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Eagles Mailbag: NFL Draft tea leaves and smokescreens

Howie season

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

In the mailbag submittal post, I asked you which of these options you would prefer. Your choices:

1 Draft a DL 43%

2 Trade back 41%

3 Draft an OL 9%

4 Draft a CB 5%

5 Draft a WR 2%

We’re on the same page, that’s pretty much the order I would put it. Two days out and it seems like when the Eagles are on the clock at 10 the difference between the players they can get at 10 and the players they can get in the mid teens isn’t greater than the value they can add in trade back. So I’m pro trade back. But if they can’t get a trade they like, take a DL. There’s no sure thing in the draft but taking linemen is always a good idea.

Which is why I would not at all be surprised that their first pick is an offensive tackle.

On to the questions!

20Safety_Hazard: Reading the tea leaves of player visits, interviews, pro day attendance, etc. who are the names to watch out for on Days 2 and 3?

25 of the Eagles 30 visits were reported: 6 defensive tackles, 6 cornerbacks, 5 offensive linemen, 4 edge rushers, 2 safeties, and a running back and a quarterback. Read into that what you will. I’ll read into that DT, CB, OL and EDGE are priorities for them which, yeah, duh. Those should be priorities for any team.

Two of those DTs were pair of big boys in Gervon Dexter (6”6”) from Florida and Brodric Martin (6’5”) from Western Kentucky. Give me another behemoth at DT.

Adetomiwa Adebawore got some buzz from Tony Paulline but then that got walked back a few days ago. He does profile as a middle round high upside guy similar to Josh Sweat. And Dan Klausner will not let me get away without mentioning Yaya Diaby, another tantalizing toolsy EDGE who had limited production before this year.

More telling is that they have barely met with any running backs, linebackers, safeties, or wide receivers. For the former three, that’s not too surprising, but the lack of WR interest is worrying. They need depth there.

They did reportedly meet with Marvin Mims at the Combine, he fits the speedster profile ala Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, John Hightower, and Devon Allen, and he can return punts. Bryce Ford-Wheaton got a local visit, he’s another toolsy guy but is a 7th/UDFA graded player.

Chewywellington: Given the Eagles reputation for smoke screens, why haven’t we seen them tied to more “top” guys in the range of #10? They’ve been tied to guys like Van Ness and Smith, but someone would have to really love those guys and reach to want to move up to get them.

Because the only non-QB S tier of prospects are Will Anderson and Jalen Carter, who could both go top 5, which puts them out of play for the Eagles. After those two the next tier of players are pretty evenly bunched and could go anywhere from 5 to 25. For example Bijan Robinson could go 8th or 18th and neither would be a shock.

That creates intrigue and excitement to the draft from a neutral point of view, but for the Eagles it might make it hard to trade out of 10 if they don’t love any of the options because no one else might either.

Consider the flip side. If the Eagles were drafting 15, why trade up for Nolan Smith, or Lukas Van Ness, or Tyree Wilson; or Paris Johnson, or Peter Skoronski, or Broderick Jones if you have good reason to believe at least one of them will be there at 15? It’s more likely that a team trades up to get the last guy of either of those trios to miss out on the run rather than trade up to draft the first of them. It’s unlikely that only one of the top tier OTs or the second tier of edge rushers is left at 10. A smoke screen isn’t effective if they know there’s nothing behind it.

MaskedMan: Dave, we should not forget that Howie’s got a boatload of 2024 selections. Is he going to be keeping those, or will he trade some of those for more picks now in 2023?

Green1us: What would be better for the Eagles? Should they trade down or out of the first second or third round to recuperate a fourth and fifth?

Good Bad Ideas: The Eagles have four picks in the top 100, but only two picks in the 7th beyond that. Do you think it would be prudent to trade down from 10 or 30 just to pick up a few additional mid round picks? Or would it be better to trade future 3rds and 4ths to move up from that late 2nd and 3rd and take players they value highly?

Shameless plug alert: I’ll lump these together because I addressed this a bit last week in my what to expect in a trade piece.

The Eagles should not trade any of their 2024 picks. The price is too high, it costs an extra round next year for a pick this year, a 4th this year would cost a 3rd next year. Just not worth it.

Because of the talent distribution in this draft Howie Roseman should feel incentivized to trade back. The more picks Roseman makes this year the fewer he will need to make next year, where he can wheel and deal up in 2024 with the 12 picks they are expected to have.

On paper the Eagles could trade back from all of their first four picks and exit the draft with a pick in each of the first four rounds and several in rounds 5-7, which would look like a normal draft and be good value. That’s easier said than done, teams have not been wild about trading up to 30, 62, or 94. But it’s doable.

Draftjunky Will Howie trade for any big name players during this draft? It worked well for him last year. Will Howie sign any free agents during or after the draft? Still about 10 good players aging from 27 to 30. Who’s your favorite prospect this year?

The players most likely to be available for trade during the draft (Budda Baker and Devin White, and maybe where there’s smoke there’s fire Derrick Henry?) play positions that the Eagles don’t value. If an excellent DT suddenly became available, then maybe. There are always ways to make cap space.

They’ll definitely sign players after the draft, just don’t expect any of them to make an impact, if you’re a veteran waiting to see who needs your services after missing out on a top prospect at your position, the Eagles are not going to be high on your list. The only starting jobs up for grabs are DT, LB, S, and RB, and they’ve already made signings at all those positions.

-Favorite early round prospect: Bryce Young.

-Favorite early round prospect that’s actually in play for the Eagles: None. There just isn’t a guy that feels like a realistic pick for the Eagles in the 1st that I’m banging the table for. Every edge rusher after Will Anderson has their issues. I’m down with an OT or CB but none of them are “this is the guy” for me. Bijan Robinson? No thanks. Jaxson Smith-Njigba, very nice player but not the best use of the 10th pick for this team.

-Favorite late round prospect: Deuce Vaughn is fun as hell. And I am fascinated to see where Stetson Bennett goes (I wouldn’t draft him, and I wonder if anyone will).

Arby1: Can you see the Birds taking a CB in Round 1 and playing him at safety for the first year or 2 just to get him on the field? Which early projected CB’s would make that transition easiest?

I can see them taking a CB in the 1st. The Eagles haven’t drafted a CB in the 1st round since Lito Sheppard in 2002, but that’s not entirely for lack of interest, in 2021 if Jaycee Horn was on the board he very well may have been the pick.

And while all of the 1st round caliber CBs-Devon Witherspoon, Christian Gonzalez, Joey Porter, and Deonte Banks-profile as guys who could fall back to safety if corner doesn’t work out, playing them as safeties as rookies isn’t realistic. It usually takes a season for CBs to finish baking, asking them to also adjust to a new position in a part time role is putting a lot on their plate. However in recent years we’ve seen the top CBs and WRs make an instant impact, so maybe we need to re-adjust our calibrations for rookies who play on the perimeter.

A rookie CB will see the field without needing to play some snaps at safety anyway. Avonte Maddox has been healthy for a full season just once since his sophomore year of college, and missed significant time in 2020 and 2022. Unfortunately for him we can not reasonably expect him to play 17 games this year.

xXVolksWestyXx: 3 parter- Every year there are massive reaches at the QB position, which QB do you think will be the highest drafted vs projected? Will we have the opportunity to trade back from 30 with a team who wants Hendon Hooker? If we pick up a couple of day 3 picks, what are your favorite positions to target that late?

Every year there’s a QB that gets some 1st round buzz late in the process for some reason and then the draft comes around and hey look at that they don’t get drafted until the 3rd round at the earliest. Malik Willis last year, Kellen Mond in 2021, Jacob Eason in 2020… this year it’s Hendon Hooker. Hooker in the 1st round makes no sense to me even if he hadn’t torn his ACL in November: he’s 25–older than Jalen Hurts–and Tennessee’s offense is quite funky and makes it difficult to translate to the NFL (which is one reason why Jalin Hyatt won’t go as high as people think he will). Among other quirks, they have plays where all the reads are on one side of the field and to conserve energy-they run a ton of plays-they instruct their WRs to simply not run after the initial take off to engage CBs. Heck of a QB in college, extremely fun offense, but not a high degree of confidence that it translates well to the NFL.

