April 15, 2021
With the 2021 NFL Draft quickly approaching it’s worth noting that if the Eagles’ scouting staff had its way last spring Justin Jefferson and Jeremy Chinn — arguably the top offensive and defensive rookies in the 2020 draft class — would be cornerstones of the roster right now.
Multiple team sources have confirmed that Jefferson, the former LSU star who was taken by the Minnesota Vikings one spot after Philadelphia selected fellow receiver Jalen Reagor at No. 21 overall, would have been the choice had vice president of player personnel Andy Weidl and his staff made the call.
Similarly, Chinn, the 6-foot-3, 221-pound safety out of Southern Illinois who was selected No. 64 by the Carolina Panthers, was the top option of the department at No. 53 over Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins, ultimately taken No. 55 by Baltimore, before team owner Jeffrey Lurie tipped the scales toward Jalen Hurts.
Rewind to 2019 and you’ll hear similar stories about Lurie directing the team toward the disappointing J.J. Arcega-Whiteside selection at No. 57 overall over the personnel staff recommendation of Ohio State WR Parris Campbell, who ended up in Indianapolis two slots later.
The results only obfuscate the real issue here, however, Philadelphia’s favorite word — the process.
Everyone from Lincoln Riley in Oklahoma to Rich Scangarello is being thrown under the bus for advocating for Reagor over Jefferson, and the owner is too often usurping his own personnel staff with Harold Katz-like scouting decrees — albeit based on analytics vs. west-coast games on the satellite dish.
To be fair, all of the more recent "failures" are a relatively small sample size.
Arcega-Whiteside vs. Campbell isn’t exactly a battle of heavyweights with Campbell winning on points after two seasons, even though he’s played in just nine of a potential 32 games due to a litany of injuries including a sports hernia, a broken hand, a broken foot, and a PCL/MCL knee injury last September. Under a new coaching staff with better developmental coaches, it's not hard to visualize JJAW easily lapping the injury-prone Campbell by the end of the 2021 campaign.
In that same vein, Reagor could become a very good player even if Jefferson is the more complete one likely headed for a great career. The nature of Hurts’ position, meanwhile, means he can be far more impactful than Chinn in short order if he takes the baton of opportunity in 2021 and runs with it.
A half-full glass can easily be added to. It can also be emptied for that matter.
No one bats a thousand in life because outliers exist. A decision and its outcome are always separate. Good decisions do not necessarily guarantee positive results. Conversely, poor decisions do not necessarily result in poor outcomes. However, if you stack good decisions you're going to be far better off as the sample size grows than the team stacking the bad ones.
The issues with the Eagles aren't about a good or bad draft pick, it’s about the road toward every selection.
With strong, stable organizations any infighting and politics were dealt with prior to the big day and chaos doesn’t exist. Every contingency has been planned for and a clear path laid out. There shouldn’t be any lobbying once an organization is on the clock, just a calm and disciplined carrying out of a predetermined plan agreed to by all the relevant parties.
Recent reporting by The Athletic paints a far different picture going on inside the NovaCare Complex and even if the Eagles’ brass disagrees with the assessment, which it certainly does, it has to realize how a lack of transparency invites second-guessing.
Lurie and GM Howie Roseman rarely talk to the media. VP of football operations and strategy Alec Halaby, essentially the franchise’s analytics chief, never speaks. Yet all of them seem to have more input on the draft process at times than the personnel chief, Weidl, who only speaks pre-draft and post-draft.
The head coach, formerly Doug Pederson and now Nick Sirianni, has the least amount of input of all when it comes to the draft, yet he’s also the one who’s got to put the happy face on and pretend everyone who is provided to him is great and he got everything he wanted.
As evidenced by the 1,247 worthless mock drafts released this week, no one has any idea who the organization will actually get from the 2021 class. But you can feel comfortable in predicting there will be a Lurie pick or two, a couple of Rosemans, a banging of the table from Halaby, and even some actual scouting staff recommendations, especially when the names stop being recognizable.
What there should be is only Eagles picks, a consensus from a real collaborative enterprise that Lurie claims to want but only pays lip service to.
Who knew Abraham Lincoln was the first real draftnik when he said “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
John McMullen is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media, and the co-host of ‘Birds 365’ on PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey and contributes Eagles and NFL coverage for SI.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow John on Twitter: @JFMcMullen
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