With just over a week before the start of 2021 NFL Draft, we got a chance to hear from Eagles brass Howie Roseman, Andy Weidl, and new head coach Nick Sirianni about how they’re preparing for another unique event, as well as how scouting has been affected without the annual combine.
Here’s what they had to say:
On the draft process
Roseman noted that the draft process has been great and Weidl elaborated a bit about working with a new coaching staff and coordinating things with the scouts. When Sirianni and his staff came to Philly they had a conference call with the scouts to get everyone on the same page, and the coaches had a clear vision for what they wanted the offense and defense to look like.
They’ll get the scouts together in person next week, so that chemistry and connection will continue to build. Weidl also noted that the coaches did a really good job of laying out what they wanted with clarity.
Sirianni was asked what he looks for from prospects, and he described talent being the most important, but further explained how that can look different for players. During the meetings with prospects, the coaches also tried to learn how much the player loves football, whether he’s competitive, whether he’s tough, what his football IQ is — because talent is important, but all these attributes can contribute to a player maximizing their potential.
So, yes, they’re looking for certain skill sets and how they would use them, and when they communicate that with the front office, Roseman and Weidl then assign a value for each prospect — is it someone who could play three downs or would they be a role player, etc...
When asked about the team’s draft history, Roseman said that he’s proud of the group of scouts and the front office, and pointed out that the draft is an inexact science. The process this year with the coaches and scouts have allowed them to sit down and maximize their 11 picks in this draft and their four picks in the first two rounds of next year’s draft.
Weidl was also asked what he’s learned in the year at his new position, and he said that it’s required a lot of adjusting with a new coaching staff, but they’re working to find players that fit the program that Sirianni is establishing in Philly. The scouts are an extension of the coaching staff and they want to go out and find the best players to fit the culture, and when they get alignment between the coaches and scouts, they can get it right.
On trading back from No. 6
“Flexibility creates opportunity,” Roseman explained.
He went on to detail how having an extra first round pick is rare, and being able to secure that in 2022 was important. They looked at whether there were 12 players in this draft that they felt comfortable with, and when they discussed it, they felt comfortable making the move and felt like they were also getting a premium.
Roseman talked about how it was important when talking to the Dolphins, to know who was trying to get their No. 3 pick. Once they learned it was the Niners, they knew three quarterbacks would be coming off the board, so it let them narrow down who might be available at No. 12.
The move isn’t a sign that Jalen Hurts is the automatic starter, and Sirianni said it was too early to name a starter at any position. He emphasized that one of his core values is competition, and they’ve only been working with the guys for two days, so there’s still a lot of time for competition at every position.
On no Scouting Combine or OTAs
Weidl commended the scouts for how they covered pro days this spring, and being able to get 128 interviews in the past couple months. The scouts would bring back the information they gathered to Roseman and Sirianni, and they would then have Zoom meetings to further learn about the prospects and build those relationships. Roseman pointed out that Weidl did give his staff the opportunity to opt-out of the travel due to COVID, but they were able to make the rounds and were committed to the draft process.
Sirianni jumped in to say that it was a “fantastic idea” by Roseman to have meetings with prospects via Zoom, and it actually allowed them more time with players than they would’ve typically had at the combine — being limited by time and schedules. The head coach thinks they were able to get more information from these meetings than they do out of Indy, and were able to come up with creative ways to test guys — for example, Sirianni would play rock, paper, scissors to help establish competitiveness (no, seriously).
Later, Sirianni was asked about not having OTAs this spring, and he lamented that of course they would love to have the players on the field, but at least everyone is on the same page and it’s a good learning opportunity. He likened having to adapt to the COVID situation last season to football, where you might expect a certain coverage but they present something else and you have to adapt.
- On the guard position, Weidl noted that they are well aware of the talents and versatility of some of the top prospects. Isaac Seumalo does give the team “tremendous flexibility” according to Roseman, and has shown that he can play center and elsewhere.
- The team has many late-round draft picks, and Roseman explained that they’ve studied past late-round guys who have been successful and the attributes they’ve had, but also noted that those picks give them more draft capital and options on Day 3. He emphasized, however, that they are still looking for starters with those late-round picks, not just guys who could be back-ups.
- Roseman was asked about wide receivers transitioning to the NFL, and he acknowledged that it’s been historically tough due to coverages in college being less competitive. But, the GM noted that it’s been getting better the past few years and more wideouts are finding early success in the NFL.
- Sirianni talked a little about the biggest difference for him during the draft process as a head coach. He pointed to being able to evaluate players at every position, which really allowed him to see things he might have missed when solely focused on a specific position or side of the ball. For example, by evaluating a defensive end, he was also able to pick up on other subtleties of offensive lineman.
- Roseman said that Jeffery Lurie’s role hasn’t changed and he’s going to ask questions as he sees fit, and he’s in the draft room and will speak up, but he’s not over-ruling any decisions that might be made.