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Eagles Would Be Insane to Mortgage Their Future for Marcus Mariota

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJanuary 21, 2015

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 03:  Head coach Chip Kelly celebrates with Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks after their 35 to 17 win over the Kansas State Wildcats in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 3, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles need look no further than Washington, D.C. for a cautionary tale regarding a potential blockbuster draft trade in an attempt to land this year's top quarterback, Marcus Mariota. That, of course, is where their division rivals, the Redskins, sold multiple farms in a similar situation three years ago. 

The 'Skins, you might recall, traded away two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick just to move up from No. 6 to No. 2 in the 2012 draft. That ensured they'd be able to choose one of that draft's top two quarterbacks: Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III

They wound up with Griffin, but because drafting quarterbacks is a crapshoot, they were still taking a tremendous risk. 

Now here we are three years later. The Redskins have won just seven games in the last two seasons, the regime that made that move is now gone and there are serious questions surrounding Griffin's ability to be a productive NFL starter, let alone a franchise savior.

The Redskins are on the verge of a rebuild and have only one first-round pick from the last three years on their roster. So that backfired. 

NJ.com's Mark Eckel reported on Tuesday that the Eagles are "going to try" to move up from the 20th pick to a spot at which they could draft Mariota, who is the consensus top quarterback in this class after a Heisman Trophy 2014 season at Oregon. 

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And while that's hardly surprising considering the team's need for a quarterback, as well as the fact head coach/personnel boss Chip Kelly hails from Oregon, the reality is that the price would be far, far, far too steep. 

I get it. Sometimes you gotta take wild risks in order to succeed in this league, and you certainly can't win nowadays without a strong quarterback. But considering that Mariota is the only perceived blue-chip pivot in this class, it's fair to conclude that the Eagles would have to sacrifice an arm, a leg and maybe multiple other limbs in order to move within his reach. 

That's what happened to the Redskins, despite the fact they were moving up only four spots. Mariota is widely projected to be a top-five pick, but Philly holds the 20th selection. That year, there were several first-round-caliber quarterbacks, including Luck and Ryan Tannehill. This year, the supply is lower and the demand just as high. 

From Eckel:

One NFL personnel executive told NJ Advanced Media a month ago that he would ask for a No. 1 and a No. 2 this year, a No. 1 next year and running back LeSean McCoy.

Some have speculated it would take a package of at least three first-round picks and additional picks. Others have thrown out the idea of a "Mike Ditka'' deal in which the Eagles would send all of their 2015 picks to a team for the chance to land Mariota, much like the former New Orleans Saints head coach did in 1999 in order to select Texas running back Ricky Williams.

I just don't know how the Eagles could rationalize this risk, especially considering there's no guarantee Mariota will wind up any better than current starter Nick Foles, who had a Pro Bowl 2013 season but struggled on the field and with injuries this past year. 

Evidence suggests that even in the first round, you're rolling the dice when drafting a quarterback. For every Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger there's a Brady Quinn, JaMarcus Russell and Vince Young. 

I'll admit that I'm using my own subjective bias to determine who succeeded and who failed, but I think this still gives us a general idea of how often first-round quarterbacks pan out:

First-round quarterbacks this century
#SuperstarsSuccessful startersFailuresJury's still out
1Andrew LuckCam NewtonBrandon WeedenBlake Bortles
2Aaron RodgersMatt StaffordJake LockerJohnny Manziel
3Eli ManningMatt RyanBlaine GabbertTeddy Bridgewater
4Philip RiversJoe FlaccoChristian PonderEJ Manuel
5Ben RoethlisbergerJay CutlerSam BradfordRyan Tannehill
6Alex SmithTim TebowRobert Griffin III
7Carson PalmerMark Sanchez
8Michael VickJosh Freeman
9Chad PenningtonJaMarcus Russell
10Brady Quinn
11Vince Young
12Matt Leinart
13Jason Campbell
14J.P. Losman
15Byron Leftwich
16Kyle Boller
17Rex Grossman
18David Carr
19Joey Harrington
20Patrick Ramsey
Pro Football Reference

Exactly 40 quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round since 2000. Even if we're to assume that all six of the "jury still out" pivots will become solid starters (which is very unlikely), there'd still be 20 successful stories and 20 failures. And even if we liberally call Newton, Stafford, Ryan, Flacco and Palmer "superstars," no more than 25 percent of first-round signal-callers have become superstars.

Now, some of those guys were drafted much later in Round 1, and Mariota is supposed to be a top-five pick. Let's perform the exact same experiment, this time using only quarterbacks drafted in the top five. And for this, we'll go back a quarter-century:

Top-five quarterbacks since 1990
#SuperstarsSuccessful startersFailuresJury's still out
1Andrew LuckCam NewtonSam BradfordBlake Bortles
2Eli ManningMatt StaffordMark SanchezRobert Griffin III
3Philip RiversMatt RyanJaMarcus Russell
4Donovan McNabbAlex SmithVince Young
5Peyton ManningCarson PalmerDavid Carr
6Drew BledsoeMichael VickJoey Harrington
7Steve McNairTim Couch
8Kerry CollinsAkili Smith
9Ryan Leaf
10Heath Schuler
11Rick Mirer
12Jeff George
Pro Football Reference

The odds are still close to even in terms of landing a successful starter versus a bust. And the way I see it, only six of those 28 quarterbacks became superstars. Even if you stretch it and call Newton, Stafford, Ryan, Palmer, Vick and McNair "stars," you'd have an even ratio between stars and failures. 

Only two men on that 28-name list—Peyton and Eli Manning—have won a Super Bowl. 

If landing a top-five pick was the only way to land a future franchise quarterback, I'd understand. But we're about to watch a Super Bowl that will feature two elite quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, who were drafted in the sixth and third round, respectively.

The league's highest-rated passer this season was Tony Romo, who wasn't drafted at all. Last year, it was Foles, who along with Wilson was selected in the third round in 2012. One year prior to that, Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers was a second-round pick. 

In fact, the last eight quarterbacks to win Super Bowls weren't the first player drafted at the position. 

The jury should still be out on Foles, but even if the Eagles have lost confidence in him, they'd be better off keeping their future top-end picks to themselves and drafting a second-tier quarterback prospect with that 20th selection or in the second or third round. 

Or even waiting until next year. 

The problem is that Kelly seems to be pretty stubborn (see: Jackson, DeSean) and might have tunnel vision for Mariota, who he has praised heartily over the years. 

"He has a gift for playing football," Kelly told reporters in December. "He is everything you could want. He can throw the ball, he can run. He is the most talented kid I coached in college."

Kelly used two of his top five draft picks last year on former Oregon players. If he agrees to trade several more premium picks this year for yet another one, every chip—no pun intended—will have been pushed to the middle of the table. 

I'm just not sure that even with Mariota the Eagles will have a strong enough hand for that type of move. 

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFC East for Bleacher Report since 2012.

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