We’re still months away from the NFL Draft that’ll now take place in May – Thursday, May 8th to Saturday, May 10th – and there’s already a great deal of talk about who the Eagles should take in first round and the rounds following. Free agency hasn’t even begun, yet many are fixated on the draft. There’s a reason why. It’s fun. It’s intriguing. It’s a time for us to contemplate how our team can get better, become even more competitive among the elite teams, get to the playoffs, and ultimately win a Super Bowl.
Last year at this time Chip Kelly had recently been hired as head coach and taken away from the University of Oregon’s football program. Excitement and even a sense of relief penetrated just about every Eagles fan. But let’s be honest. We had no idea what to expect. Would his football philosophy on and off the field work? Would he understand how to relate to pro players? Would he understand the complex nature of the NFL Draft that was only a couple months away? Again, let’s be honest. Countless fans – myself included – were completely surprised during Kelly’s first draft, and on the second day when he and GM Howie Roseman took TE Zach Ertz in the 2nd round. I remember saying out loud to my buddy’s, “they have a very good tight end in Brent Celek and just signed James Casey to a huge contract…what’s going on with this pick?” Twitter posts read – ok, great, he doesn’t know what he’s doing; this guy’s clueless; dumb draft pick; etc.
We now know just after one season that Zach Ertz is going to play a large and significant role in Kelly’s offense in the coming years. As of now, it looks as though he’s the tight end of the future as he grows and understands the game that much more. Frankly, I haven’t heard one Eagles fan say and question; we wasted that second round pick on Ertz? Quite the contrary from us fans. We like what we’ve seen. And now we believe it was a very good pick. Why? Because we saw forward thinking through that pick.
When May rolls around and the Eagles are on the board with their 22nd pick in the first round and then in subsequent rounds, we need to remember that they’ve gone 100% into a mode of drafting the best available players instead of drafting for need. This way of thinking will only help build a stronger roster. We may not see the results immediately, but we will inevitably. Yes, the Eagles have holes to fill. That’s what free agency is for. Long-term team success is built through the draft especially as the league continues to get younger and younger.
I guess it’s not surprising that every mock draft I have seen, thus far, have the Eagles taking either a safety or cornerback in the first round. I get it. Believe me, I get it. These are positions with hardly any depth. Obtaining some raw talent and filling the safety position is their biggest need. Believe me, I can’t wait until Patrick Chung and Kurt Coleman are no longer on the roster. However, when that first pick is upon us, don’t be so sure this front office will take a safety. Don’t be so sure we’ll see Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor (two of the best safeties in the draft) in an Eagles uniform during training camp. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Eagles take a wide receiver, linebacker…or even an o-lineman (Jason Peters and Todd Herremans aren’t getting any younger). Again, the philosophy of taking the best player that can help the team succeed is who they’ll draft.
This will be the first NFL Draft ever where I’m not going to question any Eagles picks (unless they draft a punter). I hope my fellow fans will do the same. Heck, they could even draft a kicker in the second round and I wouldn’t question it (as many know from listening to the podcast show, I’m not the biggest fan of Alex Henery). If Kelly and Roseman decide to take a linebacker or wide receiver right out of the gate, I’ll be supporting the pick because I have a lot of faith in their draft strategies and overall philosophy for the future.
I have a strong feeling this coming draft can and will put this Eagles franchise over the edge for years to come. It’s probably one of the deepest drafts full of talent we’ve seen within the past 10 to 12 years. Teams are going to get great football players in the 4th and even 5th rounds, the Eagles included. However, too many NFL teams are still pressured to draft based on need rather than pick up the best available player during any given round. That’s not how the Birds operate anymore. And that’s why the Eagles have an edge in this draft.