The Philadelphia Eagles owned the 2023 NFL Draft.
By any objective measure, general manager Howie Roseman had himself a weekend, snagging potentially high-impact players at tremendous value throughout the draft.
The Eagles made seven picks across the entire draft. Every single player was on our big board of the top 200 prospects in this class. That just shouldn’t happen — but it gets even more ludicrous from there. If you compare the Eagles’ class against the board, the team’s average pick was 75. Not only did they get seven of the best 200 players, but they actually fell inside the top 75. (via SB Nation).
Jalen Carter, who many expected to be picked inside the top-five, fell to them at No. 9. Some mocked Nolan Smith to the Birds at No. 10, but they got him at No. 30. In the third round they got a potential starting right guard for this year in Tyler Steen as well as a potential starting safety in Sydney Brown, a cornerback with very high upside in the fourth round in Kelee Ringo, drafted a developmental quarterback in Tanner McKee in the sixth and took a flyer on a defensive tackle in the seventh.
Oh, and he also traded for running back D’Andre Swift for a fourth-round pick that doesn’t come around until two years from now.
It got so bad, other NFL GMs are reportedly annoyed with the universal praise Roseman has received the last few days.
Speaking on NFL Network, @PSchrags mentioned some executives around the league are getting annoyed with how much praise Howie Roseman is receiving.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) April 29, 2023
We don’t know for sure how these players will pan out. They could all be great, they could all stink, they could suffer injuries, and most likely, it’ll be a mixed bag. But one can’t argue with the process here, and that’s what you judge drafts by in real time.
So, how did Howie pull this off?
The Eagles went 16-4 last season and represented the NFC in the Super Bowl, coming within one questionable officials’ call of having a chance to win the game in its final seconds, and yet they held the No. 10 overall pick in the draft. They were in the enviable position to add a high impact player to a roster that just played in the Super Bowl, and that all came about thanks to trades that netted them three picks in the first round last year.
Holding picks Nos. 15, 16 and 19, they worked out a deal with the Saints in which they gave up 16 and 19 in exchange for pick No. 18, a first round pick in this year’s draft and a second round pick in 2024, as well as other picks in the ‘22 draft. New Orleans went 7-10 last year, netting the Eagles pick No. 10 in ‘23, essentially dealing away 16 and 19 for 10 and 18, picks they used to acquire A.J. Brown last year and Jalen Carter this year.
Howie Roseman has always valued future picks more than other GMs and, last year, he took advantage of that to steal a top-10 pick in this year’s draft. But this isn’t new. Roseman loves making trades, and being able to navigate around the league and know what teams are looking for and what may be possible allows him to find room to operate and add impact players in an off-season when he absolutely should not have been able to do that.
Roseman also thinks about the future, looking 2-3 years down the road rather than filling immediate needs. He understands taking a running back in the first round is a bad investment, that building through the trenches can cover up for a lot of sins elsewhere on the field, and that many teams around the league are still acting like it’s the mid-1990s.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but it’s awesome when you’re both. Roseman couldn’t have expected that the board would fall so beautifully for him this weekend.
The Seahawks could have taken Carter at No. 5 but instead opted for cornerback Devon Witherspoon, and the other teams in front of the Eagles prioritized other needs. While some were likely scared off by well-documented off-field concerns, Carter being on the board at No. 9 presented a layup opportunity for Roseman and the Eagles. All it required was a 2024 fourth-round pick to Chicago (who likely weren’t taking Carter in that spot anyway) to jump up one spot and snag perhaps the best defensive player in the draft.
But that wasn’t all. Nolan Smith was a projected pick to the Eagles at No. 10 and, somehow, the undersized, super-fast edge rusher lingered on the board until their second first round pick at No. 30. Steen and Brown were higher up prospect rankings than where the Eagles snagged them, and Ringo was seen as a potential 2nd round pick who lasted until the 4th.
You never know what another team’s draft board looks like and it’s pretty obvious the draft spit out a few twists and turns that ultimately led to highly regarded, if imperfect, prospects delivered to Howie’s front door like a giddy Uber Eats order. Not only that, Roseman took advantage of questionable moves by the Lions this off-season (signing David Montgomery to a free agent deal and drafting Jahmyr Gibbs early in the first round) to trade for a 24-year-old potential starting running back in Swift, locking in place the backfield behind Hurts.
Sometimes, things just roll your way.
Make no mistake, all of the players selected by the Eagles over the weekend come with their drawbacks.
Carter’s off-field concerns are legitimate. One assumes playing with some of his Georgia teammates in Philadelphia will help, but there is little doubt the Eagles had to do a tremendous amount of background work before selecting him at No. 9. Smith’s size makes him a tricky fit both as a defensive end or an outside linebacker, with issues against the run game. Steen played tackle at Alabama but will likely have to slide inside and play guard in the NFL, while Ringo’s slightly stiff style might result in struggles against quicker, twitchier wideouts. And with the trade for Swift, Roseman brings aboard a solid pass-catcher and boom-or-bust runner who can break off a long run but frustrates with efficiency and pass protection.
Roseman tends to look at the positive characteristics in a player, relying on his coaches to get the most out of their talent. And in the case Swift and their top five picks this year, there is a lot to like in terms of raw ability and production.
Maturity & Humility
One of the things you have to appreciate about the Birds’ GM is his apparent willingness to accept responsibility for past mistakes and learn from them. That requires maturity and humility and, in recent seasons, it has served Roseman and the Eagles well.
The Eagles signed Carson Wentz to a long-term contract that ultimately blew up in their faces. Instead of falling victim to the sunk cost fallacy when Wentz cratered, they let him go and opened up a starting job to Jalen Hurts, all the while knowing it would hurt their financial bottom line for a couple years. In the draft, they picked Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson because the coaching staff prioritized scheme fit over the best overall player, and they drafted Andre Dillard without doing their due diligence on his background because he fell farther than they expected and didn’t want to miss out on a potential steal.
The last couple years, Roseman has made the obvious decisions early in the draft, and they look to have been very wise. DeVonta Smith was the clear choice at No. 10 two years ago and that’s panned out. Jordan Davis looks promising, Carter was a no-brainer at No. 9 and Nolan Smith at 30 just made too much sense.
Admitting mistakes and refusing to make the same ones again are the hallmark of maturity and humility. And while I don’t know Roseman personally and can’t speak to these attributes in his every day life, when it comes to his football decisions, he appears to have these important characteristics.
Sorry, NFL GMs. Howie Roseman deserves his roses for this one.