As we inch closer to the highly anticipated 2014 NFL Draft, what player the Philadelphia Eagles will select in Round 1 is anyone’s guess. What we can do, however, is use trends in past history that may give us a clue as to who or what position it may be.
The hard part about doing that now is that there isn’t much “past history” when it comes to the Chip Kelly era. And if anything has been proven since he became coach is that we don’t know him as well as we think we do.
With that said, we can still try to identify any potential trends that are developing. What I try to do is use logical analysis on what position I feel is the biggest hole on the roster, then combine that with two trends:
Watch who the Eagles bring in for official visits or hold private workouts for and see if there is a particular position that stands out as far as the number of players the Eagles are linked to in any way.
Under Andy Reid, the Eagles were the masters of the smokescreen. They rarely ever had any public ties to their first round picks in the form of pre-draft visits or private workouts.
Here’s a recap of the Eagles’ last three first round players under Reid: Fletcher Cox, Danny Watkins, and Brandon Graham.
In 2012, most people had the Eagles pegged as taking a defensive lineman. They showed a tremendous amount of pre-draft interest in DTs and DEs, particularly defensive tackles.
They brought in all the top DTs — Michael Brockers, Jerel Worthy and Dontari Poe — for official visits. They sent DL coach Jim Washburn to privately workout Fletcher Cox.
However, Prior to Cox, you’d likely have to go all the way back to the 2000 draft to find the last time the Eagles were in any way linked to their first round pick
In 2011, the consensus was that the Eagles were going to either take a cornerback or offensive lineman with their first round pick. While they did show a lot of pre-draft interest in defensive backs, they also showed a lot of interest in offensive linemen as well.
Few, if any, saw the Eagles taking OT Danny Watkins. It wasn’t a surprise that they drafted an offensive lineman, it was who they drafted that was the surprise. They had virtually no ties to Watkins leading up to the draft with the exception of maybe a combine interview.
Back in 2010, the Eagles traded up to No. 13 overall to select DE Brandon Graham. In that year most observers thought the Eagles would target either a cornerback or a safety with their first round pick.
They had shown a good amount of interest in some of the top defensive backs, but in retrospect I found that they also showed even more pre-draft interest in defensive linemen. Still, I would have bet my left arm they were going to take Earl Thomas after they traded up.
Unfortunately, Graham was the pick. It was not a shock that they took a defensive lineman, but again, they had no ties to Graham leading up to the draft.
If you go back every year in the Reid every until 2000, the year they picked 6th and took Corey Simon, you would be hard pressed to find a first round pick that the Eagles had brought in for a visit or privately worked out.
Last year in Chip Kelly’s first season, the Eagles did bring eventual first round pick Lane Johnson in for an official pre-draft visit. They also brought in Dion Jordan, the guy Kelly all but admitted he would have picked had Miami not stole him from us.
As far as pre-draft visits or workouts last year, since the Eagles picked fourth, they were pretty even amongst DL and OL (as far as the top rated players were concerned).
Worth noting now is that, even though Howie Roseman has been the GM since 2010, Jeff Lurie had stated that it wasn’t until 2012 that he “took over” draft preparations. That means that in the two seasons he’s been in charge, there has been a public tie to the Eagles and their first round pick by way of official visit (Johnson) or private workout (Cox).
That leads us to the 2014 draft.
Do we go by the past, mostly under Andy Reid, and still believe the Eagles are the masters of the smokescreen? Or can we now take the Eagles’ pre-draft visits and private workouts at face value and think they could be actual targets?
Under Reid, it was pretty conclusive that if they brought in a player for a visit, they were in fact not drafting him. Under the new regime of Roseman and Kelly, that may be starting to shift if we go by the last two years.
Therefore, I’m going to say that, barring a trade of some sort, chances are the Eagles’ first round pick will either have come in for a visit or had a private workout. I will also say that we can still look at what position they seem to be showing the most interest in as a potential clue.
For example, this year so far they seem to be focusing on the top Wide Receivers as that is the only position in which they’ve had projected first round talent come in for a visit (Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin).
They’ve also been linked to Cody Latimer (visit) and Brandon Coleman (private workout).
They’ve had a few Day 2 prospects come in on the defensive side, including Jeremiah Attaochu, Jordan Tripp and Deone Bucannon. However, to date, they haven’t had any projected first round defensive prospects in for a visit (or private workout).
There is still plenty of time for visits and workouts so I fully expect to start seeing some first round defensive talent being linked to the Eagles in one of these ways. Just pay attention to who and what positions.
Lastly, here is one other quick observation: Howie Roseman has made the following statements prior to each of the last two drafts plus the upcoming draft…
2012 – The draft is deep at defensive line (selected Fletcher Cox)
2013 – The draft is deep at offensive line and cornerback (selected Lane Johnson)
2014 – The draft is deep at Wide Receiver (selected ????)
Saying the draft is deep at a certain position is a way of promoting two things:
It puts the idea in other teams’ heads that hey, you can get a quality player at that position on Day 2 or even Day 3 so therefore you don’t have to spend a first rounder on one (thus leaving a better top target on the board for him).
It also promotes the notion that the Eagles won’t take a player at said position in Round 1 because they believe they can get one later (thus the “smokescreen”).
On a quick side note as far as trends are concerned, it used to be a pretty good bet that the Eagles would spend a high draft pick on a Senior Bowl participant. In the 14 drafts under Reid (1999 – 2012), the Eagles drafted 18 Senior Bowl’ers in Rounds 1 or 2 (eight in Round 1).
Hell, when Roseman became GM in 2010, he drafted seven Senior Bowl’ers that year and four more in 2011. That was 11 of the first 24 draft picks under his watch at GM.
He drafted four more in 2012 and then just two last year (though Lane Johnson had a great Senior Bowl week). However, it seems to be a dying trend and to boot, there wasn’t much first round talent at this past year’s Senior Bowl.