From maneuvering around the trade market to filling out their depth chart, the Eagles are in for the busiest weekend of the offseason. With 11 picks at his disposal, wheeling-and-dealing GM Howie Roseman will be working the phones, negotiating trades and welcoming a bunch of prospects to Philadelphia.
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But, as the Eagles prepare for the gauntlet that is the NFL Draft, they need to be strategic with each move they make. The Eagles are coming off a deplorable 4-11-1 campaign, largely due to their poor draft history, especially in recent years. The Eagles are in a transition period, and the only way to kick off that movement on the right foot is by drafting well, particularly in the early rounds.
With four picks in the first three rounds, the Eagles need to rework their approach and keep several points in mind as they break down their draft board.
Here are five thoughts to ponder before the Eagles make their first selection:
Cornerback is the team’s biggest need.
While a lot is made of the Eagles’ wide receiver woes — yes, the NFL is an offensive league — the team’s cornerback depth chart is a complete disaster. Darius Slay is still a No. 1 corner, but outside of him, the group is a list of guys you’ve never heard of or wished you hadn’t remembered.
The Eagles shouldn’t force a need pick, but if Alabama’s Patrick Surtain or South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn make it to No. 12, either would be a home-run selection. The Eagles might even be inclined to trade up for Surtain, who could have interest from the Carolina Panthers (No. 8) and Dallas Cowboys (No. 10).
Even if the Eagles add Surtain or Horn in the first round, the cornerback need is so pressing that they should probably double-dip at the position at some point on Day 2 or 3.
Everyone needs to be on the same page with the next wide receiver selected.
The Eagles have used premium picks on wide receivers in each of the past two drafts.
They selected J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the second round in 2019 and used the 21st overall pick on Jalen Reagor last year. Both picks were reportedly made with a divide among departments, and both players have since felt the early wrath of a split support system.
The Eagles can’t afford to continue this practice. The Eagles’ front office needs to trust its scouting department to identify talent that fits Nick Sirianni’s offense. Sirianni, passing game coordinator Kevin Patullo and wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead have plenty of experience teaching the position and should be relied upon for input as well.
If vice president of player personnel Andy Weidl is on the same page as Sirianni, Roseman, Patullo and Moorehead, the Eagles should select that agreed-upon playmaker. If there isn’t a consensus, there needs to be a broader conversation before the draft to decipher the pros and cons of adding the prospect.
The consensus (or lack thereof) could be the difference between trading up for a wide receiver or passing on one at No. 12. It also could lead to movement in the back end of the first round.
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Drafting an offensive or defensive lineman at No. 12 isn’t a bad pick, necessarily.
Depending on who is left on the board at No. 12, the Eagles could fall back into their longstanding “trenches” philosophy. While some fans would balk at the idea of selecting a lineman in the first round — especially considering the class — the Eagles wouldn’t be foolish to make a forward-thinking selection on either line.
The Eagles are in rebuilding mode, so, understandably, they’d want to address their internally viewed “premium” positions first. While they might pass on a quarterback, defensive end and offensive tackle could still be priorities. Northwestern lineman Rashawn Slater could be a reasonable option if the Eagles view him as a long-term fit at left tackle. The same could be said for Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye, who would fit in nicely within the Eagles’ pass-rushing rotation.
Slater has the versatility to fill in several holes, which is ideal, as right tackle Lane Johnson and right guard Brandon Brooks are coming off major surgeries, and center Jason Kelce considers retirement every offseason. Paye could be long-term insurance for Brandon Graham, who is entering the twilight of his career.
While the Eagles might be better served this season with a wideout or cornerback in the first round, the team needs to pick with the long-term future in mind.
If the Eagles pass on a first-round QB, they shouldn’t touch the position on Day 2.
If the Eagles aren’t selecting someone like Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance in the first round, they should probably avoid spending a premium pick on another QB. This has little to do with the “Carson Wentz treatment” redux theory and more to do with long-term planning.
The Eagles have more than enough draft capital in 2022 to make up for a potential Jalen Hurts failure at the position. That’s why the Eagles should do all they can to build around the QB spot, allowing Hurts to live or die with a favorable deck stacked in front of him. If he fails, the Eagles can be aggressive in replacing him next offseason. There’s little need to draft Hurts “insurance” with that in mind, especially with Joe Flacco already signed to a strong backup deal this year.
Drafting someone like Appalachian State’s Zac Thomas or Texas’ Sam Ehlinger on Day 3 makes sense. The Eagles are obsessed with the QB position and developing a long-term backup for Hurts (or the next guy) is a smart move, especially when the team has seven Day 3 picks.
Zach Ertz’s future needs to be determined this weekend, one way or another.
While the Eagles want to add value for Ertz, other teams aren’t feeling the need to overspend on him. That said, with a weak tight-end draft class, Ertz could be the second-best available option on draft weekend, behind only Kyle Pitts. If a team picking in the back end of the first round is willing to fall back 5-10 spots to acquire Ertz, the Eagles should jump at the chance to make that move.
While the Eagles don’t owe Ertz anything, in theory, his mark on the franchise is important. This divorce will be ugly enough as it is, but sending him to a team like the Jaguars or Jets could create an even more dramatic exit.
Prioritizing a contender makes sense for both Ertz and the Eagles. Sneaking into the back end of the first or second round by packaging Ertz with a pick is a smart solution to the value problem that the Eagles have had thus far.
The Eagles will gain $4.95 million by trading Ertz, so making the move could help them clear out space for another free-agent addition or give them ample room for their draft class. If the Eagles can’t find the right deal, they should tell Ertz that they will release him in June. On June 2, the Eagles can save $8.5 million by releasing Ertz.
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