This is an important draft for the Philadelphia Eagles if they plan on going to the playoffs next season.
Isaac Newton’s first law of motion even affects the NFL. Teams that are good tend to stay in motion. Teams that are bad tend to stay at rest (after the regular season). Unless acted upon by an outside force, the teams will remain the same. The outside force is the draft. Good teams build through the draft and fine tune with free agency. Bad teams keep repeating the same blunders, ultimately replacing coaches and front office personnel in order to start anew. What will be the story for the Philadelphia Eagles?
Best Player or Best Potential
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Every year at this time we hear the same chant: “We will draft the best player available.” But what does that really mean? Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but some teams get it right a lot more than others. For this upcoming draft, there seems to be consensus on the best player: Myles Garrett, the physically gifted defensive end from Texas A&M. After the first guy, the opinions start to change on who might be the next best player. The Cleveland Browns have the first pick this year, after having the second pick last year. Newtonian. They obviously had a much different grade than the Eagles did for Carson Wentz. The question is why? What makes a scouting department say this player is better than another? Of course, it’s easier for players at the same position, but how do they rate a quarterback versus a linebacker? Where does the system teams run factor in? The Eagles believe they have a franchise quarterback. The Browns continue to seek one.
The Impact of Luck and Mistakes
The New England Patriots‘ selection of Tom Brady was a stroke of luck to some, but it was the Patriots who apparently had Brady ranked higher than every other team. They also developed him and he outworks everyone else. So is it luck or just better preparation? Either way, the Patriots drafted left tackle Nate Solder and linebacker Dont’a Hightower in recent first rounds, and tight end Rob Gronkowski in the second round. They know what they are doing. The vast majority of their impact players were drafted or signed as undrafted free agents (cornerback Malcolm Butler). They add free agents (cornerback Stephon Gilmore) or trade for players (wide receiver Brandin Cooks) only to fine tune an already super team (pun intended).
For Cleveland, the impact of quarterback draft mistakes has lasted five years. The number 22 selection for them has been awful. Johnny Manziel was selected at 22 ahead of Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo (for whom they now seem to want to trade). Brandon Weeden was also selected at 22 ahead of Brock Osweiler (maybe their new starting QB) and Russell Wilson. Clearly the best player available axiom has a lot of wiggle room. Whiffing on a first round pick has dire consequences. That is the outside force for a downward trajectory.
What does all of that mean for the Eagles?
The step up from middle of the pack to playoff team is a tough one. To change trajectory, as Newton stated, an outside force will need to knock them on a higher course. Certainly the growth of Wentz will continue to be part of that force, but the Eagles need a couple of hits with this draft. They should draft their best player available at 14, but they also must hit on one impact cornerback early in this draft. They need to draft two other difference makers, whether it’s another corner, a linebacker, a defensive lineman or a running back. Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas and the scouts, in coordination with Doug Pederson, need to get several impact players from a deep draft. If they don’t, they will continue at rest in the middle of the pack.