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April 21, 2023

11 takeaways from Howie Roseman's and Nick Sirianni's pre-draft press conference

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042123HowieRosemanNickSirianni Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni, in a press conference (but not the one that was held yesterday 🤷‍♂️).

Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni held their annual pre-draft press conferences on Thursday. Here were the highlights, and I'll throw in my two cents on each topic.

1) What would it take for the Eagles to finally pull the trigger on a running back or linebacker in the first round of the draft?

Roseman: "I think the most important thing when you're picking in the first round, certainly when you're picking 10, is that you get a unique player. I think that there are so few unique players in any draft that if you start picking by position and not based on the quality of the talent... if you pick by position and you pick a player who's not any good, then it's not a good pick anyway.

"I think the most important thing for us here is that we utilize this opportunity to get a unique player for our team. Certainly not planning to be picking at this point in the near future. Obviously things happen, but we're not planning for that. So, we understand how important it is to get this right, and how do you get it right is you make sure you get a unique player.

"I think that if you start saying, ‘Hey, we can only get a unique player, but it's got to be this position,’ you really narrow your options right there. So just trying to be as open minded as possible about what that looks like and making sure that whoever we pick is somebody that we think can really impact the game."

#JimmySays: Howie sort of answered a different question here. Of course the Eagles or any other team shouldn't go into any draft with the mindset of, "We must draft (position X), come hell or high water." But there are plenty of high importance positions to pick from, whether that's quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive tackle, edge rusher, cornerback, wide receiver, etc., that are all legitimate options in the top 10, depending on need.

This year, lightning rod running back prospect Bijan Robinson could certainly be considered "a unique player," as could other players at the positions noted above.

2) Would the Eagles feel comfortable drafting Georgia DT Jalen Carter, who is talented but comes with off the field concerns?

Roseman: "There's no one we rely more on than [Chief Security Officer] Dom DiSandro and we rely on him for things like this. At the end of the day, he does a tremendous job of getting us all the information and putting us in a position to make decisions. I think every decision is unique to the player and the situation, and so we'll have every piece of information at our disposal and be ready to make a decision on anyone who has a situation that's maybe a little bit outside the norm."

On a follow-up question, it was noted to Roseman that some general managers around the NFL felt better about Carter after having him in for a pre-draft visit, and he was asked if that was his experience as well.

Roseman: "I'd say every situation is unique to that situation, and I think it's important that as an overall process that we don't really get into each and everyone's situation. I think that's where I'm most comfortable as opposed to just talking about each and every guy. Again, I think that we will do everything to make sure that we know everything we possibly can about every one of these players and to be in a position that if the opportunity arises that we're in a position to make a decision that we feel really good about."

#JimmySays: Howie completely non-answered these questions, as one might expect.

3) Does the fact that the Eagles don't have any picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds make it more likely that Howie will make trades to add some?

Roseman: "I think that it's dependent on the value of the pick that we have. By that I mean that, for instance, last year when we were picking in the third round, I don't know that we've had as many trade offers as we did on any pick as we did in that third-round pick, and I'm not saying it was for Nakobe Dean or what it was, but we felt like we didn't want to move that pick because of Nakobe, and last year we traded our fourth and two fifths to move up for Jordan Davis.

"I think the most important thing for us is not necessarily to win the draft in terms of how many picks we can possibly get and how many players that we can possibly pick, but getting the right players.

"For us, there are going to be times where we're sitting there and our board is going to have a big drop-off and we'll have a trade offer to move back, and we'll say, ‘We think the value of this pick is better than getting some of these mid-picks.’ We've talked a lot in this room about when you're picking and how the odds naturally cut off at a certain point in each round and you have a better chance of hitting on guys.

"I think the second part of what makes it really important that we can prepare for, because you don't know what's going to happen in the course of a draft, is we've got to be prepared for undrafted free agency. I'm really proud of the job our scouts, our coaches, our football administration people did last year after the draft and adding — we had four guys make our team after the draft, and those are extra picks. When you look at the league where a majority of the players come from after the first couple rounds, it's undrafted free agency. I think we've really got to have a good process in place for that. I think we do have a good process in conjunction with Nick and his coaches.

"So, I think that's something we can prepare for and make sure that if we come out of this with six picks that we're also coming out with a bunch of players after the draft that we think can contribute to this football team."

