January 06, 2022
The Philadelphia Eagles are enjoying the best of both worlds right now: they're a playoff team with a bounty of three first round draft picks at their disposal in the spring. It's an enviable place to be, even though none of those picks will be in the top ten.
But what if the Eagles had four first round picks in 2022, including one that appears likely to land in the top 10?
According to the NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, the Eagles had that option. They chose to aggressively pursue Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith instead.
During a Wednesday broadcast on NFL Network, Garafolo revealed the following:
Now, Howie Roseman came into this season saying 'I know we're starting to plan for the future.' That's why he compiled those three [first-round] draft picks. He had an opportunity to get a fourth, by the way. When the Bears were trading up -- and they would have traded up with the Eagles instead of the Giants — Roseman said 'No, I like DeVonta Smith and believe he's going to have an immediate impact on our team.' So he selected DeVonta Smith. [Audacy.com]
It's not clear where in the timeline of the Eagles' draft maneuvering this Bears deal was reportedly proposed to Philadelphia. The Eagles, at various points, held the 6th, 12th and 10th overall picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. In their trade with the Dolphins, they moved back from 6th to 12th, then traded with the Cowboys to jump the Giants at 11 and select Smith. At that point, the Giants traded out with the Bears, who took quarterback Justin Fields, and the Giants received the Bears' first rounder last year (selecting wide receiver Kadarius Toney) and Chicago's first this coming year.
If the Eagles had swapped picks with the Bears when they sat at 12, they would have gotten the 20th pick last year and a likely top 10 pick that the Giants hold instead. The Bears' pick currently sits at 8th and the Giants, who turned out to be worse than Chicago this year, God bless them, currently hold their own pick at 5th overall, too.
Smith has been as advertised for the Eagles this season, making high-difficulty catches on a fairly low target volume of 100 — given his role on the team — compared to his closest draft class peers Ja'Marr Chase (124) and Jaylen Waddle (135). With one game to go, Smith has 61 catches for 875 yards and 5 touchdowns, with a 14.3 yards per catch average. He's 37 yards away from DeSean Jackson's franchise rookie receiving yards record and indicated Wednesday that he hopes to play in Week 18 against the Cowboys.
It's interesting to speculate what the Eagles might have done with the 20th overall pick last year. Players like Rashod Bateman, Eric Stokes, Kwity Paye and Gregory Rousseau were all on the board.
But can anybody imagine the Eagles making the playoffs this year without DeVonta Smith at wide receiver? It seems doubtful, and the Eagles still have three first rounders in the draft, having calculated wisely that the Colts pick in the Carson Wentz trade would play out as hoped.
With the Eagles clinching a playoff berth, there's been some spirited debate about Howie Roseman's status among NFL GMs, nicely summarized by Kevin Kinkead at CrossingBroad.
Time will always tell with draft scenarios and you never know how players will look in several years' time, but picking an impact player like Smith last year was a necessary move for a first-year head coach and a quarterback in need of evaluation in his first full season. The Eagles still have the resources to move into the top 10 in the 2022 draft if they decide the cost is worth it for a player they really want.