The Philadelphia Eagles Trade Up and Draft Brandon Graham; What's Next?

Leo PizziniAnalyst IApril 23, 2010

In a deal with the San Fransisco 49ers, the Eagles made the anticipated move up the round one draft board from 24th to 13th overall. In the exchange, they swapped first-round picks and the Eagles sent both of their third-round draft positions to San Francisco.

In terms of raw draft pick valuation, this was by the book (or chart). There was no technical fleecing of value. The NFL standard for draft pick valuation says this was a fair trade in a standard-depth draft (although this draft may be considerably deeper).

No matter how I slice it, I still hate to lose those third-round picks.

But upon taking their seat with the 13th overall selection, the Eagles options included all of the top defensive end prospects in Jason Pierre-Paul, Derrick Morgan, and Brandon Graham. Cornerbacks Kyle Wilson, Devin McCourty, and Kareem Jackson were all on the board, as was safety Earl Thomas (who most expected to be an Eagle).

The premier interior linemen in Mike Iupati and Maurkice Pouncey were also available.

Someone on this list must have been of serious interest and would have almost unquestionably been available at the 24th overall position without sacrificing third-round draft picks.

Were Howie Roseman and Andy Reid in panic mode to acquire a top defensive end prospect?

It's possible. It feels like an unnecessary move.

And to the surprise of virtually everyone, the Eagles jumped the curb to draft Brandon Graham as the first defensive end off the board. Derrick Morgan and Jason Pierre-Paul had been the top-rated defensive ends since the college football season ended and they were ready to be picked.


Both Everson Griffen from USC and Carlos Dunlap from Florida are still on the board at this moment, not to mention prospects like Greg Hardy, Corey Wooten and Geno Atkins.

But I still don't think I would call Brandon Graham a reach at 13th overall. He may not have been rated above the other prospects on everyone's draft board, but he was on some and the other options all had issues as well.

Earl Thomas has questionable size as a 5'10" safety. He's not a particularly effective tackler either. Derrick Morgan gets pushed around at times, and Jason Pierre-Paul has not proven he can bring his freakish athleticism to the football field consistently.

You get the idea and it could be worse.

Consider that Josh McDaniels traded the Broncos second-, third-, and fourth-round selections to acquire Tim Tebow.

Count your blessings.

And to be clear, I love Brandon Graham as an Eagle and they would not have gotten him at 24. But no matter how positive I want be, it still smells like a waste of draft picks right now.

I just do not like the hefty price we paid to get him.

All told, the Eagles gave up a first-rounder, two third-rounders, and a fourth-round pick to address the defensive end position with two excellent young talents in Brandon Graham and Darryl Tapp.

But with Brandon Graham, you know what you are getting. More so than with the other prospects. In four seasons at Michigan, Graham played hard every game, every snap, and every second. He has a non-stop motor that can get to the quarterback and loosen things up for Trent Cole on the opposite side.  

He's an exciting prospect to match with Tapp at a critical position that I have referred to as the keystone piece of this Eagles defense. Strong defensive end play from the left side will solidify the defensive front. In turn, that will take pressure off of the need to blitz, permitting a stronger commitment of personnel to coverage and maintaining a strong pass rush with the front four.

The resulting loss of time for opposing quarterbacks to dissect the secondary without blitzing linebackers and defensive backs in order to create a pass-rush is exactly what the Eagles need to do in order to find greater success with their defense.

Brandon Graham will make the secondary better.

But in terms of net-draft value, Brandon Graham is going to rotate with Darryl Tapp and at this moment, I think the Eagles spent too much prospecting-value on defensive end. They could have invested in the secondary and later acquired a quality defensive end to put into rotation with Darryl Tapp.

I also see both Graham and Tapp both as edge rushers. They will be playing the left defensive end position which in a traditional 4-3 defense is a pocket collapsing position. The right defensive end and SAM linebackers are the typical edge rushers.

Don't get me wrong, I love the player. The overall plan and trade to this point? Not so much. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles structure their defense in 2010 and to further see what roles each of these new defensive ends will play.

I just don't think the Eagles needed to trade up to get what they wanted overall. (Did I say that already?) I believe they would have done better overall had they stayed put and taken one of the top cornerbacks at 24th overall and retained their third-round picks to acquire more young talent.

They appeared to be dead set on trading up, regardless of what the draft rolled out like, and in my opinion, the draft was playing out favorably for the Eagles to stick with 24th overall (There I go again).

But if trading-up just had to be, the 15th-to-20th-pick holders were not likely acquiescent to an exchange. The Giants, Steelers, Titans, Falcons, and Texans all had players that they wanted falling right to them.

Their targeted players included the top defensive end prospects and Brandon Graham. 

But in another example of over-spending to secure a prospect, San Diego's move to secure running back Ryan Mathews by leap-frogging Houston at 20 overall forced them to move all the way to 12th overall to lock him up.

So if the Eagles absolutely loved Brandon Graham and were hell-bent on acquiring him, they probably needed to move up to 13th overall as they did. And if they are right about what he can do, this will have been a great move.

In the long run, I believe we will all love having Brandon Graham. Hopefully, we don't regret not having the prospects that we sacrificed to get him.

At this point, I wonder, what can the Eagles do from here to address the secondary on Day Two?

I have to think the next two picks will be defensive backs. The top tier of cornerbacks were somewhat surprisingly swept off the board in the first round, but the next bunch are excellent as well. There should be some interesting cornerback talent that lasts to the 55th overall selection.

So, I think the Eagles next draft pick (37th overall) will be a safety. Both Taylor Mays and Nate Allen are still on the board and I expect the Eagles to select Nate Allen as the better scheme-player at safety. 

With 55th overall, I suspect that the Eagles will take their cornerback. Either Brandon Ghee, Chris Cook, Akwasi Owusu Ansah, or Jerome Murphy would be excellent options to play a significant role for the Eagles in 2010. 

Offensive line, defensive tackle, and linebacker are additional positions that the Eagles could try to fill with their second-round picks.

They could be tempted to take Brian Price from UCLA, Terence Cody from Alabama, or Lamar Houston from Texas as a defensive tackle. Jon Osamoa, Vladimir Ducasse, Roger Saffold, and Charles Brown are very interesting offensive lineman that are still on the board.

And I wouldn't completely rule out a linebacker despite having acquired Ernie Sims. 

It's a good looking draft at the end of round two. The Eagles have the trade bait to move back into round three or possibly even target another second-round player. I expect them to be active in the war room for the entirety of the draft.

For now, I will reserve final judgement until the draft concludes. It's off to a rocky start as I see it, but there are plenty of ways to make this draft a great one.

The Eagles front office always seems to finagle a nice response to their wish list.


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