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February 27, 2020

Eagles 2020 draft: Trade up, trade back, or stay put?

Heading into any draft, there are always arguments to be made about trying to trade up for a better prospect, trading back and acquiring more draft picks, or just staying put at your spot and picking a player.

The Philadelphia Eagles tend to move around in the first round more than most. Here we'll recap the last 21 years (since the beginning of the Andy Reid era), showing the Eagles' moves in the first round of the draft, and then we'll determine their best course of action in the 2019 NFL Draft:

Green = Traded up | Blue = Stayed put | Red = Traded back

 YearOriginal draft spot Player drafted Traded up, traded back, or stayed put 
 201925 Andre Dillard (22) Traded up 
 201832 (Nobody in first round) - Dallas Goedert first pick in 2nd round (49) Traded back 
 201714 Derek Barnett (14) Stayed put 
 201613 Carson Wentz (2) Traded up 
 2015 (Chip year)20 Nelson Agholor (20) Stayed put 
 201422 Marcus Smith (26) Traded back 
 2013Lane Johnson (4) Stayed put 
 201215 Fletcher Cox (12) Traded up 
 201123 Danny Watkins (23) Stayed put 
 201024 Brandon Graham (13) Traded up 
 200921 Jeremy Maclin (19) Traded up 
 200819 (Nobody in first round) - Trevor Laws first pick in 2nd round (47) Traded back 
 200726 (Nobody in first round) - Kevin Kolb first pick in 2nd round (36)Traded back 
 200614 Brodrick Bunkley (14) Stayed put 
 200531 Mike Patterson (31) Stayed put 
 200428 Shawn Andrews (16) Traded up 
 200330 Jerome McDougle (15) Traded up 
 200226 Lito Sheppard (26) Stayed put 
 200125 Freddie Mitchell (25) Stayed put 
 2000Corey Simon (6) Stayed put 
 1999Donovan McNabb (2) Stayed put 

The tale of the tape:

• Traded up (7 times): Jerome McDougle, Shawn Andrews, Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Carson Wentz, and Andre Dillard.

  1. McDougle: The only bust of the trade up group, largely because he got shot.
  2. Andrews: Stud RG for a few years, then he got his Michael Phelps on.
  3. Maclin: Developed into a very good starting receiver, had 1,300+ receiving yards the year before bolted for Kansas City in free agency.
  4. Graham: Highly criticized pick for years, but Graham became one of the best players on the team, and a Super Bowl hero.
  5. Cox: Star DT.
  6. Wentz: Franchise quarterback. The Eagles likely don't have a Super Bowl without his contributions in 2017.
  7. Dillard: Jury is out. He showed promise in 2019 as a rookie, but if the team keeps Jason Peters around this offseason, that says something about their confidence in Dillard.

• Traded back (4 times): Kevin Kolb, Trevor Laws, Marcus Smith, and Dallas Goedert.

  1. Kolb: In his first game as "the guy," he was pummeled by Clay Matthews and lost his starting job to Michael Vick before being dealt to Arizona. The Eagles selected Kolb, Stewart Bradley, and C.J. Gaddis with the picks acquired from Dallas in that trade.
  2. Laws: 45 career tackles and five sacks in an underwhelming career. However, this trade netted Laws, Mike McGlynn, Quintin Demps, and Carolina's first-round pick in 2009, which the Eagles then traded along with a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick for Jason Peters. I'd say that trade worked out.
  3. Smith: By moving back four spots and selecting Smith, who became a legendary bust, the Eagles also drafted Jaylen Watkins and Taylor Hart.
  4. Goedert: By moving back 20 spots from 32 to 52, the Eagles were able to pick up a 2019 second-round pick. They also moved up seven spots in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft as part of the deal. They then traded up from 52 to 49 with Indy, giving up a fifth-round pick to select Goedert, who already looks like a complete tight end in the NFL.

• Stayed put (10 times): Donovan McNabb, Corey Simon, Freddie Mitchell, Lito Sheppard, Mike Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley, Danny Watkins, Lane Johnson, Nelson Agholor, and Derrick Barnett.

  1. McNabb: Franchise QB for more than a decade.
  2. Simon: Impact player early in his career, declined rapidly at around 27.
  3. Mitchell: Made one huge play, talked like he was an All-Pro.
  4. Sheppard: Quality starting corner for years, although like Simon, he too declined rapidly at around 26.
  5. Patterson: Meat and potatoes guy on the interior of the defensive line. Decent career for a late 1.
  6. Bunkley: Imposing interior defender, did not live up to vast potential.
  7. Watkins: This was the stupidest pick the Eagles made over the last 20 years. He was freaking 26!
  8. Johnson: Great pick in a weak draft class.
  9. Agholor: Bust for two years who broke out in year three with the team, and then reverted back to to bust form in his contract season. 
  10. Barnett: Sack production isn't where many would hope it would be, most due to missed time, but a solid starter when healthy.

The best players are probably still from the "trade up" group.

So what will the Eagles do this year?

The Eagles are currently slated to pick 21st in the 2020 NFL Draft. While their need for cheap talent and an infusion of good young players remain, I believe the Eagles will be looking for an impact player in the first round.

"When we look back and we look at our drafts, specifically looking at where we were in the 20's, we've had some good success at 20 and higher," said Howie Roseman, speaking at the 2017 Senior Bowl, an offseason in which the Eagles held the 14th overall pick. "I think there is a line where you don't get a difference maker. This is your opportunity, in the first round of the draft, to find a difference-making player. That's our first priority, is bringing in a difference maker to the Philadelphia Eagles. 

"By trading back and getting extra picks, but not having somebody who can affect the game... I mean, you're watching these championship games, and you're seeing that there are difference makers making big plays in these games, so we need to make sure that we come out of (the draft) with that."

That quote is now three years old, but I do believe it remains Roseman's philosophy today.

In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Eagles' biggest obvious need is at wide receiver, and while the pre-draft process still has a long way to go, the triumvirate of Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb, Alabama's Jerry Jeudy, and Alabama's Henry Ruggs appear to be in something of the top tier of a loaded receiver class. The belief here is that none of those three receivers will still be available when the Eagles are selecting at pick 21, but if one slides into the middle-to-late teens, a reasonable projection, then the Eagles should be interested in moving up for any of the three. (It's probably also worth noting here that some teams picking behind the Eagles have needs at wide receiver, and could also be interesting in moving up, most notably the Buffalo Bills, who are picking 22nd.)

The question for the 2020 NFL Draft, like with any draft, is where is the line between the impact players, and the dropoff? While the 2020 NFL Draft is thought to be a deep and talented one, my sense is that Roseman will still want to get up into the teens from the Eagles' spot at pick 21. The disastrous 2014 draft in which Eagles targets flew off the board before the Birds eventually settled on trading back and drafting Marcus Smith no doubt was a lesson learned for Roseman.

The Eagles are currently projected to have 10 picks in April. Will they use them all on players, or will some picks be sacrificed to increase the odds of their first pick becoming an impact player?

"As we sit here, we’d love to say that we’re going to be having 10 picks, but there were moments in the last two drafts where there were guys within reach that we wanted to move up for, but we just didn’t have the ammunition to do it," Roseman said on Tuesday at the NFL Combine. "If we thought there was a guy who is extremely, incredibly valued, and we thought we could go up and go get him, we can’t take that off the table."

Roseman will have the ammo to move up this year, and I expect the Eagles to be aggressive on Day 1 of the draft, like they usually are.

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