It’s been less than 24 hours since the Eagles selected Louisville outside linebacker Marcus Smith with the 26th overall pick.
All day, there’s been some confusion about what the team’s plan was and how things played out. Today, GM Howie Roseman tried to provide some clarification. Below is a point-by-point rundown, along with some of my own thoughts.
Why didn't the Eagles trade up for one of the players they targeted?
Chip Kelly said Thursday that the team identified six guys they were hoping would fall. A guess at who the six might have been? Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller, Alabama LB C.J. Mosley, Oregon St. WR Brandin Cooks, LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr., Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier and Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix.
"When you have players in a draft, if you get a player in the third round, that’s gonna be a different player than is selected in the first round," Roseman said. "That doesn’t mean we don’t like the player we’re taking in the first round. So when you have six players that you are looking to get, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re gonna be there at 22.
"What Chip was saying, what I was saying this morning was that we had targeted six guys that we knew were probably gonna go higher than our pick, and that we were interested in possibly moving up for. And then our other plan was if any of those guys weren’t there, backing up, picking up a pick and having a group of targeted guys - which Marcus was certainly the top of that list - to go get. So I think that’s different than how it’s framed."
The explanation makes sense to me. They talked to teams about moving up, but ultimately decided the compensation wouldn't be worth it. The guys they were hoping would fall didn't fall. It was the worst-case scenario, but one they had to be prepared for. At that point, they could have either sat at No. 22 and made a selection or moved down and picked up an extra pick. They chose the latter.
"We had a group of players that we thought possibly would go that would push some guys down to us," Roseman said. "And then as guys got close, we called those other teams and talked about trading up and there were moments that we thought we had a trade on the clock. When you’re in the first round, sometimes teams just have a guy that they’re looking for, and when the guy’s there, they pull the trigger. That’s understandable, and that’s one of the things that happens when you’re in the 20s. It’s a different ballgame."
Why not trade back even further if they wanted Smith?
Smith was projected by many analysts to go in the second round. So why did the Eagles take him in the first?
"When we were at 26, we weighed the fact of going back and we had a very short list of players that we would take at that spot," Roseman said. "And we were worried about going back too far. Just in the last 24 hours now, I’m certain about that. Just talking to people and where Marcus was going, and he was going in that range."
Roseman added that he believed Smith would have gone off the board in the next 10 picks.
Of course, there's no way to determine whether he's right about that. Pass-rushers generally go higher than expected though, and it seems safe to say Smith would have been taken by the time the Eagles picked at No. 54. It's also fair to say the Eagles probably valued Smith more than other teams. They want a unique athlete at OLB - someone who can fill a variety of roles. 4-3 teams probably didn't even look at Smith. And many other 3-4 teams are probably looking for more of a pure pass-rusher at that spot - especially in the first round.
"At the end of the day, we’ve got to take the value of what we think the player is," Roseman said. "We have a lot of people here who have done this for a living and done this for a long time and we speak to a lot of people in this league and understand it’s gonna be different values for different people. And when you talk to some people around the league, we did a lot of work on this player. And we feel really good about this player and his fit for us. What we’re looking for is not the same thing everyone else is looking for. And if we bring in a guy who’s a square peg in a round hole, that’s not gonna look very good for us either. So the things we’re looking for in an outside linebacker, he does very well."
WHAT WOULD THE EAGLES DONE AT NO. 22 IF THEY STAYED PUT?
"It would have been the same pick at 22," Roseman said.
Some will immediately think that's BS. But I tend to believe Roseman here. The three players taken in between 22 and 26 were Johnny Manziel, Auburn DE/OLB Dee Ford, Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard and TCU CB Jason Verrett. I don't believe Verrett was on their board because of his height. Dennard didn't seem like a fit for what they were looking for. And if they really liked Manziel, they would have taken him.
As for Ford, there was a report earlier today that the Eagles had him ranked ahead of Smith. Roseman clarified that comment.
"It was more along the lines of when we traded back and Dee Ford went, we were worried about a run on pass-rushers," he said. "...I apologize if there was any confusion, but that definitely wasn’t what I meant to say. What I meant to say was once we saw that run, and we knew there was gonna be a run because there weren’t a lot of pass-rushers in the draft, we took the one that we really liked."
In the end, the Eagles wished the board played out differently. They would have preferred to land one of their six targets at No. 22. They were open to moving up if the right deal came along. But it didn't. Smith is a player they probably liked more than other teams. But looking at the players who went after Smith, Deone Bucannon and Kelvin Benjamin would have likely been labeled reaches also. Dominique Easley and Jimmie Ward were not scheme fits. And we know they weren't going to take a QB.
The only other guy who went off the board? Ohio State CB Bradley Roby.
Roseman was asked if this shouldn't be labeled as a situation where the Eagles tried to fill a need instead of taking the best available player.
"Because we had him graded as the next player on the board," Roseman said.
Maybe. Maybe not. But looking at the players who were taken after Smith, it's tough to argue that the Eagles missed out on an obvious choice. If Smith plays well, none of this will matter. If he disappoints, he'll be labeled a reach.
But for now, it's on to Round 2.