Despite failing to win a Super Bowl and a disappointing 2011 season, the Philadelphia Eagles have been one of the most consistently successful franchises in all of football. A big part of that success has come from the draft, but the strategy that got them there may need to be tweaked this year.
The Eagles have generally always been one of the busiest teams on draft day, in both trades and picks. The Eagles' philosophy is to target where value lies in each draft and stockpile as many picks as possible.
This strategy has been beneficial in certain ways. Since no college player is ever really a sure thing, the more picks you have, the higher your odds are in selecting someone who makes it in the league.
In 13 drafts under the Andy Reid and Joe Banner regime, the Eagles have selected 115 players. That is nine players per year in a draft that has just seven rounds.
They have traded up for a better selection in the first round four times. They've traded out of the first round entirely twice. It worked out about as often as it failed.
In 13 drafts, the Eagles have definitely favored picks after Round 3. They've selected 75 players between Rounds 4 and 7, 23 more than their allotted number.
This strategy of stockpiling picks has grown under general manager Howie Roseman, as the Eagles have drafted 24 players in the last two years. That is a lot of picks, but is it really helpful?
For a young team that is just building, it is a great move. You get a bunch of young bodies, you create a lot of competition for roster spots, and you may find some diamonds in the rough. But when you are a team that is close to compering for a championship, you don't need a bunch of training camp bodies who will ultimately be cut.
The Eagles are in that position now. They are competing for the Super Bowl next season. They have a finite number of holes that need to be filled. While their weaknesses are extremely weak, they are also very few.
The Eagles really need to focus on their linebackers and safeties. They could use a backup running back who can spell LeSean McCoy, and hopefully handle kick return duties better than Dion Lewis.
With that said, it is time to stop trading and acquiring multiple fourth-, fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks. That is just not what this team needs. This team needs to find a couple of impact players. They need to find three or four guys who can really play.
The Eagles tend to draft safely, looking for low-floor prospects instead of high-ceiling guys. They need to swing for the fences now to round out a roster that was completely incomplete.
The Eagles need to be bold in this draft, targeting dynamic, playmaking prospects and making noise in the first three rounds instead of sitting around until closing time.
What should the Eagles draft strategy be?
They have a poor track record of picking defensive players. Out of 55 players picked on the defensive side of the ball, they have had just three make the Pro Bowl, for a total of five times. One was a fifth-round pick, Trent Cole, but he is the exception, not the rule.
The other two, Lito Sheppard and Michael Lewis, were selected 26th and 58th respectively.
The Eagles have three picks in the first three rounds, and they have the ability to move up at any time in the draft. This year is the time to take some chances and get some difference-making defensive players. It's time to build a defense that is as good or better than their explosive offense.
The 2012 season depends on it.