Let’s be real –
Revisionist draft history is generally a pointless exercise.
Why did the Eagles take player X when player Y was on the board!?!?
Stuff like that, you know? Nobody gets every draft correct. No team hits on 100% of their picks. People in this city bitched about Brandon Graham over Earl Thomas for YEARS on talk radio, then Graham went out and won a Super Bowl ring by making the biggest defensive play in franchise history. Thomas also won a ring, so I guess both guys ended up being pretty good, ultimately relegating that popular sports radio topic to the Pottstown landfill where it always belonged.
So this article is less about individual picks and more about the theme of the Eagles’ draft, which I have to say confused me a bit. I was honestly shocked that they picked three offensive players with their first three picks. That’s not to say they picked poor players, because I don’t think they did, I just wonder if they did enough to address the defensive side of the ball this past weekend.
Let’s do an exercise.
Here’s the Eagles’ starting offensive unit BEFORE the draft, with each guy’s age in parentheses:
- left tackle: Jason Peters (37)
- left guard: Isaac Seumalo (25)
- center: Jason Kelce (31)
- right guard: Brandon Brooks (29)
- right tackle: Lane Johnson (28)
- running back: Jordan Howard (24)
- quarterback: Carson Wentz (26)
- tight end: Zach Ertz (28)
- WR1: Alshon Jeffery (29)
- WR2: DeSean Jackson (32)
- slot: Nelson Agholor (25)
Looks pretty damn good, right? That unit, pre-draft, was among the best offenses in the NFL, at an average age of 28.5.
Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas went ahead and picked up their tackle of the future in Washington State’s Andre Dillard. Good. Great. Russ said on the podcast that he would have gone OT in the draft and that’s exactly what the Eagles did. Dillard could be Jason Peters’ replacement before the seasons’ end, considering the fact that JP can’t stay on the field.
Then they snagged Penn State running back Miles Sanders, who is a very good complement to Jordan Howard, a shifty-three down back who ran behind a poor offensive line in Happy Valley. Sanders needs to get his fumble issues under control, but the depth behind Howard was Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, and Josh Adams, so running back is no longer an Eagle liability moving forward. I just wonder if Sanders had to be the second running back off the board when guys like Devin Singletary and David Montgomery and Justice Hill probably would have been there a little bit later. The Birds made it clear they were really high on Sanders, so whatever. We can’t sit here and bitch about the team never drafting a decent running back, then complain when they do, or else we’re just being hypocrites.
The JJ Arcega-Whitesite selection does bother me a bit. Great player, but slow. He’s a monster red zone threat on a team that… already has Ertz, Jeffery, and Dallas Goedert as well. Mack Hollins returns. This pick doesn’t do anything for me unless the Birds move Nelson Agholor, because they really did not need another receiver with a redundant skill set. Remember how well Mike Groh integrated Golden Tate last year? Yeah. Exactly. Everybody keeps saying “don’t worry, it’ll all work out,” but that ended up being a crock of shit in 2018.
The Clayton Thorson pick was a waste. I understand you need a backup with Nick Foles out of the picture, and the Eagles like this body type in a quarterback, but Thorson did nothing for me at Northwestern and I think he’s a developmental project at best. D’Andre Walker and David Long and Emeke Egbule were all on the board, and the Eagles passed on all three for a player that will log zero snaps this year.
Go back to that list I wrote above, the Eagles offensive unit –
Are any of the first three draft picks getting more snaps than the players I listed? Dillard is the heir apparent to Peters. Howard is still my 1st and 2nd down back. And I don’t want Arcega-Whiteside on the field over any of those four pass catchers I listed.
The needs were on the defensive side of the ball, in my mind, and Howie Roseman was asked this weekend about taking three offensive players in a draft that was historically deep on the defensive line:
Q. You guys drafted four out of five picks are offensive players. Was that how the board played out or was that a concerted thing, you wanted to address the offense in this draft? (Zack Rosenblatt)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: No, it definitely wasn’t a concerted thought process. We went into this draft trying to stick to our board and we did the same thing even after the draft. We went through our front board and tried to get as many guys as we could after the draft and recruit them.
But we also, we did say and I regretted it right after saying it, about the historic defensive line class. Thankfully all of you have reminded me countless times over the weekend, you guys are so forgiving [jokingly],but I think really when you look at it and where guys went, it was.
