns 30 in September, is the main guy set to replace Jordan Hicks while the likes of L.J. Fort, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Paul Worrilow, and Nathan Gerry battle for playing time.
Realistic goal in the 2019 NFL Draft: Draft a guy with middle linebacker potential. Probably looking at a Day 3 pick for this spot.
This is a weird spot for the Eagles because they have a lot of talented youth at this position. Ronald Darby (25), Jalen Mills (25), Cre’Von LeBlanc (24), Rasul Douglas (23), Avonte Maddox (23), and Sidney Jones (22) all seem like reasonable bets to make the roster this year, barring trade. Roseman has talked about how it’s important to let these young guys develop. And yet, the future is still worth considering because Mills, Darby, and LeBlanc will be free agents after 2019. The former two players are also coming off significant 2018 injuries.
Realistic goal in the 2019 NFL Draft: Don’t draft a corner on Day 1. Day 2 or Day 3, fine. With limited resources to work with, though, it seems like the best course of action is to see what you have with the young guys already on the roster.
The Eagles could really afford to add to the safety position. Malcolm Jenkins turns 32 this season while Rodney McLeod turns 29. McLeod, who is coming off a significant knee injury, is also set to be a free agent after 2019. The Eagles signed Andrew Sendejo to be a third safety but he can potentially be cut to prevent Philly from missing out on a fourth-round compensatory pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Drafting a talented rookie could allow the Eagles to more easily move on from Sendejo while adding a potential replacement for McLeod in 2020.
Realistic goal in the 2019 NFL Draft: Draft a safety with reasonable starting potential at some point within the first four rounds. Day 2 could be the ideal spot for good value.
The Eagles are set at kicker, punter, and long snapper. The team could look to improve their return game, though, especially if Darren Sproles isn’t re-signed.
Realistic goal in the 2019 NFL Draft: Draft a player who can contribute as a returner in addition to playing their primary position.
BGN’s FanPulse polling shows that Eagles fans feel like defensive tackle is the biggest roster need.