PHILADELPHIA — For all of the sizzle, the Philadelphia Eagles are fundamentally a meat-and-potatoes operation.
Their inward lean on sports science and analytics gives the Eagles a futuristic feel, and executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman wheels and deals at a dizzying rate, but the Eagles’ primary philosophy when it comes to team building is as old as the sport itself.
“In a lot of ways, we’re boring,” Roseman said at the NFL owners meetings in March. “We’re kind of predictable. It’s going to be about the O-line, it’s going to be about the D-line. It’s going to be about getting pressure on the quarterback and protecting the quarterback, and then we build out from there.”
Recent NFL draft history shows the Eagles practice what they preach. Roseman has made seven first-round picks since coming into power in 2010. Six were linemen (four defensive, two offensive), and the other was for quarterback Carson Wentz. The only non-lineman or QB taken by the Eagles in the first round this decade was wide receiver Nelson Agholor, and that was the lone year (2015) that former coach Chip Kelly was in charge of personnel.
It is not a leap to say the odds are in favor of the Eagles bolstering the trenches with the No. 25 overall pick on April 25.
Another potential tell is that Roseman described this defensive line class as “historic.” The wealth of talent — Mel Kiper Jr. has five D-linemen going in the top 10 in his latest Grade A mock — should allow for premium players to fall farther than they otherwise might. That means one of the Clemson three — DTs Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins and DE Clelin Ferrell — could slip into Philly’s range; same for edge rusher Brian Burns out of Florida State or defensive tackle Jerry Tillery out of Notre Dame.
The ideal pick would be defensive end given the importance of the position and the fact the Eagles need to replenish there with Brandon Graham (31), Vinny Curry (30) and Chris Long (34) all in their 30s. Ferrell is a name worth keeping an eye on. He isn’t the most athletically gifted player, but he has some polish to his game and is known for his high motor and production (27 sacks in his last three seasons at Clemson). That sounds similar to Derek Barnett, whom the Eagles selected No. 14 overall in 2017.
On the offensive side, NC State center Garrett Bradbury, Alabama guard Jonah Williams and Oklahoma tackle Cody Ford could be available by No. 25, and if someone such as Washington State tackle Andre Dillard should happen to fall, he would be an intriguing option as well.
The Eagles have been busy stockpiling picks for the next two drafts, knowing they need a youth infusion with Wentz soon to be playing on a cap-eating megadeal. Volume is important, but they’ll sacrifice a bit of the cache to move up and secure a coveted player if he falls within striking distance.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course. It’s possible that Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, who is a DeSean Jackson clone, or Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram move the Eagles away from their general practice. But now is the time to lay bricks for what will be the future foundation around Wentz.
History says the Eagles will be “predictable” and walk away with a big man in the first round.