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What if the Eagles didn’t do any scouting?

Sounds crazy, but is it?

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There is a perception, however true or untrue it is, that a defining trait of the Howie Roseman era is that Roseman thinks he’s smarter than everyone. Another defining trait that is less in question is that his drafts have overall been poor. So what if Howie Roseman outsmarted everyone in the draft by doing something that sounds really stupid?

In 2007, Doug Drinen at Pro Football Reference theorized that if a team didn’t do any actual scouting for the draft, they wouldn’t suffer greatly for it.

I’d like to suggest that at this point the amount of freely-available information about the draft is so mountainous that, if you believe there is wisdom in crowds, it’s not completely insane to believe that compiling all this public information in an intelligent way could constitute a reasonable substitute for a scouting department. In other words, the internet and a bunch of draft publications (maybe even Street & Smith’s!) might be your TV.

I am not saying that teams who utilize this plan would typically have good drafts. But is it so hard to believe that you could, in the long run, have a drafting record that is only slightly below average with this plan? I am certainly not saying that your 19-year-old cousin who set up a draft website in his parents’ basement is as good at evaluating talent as professional NFL scouts are. Rather, I am suggesting that, if he’s a smart kid, he can learn a whole lot by piggybacking on the enormous body of work that is being done and reported on by professional scouts and others. There are a lot of sharp football minds, including some former professional scouts, who break down gobs of game film, who go to the college all star games and all the other events, who talk to the players, who talk to agents and NFL personnel men, and whose full time job is to provide information about draft-eligible college football players to anyone who wants to pay a small fee for it. There is also probably a lot of information to be inferred from reading factual accounts of which front offices were present at which pro days, which prospects were making visits to which teams, and so on.

This is of course an extreme potential solution to the problem of trying to draft better. But I think he’s right, that a team that that piggybacked everyone else’s work instead of grinding tape wouldn’t be at a significant disadvantage. And luckily, someone else has already done the work of compiling other people’s work, so we can test this.

For the past few years, Arif Hasan of The Athletic has compiled a 300 player big board that is the consensus board of 50+ draft evaluators and prognosticators. It’s incredible work. We’re going to use that as our board, it’s exactly what Drinen envisioned. If a team were to use this method they could potentially refine it by adjusting it to give more or less weight to evaluators and prognosticators that over or underrate certain positions.

First, some ground rules

This isn’t a full on revisionist history re-draft, I’m not considering the player’s NFL career when selecting them, though I will discuss it after I have selected them.

I’m undoing every trade up. A team with this draft approach would never trade up. But they would trade back if the right offer comes along. If the Eagles traded back in real life, I’ll look at both if they did and didn’t make the trade. I’m not making up trades just because I don’t like the board, only real life trades will be considered.

Pre-draft trades for players will remain though. The Eagles were trying to win, and win now teams trade picks for players. That means I’m keeping the Golden Tate and Darrius Slay trades, among others. I’m only changing what happened on draft day, not what led up to it. The Eagles made a pair of draft day player for pick trades, they’ll be considered as well.

Context is king. Just because a guy is the top player on the board doesn’t automatically mean I am taking him. If there’s no clear path to playing time for the top player on the board but a clear roster spot available for the second player, I’m going with the second player. As we get deeper into the draft those considerations will weigh less. Nor will I take the top player if he runs counter to the type of players the Eagles have drafted, though this won’t be too much a problem since they lack consistency in the type of players they take. And I’m not inclined to double dip on a position unless there is a large gap between where they’re drafted or what their rank on the board is compared to the next player on the board. If any of this means I miss out on what looks like a good pick in hindsight, too bad.

With that in mind, I’ll list the top five players at different positions on the board. So if, say, the 1st and 2nd player on the board are both cornerbacks, I’m only listing the top cornerback on the board. And while it’s not realistic to draft three straight running backs, if a running back is in the top five for three straight picks, I’m listing them. I’ll also keep anyone that I mock drafted if they’re still available to show how big a reach I may have made.