#JimmySays: It has been assumed all offseason that the Eagles would trade back at some point and add some Day 3 picks, but Roseman's answer here makes quite a bit of sense. Last year, the Eagles traded most of their Day 3 picks and ended up making just two picks on Day 3, both in the sixth round. Perhaps Roseman and the Eagles would indeed be content to just sit out the first few hours of Day 3. 

4) How does the fifth-year option affect the value of a pick at 30 vs. high second-round picks?

Roseman: "I think the fifth-year option, obviously it buys you a year. I think when you're talking about really good players and you're talking about trying to keep your team together, it gives you an opportunity to have an extra year of contract value. I think that's incredibly important as you look at it. It's valued, and I think those are decisions that you make about whether you want to come back into the first round and get a fifth year on a guy or what the value you're getting to come out of the first round."

#JimmySays: If the Eagles do trade back at some point, pick 30 would make a lot of sense, as a team looking to draft a quarterback — sayyyy, Hendon Hooker, for example — would likely find that extra year of control very appealing.

5) The Eagles have 6 picks in the 2023 draft, and 12 in the 2024 draft. As such, logic might dictate that they will try to use some 2024 picks to add to their 2023 draft capital. However, the Eagles don't devalue future picks as much as other teams around the league, so how do the Eagles balance using future picks to move up or do whatever to add to their draft capital in the current year versus making sure they get the appropriate value of those future picks?

Roseman: "I think that the most important thing is the value of the player that you're talking about trading for with the future pick. By that I mean if we're to be in the third round and we had a first-round grade on a guy, and we came to the conclusion that we would trade a next year's two, it would be based on the fact of the grade of the player and the caliber of the player.

"Again, not saying that we're going to do that, but I think it's more about every unique situation that you go into and that you look at. There won't be a situation where we'll be sitting there on day three if we kind of stand pat and we just say, ‘Hey, we've got to get a pick this year, so let's go trade our fourth-round pick for a fifth-round pick.

"It'll be based on the value of the board and the value of the positions and the players that are available to us, if that makes sense."

#JimmySays: I think that this sort of confirms that teams around the league bump the value of future picks down a round, which is just insane to me, and is a market inefficiency that the Eagles have long been able to exploit. I would not expect the Eagles to dip into their 2024 draft reserves unless, say, they trade with a team that values future picks similarly.

6) Now that Jalen Hurts is the $255 million man, whether it’s schematics or coaching or personnel changes, how do the Eagles make sure that he stays healthy?

Sirianni: "Here's what I definitely wasn't doing. 'Jalen is on a rookie contract. I'm just going to be reckless and do whatever we want with him.' We were very careful. I know he's gotten injured, but we didn't pay him more to do less. I'll say that.

"Will we still think about how to protect him. Yeah, because that's our job to protect our quarterback. But Jalen does a lot of things really well, and we want to utilize the skills that he has so he can continue to play at a high level.

"You know, to me, we'll continue to go about our business the same way we went about our we've went with our business. We'll always think about protecting him first, but we didn't pay him more to do less."

#JimmySays: I sense that this will be a narrative that grows over the offseason.

7) The Eagles had the lowest snap count in the NFL last year from their rookies, and got to the Super Bowl. How does that factor into the way the team looks at the draft in terms of a player contributing in Year 1?

Sirianni: "Yeah, you know, it was a unique situation. Every year is different. I don't think to myself, well, the last year the success that we had last year says that you can't get contributions from rookies. It just was a unique situation where really our first, second and third picks were behind veterans, with Cam [Jurgens] being behind Jason Kelce and Nakobe being behind Kyzir White and T.J. Edwards. And Jordan Davis rotating reps. I just think it was a unique year.

What I think is cool about that. Howie, you've said this. Now that we're getting almost two draft classes this year with those guys that haven't played, they didn't play, they played on special teams and contributed, but now they're coming in and ready to step in and make plays. I'm excited about that, that you're almost combining two years' worth of guys that we're going to count on this year."

Roseman: "The other thing is I think it was unique, and we don't take it for granted the health of our team last year. That was a unique situation. I think for us to expect the same results as last year would be naïve at a minimum. So, we've got to prepare to understand that for the amount of games that we want to play, it is a long season, and we need depth. We need guys who can play at a high level, at a lot of positions.

"When we drafted those guys last year, we certainly didn't feel like those three guys wouldn't have an opportunity to get on the field just because the history of all those positions is we've needed guys. I think when we look at last year, instead of thinking about it as a trend, we've got to look at it like we've got to ensure that we have enough players that are available to play at a high level to get us where we want to, playing the kind of football we want to play in December, January, and hopefully February."

