The leadup to the NFL draft is enjoyable for a wide range of reasons. Over the course of time, drafts change the landscape of the NFL. Teams that handle them wisely rise to the top of the league.

NFL executives often talk about selecting the best player available, which Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has discussed leading up to this year’s draft. While that’s definitely a good long term strategy, it’s not necessarily the best way to build and maintain a winning team.

With that in mind, here are a handful of strategies the Eagles could employ in tomorrow’s first round, along with their pros and cons. The Eagles first round will be much more likely to be a failure in my opinion if they don’t wind up with a defensive tackle or a linebacker.

Stay Put and Take the Best Player Available: This would likely be a mistake for the Eagles, unless the best player available just so happens to be at one of their two biggest positions of need. Sure, the Eagles could stay put and land a talented prospect at another position, but that player will be unlikely to get on the field quickly as a starter.

Stay Put and Take the Best Player Available at a Position of Need: This is one of the most common mistakes franchises make in the draft, and often leads to reaching for a prospect to fill a perceived need. If the Eagles find themselves sitting at 15 with Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State), Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College) and Dontari Poe (DT, Memphis) all gone from the board, they’ll have a decision to make.

They could go to another position, such as defensive end, where Melvin Ingram (South Carolina) and Chandler Jones (Syracuse) could both be available, they could simply take the best player available, or they could reach for another defensive tackle such as Michael Brockers (LSU), who might fall into the mid-to-late 20’s if the Eagles pass on him. Instead, the Eagles should explore the remaining options.

Move Down at the Right Time and Take the Best Player Available: If the Eagles do find themselves in the aforementioned scenario, it likely means that there was a run on defensive players and one or more offensive talents is slipping down the board. For example, if wide receiver Michael Floyd (Notre Dame) is available, the Eagles will have a tremendous opportunity to trade the draft pick to a team that is coveting a wide receiver.

With the Bengals (17th), Bears (19th) and Browns (22nd) all rumored to have interest in first round wide receivers, the Eagles might be able to move down two to seven spots, add a second or third round pick and still have a very good shot at grabbing a player like Brockers.

Keep in mind that draft picks are a lot like lottery tickets.  Each holds a probability of selecting a quality player, but the more picks you hold, the better your chances of hitting on one.  The Eagles know that well.

Move Up at the Right Time and Take the Best Player Available: Of course, the first three strategies are all reactionary. There’s also the proactive route, which is to target a player, wait until you think he’s the best player available and move up to that slot to select him. Let’s take Cox and Kuechly, two players the Eagles have been reported to have interest in, for example. Based on mock drafts, team needs, prospect rankings and the rumor mill, neither is likely to go in the top five. Both have been rumored to go anywhere from seventh through 11th, though and would have to take a bit of a fall to be available to the Birds at 15.

The Rams sit sixth, though, and have been rumored to be open to moving down again (they previously held the second overall pick). St. Louis is rumored to have interest in wide receiver Justin Blackmon, out of Oklahoma State. If that’s the case, and Blackmon is taken third overall by the Vikings, which is certainly a possibility, the Rams may be increasingly open to moving down.

The Eagles could then attempt to move up to the sixth overall spot to have their pick of impact defensive players, with both Cox and Kuechly likely being at or near the top of most teams’ big boards around that slot. It would likely cost the Birds one of their two second round picks and a third rounder to move up to sixth overall from 15th, if no current players were traded.

That’s just one example of the type of scenario that could play out tomorrow night, and it of course becomes less expensive to move up the farther a player falls and the fewer positions there are to jump.

The strategy, patience and willingness to strike quickly when opportunity presents itself is what makes the draft so intriguing, and this year’s incarnation provides a tremendous opportunity for the Eagles to maximize their return depending on how things break ahead of them.

Ryan Messick covers the Eagles for 97.3 ESPN FM.  Follow him on Twitter.

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