The dreaded 2019 draft

Spoiler alert: Please remove any sharp objects from your immediate reach, sit down and don’t eat or drink while reading this part. Because we’re about to take an awful draft and turn it into a reason for a contract extension for Howie Roseman.

The real life Eagles draft class was Andre Dillard, who the Eagles made available for trade after one year; Miles Sanders, who is the only thing saving this draft class from a complete and total failure; JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who can’t get on the field on a team starving for receiver help; Shareef Miller, who has played two career snaps, on special teams; and Clayton Thorson, who got cut in camp as a rookie.

1st Round - 25th Overall

Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
10 Montez Sweat EDGE 4
11 Jawaan Taylor OT 4
15 DK Metcalf WRF 5
21 Greedy Williams CB 5
26 Jerry Tillery DL3T 6

In real life the Eagles traded up, here they sit still.

The pick is Montez Sweat. The rationale here is A) we’re taking the top player on the board in the 1st round, don’t overthink this, and B) drafting defensive linemen is absolutely in keeping with the Eagles philosophy. With the departures of Michael Bennett and Chris Long, there is playing time available. The team did sign Vinny Curry in free agency, but signing a 31 year old to a one year contract is not stopping anyone from drafting the same position in the 1st round.

In real life Sweat was drafted at 26, so we’re right on the money in draft value.

2nd Round - 53rd and 57th Overall

Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
15 DK Metcalf WRF 5
35 Nasir Adderley S 6
45 Chase Winovich EDGE 8
47 Justin Layne CB 8
54 Zach Allen DL5T 8

These are lumped together because the board was the same for both picks.

At 53 the pick is DK Metcalf. We don’t need to revisit this.

We could stop this draft right here and it would be better than the real thing.

At 57 I’m taking the next player on the board, Nasir Adderley. Adderley spent the beginning of his rookie season with the Chargers as a special teamer, in 2020 he started 14 of his 15 games. A similar outcome would have happened if the Eagles had taken him, he would have taken over for Malcolm Jenkins. Adderley even fit a similar profile to Jenkins coming into the draft as a versatile safety. For 2019 Jenkins was 32 and Rodney McLeod was 29 and coming off a torn ACL. The Eagles third safety in 2018 was Corey Graham, in 2019 they signed 32 year old Andrew Sendejo to a one year deal. Drafting a safety would have made sense at the time. As a bonus, he’s from Philly!

In real life Metcalf was drafted 64th and Adderley 60th, so we’re in a good spot in terms of draft value.

4th Round - 127th and 138th Overall

Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
51 Deionte Thompson S 8
52 Kelvin Harmon WRF 8
55 Mack Wilson LB 8
60 Amani Oruwariye CB 8
76 D'Andre Walker EDGE 9

In real life the Eagles gave up the 127th pick in the Dillard trade.

Like the second round, these are lumped together because the board was the same. Between picks we’ve lost out on Miles Sanders. I can live with it.

The top two players on the board were a safety and a wide receiver, but having just spent two 2nd round picks on those positions, I’m not interested in drafting those positions again so soon, especially since neither are significantly higher on the pre-draft board than the next players.

So the pick is linebacker Mack Wilson. Wilson was a guy that was seen as a potential Eagles pick, as he fit the type of linebacker that Roseman has previously drafted.

Wilson has started 22 of 29 games for the Browns, though he hasn’t been hugely productive: just one interception, one sack, and one forced fumble, all of which came in his rookie season, when he also finished second on the team in tackles. His sophomore season was a disappointment.

At 138, the pick is cornerback Amani Oruwariye.

Oruwariye impressed the Lions so much his rookie year that he was a factor to why they were happy to trade Darius Slay to the Eagles. Sigh.

In real life Wilson was taken 155th, in the 5th round, Oruwariye 146th, also in the 5th round. Wilson was a stretch, but Oruwariye would have been good draft day value.