I don’t see it happening but if someone wants to trade up to 30 for him, make that trade Howie.

For the day 3 picks, my thing with them is don’t overthink it. Draft the best player on your board regardless of position, though exceptions can always apply, and I reserve the right to complain about a specific player (for example in 2013 I didn’t mind drafting a QB but hated the Matt Barkley pick). Most day 3 picks don’t work out.

That said, I would like to see them come out of this draft with a linebacker and/or safety. I’m on board with not prioritizing those positions with high draft picks and big contracts, but you can’t completely ignore the positions either. Nakobe Dean is their only off ball LB under contract for 2024, and both safeties they signed in free agency are on one year deals.

Wentzylvanian: Besides Quez Watkins who are the players post-draft that should be worried about their roster spot and could be potential training camp trade candidates (ie. JJAW)?

Every player that gets drafted is a threat to someone’s job but in particular K’Von Wallace and Derek Barnett (yes, he’s on the roster!) should be worried.

Wishnov: Pretend you, theoretically, only have 3 picks in this draft. Would you rather make a trade and get 1 pro-bowl player, 2 decent starters, or 3 good rotational pieces?

We expect drafts to stock a team’s roster but the reality is that if you get two long term starters out of it you’ve done pretty well, if you get a couple of solid role players on top of that you’ve done very well. No one from the 2019 draft is still on the roster and of the 10 picks in 2020 only one is a starter. The 2012 draft looked amazing out of the gate, five years later it had only two starters, and two quality backups–one of whom was on his third team in as many years.

So of the three choices, give me two decent starters. The Eagles already have top end talent at key positions, so a couple of guys I can pencil in for years at their starting roles to support those stars would be a good draft.

KlappradKalle: Is thera a more than zero percent chance that Howie drafts Anthony Richardson, if he is available at 10?

There is a zero percent chance he drafts Anthony Richardson. But this is The QB Factory. Remember in 2019 they only made five picks and one of them was Clayton Thorson in the 5th round? Something like that would not surprise me in this draft. I’ll predict if that happens it’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Howie Roseman drafting a Chip Kelly QB would be something.

CVEagles: What’s the over / under on “Pre-filmed piece / scripted commentary delving into tragic event in prospect’s personal life as soon as they’re drafted” for prospects drafted in the first round this year? 2020 draft felt like a record on that front. Bryan Breese playing through the loss of his sister is one that has and definitely will be talked about.

Also, thoughts on those pieces in general? Obviously if the prospect doesn’t want to talk about it / give an interview / information on the subject than these pieces can’t exist so they have some form of veto power. I’m sure some appreciate the opportunity to talk about how it motivates them or maybe help raise awareness for whatever it was that happened and maybe help others.

But a lot of times it can just feel intrusive

Everyone who watches the draft loves football, but not everyone who watches the draft loves the draft. For example I will watch every pick but my wife will watch until the Steelers draft, and then she’ll go to bed. Most people watching the draft watch like my wife does, the networks would prefer that they watch like I do. To try to keep people who are only watching to see who their team picks interested enough to continue to watch, we get human interest pieces, usually of the tear jerker type. It feels certain that Bresee will get one, while draft fans know who he is, most fans tuning into the draft don’t know him, let alone know that in 2021 he tore his ACL and then in 2022 his younger sister died from cancer. Producers love those kinds of stories. And of course how ESPN and NFL Network handle Jalen Carter will be its own storyline.

I’m with you, they feel intrusive, exploitative, and predatory. As the song says, we all feed on tragedy. And feels really weird when they transition from that to a discussion of which tight end will be drafted first, or they go to commercial with a shot of like Ronde Barber signing autographs at the draft.

So fittingly here is the end of the mailbag. Let’s have some fun on Thursday.

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