The Eagles will not draft Geno Smith.
There. I said it.
Despite all of the hoopla and rumors and the need for a quality signal caller, Geno Smith will not be the guy selected at #4. The reason is simple: he will not be the best player available.
A number of quarterbacks go in the first round every year, but that doesn’t mean it’s because they deserve to. Oftentimes these guys are selected early because of what we’ll call the “quarterback premium.” This means that the importance of the position alone makes an above average QB more valuable then any other guy on the field. As a result, teams will reach on guys like Mark Sanchez, Blaine Gabbert, or Jake Locker because they desire to have a franchise quarterback (whatever that means).
Instead, they set their organizations back 3-5 years as the picks develop into duds. Also, note that each team that those quarterbacks are on is drafting in the top ten this year (Jets, Jags, and Titans).
This is not to say that Geno Smith won’t succeed—he could very well end up having a quality career—but his value is spiked by the position he plays, not his current skill level. By not reaching for Smith at #4 because of the quarterback premium, the Eagles will continue their trend of non-sexy yet practical moves for a stronger future.
The front office seems to understand how troublesome such a mistake at QB can be. In a recent interview, Eagles GM Howie Roseman said, “You get your board right, you don't pick for need. If you do that, then you have the opportunity to come away with a heck of a draft.”
Consider some of the Eagles’ most recent draft busts: Danny Watkins, Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett. All of these players were picked in order to fill a specific need. How did that turn out?
As a result, I believe that the Eagles are attempting to convince QB-needy teams to move up past their pick at number four in order to increase their odds of getting their actual target. It’s not hard to find a team that could possibly make the jump past the Eagles in the draft either—there are four in the top ten.
First, consider the Buffalo Bills, who draft eighth. Owner Ralph Wilson is getting old and wants to build a winner as fast as possible. With Tarvaris Jackson currently slated to be the starter, they’re simply not a winner right now. They may be willing to go all-in on Smith. As Buffalo’s GM Buddy Nix recently said in a secretly recorded interview, “If you get [a franchise quarterback] everything’s easy."
The New York Jets are likely a good trading partner as well. Coach Rex Ryan is under pressure to make this team a contender again and they certainly won’t be with Sanchez or newly signed David Garrard under center. It also helps that Buffalo is in their division, which could prompt a bidding war.
Among the other teams sitting at the top of the draft, the Browns and Cardinals could be willing to get in on the action, too. They’re the sixth and seventh pick in the draft respectively and have new coaches looking to find their franchise QB.
So, with a number of potential biters theoretically jumping up to take Smith as early as third overall, who is the Eagles real target?
There are a few options here, but I believe that tackle Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M is certainly one of their top targets. The free agent market for tackles this year was (and still is) solid. Yet, the Eagles have not been in serious discussions with guys like Sebastian Vollmer and Eric Winston, who could be had for reasonable deals and are quality starters. Given the amount of cap space the Eagles have and the fact that Joeckel is considered a top-notch prospect, it seems possible that he’s their true choice.
The only issue here is that Andy Reid has been linked to Joeckel as well with the first overall pick. Consequently, even if someone traded up for Smith, it may not matter for the Eagles because Joeckel would be off the board anyway.
The same can be said for Sharrif Floyd, the defensive tackle out of Florida, who is another guy the front office must be strongly considering. The Eagles have been making tons of moves in the secondary, adding Cary Williams, Patrick Chung, Bradley Fletcher, and Kenny Phillips. However, they only added Isaac Sopoaga—a transitional nose tackle—on the defensive line. The 20-year-old Floyd could be a tremendous long-term solution for the Birds and form a formidable front line for years with Fletcher Cox.
The third choice, and currently the most popular pick, is cornerback Dee Millner of Alabama. Despite the Fletcher and Williams signings, the Eagles don’t have a top-notch player on the outside. Millner has star potential and plays with a physical style that the Birds have invested in repeatedly during this free agency period. He’s also the least likely of the three options to be taken by the fourth pick.