5th Round - 167th Overall

Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
52 Kelvin Harmon WRF 8
76 D'Andre Walker EDGE 9
102 Gerald Willis DL3T 10
113 Rodney Anderson RBF 10
117 David Edwards OT 10

In the 4th round I wasn’t interested in double dipping at WR, but here with the 167th pick the 52nd player on the pre-draft board is available. No ever gets fired for blowing a 5th round pick, so taking a chance on Kelvin Harmon, a guy that no one else apparently wants, has little risk. Harmon would eventually be drafted at 206 by WASTEAM, so this is a steal on the board and a reach in real life. Harmon had a respectable rookie season, his 365 yards were 3rd on Washington and would have been second best among Eagles receivers. He tore his ACL in 2020. Or to put it another way, in one season he had more receptions and yards than JJ Arcega-Whiteside has in two.

6th round - 197th

6th Round - 197th Overall

Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
52 Kelvin Harmon WRF 8
102 Gerald Willis DL3T 10
113 Rodney Anderson RBF 10
119 Tyree Jackson QB 10
126 Te'Von Coney LB 10

In real life the Eagles gave this up in the Dillard trade.

The top pick here would be defensive tackle Gerald Willis, or if you prefer, running back Rodney Anderson. Neither have amounted to anything in the NFL, and Willis was an undrafted free agent, so this is a reach in real life, but hey this is the 197th pick in the draft and nearly everyone in the real life Eagles draft hasn’t done squat either.

7th round - 246th

In real life the Eagles traded this for Hassan Ridgeway. I’d make that trade on value alone. For a team competing it is reasonable to trade the 8th from last draft pick for a rosterable player. And stocking up the defensive line is totally in keeping with the Eagles approach. On the other hand, I’ve just drafted a defensive tackle in the 6th round, do I want to spend my 7th on one too?

If not, the Eagles are on the clock at 246. We’re just going with the top player on the board and hope he turns out to be a diamond in the rough, I’m not even going to list the board. It’s Emanuel Hall, a WR who went undrafted and was on three different teams but never made an active roster.

This 2019 re-draft is a stunning 180 from the real thing. DK Metcalf would of course be a game changer on offense. Montez Sweat, Nasir Adderly, and Amani Oruwariye would give the Eagles three building blocks, while Mack Wilson and Kelvin Harmon would offer some promise under a new coaching staff. Gerald Willis and Emanuel Hall wouldn’t be on the team, but two draft picks not making the roster is exactly what happened in real life. The difference here is that in 2019 those two players were 40% of the draft class.

If the Eagles came out of the 2021 Draft with a starting WR and a few young pieces, particularly on defense, they’ll have a great draft. In 2019, they could have had just that.

The uninspiring 2020 draft

It is of course way too early to make declarations about the 2020 draft class, though there is one exception. There were, at the time, some positives. It was refreshing to see that after two consecutive drafts that totaled ten picks the Eagles had ten in just this one draft; and it was nice to see the team take some gambles on low floor/high ceiling athletes over players who were productive in college but had limited ceilings.

But after a year, it is hard to feel good about the 2020 draft. Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson was a huge mistake, and the team has already lost two players from the draft class. There were plenty of opportunities to play as injuries and poor play destroyed the Eagles season, but no one really stepped up, there’s no early leader for best player of the draft class. At least the miserable 2019 draft produced Miles Sanders. Maybe the new coaching staff can revitalize some of the players.

1st Round - 21st Overall

Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
18 Justin Jefferson WRS 1
19 Patrick Queen LB 2
20 Kenneth Murray LB 3
21 Xavier McKinney S 1
22 D'Andre Swift RB 1

You already know this one.

If we view this within the context of the 2019 redraft that sees the Eagles take DK Metcalf, there’s still plenty of reason to take Justin Jefferson, as the Eagles are losing an arms race with the Cowboys. And even if you wrongly viewed Jefferson as destined to be a slot receiver, he perfectly compliments Metcalf.

And then in 2021, with a young pass catching core of Metcalf, Jefferson, and Dallas Goedert, a QB is in play rather than a trade back and worrying about Devonta Smith’s weight.

2nd Round - 53rd Overall

Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
23 A.J. Epenesa DL5T 1
27 J.K. Dobbins RB 3
28 Kristian Fulton CB 3
29 Josh Jones OT 5
32 Zack Baun LB 4

If we’re taking the previous redo into account, it is hard to see a spot for AJ Epenesa, but there definitely is a need for a running back, so the pick is JK Dobbins. If we’re going off the real life 2019 draft, then the opposite is true and AJ Epenesa is the pick.

