April 19, 2020
Despite the rest of the world coming to a complete and total standstill, the NFL Draft — albeit a virtual version — will still take place amid the COVID-19 outbreak. And for sports fans, it will definitely be a welcomed distraction, as it's one of the few events that can still take place in this socially distant world.
With nothing else going on, it feels like the lead up to the draft has been taking forever, but we're now just a few days away. The first round gets underway on Thursday night.
The Eagles currently have eight draft picks, and several areas of need to address, from wide receiver to cornerback to linebacker to running back and the list goes on.
With Howie Roseman and Co. investing so heavily on the defensive side of the ball in free agency, there's a good chance that much of their draft capital will be spent on upgrading the offense around quarterback Carson Wentz — especially at wide receiver, the position at which this draft class is believed to be the strongest and one the Eagles could make a trade up to get. And, as it turns out, Wentz may play a big role in deciding just who those new additions are.
That's where we'll begin this edition of What They're Saying, with a look at the sway Wentz holds in the front office, how that's worked out in past drafts, and what it might tell us about this year's draft.
Over at the Inquirer, Jeff McLane recently published a story detailing the Eagles' connection to Rep1 Football, the agency that not only represents Wentz, but several of the Eagles recent high draft picks on the offensive side of the ball. As McLane points out, six of the seven top offensive draft picks over the last four years have all come from Rep1: Wentz, Isaac Seumalo, Mack Hollins, Dallas Goedert, Andre Dillard, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. The lone exception? Running back Miles Sanders, who was selected in the second round last year.
Rep1 has a lot of clients, but that number is eye-popping. And the Eagles' run on Rep1 players started immediately after they drafted Wentz, which can't be a coincidence.
Howie Roseman has previously noted Wentz’s involvement in personnel, but the general manager has also emphasized that his opinions were just a small part of the process. The Eagles, after all, have countless executives, scouts, and coaches and millions of dollars invested in the evaluation of draft prospects and free agents.
But Wentz’s voice has carried significant weight with some in the front office, according to organizational sources, both current and past ones with the Eagles. [inquirer.com]
In past drafts, it makes sense that Wentz would suggest players from his own agency, as he's likely more familiar with those players. Some of Wentz' suggestions have come after he's gotten to work out with the player, as was the case with Mack Hollins, or after getting some face time with them during their official visits, like he did with Dallas Goedert. But while Wentz is "now among the most powerful figures in the franchise," according to McLane, the quarterback hasn't forced his opinions on the team.
The Eagles made a significant investment in trading up for Wentz four years ago, but it grew exponentially when the they signed him to a four-year, $128 million extension last June. To say he’s now among the most powerful figures in the franchise wouldn’t be an exaggeration.
Wentz has strong feelings about various particulars related to the Eagles, but he hasn’t forced his player preferences on the personnel department, sources said. Roseman, coach Doug Pederson and owner Jeffery Lurie have asked for his input and he has obliged. [inquirer.com]
It's hard to ignore the fact that five out of the Eagles' six top offensive picks since drafting Wentz have come from the same agency, but if it's true that Wentz' input is only a small part of their evaluation process, it's good that the team believes enough in their franchise quarterback to trust his evaluation of the players he'll be working closest with.
Over at ESPN+, Jeremy Fowler took a closer look at how things might shake out in the late first round, and after a defensive-heavy offseason, it seems like everyone knows (or thinks they know) that the Eagles will be looking to get Carson Wentz some help in Round 1.
There are lots of talented wideouts expected to go in the first round, but there's a clear top tier of talent with the trio of Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs III. They're all expected to be long gone when the Eagles pick at 21, but is there a chance Howie Roseman makes a trade up to get up one of those top 3 guys?
The Eagles are always lurking, and wide receivers are plentiful
Howie Roseman is known as an aggressive general manager this time of year, even when he doesn't make a move. He always is making calls and willing to listen. Most expect Roseman's Philadelphia Eagles to strongly consider one of the wide receivers in the first round, either by trading up or with their No. 21 overall pick. None of their wide receivers reached even 500 yards in 2019, and current No. 1 Alshon Jeffery is 30 years old and often injured. If Alabama's Jerry Jeudy, Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb and Alabama's Henry Ruggs III are off the board early, the depth at wideout is so strong that Roseman might be able move back for more picks, allowing him to get a top-flight wide receiver and an impact defensive player. Both Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay had 12 wideouts in their recent two-round mock drafts, a testament to the talent of the class.
