By Al Thompson
How did Eagles Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman grade out drafting players to fill the Birds’ roster for 2020?
Not so good, according to Eagles fans and most observers who rate these things.
It is interesting, though, when fans and observers talked about rounds three through seven, almost everyone said the eight players Roseman picked were good choices and addressed the shortcomings this roster had going into the draft.
Roseman picked linebackers, defensive backs and offensive linemen — all roster needs. So why all the negative rhetoric on talk radio and with draft observers?
The 2020 first round receiver class was populated with many college stars, five were picked over an 11-spot span starting at No. 12 when the Las Vegas Raiders took Henry Ruggs out of Alabama. Next up at No. 15 were the Denver Broncos, who picked Jerry Jeudy, also from Alabama.
Then Jerry Jones got back at the Eagles for stealing tight end Dallas Goedert two years ago when, at No. 17, his Dallas Cowboys selected Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, the receiver many thought the Eagles were going to trade up to acquire. It never happened.
The Eagles used the No. 21 pick to take speedster Jalen Reagor out of TCU, followed immediately by the Minnesota Vikings, who snagged Justin Jefferson from LSU.
The Eagles say they got their man.
Shortly after Roseman made the pick, he talked about his conversations with coach Doug Pederson about what their offseason strategy was going to be.
“The coach and I, after the season, right after it ended, talked about a desire to bring some youth onto the football team, add some speed,” Roseman said in a video conference. “Jalen does those things. He has the ability to be explosive with the ball in his hands. He was all things we were looking for in this draft.”
Roseman said he and the personnel staff considered moving up as the draft got underway, but thought there was going to be value at No. 21 and decided to stay put.
At his conference call with the Eagles media corps, Reagor confirmed the Eagles were interested in him from the beginning.
“I talked to the whole staff – me or my agent – every other week,” Reagor said. “Just communicated with those guys, Coach A-Mo [Eagles receivers coach Aaron Moorehead), Mr. Roseman, Coach Pederson, and just talking to those guys and catching up. They stay consistent. No matter what the circumstances were, they stayed consistent. I know it’s a difference between doing your due diligence and showing real love and when you really want somebody. I can tell the difference, for sure.”
This is far from a massive failure at this point, right?
That leaves one pick to talk about that got everyone so upset. With the No. 53 overall pick, the Eagles selected a quarterback, Jalen Hurts, out of Oklahoma and Alabama.
The 6-foot-2, 218-pound signal-caller recorded one the greatest and unusual college football careers in NCAA history. He was a key player in earning four College Playoff appearances and a national title. With two different elite college football programs.
Why take a quarterback that high when you have a franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz, who is 27 years old and two seasons removed from an MVP-caliber season that was cut short due to a severe knee injury?
Wentz struggled in 2018 before suffering another injury that ended his season with three games to go.
In 2019, Wentz played well despite losing his entire receiving corps and his top running back. He rallied the Eagles to four consecutive wins and the NFC East title after stumbling to a 5-7 record.
At the beginning of the Eagles playoff game this year against Seattle, Wentz suffered a head injury from defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who made a helmet-to-helmet hit on him. He was ruled out of the game with a concussion after playing just nine snaps in his postseason debut. The Eagles lost the game 17–9.
Most believe the Eagles picked Hurts because of the injury history of Wentz.
If that is true, why did the Eagles sign Wentz to a four-year, $128 million contract extension, with $107 million guaranteed, keeping him under contract through the 2024 season?
After the draft, Roseman praised Pederson and the coaching staff. He said the reason for the picks – all the picks – was to give his coaches and their Pro Bowl quarterback the best chance to win.
“When we give these guys these kinds of athletes and give them the opportunity to design schemes, to put them in the best possible position, we know they’re going to be utilized,” Roseman said. “We look for guys that are incredible athletes, and there is no doubt about it.
“When we went back and looked at our team over the last year, we wanted to get more explosive, we wanted to get faster, and I told that to you guys after the season,” Roseman continued. “It was important we stuck to that. I know a bunch of our scouts over the last couple days and certainly today when we talked about it, they kind of threw it back in our face. You know, they said, ‘Hey, if we are looking to get faster, this guy is still on the board.’
“We kind of went over the top to make sure we have explosive athletes for our quarterback, for our play caller, and we’re really excited with what we did over the last couple days.”
Roseman can only hope that when the Eagles finally get to hold practices and see what they have, they can prove to Eagles Nation they knew what they were doing.
The rest of the Eagles 2020 draft picks:
• Round 3, Pick No. 103: Davion Taylor, LB, Colorado. No doubt this pick addresses a big hole in the Eagles defense. Taylor is a raw talent, he played almost no high school football.
• Round 4, Pick No. 127: K’Von Wallace, S, Clemson. Roseman adds depth to the safety position.
• Round 4, Pick No. 145: Jack Driscoll, OT, Auburn. With Jason Peters and Halapoulivaati Vaitai gone, the Birds add depth to the tackle position.
• Round 5, Pick No. 168: John Hightower, WR, Boise State. After two seasons with the Broncos, Hightower averaged 17.6 yards per catch and scored 14 touchdowns.
• Round 6, Pick No. 196: Shaun Bradley, LB, Temple. Finished his four-year career with the Owls recording 255 total tackles (22 for loss), two sacks, three interceptions, one defensive touchdown.
• Round 6, Pick No. 200: Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Miss. His senior year, Watkins hauled in 64 receptions, averaged 18.4 yards per catch and scored six touchdowns. He had 17 touchdown catches in three seasons for the Golden Eagles.
• Round 6, Pick No. 210: Prince Tega-Wanogho, OT, Auburn. Wanogho was born in Nigeria, moved to Alabama as a youth with the intention of becoming a basketball player. He changed over to football, ending up at Auburn, where he started a total of 32 games, earning All-SEC honors as a senior.
• Round 7, Pick No. 233: Casey Toohill, OLB, Stanford. Career totals of 124 tackles and 14 sacks for the Cardinal.
Undrafted free agents signed by the Eagles:
DB Grayland Arnold, Baylor
WR Manasseh Bailey, Morgan State
G Julian Good-Jones, Iowa State
DB Michael Jacquet, Louisiana-Lafayette
C Luke Juriga, Western Michigan
RB Adrian Killins, Central Florida
LB Dante Olson, Montana
DB Elijah Riley, Army
DB Prince Smith, New Hampshire
WR Khalil Tate, Arizona
TE Noah Togiai, Oregon State
RB Michael Warren, Cincinnati
DT Raequan Williams, Michigan State ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @ thompsoniii