5 Creative Moves the Philadelphia Eagles Can Pull on Draft Day
It seems no matter who is behind the wheel during the draft, the Philadelphia Eagles are seldom content to sit there and make picks as they come. They trade up, they trade down, they trade players. The Birds find new and creative ways to enhance their roster just about every year.
This year, head coach Chip Kelly will continue to wield considerable sway with regard to who is selected, but it will be general manager Howie Roseman who is, once again, working the phones. And the 2014 draft could provide no shortage of options for the front office that’s bargain hunting.
As of right now, we already know of five possibilities that are already on the table. More could certainly pop up on draft day, when things are known to get a little crazy. For now, let’s investigate the potential deals we believe the Eagles are likely already weighing.
Dion Jordan for Brandon Graham, Plus Picks
Earlier this week, I ranked outside linebacker as Philly’s biggest need entering the draft, then lamented the fact that it’s probably unlikely the Eagles land an elite pass-rusher with the No. 22 pick. Well, there is at least one potential, creative solution for that.
A year ago, the Miami Dolphins actually traded ahead of the Birds to No. 3 overall to select Dion Jordan. One underwhelming season and a new general manager later, Jordan is said to be on the block.
The latest on Jordan’s availability came from Pottstown Mercury reporter Bob Grotz, who mentioned the Eagles actually offered up defensive end/outside linebacker Brandon Graham and their second-round pick to Miami for Jordan. Grotz then tweeted that a first would get the deal done, even going so far as to call that a bargain.
Whoa there. Not so fast.
Jordan may have been worth a top-five pick in 2013, but you have to be leery any time a franchise is willing to give up on such a highly touted prospect after one season. Sure, the former All-American is clearly better suited to play in a 3-4 defense than the Dolphins’ 4-3 alignment. Yes, injury did slow Jordan in his rookie season.
Regardless, NFL front offices would be wise to look at him skeptically. That includes Chip Kelly, who coached Jordan at the University of Oregon.
Graham and a second is the absolute highest I would be willing to go, and frankly, I would expect another mid-round pick back in return. That, theoretically, would go a long way toward solving the Eagles’ pass-rush problem, while not even costing the team one of its six draft picks—merely a trade down and swap of players instead.
LaMichael James for Bryce Brown
While we’re on the “Guys who played for Chip Kelly at Oregon” thought process, another of the offensive mastermind’s former stars is rumored to be available. The San Francisco 49ers are said to be actively shopping 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James, according to Matt Barrows for The Sacramento Bee.
The idea of reuniting Kelly and James has been a pet topic for New Jersey Star-Ledger reporter Eliot Shorr-Parks. Parks points out that the Eagles have checked into multiple running backs this offseason, ultimately sending a fifth-round pick to the New Orleans Saints for 30-year-old Darren Sproles.
That doesn’t mean Kelly is content with the weapons at his disposal. Parks suggests the Eagles could offer Bryce Brown, who didn’t appear to be a great fit for Kelly’s offense last season.
A seventh-round pick in ’12, Brown burst onto the scene in his rookie year with back-to-back 150-yard rushing performances. Since then, however, Brown averaged under 4.0 yards per carry in 13 of the last 19 games in which he carried the football. By the end of last season, Kelly was increasingly looking to fellow backup Chris Polk instead.
Despite the better pedigree coming out of college, James hasn’t fared any better in San Fran. While he did serve as the club’s primary punt returner in ’13, he’s carried the ball just 39 times in the 49ers offense in two seasons.
Perhaps Kelly, who would know his former student better than anybody, could squeeze more out of James. And perhaps James, who knows Kelly’s system and had success in it at the previous level, could jump-start his career in a new situation.
Personally, I’d be worried about sending Brown to a division rival, one the Eagles are likely to see in the postseason. However, you can’t say the idea lacks intrigue.
Evan Mathis for Picks
“Creative” may not be the most apt word to describe “Trade player for draft picks.” Then again, when the player in question happens to be the best in pro football at his position, it’s not exactly your everyday move, either.
