Trade-happy Eagles look to make more moves

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Trade-happy Eagles look to make more moves

At the end of the second day of the NFL draft, the Eagles had made three total picks, none from their original slot.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

When you combine general manager Howie Roseman’s perpetually itchy draft trigger finger with this year’s dizzying swapping spree across the league, the ingredients were in place for the Eagles to come away from this draft with more than the six picks they took into it.

As it currently stands, the Eagles are slated to make four more selections Saturday -- the fourth- and fifth-rounders they acquired from Houston and the fifth- and seventh-rounders of their own. The fourth-rounder, the 101st overall pick, will open the third and final day.

But don’t get too excited about the leadoff spot. Chip Kelly already dropped hints that he’s ready to move again.

“I thought we really did a good job of putting ourselves in position [for Saturday],” Kelly said after taking receiver Josh Huff in the third round (see story). “We have the first pick [Saturday] morning, which is an interesting pick because I think everybody thinks overnight who they like, so sometimes it’s got a little bit more (trade) value.”

Given the supreme talent of this year’s draft -- it’s been called the deepest in decades -- skeptics may question why the Eagles so willingly passed on picking twice in the third, even as high-profile players tumbled to 83rd, where they were supposed to pick before trading with Houston.

The Texans then took mammoth Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix, a 340-pound galoot who might have helped the Eagles in January, when they were getting steamrolled up front in a playoff loss to the Saints at the Linc.

Some analysts considered the former Irish lineman a top-40 pick. Kelly admitted that Nix could have fit the team’s defensive scheme.

Then why pass for lower-rated prospects?

“I don’t think it’s necessarily that way, because not everybody sees it the way we see it, or we don’t see it the way they see it,” Kelly said. “I don’t think we went back far. We really feel having the top pick [Saturday] morning has a little bit more value.

“So, really, when you go back to the top of (round) four, you’ve gone back to the end of the three. The way we look at it kind of conceptually is, ‘I can take him with this pick or if I back up maybe he’s still here and I get him.’ So you’re getting a 2-for-1 is what you’re trying to do. Now, sometimes it doesn’t always work that way because the risk
is when I back up, he gets picked.”

The Eagles already played the game and lived to tell. They moved down in the first round, from 22 to 26, still hoping to land pass rusher Marcus Smith despite the four-slot drop.

They held their breath when the Chiefs, picking 23rd, took Auburn pass rusher Dee Ford. It easily could have been Smith.

“So you’re gambling a little bit,” Kelly said, “kind of playing with the house’s money.”

If they hold still Saturday -- fat chance of that -- the Eagles will pick 101st, 141st, 162nd and 237th. Those might not sound like attractive slots, especially knowing they surrendered an 83rd overall, but Kelly insisted that there’s more than enough talent left on the board.

”There’s guys right now that we still have rated in the third round that are there that will be there [Saturday] morning when we wake up and we make our first selection [in the] beginning of the fourth round,” he said. “But we picked up another pick, so we got an extra body.”

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Ezekiel Elliott was the fourth overall pick by the Cowboys in the 2016 NFL draft.

He went on to have a historic rookie season, leading the NFL in rushing behind the best offensive line in football.

But do you know who finished second in the league in rushing? That would be the Bears' Jordan Howard, another rookie, drafted in the fifth round. 

If you keep going down the list of the league's top rushers last season, nine out of the top 10 on the list were drafted after the first round. Only three backs in the top 10 were drafted in the first two rounds (Elliott, LeSean McCoy, Le'Veon Bell). 

Whether it's LSU's Leonard Fournette, Florida State's Dalvin Cook or Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, the Eagles should stay away from running backs in the first round.

We'll start with Fournette, considered by most to be the best running back in the class. He was also mocked to the Eagles in a trade-up scenario by Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke with the No. 5 overall pick. Burke is an excellent evaluator, but in this case, he's off the mark. Fournette's talent is real. His combination of size and speed is unmatched by any running back in the class and perhaps any running back in the NFL. He'll correctly be the first back off the board and go in the top 10. 

But would the Eagles give up a second-round pick to obtain Fournette? It's just hard to see as realistic. This team has too many holes and not enough draft picks to make a move like Burke suggests. Fournette looks like he'll be a special player, just not for the Eagles.

Then there's Cook, who seems to be the belle of the ball with Eagles fans. Watching the tape, it's undeniable: Cook is an extremely talented player. But evaluations aren't black and white. Cook has issues with injuries (multiple shoulder surgeries) and has had a couple issues off the field. 

