McMullen: Eagles Stress Quality Over Quantity in 2019 Draft
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - When it came to the top of the 2019 NFL Draft Howie Roseman again defaulted to his DNA when it comes to building the foundation of a successful football team -- focusing on the trenches first.
The Eagles vice president of football operations did regret one thing in the lead-up to the draft, however: calling the defensive line talent "historic."
It's not that the D-Line class wasn't really good but the other side had some difference-makers as well and when Washington State left tackle Andre Dillard started to drift a bit, partially because of all that depth on the defensive front, Philadelphia pounced, going up three spots in the first round to get the heir apparent to 37-year-old future Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters at No. 22 overall.
"We did say and I regretted it right after saying it, about the historic defensive line class," Roseman joked at the NovaCare Complex after wrapping up the draft on Saturday. "Thankfully all of you have reminded me countless times over the weekend, you guys are so forgiving, but I think really when you look at it and where guys went, it was. What it did for us is it pushed some guys down to us that maybe in a normal year on the offensive side of the ball, wouldn't be able to get to our pick.
"We tried to take advantage of those opportunities."
To get Dillard, perhaps a cornerstone for the next decade, Philadelphia gave up two additional picks, however, and the volume of the class was just five for the second consecutive year, a number that might prove untenable moving forward once quarterback Carson Wentz gets his expected big-money extension.
"I think we really try to utilize the undrafted process," Roseman said of supplementing the haul. "As [Eagles Chairman and CEO] Jeffrey [Lurie] likes to say, it's the eighth through 20th round and we're on the clock, so we try to do that because we do want to get young guys. But again, our job is to get as many good players as possible, try to get as many difference makers as possible and we think we got some of those this weekend."
For now, though, the Eagles were happy with quality over quantity, content on securing three potential starters by 2020 - Dillard along with second-round picks, running back Miles Sanders of Penn State and Stanford receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, as well as a rotational piece on the defensive line in Philly native Shareef Miller, a Sanders teammate with the Nittany Lions, and a developmental quarterback in Northwestern's Clayton Thorson.
The headliner of that undrafted class so far is Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards, a player most had graded as a draftable commodity who projects as a two-down MIKE, a need for the Eagles after losing Jordan Hicks to Arizona in free agency.
Miller was the only get from that DL class but he joins a proven group led by veterans Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham and bolstered by the acquisitions of Malik Jackson and Vinny Curry, as well as the return from injury for Derek Barnett. The Eagles also brought back Tim Jernigan, who missed most of last season after herniated disc surgery and added Hassan Ridgeway, a big-bodied interior option from Indianapolis, for a seventh-round pick on Saturday.
Whether those changes make up for the loss of Michael Bennett and the likely retirement of Chris Long remains to be seen.
“It’s a good mix of veterans and young players,” Roseman assessed of the defensive line.
When it was all over personnel chief Joe Douglas, who could have built his last draft board for the Eagles if a GM job unveils itself elsewhere, explained that the Philadelphia brass challenged its staff.
"This week we challenged them a lot and we say, ‘Tell us the guys that you're most excited about. We're going to try to get as many of those guys as possible,’" Douglas explained. "And I can tell you that every single guy that we drafted, there were multiple guys that would put their name on that card, and just say, ‘This guy is an Eagle. This guy fits us.’
"This is a high-character class and it's a group of playmakers, and I'm so proud of the job that our scouts did and the way that we worked together with the coaching staff."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen