Why the Eagles Will Trade Out of the First Round

Philadelphia Eagles NFL Draft 2010 Trade Up Jeremy Maclin

So this post comes with a fair possibility of being completely wrong come Thursday night, when the Eagles decide to buck the trends and trade their entire draft for Eric Berry. I considered calling it “Why the Eagles Won’t Trade Up,” but when making bold predictions, why play it safe? After all, this reflects what I think is mostly likely to happen tomorrow in primetime: another trade down.

Derek over at Iggles Blog, thoughtful as always, went over the things that wouldn’t suprise him this year in the draft, including trading up:

It’s been awhile, but the Eagles showed with Jerome McDougle and Shawn Andrews that they wouldn’t hesitate to package picks to move up and get a guy they really wanted/needed.  I think we really could see this here, but it’s going to depend on two factors:  1) What the Eagles think of Haden (the only cornerback you’re trading way up to get) and 2) What they think of all the corners after Haden and Wilson.

First of all, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Eagles saw some player they really wanted and jumped up to get him — simply because anything can happen on draft day. And I totally agree with Derek that a lot has to do with the cornerbacks in the draft, which (as I’ve said before) is the Eagles #1 need by far. But I think there are many more reasons to think Andy Reid & Co. will trade back rather than forward.

Let’s first look at the history, before seeing why trading back especially makes sense this year:

2007: Three years ago the Eagles were in basically the same place as now, with the #26 overall pick. Instead of picking there, they traded back (with Dallas) for second (#36 overall — Kevin Kolb), third (Stewart Bradley), and fifth round picks (Brent Celek C.J. Gaddis). Then the front office stuck with their own second rounder (Victor Abiamiri).

2008: Went into the draft with the 19th overall pick and could have taken a tackle like Jeff Otah, but traded back again with Carolina for a 2009 first rounder and 2008 second and fourth (Mike McGlynn). Then packaged Carolina’s #43 overall to Minnesota, moving back four more spots and finally taking Trevor Laws. Kept own second rounder for DeSean Jackson.

2009: Pre-draft, the Eagles traded away Carolina’s #1 for Jason Peters. They then traded up two spots from #21 for Jeremy Maclin, and stayed with their late-second round pick, scooping up LeSean McCoy.

For those keeping track at home, the Eagles started with 3 firsts and 3 seconds and ended up with 1 first and 5 second round payers

So what can we take from this?

  • The Eagles value second round picks. Plain and simple. They never once traded away their own second rounder, and multiple times traded back into the second.
  • The only other team that seems to value them that much? The Patriots, who took 4 players in the second round last year and have 3 more picks there this year. That’s good company — these are two smart teams that have figured out something about the value involved in (a) still getting top 60 talent, (b) not paying top dollar, and (c) getting more shots at striking gold by moving back.
  • Perhaps because they value their second round picks more now, the Eagles haven’t jumped up in the first since 2004 (including the entire Heckert era, for what that’s worth). It’s easy to say that the Eagles might make a big leap into the top 15, but recent history suggests otherwise. Even the Maclin trade doesn’t prove anything — they didn’t target him in the top 10 and drastically trade up. Instead they gave up a 6th round pick to sntach a guy who practically fell into the team’s lap.
  • The other reason not to trade up involves the two guys Derek references above: Jerome McDougle and Shawn Andrews. After spending a boatload on the two in both dollars and draft picks, neither panned out long term. Andy Reid and company may have taken a lesson from those two decisions: mortgaging your draft (and make no mistake, the rest of the 03 and 04 drafts were crap) isn’t worth one player, no matter how talented.

On top of all of those historical reasons, I add a couple specific to this year. First, the new draft set-up. The importance of early second-round picks may be exaggerated by the media, but Andy Reid has said:

I’d love to have that first pick of the second day. Where you can sleep on it, regather your thoughts, which you normally don’t get to do.

Or of course talk to some desperate team and get either a 1st round pick next year or more picks in rounds 2-5 this year. Imagine the power the Eagles would wield going into Friday night if they had the #37 pick from Washington, their own #55, and let’s say… #34 from Detroit, who wanted to grab someone falling in the first round. I think the Eagles front office would jump at that chance.

The second reason pertains to this year’s draft class. One could easily craft a scenario in which both Joe Haden and Kyle Wilson (as well as Berry, Thomas, Iupati, etc.) get drafted in the top 15 or 20 picks. The Eagles may like Wilson, for example, but do they like him enough to ditch their recent history and jump up 5-10 spots to get him? I’m not sure.

And after that first wave of talent, especially in the secondary, there’s a dropoff to guys like Devin McCourty, Kareem Jackson, Patrick Robinson, Nate Allen, and Morgan Burnett. Most of these players, if not all, will still be available in the second round. Why would the Eagles reach for them at 24 if they can drop back 10 spots, gather some more ammo, and still get a shot?

Look, you can take Peter King’s reporting to heart and salivate over Eric Berry or Derrick Morgan or whomever. By Thursday’s draft, you might get your wish and see the Eagles make a big splash. But try not to be too surprised if you watch all night and don’t see a single new player try on the Midnight Green…