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April 25, 2022

John McMullen: Groupthink and technology are making the draft less exciting

Opinion Eagles
030322HowieRoseman Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports

Howie Roseman.

It sounded like a tale from decades ago, perhaps when the Studebaker was all the rage on the nation's roads. The anecdote from Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was actually less than a generation old, 17 years to be exact, when the Eagles found a similarly-named linebacker, Andy Studebaker, from little-known Wheaton College.

Once upon a time, human intelligence and old-fashioned shoe-leather scouting were still unveiling players like Studebaker, players who were unknown to the masses.

"We had scouts go to these small-school places," Roseman opined. "Not everyone knew everything."

Wheaton, a small private Evangelical Christian liberal arts college in Wheaton, Illinois, was one of those places when then-director of college scouting Ryan Grigson marched into the NovaCare Complex with a DVD filled with Studebaker film.

"We drafted a guy. Andy Studebaker, I mean, you go talk to Ryan Grigson (now a senior football advisor to new Minnesota GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah). Ryan Grigson brought us a DVD of Andy Studebaker," Roseman said. "That was the first look at him before we gave it to Doc [former Eagles video director Mike Dougherty] and put it in the system."

And all those intra-organization systems had significant differences less than two decades ago.

"The top 100 players on my board, you may have 75 of those guys," Roseman said. "But now we're basically in the information age where everyone really knows who the players are, who the top 100 players are going to be."

Roseman was the Eagles' director of football administration back then, still five years away from his first stint as Philadelphia's GM, when the organization pulled the trigger on Studebaker in the sixth round at No. 203 overall, the first player ever drafted out of Wheaton where the LB was a Division-III first-team All-American.

Studebaker didn't even stick with the Eagles and was released at the initial cutdown to 53 but was brought back to the practice squad. From there, Kansas City signed him off the PS in November of 2006 and Studebaker was off and running in what turned out to be an eight-year NFL career, well above the mean for a sixth-rounder out of Alabama never mind Wheaton.

"That isn’t happening anymore, right? Everyone's going to know that guy," Roseman said of Studebaker.

Today, there is more consensus, and some might argue groupthink, than ever before.

"That doesn't mean we have them in the same order, but there are not as many surprises," Roseman said. "There are not as many, ‘Wow, like I don't know where that guy came from.’"

Uncertainty at the top of the 2022 draft has been a theme and there are certainly no consensus options like Trevor Lawrence was last year.

“I don't know that I can remember a year with more uncertainty,” former Eagles scout and current lead NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on a conference call with reporters last week.

Roseman, Jeremiah’s old boss, redirected that sentiment, however.

"We see maybe teams’ uncertainty about who particular teams are going to take," Roseman explained. "Less so necessarily who we think those players would be if that makes sense."

When pressed for a follow-up question, Roseman clarified that the uncertainty isn't about the players but the landing spots, defining clear tiers from one through 20 and then 21 and 51.

"I think that there's consistency in terms of the players that we see going probably in the top 20," the GM noted. "Now, a couple of those could change, but I don't think it's so drastically different, in terms of the players that are going to go in the top 20.

“I think where it will start to change is after that. I think you're going to see a lot of different boards. Some guys that are going between 21 and maybe 51, where we pick in the second round, and you'll see a lot of variables that go into those picks."

At Nos. 15 and 18 in the first round that means Philadelphia should get two players who they have graded as Tier 1 prospects per the organization’s board.

Jeremiah harkened back to 2018 for a comparable draft.

“The year with Baker Mayfield going one. … That one was unpredictable. We kind of went into that process and it was Josh Allen potentially, it was Sam Darnold, and then Baker came out of left field and ended up being the first pick,” mused Jeremiah. “There was some unpredictability there.”

Jeremiah used Purdue edge rusher George Karlaftis as a lynchpin for the opposing views in the 2022 class.

“I talk to teams and the great example is somebody like a Karlaftis in this draft from Purdue. There's teams that think he's one of the top 15 players, and then there's teams that think he's not worth a first-or second-round pick,” said Jeremiah. “That's how all over the board teams are on some of these guys. So that's where to me it's different than any other draft.”

According to Roseman, all the added information available to so many more people has decreased the margin for error.

"I think the process has changed," the Eagles’ GM admitted. "... I think that at the end of the day, what we're saying is everyone's getting all this information, right? So, it's not where all of a sudden -- I promise you one thing: whoever we take in the third round, you're going to know, right?”

And that wasn’t always the case.

"You may not have a couple of years ago. [Former Eagles LB] Chris Gocong maybe you looked for and go, ‘Man, I have to find Cal-Poly stuff,’” Roseman said. “All this information is at your fingertips [now], and it just makes everything narrower and your margin for error narrower."

John McMullen is a contributor to, and covers the Eagles and the NFL for Sports Illustrated and JAKIB Media. He’s also the co-host of “Birds 365,” a daily streaming show covering the Eagles and the NFL and the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at Follow John on Twitter.