NFL Draft: Need-Proof Eagles Search for ‘Our Kind of Guy’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The NFL Draft is just nine days away and that's Howie Roseman season in Philadelphia.
Roseman, the Eagles’ executive vice president of football operations, and his top lieutenant, vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas, met with the media for about 45 minutes Tuesday morning, a necessary evil to the subterfuge going on in every NFL front office right now.
For the Eagles, their kickoff point is No. 25 overall in what Roseman has called a draft with a historic defensive line class.
If the organization's top-30 visits are any indication, Philadelphia will be looking at the D-Line as well as the offensive line, perhaps receiver, and even safety, while trying to wring out the best potential value.
That could mean trading up for a targeted player, trading down to broaden assets or staying put but the goal always remains the same.
“Definitely would rather draft 32," Roseman joked, a nod toward last year when the Eagles were coming off their Super Bowl LII win and ultimately traded out of the last pick in the first round when Baltimore came up to get quarterback Lamar Jackson.
This time around the Eagles have done a nice job in free agency masking most of the team's obvious deficiencies meaning there will be no subconscious reaching out of need at a particular position.
“I think every year, we’re going into [the draft] and saying, ‘Let’s not be biased about a particular need because that’s when we’ll make mistakes,’” Roseman said. “We’ve had a lot of conversations of the last couple of weeks like, ‘Let’s just check ourselves and make sure that our board is clear and it’s not for any bias for any position you need this year or next year or the next couple of years.'"
The Eagles believe any confirmation bias was stamped out by veteran acquisitions like DeSean Jackson, Malik Jackson, Jordan Howard, L.J. Fort and Andrew Sendejo as well as the re-signing of Brandon Graham, Ronald Darby, and Richard Rodgers.
"That’s what we look at free agency for, to look at our depth chart and say, we can go play," Roseman continued. "That’s exciting where we are right now – we can go play right now. We think we’re a pretty good team. So we can go into the draft knowing we don’t have anything we have to do or we have to fill at any position, and we can base it on what’s best for our long-term decision for our football team.”
The Eagles are also at the forefront of the analytical evolution in the NFL and are mindful of history and the odds of plucking difference-making talent, be it at 25 or anywhere else.
"We look at the 15-year history of our draft, and there is a break-off on the talent level where you can get a difference maker in the first round," Roseman acknowledged. "There’s very few drafts where there are 32 legitimate first-round grades on guys. And so for us, we just look at that opportunity in the draft to get a difference-maker each year – your homegrown difference-maker, which is hard to find."
Douglas and his staff do the heavy lifting when it comes to assembling Philadelphia's draft board and the well-regarded personnel man who many believe is destined for a GM job of his own sooner rather than later started his ascent under legendary Baltimore decision-maker Ozzie Newsome.
While under the learning tree of Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end in Cleveland before arguably building up a HOF front-office resume as well, Douglas soaked in some valuable advice from Newsome: “What some people consider a luxury pick today may end up being a necessity tomorrow.”
In other words, don't take anything off the table.
Of the players brought into Philadelphia, 10 seem like possible options at No. 25 -- Alabama running back Josh Jacobs, receivers A.J. Brown of Ole Miss, and Parris Campbell of Ohio State, offensive linemen Chris Lindstrom of Boston College and Cody Ford of Oklahoma, edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson of Louisiana Tech, defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence of Clemson and Jerry Tillery of Notre Dame, along with Florida defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
The pie-in-the-sky visits were all defensive linemen: versatile Michigan star Rashan Gary, Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat, and widely athletic Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver.
Others to look at in the second round, where the Eagles have picks Nos. 53 and 57, are any names above that fall as well as Arizona State receiver N'Keal Harry, Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker, Virginia safety Juan Thornhill and Alabama State offensive tackle Tytus Howard, a Jeff Stoutland favorite.
“We have a lot of opportunity here with three picks in the top 57 to really get our kind of guy,” Douglas said.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen