Definite Cornerback In Round 2 For Birds?
If Howie Roseman was being honest Thursday night, then Friday night should be interesting – and perhaps disappointing – for Eagles fans hoping that Roseman selects a cornerback in the second or third rounds of the NFL Draft. Corner is by far the team's biggest need.
Roseman, the team's executive vice president of football operations, insisted that he and his staff stayed true to the board Thursday when the Eagles picked Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith after trading up two spots with Dallas to 10th overall. Per league sources, Roseman first explored swapping places with Carolina at eighth overall and Denver at ninth overall, with both Smith and cornerback Patrick Surtain in mind, but a deal was never reached. The Panthers and Broncos each took cornerbacks, making the choice easier for Roseman on Smith, who sources say was the higher-rated prospect. We'll never really know who Roseman would've taken if he had been able to move higher, but we could get an indication based on the team's Friday's selections. The Eagles, who have the fifth pick in the second round at 37th overall, are likely to encounter several prospects who they graded favorably. Some remaining top overall prospects include linebackers Jeremiah Owusui-Koramoah and Nick Bolton, wide receiver Elijah Moore, running back Javonte Williams, safety Trevon Moehrig, edge rusher Azeez Ojulari and offensive tackles Dillon Radunz, Teven Jenkins and Jaylen Mayfield. Good corners also remain, including Georgia's Tyson Campbell and Florida State's Asante Samuel Jr., but in speaking with league personnel sources leading up to the draft, the sense is that there's more value at linebacker and linemen high in the second round than corner. Owusu-Koramoah, Jenkins and Radunz were viewed by some as potential first-rounders, as was Ojulari. There's also the possibility Roseman capitalizes on that positional value and trades down to compensate for the lost third-rounder from the trade-up for Smith and into a territory where cornerback is more sensible. He could also try to make another deal that nets the Eagles an extra second-rounder. Or maybe his eyes are on Samuel Jr., whose dad played for the Eagles, and might be high enough on their board to merit being picked 37th. Roseman seemed to drop a major hint Thursday night when asked about the need to address corner immediately. "I think because of how many picks we have over the next two years we really don't want to get in a position – we've made some mistakes forcing picks and positions – so we've spent so much time on this draft and process and so much discussions about the players in this draft that we're not going to reach," Roseman said. "We're going to take the best guys. We know if we don't get back in the first round that we're going to be sitting there [Friday] morning and know we're going to get a really good player. Maybe it's at a position that can come in right away and fill a need, but maybe it's just a guy that we know is going to be part of the core of our team going forward as we climb the mountain again." That's a powerful statement that suggests – key word, suggests – the Eagles won't feel pressured to take a cornerback if the value doesn't match the draft slot.
Nick Sirianni said loudly and clearly that none of his receivers will be bound by labels such as "X," "Y" and "F" for the slot. Sirianni spoke last week about having different-bodied receivers in his past playing the X spot and repeated Thursday that all of his receivers, Smith included, will move around in his scheme. "The best offenses I've been on have been able to move guys around, and they have to know each position," he said. "So, what we see in DeVonta is the ability to move around. I saw very high football IQ in him, when we did our meetings with him." He later added: "He definitely gives us that option and position flexibility. He's able to play inside, he’s able to play outside. We're going to have to move him around, and that's just how we roll with our offense." The Eagles also noted that Smith, who also played basketball in high school, has special high-point and contested-catch traits that belie his 166-pound frame. "When we watched him play, when I watched him play, what I saw was a guy with length and a guy with toughness," said Andy Weidl, the team's vice president of player personnel. "You catch 117 passes in the SEC you're doing something right. You set the SEC record for career touchdown receptions, you're doing something right."
Perception or reality?
You couldn't help but notice that Roseman looked relaxed at his press conference, made a "rock, paper, scissor" joke to Sirianni and often deferred to Weidl on evaluation questions. Roseman hasn't been afraid to discuss the mistakes of the past draft, with reaches and being less collaborative during the draft than the perception he's given. We'll know more by the end of this weekend if he's just playing to the cameras or really determined to stick to the process. At the moment, though, the Eagles appear to be functioning as a team, not as separate departments or individuals working under the same umbrella. – Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the "Inside the Birds" podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
Watch the first-round recap from Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan here: