March 27, 2021
The Eagles, to the shock of many, traded back from their No. 6 spot in the 2021 NFL Draft on Friday as part of a three-team deal with the Dolphins and 49ers. The trade moved them back from sixth overall to 12th overall, but also netted them a future first-round pick in 2022 and an additional fourth-round pick in 2021.
There's a lot to unpack with the this move, and most of it has less to do with the actual picks changing hands and more about what this signifies for the Eagles moving forward, including their commitment to Jalen Hurts, their rebuilding plans, the importance of next offseason, and the list goes on.
There are no shortage of opinions on not just the Eagles' future, but also the process that led them to first earning the sixth-overall pick with that putrid 4-11-1 season and ultimately trading it away for more lottery tickets next spring, when they will have at least two first-round picks and could have as many as three. It's very Sam Hinkie of Howie Roseman, providing his franchise with the most optionality possible and the team now having the assets to not only make a run at a top quarterback prospect in 2022, but also the ability to trade for an established vet if they worry the odds of hitting on a QB in the draft are too slim.
After all, the Eagles' recent track record in the draft isn't great, and that doesn't just apply to the quarterback position. Even that is splitting fans on how to view this trade. Some see those added picks as more chances for Roseman to get lucky, while others believe picking at six would've given Philly a slam-dunk option and now picking at 12 increases the odds that they not only get a lesser player, but that they miss entirely. And still others reside somewhere in the middle, understanding the need to add more picks in what is increasingly looking like a massive, multi-year rebuild, but also being appropriately cautious that the right choices will be made given the history of the man tasked with making those picks.
But the deal is done, and it's now time to analyze it from every possible angle until there's nothing left to say. Depending on what happens next month — and next year, for that matter — this could be a trade that gets talked about for a long time to come, for better or worse. So let's dive in and cover as many angles as possible, from grades and instant reactions to more longterm thinking, in our latest edition of What They're Saying...
That's how Reuben Frank starts his recent column over at NBC Sports Philadelphia, and that seems to more or less be the popular opinion among both the fans and those who cover the team for a living.
As we just outlined in the intro, there are pros and cons to both sides of this deal, with the Eagles now gaining more chances (read: picks) to potentially find a top talent but also losing their best chance (the sixth overall pick) at doing so.
Here, Roob outlines the best-case scenario, in which one of the Alabama prospects falls all the way to 12, and the Eagles still get a guy they might've taken anyway at No. 6, plus they get that future first. Obviously if that happens, the way this trade is viewed will change dramatically, and depending on how big of a run there is on QBs early on, there's still a chance one or more of the three players (Jaylen Waddle, Patrick Surtain II, Devonta Smith) are available.
If they aren't and if the Eagles miss on their pick — especially if the players who go between six and 12 turn out to be studs — then this is going to look pretty bad for the Birds (who could have a chance to redeem themselves next season with the additional first-rounder acquired in this trade). Anyway, here's more from Roob...
The dream scenario is that the Eagles end up with a top talent like Jaylen Waddle, Patrick Surtain II or even Devonta Smith at 12 and have a bonus 1st-round pick next year. If they can get an elite player at 12 and another impact player next year with the extra pick, then this trade was a success.
Especially if they're convinced (and correct) that the value between the player they would have taken at 6 - whether that's Kyle Pitts, Ja'Marr Chase, Penei Sewell or someone else - isn't significantly better than what they wind up with at 12.
But at 6, you expect a generational talent. At 12, you’re hoping for one.
It’s hard to trust Roseman considering his recent draft record. I think that’s what makes this trade hard for a lot of fans to take. You figure he can’t screw up 6. But the farther down you drop, the less of a sure-thing you’re getting.
In a way, this is a great opportunity. But I can't help thinking staying at 6 would have been an even better one. [nbcsports.com]
Over at Bleeding Green Nation, Ben Solak took a look at what the Eagles are really missing out on by making this trade, and that's the chance to take one of the top quarterbacks in this class. And while they'll likely now tell you that they've been behind Jalen Hurts all along — there was that report of Jeffrey Lurie wanting to build around him before Roseman threw cold water on that — it probably shouldn't be a surprise that the Eagles actually aren't sold on the second-year QB. In fact, before making this deal, they considered trading the other way and possibly moving up to grab a passer.
#Eagles are unsure about Jalen Hurts. No consensus in the building. After beating the Saints, they wanted to get rid of Carson Wentz. After next 3 losses, they wanted to work it out with Carson. After trading Carson, they considered a trade up for a QB before trading down to 12.— Rob Maaddi (@RobMaaddi) March 26, 2021
And here's the amended version...