He also tested poorly at the combine. In the biggest audition of his life, Cook's numbers didn't match what you saw on tape. That has to make you wonder if he was fully prepared for the combine. If the Eagles take Cook, there's no doubt he'll make their offense better. The biggest concern has to be his long-term success and the value you get taking him at 14 over another player at a more valuable position.

Lastly, there's McCaffrey. It's easy to see the fit here. McCaffrey is an explosive back who runs routes and has the ball skills of a receiver. He's also incredibly dangerous in the return game. Unlike Cook, McCaffrey tested off the charts in Indy. His strength (10 reps at 225) is the only real concern.

From a scheme perspective, McCaffrey is perfectly suited for Doug Pederson's offense. Pederson can use McCaffrey much like Andy Reid used Brian Westbrook over a decade ago. McCaffrey's struggles running between the tackles are a little overblown, but it still has to be a concern for a team that doesn't have a proven, primary back. 

This is also a strong running back class. Toledo's Kareem Hunt would fit nicely in this offense and should be available in the third round. Clemson's Wayne Gallman is a tough, versatile back that could be available in the third or fourth. There's also BYU's Jamaal Williams, Pitt's James Conner and Wyoming's Brian Hill, all of whom should be there in the middle rounds.

When you look at who else could be there at 14, it just doesn't make sense to draft a running back. If you're looking to give Carson Wentz more weapons, either Clemson's Mike Williams, Western Michigan's Corey Davis or Washington's John Ross should be there. Any of them could give Wentz a long-term receiving threat. 

If you're looking to improve the defense, there are plenty of options. In case you've been living under a rock this offseason, this cornerback draft class is crazy deep. Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore is the best of the bunch and will likely be gone by 14. His teammate, Gareon Conley, should still be around at 14. So should LSU's TreDavious White, Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, Clemson's Cordrea Tankersely and Florida's Quincy Wilson. 

Don't count out Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett as an option if he's on the board. With Vinny Curry's struggles and the Eagles' lack of depth, a pass rusher is a definite need. If Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster slips for a spat he had with a hospital worker during the combine, he's worth a long look. He's a game-changing 'backer.

Elliott was as close to a sure thing as you can get. There's a reason he was taken at No. 4 overall. If Cook and McCaffrey are there at 14, there's a reason for that, too. 

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie isn't often very outspoken on football or political matters. 

He has apparently made an exception. 

Just a few days before Lurie is tentatively scheduled to speak to Philadelphia reporters while in Phoenix for the league's annual meetings, the Eagles owner authored a story for Time Magazine railing against political polarization in Washington.

Lurie has not spoken to reporters publicly since last March in Boca Raton, Florida, at the 2016 owners meetings. 

The owner's essay was published just hours after House Republican leaders pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Friday afternoon. Lurie, for the record, donated money to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign last year.

Lurie, the Eagles' 65-year-old billionaire owner, in the story, uses football as an example for which Washington should strive. 

Here's how Lurie begins the piece:

"What do football, political polarization and autism have in common? They all illuminate aspects of the human condition, explaining who we are, where we are headed and the hurdles along the way. As a sports team owner I rarely publicly discuss politics, but as a member of a family touched by autism, I often think about the unspoken millions of people who live with the daily challenges of this disorder."

Lurie then goes on to explain why football can act as a guide for Washington when it comes to united for the common good:

"What I have learned from football can be applied to society at large. Just as we intensely game-plan against an opponent in sports, we need to game plan for the reality and consequences of polarization. Extreme polarization is the opponent -- not each other. A football team is made up of players from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences and political viewpoints. What unites them is grit, determination, and the desire to win. They join in a common goal and do what is necessary to transcend their differences for the greater good of their team.

"What unites Americans is far more negative. We are now in an age where communicating verifiable information becomes secondary to the goal of creating a common enemy that unifies people in fear, negativity and opposition. This masks our inability to solve serious domestic problems (poverty, violence and institutional racism to name three current examples) and diverts our attention from obvious suffering."

Lurie then writes that we, as Americans, have the "necessary resources" to tackle serious problems, like autism, but lack the leadership to put aside differences. 

The whole piece isn't very long and is worth reading in full to gain a better understanding of its context. 

Next week while in Phoenix, Lurie will surely be asked about what motivated him to write the piece.