What it did for us is it pushed some guys down to us that maybe in a normal year on the offensive side of the ball, wouldn’t be able to get to our pick. We tried to take advantage of those opportunities. And then also when you look at today, a guy like [DE] Shareef [Miller], we think in a normal draft, that guy goes yesterday. Because so many teams took defensive linemen, we had an opportunity to get a young pass rusher we think we can work with and develop and has some tools in his body.
I think it’s kind of the Catch 22 in those situations; that it pushed some offensive players to us but the flipside is today we had an opportunity to get a guy that we liked.
I understand that. The run on good defensive players left solid offensive players for selection in the second round. They drafted their best players available instead of doing the “position of need” thing. Fine.
Let’s do the exercise for the defense now:
- defensive end: Brandon Graham (31)
- defensive tackle: Fletcher Cox (28)
- defensive tackle: Malik Jackson (29)
- defensive end: Derek Barnett (22)
- linebacker: Nigel Bradham (29)
- linebacker: Kamu Grugier-Hill (24)
- strong safety: Malcolm Jenkins (31)
- free safety: Rodney McLeod (28)
- corner: Jalen Mills (25)
- corner: Ronald Darby (25)
- slot corner: Avonte Maddox (23)
That’s how I’d write it out, I guess, depending on how you feel about Sidney Jones and Cre’Von LeBlanc and others. The Birds rarely play their base defense, and about 70% of the time they sit in nickel with two linebackers and five defensive backs.
Still, the Eagles could have used a linebacker coming out of this draft, yet they don’t seem too concerned with that position. They could have used another defensive end and another tackle behind Tim Jernigan, and instead of using their first three picks on one of those positions, they instead took two offensive skill position guys and a Jason Peters replacement, a replacement who should have been ready to take over two years ago. Only after their offensive pluckings did they address the defense by selecting projected 5th-rounder Shareef Miller in the 4th round before trading for Hassan Ridgeway, an average player deemed surplus by Indianapolis.
When you look down both lists, I just think the defense needed more help than the offense, needs I guess the Eagles feel like they addressed in free agency with Malik Jackson, L.J. Fort, Andrew Sendejo, and Vinny Curry. Only one of those four, however, is on the good side of age 30. Maybe you feel differently, but I also see question marks in the health department, with several guys coming off injuries and a few older dudes coming back to the fold. Jernigan, Derek Barnett, Rodney McLeod, Ronald Darby, and Jalen Mills didn’t play the full year. Fletcher Cox had offseason surgery. Graham, Curry, and Malcolm Jenkins are now in their thirties. Chris Long doesn’t know if he wants to play football. Guys like Josh Sweat and Treyvon Hester and Daeshon Hall are still relatively unknown quantities.
More Howie on that:
Q. Even if you didn’t think this class ended up being that historic — are you regretting saying it? If I would have told you before the draft that you wouldn’t have gotten a defensive lineman in those first three picks, would you have been surprised? (Jeff McLane)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: I would have been more surprised if you told me we didn’t get a lineman in the first three picks. I think that there’s that distinction. As we went through the scenarios over the last couple weeks, we did go through scenarios where it wasn’t a defensive lineman, but at some point in the first couple rounds, an offensive lineman would fall to us.
Both sides of the ball are important to us and we’re going to make sure that that happened. But I don’t think that we thought that Miles Sanders would be there at pick 53, right or wrong. The receivers kind of fell in a different order than we thought, and then again, coming to today and being at the end of the fourth round and sitting there and all of us, it was hard to sit there. It’s hard to sit there at the beginning of days and wait for all those picks, and to be able to get a pass rusher that we think has tools in his body to develop, we’re excited about that.
“tools in his body to develop”
So this was a draft for the future. Sanders will contribute this year. Maybe Dillard gets in there. Arcega-Whiteside is behind three other receivers right now, depending on what their usage plan is. Thorson will be inactive unless Wentz gets hurt, then he’s your clipboard holder.
I dunno. Something just felt weird about this draft. It felt “off,” if that makes sense. I like Sanders, and I think some people underrated him a bit because inevitably everything he did was going to look like a letdown compared to what Saquon Barkley achieved at Penn State in prior years. Arcega-Whiteside looks like a young Alshon Jeffery and Dillard is a tackle of the future.
But we kept hearing about how deep of a defensive draft this was, yet the only guy the Eagles came home with was a 4th round defensive end prospect.
Revisionist draft history is indeed corny, but I think the word I’d use to describe the Birds’ 2019 process is “curious.” They got some good players, and while I feel great about the offense moving forward, I feel like they missed an opportunity to add to the defensive side of the ball.