#JimmySays: I know that a lot of Eagles fans do not like the idea of drafting an offensive lineman with the 10th overall pick, especially when it is likely that that player would likely sit for a year before they could start. In addition to finding a player who can take over long-term for Lane Johnson at an extremely important position in RT, the team's offensive line depth is very important to them, and it was depleted this offseason.

Cam Jurgens is slated for a promotion to the starting lineup with Isaac Seumalo leaving in free agency, Andre Dillard is gone, Josh Sills is on the commissioner's exempt list, and Jack Driscoll is heading into the final year of his contract. The two recent seasons that went completely sideways and got coaches fired were 2012 and 2020, when the Eagles did not have adequate offensive line depth and couldn't protect their quarterback. Presently, they do not have ideal offensive line depth.

Roseman's comments above are a reminder that having quality depth is very important, and there's no greater need for depth on this roster than along the offensive line. 

8) In the pre-draft process, how important to the Eagles is the process of trying to figure out what other teams are going to do?

Roseman: "I would say this: Nobody has any idea what we're going to do. I know that. And so, for me to think that there's actually people in this league talking to people and saying, hey, I'm going to draft this guy at 10, but don't tell anyone, this is a huge game of poker, and all you want to affect is the outcome of your desired results.

"Am I going to give you guys any answers today? No, not even a little bit. But I think the reality of it is anyone who's sitting there and saying, hey, I know exactly what's going to happen at pick 11 or pick 12 or pick 6 or 20, it's all a guess.

"I promise you, when we come here next Thursday night late and [Head Coach] Nick [Sirianni] walks in and says something like, fire up or yells at all you guys like he yells at me sometimes, in a positive way, you guys will have probably five or six times when the commissioner announces a pick go, whoa, because at the end of the day everyone sees things differently. Just like everyone sees people differently, just like everyone sees food differently.

"The things that we're seeing that we think are so clear and so transparent to another team are totally opposite. That's what makes the draft kind of fun. You see things and you go there and you go, there's no way that everyone is not going to see the first 10 picks exactly how we see them, and there will be a difference of opinion. That's what's really interesting and unique about the draft process."

#JimmySays: One of things Howie Roseman has gotten pretty good at over time is reading what other teams will do in the draft. Take 2021, for example. That offseason the Eagles traded the sixth overall pick to the Miami Dolphins for the 12th overall pick, a 2022 first-round pick, and a move up from the fifth round to the fourth round in the 2021 draft. In chart form:

 Eagles gotDolphins got 
12th overall pick 6th overall pick 
123rd overall pick (4th round) in 2021 draft 156th overall pick (5th round) in 2021 draft 
Miami's 1st round pick in the 2022 draft  

The risk in moving back was that great prospects like TE Kyle Pitts or WR Ja'Marr Chase might be available at pick No. 6, and the Eagles would have missed out on them by moving back. My feeling was that the difference between Pitts or Chase and a guy like Smith wasn't so great that the Eagles should turn down a 2022 first-round pick, and that they made the right decision either way.

As it turned out, neither Pitts nor Chase were available anyway, as Pitts went fourth overall to the Falcons, while Chase got picked fifth overall by the Bengals. In other words, if the availability of Pitts and/or Chase would have changed the Eagles' minds on the move back, they made the right read that neither were likely to be available at pick No. 6.

As the draft unfolded, it was not going well for the Eagles, as two quarterbacks, Justin Fields and Mac Jones, began to slide, thus taking more non-quarterbacks — or more specifically the best wide receivers and cornerbacks — off of the board prior to the Eagles' pick. Chase and Pitts were gone, as were Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle (to the Dolphins at 6), South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn (to the Panthers at 8), and Patrick Surtain (to the Broncos at 9).

When the Cowboys were on the clock at pick No. 10, the Eagles' chances at landing the remaining wide receiver worthy of a top selection (Smith) were in doubt. The Giants were sitting at pick No. 11, and they were heavily rumored to be interested in Smith.

The Eagles were prepared. With Dallas in desperate need of help at cornerback and the top two corners gone, the Eagles were able to trade up with the Cowboys ahead of the Giants to land their guy. The cost was the second of the Eagles' two third-round picks (84th overall), a reasonable price to ensure the selection of likely the last slam dunk first round target on their board.

Again, the Eagles' read was very likely right that the Giants would have taken Smith, as evidenced by their subsequent trade out of the 11th pick, and eventual selection of another receiver, Kadarius Toney, at pick No. 20.

