The latest buzz amongst Philadelphia Eagles beat writers, fans, bloggers and draftniks is now that Asante Samuel is gone, the team will look to replace him with an early-round pick (first or second round) in the 2012 NFL draft .
Call me crazy, but I just don’t agree.
We’ve known all along that Samuel would likely be traded before the draft, or during the draft at the latest. Some mock drafters out there have been anticipating that so it is common place to see a full Eagles mock include a cornerback in the second or third round.
Heck, I’ve done a few mock drafts myself that included them taking one in Round 2.
However, the more I’ve thought about it, the further I’ve gone away from the idea of taking a corner early in the draft. Not that it would be a bad move if they did, I just think they will focus on other areas first.
The two starters are set with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The rest of the corners on the roster are Joselio Hanson, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes and Trevard Lindley.
Curtis Marsh was a third-round pick last year that I’m sure the team wants to see develop, and they are high on Hughes. Hanson is a solid, if unspectacular player in the slot as well. Lindley was a fourth-round pick in 2010 and was already cut once so he probably doesn’t factor much into the equation here.
However, I could argue that there was a much bigger need to draft a cornerback early the past two years.
In April of 2010, the Eagles traded away starting CB Sheldon Brown. Besides Samuel, the only other CB on the roster at that time who could be looked at as a starter was Ellis Hobbs. However, Hobbs was coming off a serious neck injury that ended his 2009 season.
Therefore, nobody thought the Eagles should count on Hobbs (who was a mediocre CB anyway) so everyone thought the Eagles were going to draft a cornerback with their first-round pick. The hot prospects that most mock drafters had going to the birds were either Devin McCourty or Kyle Wilson.
What happened? The Eagles could have had either of them but held off on drafting a corner until the fourth round (Lindley).
Then, after the 2010 season where we saw Hobbs’ career end for good, we had the joy in witnessing one of the most horrific displays of pass defense in NFL history. That was the season we had Dimitri Patterson starting opposite Asante Samuel.
So what do we do in the draft the following year? Instead of taking highly-rated CB Jimmy Smith, we draft a running back-turned-cornerback in the third round (Curtis Marsh).
Yes, we just traded Asante Samuel, but we still have two pro bowl-level players in Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie . If we passed on early CBs the past two years, but decide to take one early this year, Andy Reid must live in bizarro world.
Furthermore, if we look at Andy Reid’s draft history, he has only drafted two cornerbacks within the first two rounds and one in the third round over the past 13 years. He selected Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown in rounds one and two of the 2002 draft and Curtis Marsh in the third round in 2011.
The biggest question for which we need an answer is how Andy Reid foresees the upcoming season. Does he see it as a do-or-die, one more run and he’s outta here type of year? Or does he see it as business as usual?
The reality is, the Eagles do not have a dire need at cornerback for the 2012 season as the roster stands right now. Picking one in the first or second round should mean you expect that player to compete for a significant role, which in this case the best it would be is at nickel corner.
Right now, Hanson, Marsh and Hughes are all decent candidates for that role. Will a second-round pick really jump above them on the depth chart? That’s doubtful.
Therefore, picking a corner early in the draft is about the future — 2013 and beyond. Will Andy Reid care about planning for the future if he thinks there is a real chance he won’t be back in 2013?
Will he plan for the future if he’s facing what will perhaps be the most pressure-filled year of his career in 2012?
It’s hard to say with Reid and what goes on in that mind of his. But if we’re to believe what Howie Roseman has stated regarding this draft — that they’re looking for “difference makers” — it’s hard to think that they’d draft a CB early because he certainly wouldn’t fit the description of a difference maker in 2012.
A difference maker for 2012 would have to come in the form of a linebacker, defensive lineman and a wide receiver/punt returner. A cornerback who will likely have to hope for an injury to rise up the depth chart is hardly a difference maker.
With all that said, I’m not condemning the idea of taking a corner early…especially if that corner doubles as a punt returner. I’m saying that just because Asante Samuel is no longer in town, it doesn’t mean they will burn an early draft pick on his possible replacement.