When looking at the Philadelphia Eagles’ previous habits and patterns leading up to the NFL draft, one can start to discern a few things that may give us some insight as to what they might do come draft day.
The Eagles are very difficult to predict when it comes to their first round pick. This is because of perhaps their most notorious tendency when it comes to the draft: the “smoke screen.” They are the masters at keeping their first round target surrounded by numerous possible targets.
The more potential first round players they can attach their name to, the better. Private workouts and pre-draft visits are not only the Eagles doing their due diligence, it’s also putting the thought out there that they could be considering drafting the player.
Let’s re-cap the Eagles’ last three first-round players: Danny Watkins, Brandon Graham and Jeremy Maclin.
In 2011, the consensus was that the Eagles were going to either take a cornerback or offensive lineman with their first round pick. The vast majority, though, felt that cornerback was the way they were going to go.
Names such as Jimmy Smith and Brandon Harris were the big targets at cornerback. There were others who thought they’d draft OL with Gabe Carimi being the most popular name thrown out there.
However, not many — if any at all — saw the Eagles taking Danny Watkins. It wasn’t a surprise that they drafted an offensive lineman, it was who they drafted that was the surprise.
Back in 2010, the Eagles traded up to No. 13 overall to select DE Brandon Graham. In that year too, most observers thought the Eagles would target either a cornerback or a safety with their first round pick.
Taylor Mays, Kyle Wilson and Devin McCourty were the most popular players mocked to the Eagles. When they traded up, and safety Earl Thomas was still on the board, I would have bet my left arm that he was going to be the pick.
However, Graham was the pick. It was not a shock that they took a defensive lineman, but again, they had virtually no ties to Graham leading up to the draft.
Back in 2009, most people thought the Eagles were going to target tight end Brandon Pettigrew. The Eagles actually traded up two spots, from 21 to 19, and selected WR Jeremy Maclin.
Maclin was probably more of a selection of value than actual target. He was projected to go much higher in the draft but slipped far enough that the Eagles made a move for him. But the point is, nobody suspected Maclin would end up in Philly.
The key thing to realize between all three of these players, and virtually all Eagles first round picks sans Donovan McNabb and Corey Simon, is that they didn’t express any kind of public interest in them prior to the draft.
The Eagles do not have pre-draft visits or private workouts for their true first round draft targets.
Heck, back in 2004 when the Eagles traded up for Shawn Andrews, he stated he had no idea the Eagles were interested in him. That was pretty much the case for Brandon Graham as well.
Therefore, we can all but rule these players out for possible first round targets this year: DT Michael Brockers, DT Dontari Poe, WR Michael Floyd and QB Ryan Tannehill. They are all first round players that have either visited or had a private workout with the Eagles (for a good list of all players who the Eagles have shown interest in, check out Sheil Kapadia at Moving the Chains).
Of course, I can’t say that this is etched in stone and that there is actually zero chance the Eagles will select one of those players. However, what I can say is that past history tells us they will not select a player in the first round that they’ve brought in for a private visit (or workout).
All bets are off when it comes to the second round and beyond, though. The Eagles have brought in several players over the years that they’ve selected in rounds two through seven. LeSean McCoy, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim are just a few examples.