Rephrasing an earlier tweet for clarity: Early on in the draft prospect, the #Eagles felt Zach Wilson was a strong prospect, but for where they are, they felt moving back and collecting a future 1st rounder was a better way to build a team.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 26, 2021
Obviously, the Eagles strongly considered moving up for a quarterback before trading back. For now, taking a QB in the first round seems to be off the table. And that might be the biggest thing the Eagles gave up on Friday.
He’s still here, and as he did in the 2016 - 2017 offseason, he’s quickly shedding the roster of old talent and looking to get younger, make more picks, and start the rebuild. This is the appropriate approach in a vacuum, even if it costs the Eagles LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, considered the top WR by media and fans; Florida’s Kyle Pitts, considered a matchup nightmare at TE.
But because of his missteps over the last few seasons, and historical shakiness as an evaluator, it’s tough to trust Roseman to make good picks, regardless of the trades he executed beforehand. This trade back is good in a vacuum — it beefs up the Eagles’ draft capital over the long-term — but in context, the creeping sensation that both Chase and Pitts will be stars in the league, now that the Eagles have all but forgone their chances of drafting either, is tough to shake.
The biggest thing that the Eagles surrendered, however, was not a chance at a star pass-catcher. Neither Chase nor Pitts is guaranteed to go before 12, though it is very unlikely one falls that far. The remaining top tier of WRs — Alabama teammates Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith — would both be great selections outside of the Top-10, and have a shot of making it. The Eagles relinquished the ability to grab a quarterback at the top of this draft class. [bleedinggreennation.com]
Because the Eagles ultimately opted to trade back and apparently won't be targeting a QB in the first round this year, Nate Davis of USA TODAY named Hurts as a winner of this trade, even though he wasn't directly involved in any way.
But Hurts wasn't the only winner from Philly, and the second one might be more important to the team's longterm success...
Jalen Hurts: Heading into his sophomore season, the Philadelphia quarterback can rest assured he'll have at least the upcoming campaign to solidify his standing as Carson Wentz's long-term successor. There had been rampant pre-draft speculation that the Eagles might take another potential franchise QB at No. 6, then let Hurts (a second-rounder in 2020) and the rookie duke it out in camp with the loser possibly serving as trade bait to a team in need of help under center. But it appears an ESPN report from earlier this month, suggesting owner Jeffrey Lurie wanted his front office to build around Hurts in the short term, had veracity – and there should be a slew of interesting weapons to choose from at No. 12, the ultimate choice most likely to be an offensive building block.
Eagles rebuild: After winning the Super Bowl for the first time in 2017 and going to the playoffs the following two seasons, the wheels came off in 2020 – aging veterans succumbing to injuries, deficiencies exposed and Wentz's play cratering in a cascading series of problems that made it difficult to discern cause and effect. But now executive vice president/GM Howie Roseman and rookie coach Nick Sirianni have additional assets, including an extra fourth-rounder this year along with 2022's extra Round 1 pick, to retool in a division that seems to be in play annually. And even if Hurts doesn't pan out, the Eagles have the wherewithal to more effectively replace him – especially when you consider how Roseman masterfully climbed the board to obtain Wentz second overall in 2016. [usatoday.com]
Speaking of Hurts, the second-year quarterback only played a handful of games last season, so it's far too early to decide one way or the other. In that respect, trading back may have been the best move for the Birds. Not only do they give themselves another year to evaluate the former Heisman finalist during a year in which they're not expected to compete anyway, but they've also better positioned themselves to address the quarterback position next offseason, when they could have as many as three first-round picks and a ton of cap space with which to work.
As we mentioned above, not only does that sort of optionality give them a chance to package picks and move up to get whatever quarterback they want — assuming their own pick isn't high enough already — but it also gives the Birds a chance to make a blockbuster trade.
If it wasn’t clear before, the Eagles further solidified that they are all-in on Jalen Hurts for 2021 after they traded back from the No. 6 overall draft pick on Friday.
Beyond next season, the exchange with the Dolphins that most importantly netted the Eagles a 2022 first-rounder gives them another asset to acquire a starting quarterback should Hurts fall short of claiming the position.
They now have two first-round picks in 2022 and will have a third if one of two conditions of the Carson Wentz trade with the Colts are met. The former Eagles quarterback has to play either 75 percent of the snaps this season or 70 percent and reach the playoffs for a second-rounder to become a first.
With that amount of capital, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman should be able to either select a quarterback early in next year’s draft, or trade for one — possibly a disgruntled star like Russell Wilson or DeShaun Watson — if Hurts isn’t the answer. [inquirer.com]
All along, it looked as though the Eagles were going to target some type of a receiver with the sixth pick, whether that was a wideout like Ja'Marr Chase or stud tight end Kyle Pitts. Either way, it seemed like the team's skill positions were going to be massively improved in 2021. Now, that doesn't seem like it'll be the case, and it's why Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski listed them as one of the the losers of this draft trade.
A trade out of the top 10 is counterproductive.
With the sixth overall pick, the Eagles could have landed multiple options in the receiving game to 1) drastically improve Philadelphia's skill positions and 2) create a much better surrounding cast for Hurts.
By moving down six spots, the Eagles could see offensive weapons Kyle Pitts, Ja'Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle come off the board before they're on the clock.
Once the top four (or even five) quarterbacks are taken, teams will have heavy interest in those touchdown-makers. The Bengals, Dolphins, Detroit Lions and New York Giants could all add another playmaker.
At that point, Philadelphia will be looking at the next tier of targets. To be fair, the incoming class is deep at wide receiver once again. Even so, a significant difference exists between landing an elite prospect at a position of need and settling for one later in the process. [bleacherreport.com]
If that's the case, it sound like Jalen Hurts might be a loser-by-association here. Given their current crop of skill players, he could certainly use the help. On the plus side, however, there's still a chance one of those top players (like Smith or Waddle) are available with the 12th pick.
Over at The Athletic, Zach Berman and Bo Wulf offered up their thoughts on the trade and whether or not it was the right move for Philly. While their analysis was great, as always, the best part was the way in which they decided to grade the pick, on a scale of 12th overall picks from the last decade.
Those picks ranged from, at the QB position, Deshaun Watson to Christian Ponder. It also includes defensive guys, from Fletcher Cox to DJ Hayden. But none of those were the appropriate comparisons here...
Zach Berman: The Eagles are rebuilding and extra first-round picks are hard to acquire. So I can see why the Eagles made the move they did. It’s probably a trade I would have made if I were in Howie Roseman’s position, although I would have pushed for a second- or third-rounder this year. (The Bucs traded No. 7 overall for No. 12 and two second-round picks in 2018. If a second-round pick this year is worth a first-round pick next year, then that trade would have been a decent comparison.) However, the idea of a draft pick can sometimes be better than the result of the pick. This trade makes sense if the Eagles find a foundational player at No. 12 and further replenish the roster next April. If Chase falls to No. 6 and becomes an All-Pro elsewhere and Philadelphia is searching for a wide receiver again next year, Eagles fans will wish they simply stuck where they were.
Grade (on the scale of No. 12 overall picks from the past decade): Odell Beckham Jr. He was a shrewd pick that proved fruitful for the Giants and even gave them a future first-round pick in a trade. However, it provided its own headaches, it ultimately didn’t put them over the top and the alternative (Aaron Donald one pick later) would have been better in hindsight.
Bo Wulf: I think the move is fine, the timing is not ideal and that it’s fair for you to be wary of the Eagles making the most of the No. 12 pick.
Grade (on the scale of No. 12 overall picks from the past decade): Sheldon Rankins. Seemed like a sensible decision to make, though it meant passing on an option with more upside (Laremy Tunsil) that would have meant trusting your evaluation. And the No. 6 pick (Ronnie Stanley) would have been a lot better. [theathletic.com]
Over at CBS Sports, Jeff Kerr seemed quite optimistic about the Eagles' trade back to 12. That being said, of the three teams involved in the trade, the Eagles still got the lowest grade (the Dolphins got an A+ and the 49ers got an A-).
Maybe Kerr was just in a really good mood when he wrote this, or maybe this is the first win-win-win trade in NFL history. That being said, it's hard to dismiss the notion that each of these teams got something they wanted out of this deal, so maybe he's on to something here...
Let's be honest here: Does anyone actually know what the Eagles are doing in regards to the 2021 season? Philadelphia had a golden opportunity to select a playmaker at No. 6 for Jalen Hurts once Miami traded down from No. 3 to No. 12 -- which basically ensures the top three picks in the draft would be quarterbacks. The Eagles staying put at No. 6 would have netted them one of Ja'Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, Kyle Pitts or Jaylen Waddle. Any of those players would have made their pass-catching group immediately better in 2021.
Trading down to No. 12 eliminates Philadelphia getting one of those players, but there's hope for the Eagles. Over the past decade, the third wide receiver taken has only gone before No. 12 once. That still leaves the Eagles with the hope of selecting Smith or Waddle -- of course hope isn't the same as a sure thing. Keep in mind this draft has 12 to 15 star players before the talent pool dips considerably -- and the Eagles are still in one of those top 12 positions. [...]
The Eagles have plenty of draft capital for the next two years and Hurts will have the opportunity to prove he's the franchise quarterback in 2021. If only the guy making the picks (general manager Howie Roseman) was excellent at drafting....
Grade: B+ [cbssports.com]
Let's revisit this trade after the draft — and then again in 3-5 years — and see how these grades hold up. Odds are, at least one of these teams is going to regret ever making this deal. Philly fans will just have to hope that team isn't the Eagles...
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