For centuries, dozens of cultures throughout the world have shared a common belief in something called a “Grand Birthday,” the once in a lifetime event when a person’s calendar birth date and age collide. Today, for example, I turned 27 on the 27th of April. Today is my Grand Birthday.
According to folklore, a Grand Birthday – or Champagne Birthday, or Lucky Birthday – is supposed to be a perfect storm of good luck, 24 straight hours of winning lottery tickets and green lights. Well, as I am just about a half hour away from the end of my first and last Grand Birthday, I can honestly say I think it’s a load of bull. So far I’ve scratched four losing lottery tickets, I got stomped by my roommate in Madden, and Hayden Panetierre has still not shown up at my door with a six pack of Flying Dog and a gallon of microwaveable massage oil.
Now, some might think that my lack of luck today is just a personal problem, a bad attitude combined with a massive stockpile of bad karma. But I know better. You see, earlier, as my girlfriend brought my Fudgie the Whale cake into the living room, singing that god-awful song and trying not to burn her fingers on the roaring forest fire of candles that was supposed to symbolize my age, I wasn’t thinking of a million dollars. As I took a deep breath in and closed my eyes, I wasn’t praying for a sleazy late night rub-down by Beth Cooper. As I bent down to extinguish the flaming skin of that poor, chocolate whale, there was only one wish on my mind: football.
Yes, fellow Eagle fans. You heard me right. I selflessly and heroically sacrificed my birthday wish – an entire day’s worth of miraculous Grand Birthday luck – to ensure you all a complete and uninterrupted football season in 2011. You can leave your thanks in the comments.
But, of course, I didn’t use all of my birthday magic on just that one wish. I had to save just a little bit of the change for some very important Birds-specific draft requests. It is that time of year, after all. And although most people would say telling somebody else your wish means it won’t come true, I’m pretty sure that writing it down in blog form doesn’t count. So here now is my Super-Special Grand Champagne Birthday Wish List for the Eagles in 2011. No particular order.
Draft an impact corner. For too long this Eagles team has struggled to find a good compliment to Asante Samuel on the right side of the secondary, and this past season opposing teams made a living exploiting that weakness. The Second Miracle at the Meadowlands, you remember, was only necessary because Dimitri Patterson – celebrating a birthday of his own – was torched for three consecutive Eli Manning touchdowns. Trevard Lindley showed fits of promise in his rookie year, but he seems better suited to nickel and dime situations than island hopping with a quick, number two wideout. If we move up in the first round, it better be to snag someone like Prince or Jimmy Smith. We whiffed on Devin McCourty last year, and I’m hoping Reid and Howie learned their lesson.
Don’t waste a mid-round pick on another quarterback. Regardless of what may or may not happen after the draft, as of this moment Kevin Kolb is still an Eagle, and Kafka has clearly impressed enough to solidify his job at the number three spot. There is no logical reason to pick up what would essentially be a fourth quarterback under the assumption that Kolb will be dealt before the season begins. As Andy Reid so often says, there is no such thing as a guarantee in the NFL. Instead, use that pick on the O-line, the secondary, D-tackle or linebacker, hell even a kicker would be better than another third-tier signal-caller. If we do end up trading #4 prior to September, we will still have options. There will be veteran backups available – whether it’s Bulger, Gradkowski, Jeff Garcia or…gasp…maybe Donovan Mcnabb? – with the experience to manage one or two Vick-less games and squeeze out a couple of close wins. A veteran quarterback would also be able to mentor Kafka in a way Mike Vick – a physical freak of nature – simply cannot do, by focusing on a more traditional, pocket-oriented standpoint. Reid and Roseman’s first move of this draft, in my opinion, should be the erasing of every quarterback’s name from the draft board. Don’t even bother thinking about it.
Target players in the late rounds. Yes, I know, the “success rate” for 5th, 6th, and 7th round picks is appallingly low, something like 1 in 12 end up making the starting roster. But the truth is that the Eagles have a bunch of late-round picks this year (two in the 5th, three in the 7th), and we can’t just throw them away. Plus, without the guarantee of free agency, teams don’t know for sure if they will be able to sign or even have contact with players that go undrafted. This is going to create a an unusually intense atmosphere on Saturday and Sunday, as coaches and GMs try to land as many decent sized fish as they can before the pond freezes over, possibly forever. Somewhere down there could be the next Jason Peters or Jeff Saturday. After the late-round surprises of 2010, including Kurt Coleman, Jamar Chaney, and Riley Cooper, there’s reason to believe the Eagles’ compensatory picks might not be as worthless as they seem at first glance. Do the diligence, target some specific players at that level, and pull the trigger before Belichik has a chance to take them all.
Draft for need, not “the best player available.” If I hear Andy Reid or Roseman or Belichik say they “don’t draft for need” one more time I’m gonna lose my mind. I swear. The idea that a team wouldn’t approach a draft – especially one without the guarantee of free agency – with specific team needs or roster goals in mind is absurd. I’ll believe this bogus cliché when I see the Patriots take five middle linebackers in the same draft, because “they were all the best player available at the time.” Get real. Coaches and GMs have specific roster limits in mind before they even begin their draft research – five defensive ends, seven offensive linemen, four cornerbacks, four wide receivers, etc. – and they’re not going to overstep those no matter how talented a player is. If, for argument’s sake, Ryan Mallet was the best all-around player on the board at 23, and Andy Reid went ahead and selected him, I’m pretty sure most analysts and fans would be dumbfounded. I doubt we’d get a good grade that year. Please, do me a solid for my Grand Birthday. Forget about that misguided policy of drafting “the best player available.” Figure out what needs we have, decide how many players it would take to fill those needs, isolate the picks you think are expendable and then use them to trade up and get the “best player available” at “the position we need to fill.” I know it sounds crazy, but trust me on this one. Confucius does not lie.
Don’t forget to join in our Live Draft Chat beginning Thursday, April 28th at 7:30 pm ET, right here at InsideTheIggles.com. I will also be posting and tweeting live from Radio City Music Hall throughout the first round, so check back regularly for news, rumors, photos and commentary. Download the ITI mobile app for Android and Apple devices and receive up-to-the-minute push notifications for every pick, trade, and draft-day development.