Another tendency I’ve noticed over the course of the Andy Reid era is that the Eagles have a penchant for drafting players who participated in the Senior Bowl. Here is a list of all the Senior Bowl players over the past 13 years that the Eagles have drafted (including the round they were drafted):
1999: QB Donovan McNabb – 1st, LB Barry Gardner – 2nd, OL Doug Brzezinski – 3rd, WR Na Brown – 4th, DB Damon Moore – 4th
2000: WR Todd Pinkston – 2nd, OL Bobby Williams – 2nd, WR Gari Scott – 4th
2001: LB Quinton Caver – 2nd, DE Derrick Burgess – 3rd
2002: CB Sheldon Brown – 2nd, S Michael Lewis – 2nd, RB Brian Westbrook – 3rd, OL Scott Peters – 4th, WR Freddie Milons – 5th
2003: DE Jerome McDougle – 1st, DE Jamaal Green – 4th
2004: RB Thomas Tapeh – 5th, OL Adrien Clarke – 7th
2005: DT Mike Patterson – 1st, WR Reggie Brown – 2nd, S Sean Considine – 4th, DE Trent Cole – 5th
2006: DT Brodrick Bunkley – 1st, OL Max Jean-Gilles – 4th, WR Jason Avant – 4th
2007: QB Kevin Kolb – 2nd, DE Victor Abiamiri – 2nd, RB Tony Hunt – 3rd, LB Stewart Bradley – 3rd
2008: DT Trevor Laws – 2nd, S Quintin Demps – 4th, OL Mike McGlynn – 4th
2009: DB Macho Harris – 5th, WR Brandon Gibson – 6th, LB Moise Fokou – 7th
2010: DE Brandon Graham – 1st, S Nate Allen – 2nd, CB Trevard Lindley – 4th, WR Riley Cooper – 5th, S Kurt Coleman – 7th, LB Jamar Chaney – 7th, DT Jeff Owens – 7th
2011: OL Danny Watkins – 1st, S Jaiquawn Jarrett – 2nd, LB Casey Matthews – 4th, K Alex Henery – 4th
As you can see, the Eagles have picked 18 of these players in rounds one and two, and another 18 in rounds three and four. In eight of Reid’s 13 drafts, he used his first pick on a Senior Bowl player (in ’07 and ’08 his first pick came in round two).
Most interesting to me is the past two drafts with Howie Roseman. The top two picks in each draft were Senior Bowl participants as well as 11 of their past 24 picks overall. However, Roseman did say this year that he is re-evaluating his draft strategy so maybe he won’t be looking at the Senior Bowl as his main talent pool from which he draws.
In Andy Reid’s 13 drafts, he has had 11 first round picks. The positions he drafted break down as follows: one QB, one CB, two WR, two OL and five DL. Andy loves linemen, right? No surprise there.
With the exception of the two wide receivers, Reid’s history of first round picks goes hand-in-hand with his overall philosophy in regards to the value he places on certain positions.
Andy has always been a believer that winning begins with the play in the trenches, hence why 63% of his first round picks have been used on linemen. This is why many people are convinced that the Eagles will use their first round selection this year on a defensive tackle.
Makes sense, right?
Fletcher Cox is the player that the majority of mock drafters have going to the Eagles at pick No. 15. As of right now, the Eagles have not brought him in for a pre-draft visit nor have they held a private workout for him.
However, Cox is an underclassman and did not participate in the Senior Bowl. So, going by what we’ve discussed so far, he meets two-thirds of the Eagles’ draft habits (defensive lineman, no public ties to him).
Oddly, when the Eagles were entertaining Dontari Poe for a visit, Jim Washburn “joked” when a bunch of reporters saw him walking with Poe and introduced him by saying “Y’all know Fletcher Cox?”
I’m not quite sure what to make of that comment by Washburn. At the least, it means he is well aware that many people are predicting Cox to be the pick.
On a side note, the fact that Cox is now the most popular player mocked to the Eagles could very well mean he won’t be the pick. When is the last time you remember the Eagles selecting a player that the majority of mock drafts predicted?
You’d probably have to go all the way back to 2000 when the Eagles had a top 10 pick and drafted Corey Simon. However, it’s much easier to predict players at the top of the draft as compared to the middle and end of round one (where the Eagles usually pick).
The last time the Eagles went into the draft slotted close to where they are now is 2006, when they had pick No. 14. Back then, most mock drafts had the Eagles selecting WR Santonio Holmes and, believe it or not, OT Winston Justice (who we got in round two).
There may have been a select few people who thought Brodrick Bunkley or Haloti Ngata could be the target, but most had them being drafted in the top 10.
Anyway, back on track. So, what can we derive from all these past draft habits by the Eagles?
Well, to summarize, the player they end up selecting will be someone they have not been linked to at all (or only general interest as in a combine or Senior Bowl interview), participated in the Senior Bowl, is a lineman, and less scientifically, is not a popular player predicted by mock drafters.
The player they end up selecting in round one may not meet all of those criteria, but he’ll likely meet most of them. Other things the Eagles consider are character and leadership traits as well as players who are deemed as hard workers (aka, the all-important “high motor”).
So, who are some candidates that meet most, if not all, of this criteria? I’ll be discussing that within the next few days so stay tuned!