While the guessing game surrounding the Eagles’ first-round pick drags on for another week, general manager Howie Roseman on Monday met with the media to perform his annual tap-dance around pointed questions pertaining to the team’s draft approach.
Roseman didn’t drop an abundance of clues to help the public forecast which player next Thursday night will slap on an Eagles hat and shake hands with commissioner Roger Goodell on the stage of New York City’s famous Radio City Music Hall, but he did offer one valuable nugget of significance.
Whomever the Eagles draft, especially if they stick at No. 4, the team expects that prospect to be NFL-ready from Day 1, not a project who needs to be groomed and manicured for a few years until he’s ready to be unleashed.
That’s significant this year especially because of the unusual number of top prospects that are considered unrefined and more valued for their down-the-road potential, including quarterback Geno Smith and pass rushers Ziggy Ansah and Dion Jordan.
“I can tell you there is no one we’re looking at at four that we don’t think is a good player right now,” Roseman promised.
It also suggests that if the Eagles come away with one of the marquee offensive tackles -- Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson -- they’ll move right tackle Todd Herremans back to guard, even though Roseman painted an optimistic picture of third-year guard Danny Watkins’ ability to fulfill his first-round potential in the new scheme.
The prevailing question is whether Roseman and his staff truly believe that any prospect who becomes be available to them at fourth overall is markedly better than another prospect that they can pluck later in the first round after trading down and adding picks.
Roseman said the Eagles are “open to anything” regarding trades and agreed that the CBA-inspired rookie wage scale that debuted last year spurred an aggressive trade market during the 2012 draft.
Some league officials, including John Elway, have downplayed the value of the upper half of the draft compared to the bottom half. Elway, the executive director of football operations for the Broncos, who have the 28th pick, said Denver could come away with someone every bit as talented as the 10th overall pick.
“Luckily, we’re picking fourth,” Roseman said.
Roseman then brushed off the notion that a top-four pick isn’t much more talented than a player who goes in the bottom third of the first round.
“No. I think that there is, certainly on our draft board, a clear line of players we think can be elite talents in this league,” he said. “And then I do think there gets to be a point where you may get the same player, at least it’s going to be choose your flavor. What you’re looking for, what you like, which may be different than our board at some point in this draft. We certainly don’t think that’s at No. 4.”
Although he expects the team’s first-round pick to make an immediate impact, Roseman reiterated that the objective of every draft is finding the prospect who hits his stride in Year 3, a building block for new coach Chip Kelly and his staff to hone and develop.
The Eagles haven’t picked in the top five since 1999, the year then-new head coach Andy Reid gambled on Donovan McNabb with the second overall pick, infuriating a faction of the fan base that had coveted record-setting running back Ricky Williams.
Roseman agreed with the sentiment that this year’s draft is critical given the change in coaching staffs and rebuilding from last year’s 4-12 season, but at the same time he cautioned against over-thinking the strategy involved.
“Yeah, certainly. This is a critical draft,” he said. “We’re coming off a four-win season. We want to improve. We want to get a lot of good young players in the program, but we go in with the same urgency to every draft -- or every really player acquisition, period -- whether that’s free agency, whether that’s the [waiver] wire at the end. We take it pretty seriously.”