The Eagles served as the second leg of a quasi-three team trade yesterday, moving back six spots with the Miami Dolphins after the Dolphins traded away their Top-3 pick to San Francisco. Here’s a neat breakdown of who got what.
Recapping a wild day:#49ers get: 3rd overall pick in 2021.#Dolphins get: PHI’s No. 6 overall in 2021, PHI’s 5th rounder in 2021, SF’s 1st and 3rd rounders in 2022, SF’s 1st in 2023.#Eagles get: SF’s No. 12 overall, MIA’s 4th rounder in 2021, MIA’s 1st in 2022.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 26, 2021
The Eagles moved back from 6 overall to 12 overall in this year’s draft, adding Miami’s 2022 first-round pick in the process.
While the news moved quickly, that the Eagles were willing to make this deal is not surprising. The prevailing analytic mindset concerning the appropriate use of draft picks is: trade down, unless you need a quarterback. Howie Roseman has been committed to this approach since trading up for Wentz in 2016 — a decision he described as difficult, back in 2018, relative to his instinct to always trade down in the draft.
Since then, Roseman has moved picks around on Day 3 a lot, traded back from one first-round pick (from #32 to #49 in 2018, to eventually select TE Dallas Goedert), and traded up from another (from #25 to #22, to select OT Andre Dillard). He’s also used future picks extensively in player trades: a 3rd and a 5th for Darius Slay, a 3rd for Golden Tate, a 4th for Genard Avery, a 3rd for Ronald Darby.
This wheeling and dealing was largely unsuccessful. Roseman hasn’t drafted a Pro Bowl player besides Wentz in the last five classes, in part because of poor evaluation — Dillard looks like a bust, 2017 first-rounder Derek Barnett was overvalued, 2020 first-rounder Jalen Reagor is off to a rough start when compared to Justin Jefferson — and in part because of the pick drain. In the 2018 and 2019 drafts, the Eagles made a combined 10 total picks — only four in the first two days — and fielded the league’s second-oldest roster in 2019. Even last year, when the Eagles made 10 selections outright, all but three came on the last day of the draft.
With the Wentz trade completed, compensatory picks added, and now the Miami deal complete, the effort to revitalize the roster with young talent is clearly underway.
Using the draft values @PFF_Brad and I developed the top teams with draft capital right now are— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) March 27, 2021
1. Jaguars- 9,802 pts
2. Jets- 8,798
3. Dolphins- 7,471
4. Eagles- 6,850
5. Falcons- 6,793
The Seahawks have just 1,699, 1,856 points lower than team 31 (Houston)
The Eagles’ 11 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft are league-leading, and the Wentz trade gives them four picks within the Top-100. In the 2022 NFL Draft, the Eagles have all of their original selections, as well as two incoming picks: the Dolphins’ first-rounder and the Colts’ conditional pick, which is currently a second-rounder, but might be a first. Either way, they’ll have four picks within the first two rounds come Draft Day — potentially three first-round picks.
With these picks, the Eagles have additional flexibility in the draft. They can package their extra picks into a trade up for a quarterback in 2022 (it looks like a weaker QB class, but it’s always tough to prognosticate that), should that remain a hole on their roster. They can hold pat and get extra swings at starting-caliber players. They can trade further back and continue to accrue future capital while developing incumbent talent.
All of these options have existed in past years, as well — but the Eagles considered themselves a competitive team in a winning window, and were accordingly less interested in developing young talent, and more oriented on acquiring immediate contributors. That’s why Roseman traded picks for veterans: he wanted the team to be better, now.
It didn’t work, of course — and Roseman deserves flak for that. The picks the Eagles did make haven’t succeeded — and Roseman deserves flak for that. That Roseman wasn’t fired in this past offseason is a testament to his unbelievable staying power with owner Jeffrey Lurie: most GMs would be fired for boldness to pitch, and then the failure to execute, such an aggressive plan as he laid out.
He’s still here, and as he did in the 2016 - 2017 offseason, he’s quickly shedding the roster of old talent and looking to get younger, make more picks, and start the rebuild. This is the appropriate approach in a vacuum, even if it costs the Eagles LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, considered the top WR by media and fans; Florida’s Kyle Pitts, considered a matchup nightmare at TE.
But because of his missteps over the last few seasons, and historical shakiness as an evaluator, it’s tough to trust Roseman to make good picks, regardless of the trades he executed beforehand. This trade back is good in a vacuum — it beefs up the Eagles’ draft capital over the long-term — but in context, the creeping sensation that both Chase and Pitts will be stars in the league, now that the Eagles have all but forgone their chances of drafting either, is tough to shake.
The biggest thing that the Eagles surrendered, however, was not a chance at a star pass-catcher. Neither Chase nor Pitts is guaranteed to go before 12, though it is very unlikely one falls that far. The remaining top tier of WRs — Alabama teammates Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith — would both be great selections outside of the Top-10, and have a shot of making it. The Eagles relinquished the ability to grab a quarterback at the top of this draft class.
Even those in Jalen Hurts’ camp will admit that there’s still a lot unknown about the 4-game starter, selected in the second round, now paired with a first-time head coach in Nick Sirianni. Betting on Hurts is just fine — his running ability gives him a very high floor, and his intangibles are through the roof — but it is a bet. The Eagles seemed inclined on hedging that bet with another wager — Ian Rapoport initially tweeted, and then amended a report that the Eagles would have traded up to No. 3 for BYU QB Zach Wilson, if they thought he’d be available there. With Wilson unavailable, they’ve essentially removed themselves from QB contention, barring a shocking interest in Alabama QB Mac Jones.
Good players will still be available for the Eagles at 12, many of whom they would have been interested taking at 6. I called South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn a dark-horse pick at 6 after some elite testing at the Gamecock Pro Day, but 12 is a perfect spot for his projected range. Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater — a highly-athletic T/G prospect at a program the Eagles like — is now a candidate to take over the starting LT job. No, these names aren’t as sexy as others, but I’d encourage you to watch both players: they’re really, really good.
Assuming 4 QBs go in the Top-12, one of these 8 players will be on the board for Philly pic.twitter.com/BIQP0AWT0H— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) March 26, 2021
Watching Chase and Pitts leave the board before the Eagles pick may be tough, but drafting is not an exact enough science for the difference between the 6th and 12th pick to limit a trade that recoups an extra first-round pick. Especially because Roseman has not drafted well, fans should hope for more trade backs, as more trade backs mean more picks, and more picks means more chances to luck into a good player. And in that drafting is an inexact science, even for all his faults, there’s a good chance Roseman will experience positive regression to at least an average drafting level, just by the power of randomness.
I will always lament the many, many midnight green jersey swaps of Justin Fields and Ja’Marr Chase now lost to the coffers of the Internet. They were beautiful, and I wanted them. But this is a good process by the Eagles, who need to make more picks, get more youth, and develop more players. And good process is nice, but results are what counts by the end of the day — and to see good results, the Eagles and Roseman not only need to manage their picks well, but figure out how to actually get good, young players with those picks, whenever it is the end up drafting come April 29th.