There’s not much downside in either version. One gets you a versatile running back to go with a talented defensive lineman, the other gets you a talented defensive lineman to go with a versatile running back. And both were the next picks in real life, so the draft value is perfect. The team misses out on Jalen Hurts, but with a completion percentage of 52% and a top pick in a deep QB draft this year, are they really missing out?

3rd Round - 103rd Overall

Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
65 Bryce Hall CB 10
66 Curtis Weaver EDGE 7
72 Adam Trautman TE 2
73 Prince Tega Wanogho OT 10
77 Jacob Eason QB 6

The top player on the board also fits a need for this team, so it’s Bryce Hall. In real life he went 158th to the Jets, so this is a reach. But after just one season it doesn’t look bad. At our sister Green Nation site Hall was voted the 5th best core member of the Jets. On one hand that is in part because the Jets were terrible, but the Eagles were also terrible and real life pick Davion Taylor wouldn’t even register on a list of core Eagles for 2021. It’s still very early in their careers, but this looks like a big improvement from real life.

4th Round - 127th and 145th Overall

Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
65 Bryce Hall CB 10
66 Curtis Weaver EDGE 7
73 Prince Tega Wanogho OT 10
85 Jake Fromm QB 7
91 Tyler Biadasz OC 4

It’s the same board for both picks.

Having taken Hall at 103, the next player on the board is Curtis Weaver, but having taken Montez Sweat in 2019 or AJ Epenesa in 2020, a pass rusher feels like overkill in the 4th round. If there was a big gap between him and the next guy then I’d take him, but there isn’t. So the pick is Prince Tega Wanogo, who the Eagles did draft at 210, making this a massive reach. Maybe as a higher pick the Eagles wouldn’t have let him go. Or maybe he’d be a bad pick in the 4th.

At 145 the next best player is Jake Fromm, but at 6’2” he doesn’t fit the QB Factory profile. Jalen Hurts didn’t either, but Fromm isn’t in the same universe as a runner. And the purpose of this exercise is to replace the thinking that leads to things like drafting a QB with a quality pick before the starting QB’s contract extension begins with a draft process that is more level-headed.

Therefore the pick is Tyler Biadasz, giving the Eagles a potential Jason Kelce replacement. In real life Biadasz went 146th to the Cowboys, so this is spot on value. And in real life the Eagles drafted two offensive linemen.

5th Round - 168th and 173rd* Overall

Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
73 Prince Tega Wanogho OT 10
81 Bradlee Anae EDGE 8
98 Hunter Bryant TE 3
100 Donovan Peoples-Jones WR 12
108 Netane Muti OG 5

I’ve already taken Prince Tega Wanogo, and Bradlee Anae isn’t getting playing time. So I’m taking Hunter Bryant. The appeal is that he’s the third player on the board at his position, and the next guy on the list isn’t in the top 10 in his. Little do I know at the time that Bryant is so unvalued by the NFL that he goes undrafted, so this is a horrible draft day value. However Bryant did make the Lions 53 man roster. He spent most of the season injured, but there may be some promise there.

In real life the Eagles traded 173 and 227 for 196, 200, and 233rd. I’m taking this trade, but if you don’t want to the board is the same as it is for 168th minus who ever you take. If I sat still the pick would be Donovan Peoples-Jones.

6th Round - 190th or 210th, 196th*, and 200th* Overall

Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
73 Prince Tega Wanogho OT 10
98 Hunter Bryant TE 3
118 K.J. Hill WRS 5
122 Eno Benjamin RB 8
131 Kenny Willekes EDGE 16
146 Geno Stone S 10
156 Evan Weaver LB 13
159 Anthony Gordon QB 8
162 Dane Jackson CB 18

The Eagles traded 190 for 210 and Marquise Goodwin. I’m not inclined to make this trade, though moving down twenty spots in the 6th for a role player is a fair trade. They also added 196th and 200th in a trade down. Whether or not you still do the Goodwin trade, they have three picks here if you keep the trade down from 173. If not, it’s either 190 or 210 if you don’t do the trade back from 173. At 210 it’s the same board minus LB Evan Weaver. In this draft I’m drafting at 190, 196, and 200.

