Six Picks. That is the total number of draft choices which the Eagles have this draft. Six Picks. In a year with a very deep draft, and with personnel managers who just located five starters in the 2013 draft, six picks seems awfully… austere. But every other NFL team sees a deep draft too. So picks are a little more precious this year, tougher to trade into. If you are like me, however, you see six picks in the 2014 draft as inadequate for this team. So how do we go about fixing just six picks?
First of all, do the Eagles need more picks? Well, need is a strong word. The Birds would have better odds of doing well in the draft with more picks, and the Eagles need a good draft. Actually, to remain in contention for post season, they need a very good draft. But six picks seems like a lower than desired number to do so. Part of the challenge this year is the carry over of new schemes to players who haven’t made a seamless transition. We have 4-3 defensive players who are caught in the limbo of transitioning to a 3-4. They are trapped in a vicious circle, because their play hasn’t warranted significant playing time, but the limited amount of playing time hasn’t provided enough opportunity to improve their trade.
We have controversy. Before the season has started, we had the formidable ranks of our wide receiving corps: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Arrelious Benn; suddenly rumored to become the less intimidating Maclin, Cooper, Benn. Whether you believe it to be true, or hold out that none of the reports have any credibility, everyone acknowledges that the situation has eroded. Our very good on paper receiving corps does not look so good on paper with a big “?” over DeSeann Jackson’s name.
We have competition. While the Dallas Cowboys arguably are in a rebuild mode in the final year of Jason Garrett’s “prove it” contract, both the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins have made enough moves in free agency to appear to have improved their respective teams to a point where a good draft can position them to challenge the Eagles this year. The NFL draft itself is set up to even out the playing field. The Eagles drafted fourth in the 2013 draft to remarkable success. Drafting 22nd means fewer choices, and therefore more pressure to make each pick count.
Finally, we have elevated expectations. In 2013, the most we were able to hope for was a .500 season. The team had to improve too far in too many places. By season’s end, the team was playing well. Now fans are looking for more, improved. Act II. After a playoff appearance, the bar is set on post season success.
So what can these Eagles do to increase the number of picks in this draft? The team is not projected to earn any compensatory picks. There are many strategies available to the Eagles to enhance their draft. The most obvious is to trade back for more picks. This is a common strategy, and one most teams will look at in this deep draft. Should a coveted player fall to the Birds draft position, the phone will ring and the Eagles will have to make a decision. Trade back for more picks, but risk losing a quality player to another team? Only draft day will tell.
A second common strategy is to trade players for picks. The Eagles have a number of players who are quite capable of performing quite well in a 4-3 defense who are not getting much playing time in the Birds 3-4 . Could they be traded? Well, depending on the depth of this draft in a position of need, perhaps. The Eagles could trade recently maligned wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Other players have been mentioned as possible trades in 2014, including such names as Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, or Vinny Curry. No trade scenario has been acknowledged by the front office, but if a trade does occur it will likely happen with little warning.
A third strategy is to emphasize undrafted free agents. Each year, a team’s roster is swollen to 90 players after the draft from the ranks of players who were not drafted but who are considered to have skills and abilities which might give them a chance at an NFL career. Our very own defensive end, Cedric Thornton, rose to a starter from the ranks of the undrafted. Each year, a number of undrafted players make a starting roster. This year, the wing heads need to have clear objectives for unsigned free agents, and need to act very quickly. Unlike a slow methodical approach to the draft, undrafted free agents are typically signed immediately after teams can begin talks.
Finally, the Eagles can promote from within. In 2013, the Birds carried a number of players on injured reserve and the practice squad who are hoped to compete for playing time this year. Defensive End Joe Kruger and Wide Receiver Arrelious Benn were two players who the team had hopes for last year. Both had season ending injuries before the season began, and spent 2013 rehabbing for a chance to rejoin their team this year. Should both remain healthy in 2014, the team will be more than happy to allow them to compete for playing time. The Eagles actually had a number of young players on the active and practice squad rosters who have been looking forward to 2014 and the chance to compete for a starting role on the team once more.
When the smoke clears, the Philadelphia Eagles have a mere six shots to get it right in this draft. With the momentum from the 2013 draft class, the team can elevate their game with wise choices. But the team is still transitioning, and depends on finding good depth and upgrades in this years draft class. Some may say to choose from whatever falls to the Eagles in the NFL Draft this year. But if the Eagles want to win a game of numbers, they have to increase their numbers. In a deep draft, the Eagles should be looking to acquire more picks.