Trading Down in Round 1 Might Be Best Draft Strategy for Philadelphia Eagles

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Trading Down in Round 1 Might Be Best Draft Strategy for Philadelphia Eagles
Matt Rourke

The Philadelphia Eagles currently own six selections in the 2014 NFL draft. They could probably afford to use twice that number.

Of course, if the Birds are willing to jump down from their perch at No. 22 overall, they might be able to secure the extra picks they desire. Given everything we know about their roster makeup and this draft, trading down could very well turn out to be the best strategy.

Don’t let last season’s unexpected trip to the playoffs fool you. Despite posting a 10-6 record en route to a division championship in Chip Kelly’s first season on the sidelines, the Eagles are still very much in the midst of rebuilding.

Want proof? Look no further than the complete list of team needs: wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, cornerback, safety and kicker for good measure. The roster could actually benefit from the addition of more than one prospect at a handful of positions. Don’t go thinking Kelly is content with his running backs or tight ends, either.

Obviously, there’s no way the front office can address every single one of its weaknesses in this draft. Admittedly, some needs are more urgent than others. The above list is also forecasting for the inevitable decline and departure of multiple aging veterans within the next year or two.

Offensive Players 30 or Up Before Super Bowl XLIX
Age on 2/1/15
LT Jason Peters 33
LG Evan Mathis 33
RG Todd Herremans 32
TE Brent Celek 30

NFL.com

Left tackle Jason Peters, offensive guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans, tight end Brent Celek, outside linebacker Trent Cole, interior linebacker DeMeco Ryans and cornerback Cary Williams are on the wrong side of 30 or will be by season’s end. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, cornerback Bradley Fletcher and safety Nate Allen are scheduled to become free agents next offseason as well.

All of them are projected to start or play big roles in ’14.

Defensive Players 30 or Up Before Super Bowl XLIX
Age on 2/1/15
OLB Trent Cole 32
ILB DeMeco Ryans 30
CB Cary Williams 30

NFL.com

In a select few cases, the primary issue is depth. However you want to slice it, there is plenty of work left to be done—and this would be the draft to attempt the lion’s share of it.

Thanks in part to a record number of underclassmen tossing their names into the hat, the class of ’14 is shaping up to be one of the deepest in recent memory. It would be an absolute shame to only call six names this year when—urgent or not—there are a vast array of positions where Philadelphia could stand to improve.

Important Unrestricted Free Agents in 2015
Age on 2/1/15
WR Jeremy Maclin 26
CB Bradley Fletcher 28
S Nate Allen 27
K Alex Henery 27

NFL.com, EaglesCap.com

Sure, the front office might be able to dredge up an extra mid-to-late-round pick or two, provided general manager Howie Roseman can unload any extra parts in trades.

Better suited for a 4-3 defense, outside linebacker Brandon Graham seems expendable. Mathis reportedly is unhappy with his contract, and while the All-Pro left guard is widely considered the best in the business right now, he’s also the oldest. Maybe running back Bryce Brown has some value, though I doubt it.

The only chance Roseman has of adding choices of substance is by dealing No. 22. As Jimmy Kempski for Philly.com explores, the Eagles potentially could come up with one or more extra picks between Rounds 2-4 by moving down or out of the first altogether.

The conflict with trading down is while it means the opportunity to add two or three potential contributors as opposed to just one, they come at the expense of a supposedly superior prospect.

Unfortunately, No. 22 appears to be right around the point in the draft where the top talents who also happen to align with Philly's needs have likely been scooped up, at least based on the latest projections (aka mock drafts). There’s a chance the Eagles won’t rate their choice at 22 significantly higher than who they would take at 32 for example, while the difference between 22 and 21 might be night and day.

I’m certainly not advocating trading down blindly or on principle, either. If one of the upper-echelon prospects slips to No. 22, somebody the Eagles have fallen in love with—think along the lines of Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr or Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley—by all means, take him.

The fact is we have no way of knowing exactly who will be available. That being said, the Eagles should plan for the worst.

Michael Perez

There’s one more reason why the organization would want to add selections. Only six picks in their possession takes bullets out of the chamber in the event Roseman wants to trade up in a later round.

Draft picks are currency in the NFL, and as of now, the Eagles are barely going to eek by on their current stipend. And while the roster appears structurally sound on the outside, you don’t have to look around very hard to see where it could use renovations.

Every pick the Birds don’t hold in this draft is one less project that gets done this offseason. When they’re turning over starters at multiple positions in 2015, and aging veterans are showing signs of falling apart, believe me, you’ll notice. Then you’ll be asking why the Eagles don’t have any depth.

Then we’ll look back on the things that weren’t accomplished in the 2014 draft.

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