At this point, I’m just grabbing bodies. KJ Hill is a slot corner that will compete with Greg Ward. Eno Benjamin is the kind of small, pass catching running back that the Eagles love, and if I am going with back to back redrafts then I don’t have Miles Sanders so grabbing another running back makes even more sense. Then it’s Kenny Willekes. I’m not sure of his chances of making the 53 man roster, which is why I passed on another pass rusher earlier, but in the 6th round this isn’t an issue. I should be able to stash him on the practice squad, and the next players on the list are unappealing. Geno Stone is an undersized safety who didn’t test well, and Evan Weaver is a two down linebacker. Willekes is both the top player and offers the most upside.

7th Round - 227th or 233rd Overall

Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
Ov Rank Player Pos Pos Rank
98 Hunter Bryant TE 3
155 J.R. Reed S 12
158 Quartney Davis WR 20
159 Anthony Gordon QB 8
162 Dane Jackson CB 18

The Eagles gave up 227 in an earlier trade to pick up two 6th rounders and 233rd, so only one pick here. It’s the same board.

Top picks here are JR Reed, a box safety, which I’m not interested in. Quartney Davis is a slot receiver, but I’ve already drafted one. So it is QB Factory time! Anthony Gordon went undrafted and was originally signed by the Seahawks, but spent the regular season as a free agent. He’s currently signed to the Chiefs, so it’s not unreasonable that the Eagles would have some interest in him. Though he’s not in the top five of players left on the board, the next player who is top ten at his position is Raequon Williams, who the Eagles signed as an undrafted free agent, so clearly there was interest there.

To recap

If the Eagles decided to just follow the wisdom of the crowds rather than their own wisdom over the past two drafts, they’d be better off.

2019: Montez Sweat, DK Metcalf, Nasir Adderley, Mack Wilson, Amani Oruwairye, Kelvin Harmon, Gerald Willis, and Emanuel Hall.

2020: Justin Jefferson, JK Dobbins or AJ Epensea, Bryce Hall, Prince Tega Wanogo, Tyler Biadasz, KJ Hill, Eno Benjamin, Kenny Willekes, Anthony Gordon.

The 2019 re-draft is so much better than real life that it is both hilarious and infuriating. The 2020 re-draft feels a little better than the real life draft, though that changes if Jalen Hurts is the real deal. But there’s a bit of a catch here. Notice I didn’t do the 2018 draft. That’s turned out to be a good draft for the Eagles. Dallas Goedert and Jordan Mailata look to be opening day starters, while Josh Sweat has a chance to earn a starting spot by the end of the season. Avonte Maddox and Matt Pryor at 125th and 206th overall, respectively, have been reasonable value. If I did the consensus board instead, the draft would have been worse. I wouldn’t have done the trade back the Eagles did with the Ravens where they moved from 32 to 52 and only moved up 7 spots in the 4th round to gain a 2nd in 2019. Without making that trade the draft is Harold Landry in the 1st, Tyrell Crosby and Equanimeous St. Brown in the 4th, Duke Ejiofor in the 5th, Quenton Meeks in the 6th, and Trenton Thompson in the 7th. Making the trade results in Derrius Guice in the 2nd instead of Landry in the 1st, and Maurice Hurst instead of Equanimeous St. Brown in the 4th. Neither draft is better than the Eagles' actual draft.

Still, I think Drinen’s point is largely validated, and there’s a lesson to be learned here. In three seasons the Eagles had one good draft class, one awful one, and one that isn’t looking good. It turns out that doing something that sounds stupid instead would have been smart. Using everyone else’s work gave better results over the long run. That doesn’t mean the Eagles should completely eschew a scouting department and piggyback off of everyone else’s work. But it should serve as illustration that if you think you know something everyone else doesn’t, you almost certainly don’t.