Had the Eagles just stayed at the sixth pick and selected Smith, it would have been an acceptable pick, though certainly not a coup. (They likely would have taken either Horn or Surtain, to be clear.) 

Instead, Roseman's maneuvering netted the Eagles significantly added draft capital, in addition to a player who makes a lot of sense for their roster. A snapshot of what the Eagles gained and lost, from the time they owned the No. 6 pick, until now:

The Eagles got... The Eagles gave up... 
DeVonta Smith 6th overall pick 
Miami's 1st round pick in 2022 84th overall pick (3rd round) in 2021 draft 
123rd overall pick (4th round) in 2021 draft 156th overall pick (5th round) in 2021 draft 

That is really well done. It will be interesting to see how well Howie has the 2023 draft pegged.

9) Do the Eagles bother with smokescreens?

Roseman: "I will be honest with you. I never talk about our team. I never talk about our team. For me, I'm very consistent about that. I won't talk to other teams about our team. I won't talk to anyone about our team. When I go to my kids' sporting events, who are we going to draft, maybe I should start saying stuff there, but I don't.

"I think at the end of the day I say the same thing. There's a very small group of people who kind of can figure out what directions that we're thinking about depending on where it's going. I say the same things I say to my kids. We've got two ears and one mouth. Let's be good listeners for the next couple weeks."

#JimmySays: Saying nothing is probably the best strategy.

10) How do the Eagles view the overall depth of this draft relative to previous drafts, and how many players have first-round grades?

Roseman: "Well, since we have two first round picks I'm not going to tell you how many guys have first-round grades. I'd say this: I never get caught up and maybe I should. Maybe I'll look at this after the draft. I never get caught up in trying to compare quality of this draft versus a previous draft, because I think we've got to be in the moment we're in right now. To sit there and go, man, this draft doesn't have this or this draft, I wish it had that, it doesn't help us make good decisions for next weekend.

"So, I'm really focused on what are the opportunities that we have over the next weekend to improve our team, to get players that we think fit, and that we think can be a part of the culture and the team that we're trying to build over a period of time.

"I'm not saying it as a cop-out, but I'm being honest. I think if you go back and you say this is worse and this and this, it just gives you excuses there, when at the end of the day we know there are going to be tremendous players who come out of this draft, and we've got to find those guys. We've got to bring them to Philadelphia, and that's our challenge, and that's our job, and that's what we're going to try to do the best we can to do over the next week."

#JimmySays: The Eagles may not look back, but they have acknowledged in the past that they will occasionally forward to future drafts as a small piece of the puzzle. As far as how many first-round grades the Eagles have on players, there was no way in hell Roseman was going to answer that, but typically it's 15-20.

11) What critical factors do the Eagles look for in their offensive linemen?

Roseman: "I think the thing that we try to do is we tried to find guys who have unique traits that can make a difference in the game, and I think when you look at the best players on our team, they all have a unique skill set. They all have tools in their body that allow them to compete at the highest level and to play at a Pro Bowl, all-pro level to change games.

"I think what you try to balance in this is obviously you want to evaluate the tape and you want the tape to be really good, but you want guys who have tools in their body to develop into elite players.

"So, when those things don't match, you've got to go back a little bit and figure out the reason why. When I say that about offensive linemen, when you look at our offensive line and you go left to right and you go, Jordan, and you go Landon and you go Kelce and you go Cam and you go Lane and obviously we've got other offensive linemen. Those are guys we've drafted high or have made the Pro Bowl. All of those guys have unique physical traits, like really unique physical traits. They also combine that with incredible character, love of the game, passion for the game, and coachability...

"I know that at the end of the day, some of these offensive line prospects are so much better than some of these college players that they don't have to be technically sound, and we have phenomenal coaches on the staff. Certainly Jeff Stoutland is one of them. When you give our coaches guys with high football character, with unique physical traits, they will be developed.

"This is one of the things I tell every player who's been in this building. If you expect a 21-, 22- — and in this draft, 23-, 24-, 25-, which is unique to this draft — year olds to come in and Day 1 be finished products, you're going to set yourself up for disappointment.

"We have to rally around these players. We have an unbelievable player development program. We have unbelievable coaches. We have unbelievable staff in this building. We have to rally around each and every player. We will have a plan for each and every player to get them to be better. If we just go, hey, you're in Philadelphia now, it's on you, we're going to be disappointed. We have to take responsibility of making these players better."

#JimmySays: This was my favorite answer of the press conference so I wanted to include it here, but I'll have more on it in a separate article.

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