Ian Rapoport for NFL.com reports the Eagles placed Evan Mathis on the block after the All-Pro left guard requested more money. Believe it or not, the hard line the organization took had nothing to do with gang ties. More likely, the fact that Mathis is the oldest starting guard in the NFL to begin with made the Birds reluctant to renegotiate.
Unusual as it may be to dump Pro Bowl players, the Birds proved they weren’t afraid to go against the grain when they straight up released 27-year-old DeSean Jackson coming off of a career year. Given the fact the team has more needs than picks heading into the draft, it's not necessarily a bad idea to take them however they come.
And while trading Mathis would seemingly just create another hole, the fact is it’s an area the Eagles might want to address anyway. Both Mathis and Todd Herremans are on the wrong side of 30, and Herremans’ play definitely slipped a little in ’13—although he did change positions again and, not to mention, was playing alongside a rookie right tackle.
CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora suggests Philadelphia could be looking for a third- or fourth-round pick for Mathis. If they manage to land a guard earlier in the draft, one who could probably step into a starting job immediately, moving the All-Pro becomes a no-brainer. Throw in an extra late-rounder for good measure, and you’ve got a deal.
Trade Up from No. 22
It honestly hadn’t occurred to me how little it costs to move up, say, two to four spots in the first round until Tuesday, when I re-graded Philadelphia’s ’09 draft. The Birds jumped two picks, from No. 21 to 19, for a mere sixth-round pick—in one of the worst drafts in recent memory at that.
The Eagles are no longer in possession of their sixth-round pick in ’14, but the lesson still stands. In a class as deep as this one, somebody unexpected is bound to fall, just like Jeremy Maclin did five years ago. Despite the fact that the Birds only have six selections, if the going price is anywhere close to what is was then, our mystery player won’t be out of reach.
Philly could use its fifth-round pick to jump ahead a couple of spots, and perhaps even get another late-rounder in return. Why, just look at the New York Jets, who currently hold the No. 18 pick—and four, count ‘em, four choices in the sixth round. That sure seems like overkill.
And just who might the Eagles trade up for? Take your pick. Have any of Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr or Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley managed to last this long? Mock drafts suggest one of them just might. Any of the three could develop into elite players at the next level.
The Eagles can’t really afford to lose draft picks given all their needs, and the fact that they only hold six selections going into the process. Opportunities may present themselves though, and not necessarily at the expense you think.
Trade Down from No. 22
I can’t seem to stress enough that the Eagles only hold six picks in the 2014 draft at present. It’s because this is going to be one of the deepest drafts in a long time, thanks in large part to a record number of underclassmen tossing their names into the hat.
In other words, players who would normally get drafted in the first round might go in the second. Second-rounders might last to the fourth. Fourth-rounders to the seventh. Players who won’t hear their names called this May—who might’ve been enjoying celebrations by dinner time on Day 3 most years—could find themselves playing major roles for NFL teams this season.
In my experience, fans often hate the idea of trading down. Add more picks, sure, but pass up on the best player on the board. The fact is though, the Eagles have needs at wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, cornerback, safety and kicker—in some cases, two at a position—and only six selections to fill them as of this writing.
As Jimmy Kempski for Philly.com explored in his breakdown of possible trade scenarios, there is no shortage of clubs that have the firepower to move up in the draft.
Say one of the top three quarterback prospects fell to No. 22, and the Cleveland Browns wanted to jump up four spots to grab him. I don’t know about you, but I would take an extra fourth-rounder off of their hands.
A team as deep as the San Francisco 49ers can’t possibly use all of its 11 picks in the draft. Moving down to No. 30 would be a little more painful, but the payoff there could be an added choice in the third.
In those cases, the Eagles aren’t even dropping out of the first round, yet gain picks at a point in the draft when there will still be quality, perhaps even starting-caliber players to be found. Creative it’s not, but more lottery tickets means more chances to hit on a winner, a strategy the Birds can’t afford to overlook.