Personnel evaluators like to say "pick your flavor" with the next crop of wide receivers behind Jeudy, Lamb and Ruggs. LSU's Justin Jefferson, who is good in the slot but has experience on the outside, is probably the consensus No. 4 wide receiver in the class. But the options are seemingly endless. Tee Higgins out of Clemson is a classic outside threat. Brandon Aiyuk (Arizona State) provides run-after-catch flare, Baylor's Denzel Mims is the raw talent with a high ceiling, Jalen Reagor (TCU) can do a little bit of everything and USC receiver Michael Pittman Jr. has size and ball skills.
"The Eagles have set things up to get Carson [Wentz] help through the draft, so I've got to think they will make it happen with a trade or straight up," one AFC exec said. "They have to." [espn.com]
If the Eagles do want to make a move up, Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports offered up five different options for the Birds that would put them in a position to get one of those three mentioned above — and possibly have his choice of the trio. One, however, was far more interesting than the others, as it involved the Birds not only getting the 11th overall pick, but also getting rid of wideout Alshon Jeffery.
Eagles get: 2020 first (No. 11)
Jets get: 2020 first (No. 21), 2020 second (No. 53), 2021 conditional fifth, WR Alshon Jeffery
Like Berry, Jets GM Joe Douglas is an old friend who'd likely perk up at the chance to increase draft capital for his rebuild. In this trade, he gets an extra top-55 pick (and thus can get both OT and WR help early), as well as immediate Sam Darnold help in Jeffery. The latter is aging and banged up, but he's got a great history with both Douglas and Adam Gase from Chicago and can be cut after 2020 for a savings of about $8 million. On the Eagles' side, Roseman would likely still get his WR of choice (Jeudy, Lamb or Ruggs) while also unloading Jeffery's deal. We'll say the 2021 conditional fifth is returned to the Eagles if Jeffery plays at least 13 games for New York in 2020, allowing Philly to get at least something in return for the wideout. [cbssports.com]
There was also another suggestion that involved the Eagles trading CB Rasul Douglas to the Raiders in a package that would net the Eagles the 12th overall pick. Our own Jimmy Kempski wrote about Douglas' value on the trade market earlier on Sunday.
Over at The Athletic, Ben Standig lamented the lack of rumors heading into this draft due to social distancing restrictions and the uncertain times in which we're living — but, hey, if a lack of draft rumors is the price to pay to save some lives, it seems more than worth it. But that doesn't mean there aren't any rumors out there, and he broke down everything he's hearing about each different pick. Here's what he had to say about the Eagles at 21...
No. 21 — The need for speed
Philadelphia wants receiver help. That’s not a usual move in the first round under Howie Roseman, but there’s a glaring hole. Alabama’s speed threat Henry Ruggs likely requires a trade-up ahead of San Francisco at 13, but the interest in Philly exists. Jalen Reagor’s projected range pushes a bit further out (24-33 with Green Bay at 30 a viable option). Still, the Eagles have put in work on the TCU receiver who ran an unofficial 4.22 at a virtual Pro Day after clocking a disappointing 4.47 at the combine. [theathletic.com]
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com updated his general manager power rankings. And while Howie Roseman fell slightly from his No. 2 spot, he remains a top 5 GM according to the latest list.
4. Howie Roseman, PHI (-2)
Making the playoffs in back-to-back seasons despite being one of the most injury-plagued teams in football proves that Roseman is resourceful, if unlucky. The identity of the Eagles -- strong up front on both sides of the ball -- remains intact, as does the need for a productive young receiver and improvement in the secondary. For the first time in years, Philly has cap space (even after the savvy pickups of Darius Slay and Javon Hargrave) and a full assortment of draft picks. Don't be shocked if the Eagles still have one more big move left in them. [nfl.com]
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