The 2018 NFL Draft wrapped up yesterday, and most of the reactions I’m hearing on the Eagles’ performance range mostly from indifferent to optimistic… Which is ridiculous.
Count me in the minority of observers who are thoroughly disappointed by the team’s draft. While it’s true that they didn’t have a glaring “need,” they still had quite a few holes that needed to be filled, and this was Howie’s best (and probably last) opportunity.
However, if you ask the team, they clearly don’t see it that way. Instead of adding picks in this year’s class like many fans and pundits anticipated, the team traded back 20 spots into the second round to add a second round pick next year. While that move was genius, and classic ‘Howie robbing a team that was desperate to move up,’ it was also a clear signal from the front office that they didn’t have the desire to add picks that was widely assumed all offseason.
I normally trust Howie and Doug’s judgement, but I’m going to call it into question here.
Nickel corner and third safety were priorities in this draft. The team outright failed to get a safety, and the nickel that they drafted is suspect to say the least. They also could have used a late pick at DT or WR to replace Ngata or Mike Wallace next season (both players should be viewed as 1-year rentals). Rather than focusing on the positions they still need to replace, the team decided to draft for the future, and add picks in next year’s draft.
Beyond my disappointment with adding only five players at positions we mostly don’t need (three of whom won’t contribute as rookies, and two will struggle to make the roster) I’m not exactly sold on them as individual prospects.
My concern starts with the team’s first pick at 49 overall: Dallas Goedert, a tight end out of South Dakota State.
Let me start by saying I was a huge fan of Trey Burton, and more importantly a fan of the way he was used by Doug Pederson and Frank Reich. I wholly understand the value of having 2 or 3 TE sets, and I understand that you want to prepare Ertz’ replacement before it’s apparent that he needs one. What I don’t understand, and what I’m not a fan of, is using your first pick of the draft to satisfy all that.
For starters, Goedert will be a well-below average blocker upon entering the league. He has the tools to develop into a more complete tight end down the line, but that’s by no means a given. Considering that Ertz is useless in the running game and pass protection, there’s no reason to expect a two-TE set featuring Ertz & Goedert to be a matchup problem. The key ‘mismatch’ created by multiple-TE sets is the threat of extra blockers in the running game simultaneously existing with the threat of extra pass-catchers. If neither player forces a linebacker onto the field to counter a running threat, then all they have there is a glorified three or four wide receiver set.
I’m also hearing a lot of, “Brent Celek was 27 years old when they drafted Ertz, and Ertz is 27 now,” but those two situations aren’t comparable. That misses the point that Celek’s strength was always his blocking. Juxtapose that with Ertz and Goedert who are both receiver first, lineman second. When the team drafted Ertz it was more than clear that they were lacking a receiving punch from the tight end position. The second he was added it was assumed he would see heavy snaps early, and he did (over 40%). Burton played 26% of snaps last season, and it’s hard to imagine Goedert playing much more than that until he develops into a viable run blocker.
I understand that Howie drafted Goedert with the idea that he would develop into a better blocker and more complete tight end than Ertz, but I don’t see how that warrants spending our top pick this season when there are far more glaring needs.
Best case scenario: Goedert develops into a solid run blocker down the road and for two or three seasons the Eagles have the toughest two-TE sets to prepare for.
… How exciting… I can’t wait…
Let me be clear, for this to even remotely be worth our top pick, the Ertz-Goedert duo will need to develop into a tight end tandem that’s at least in the ballpark of Gronkowski-Hernandez—because that’s literally the only duo in history that would have warranted this high of a pick.
(P.S. Don’t be woo’ed by his one-hand catches, I’m not even sure if this guy will be able to consistently separate from NFL defenders. His film is more telling than his highlight reels.)
Avonte Maddox, a cornerback from Pittsburgh.
At least we TRIED to address an immediate need somewhere in the draft. While the end of the fourth round is a little late to add someone who can contribute as a rookie, there were a few options still on the board for the Birds. The only problem is they didn’t take any of those players, and instead got a player in Maddox who, while he has the tools to compete for the nickel spot, is much more of a project than other DBs left on the board.
Maddox athletic ability is pretty good but nothing to write home about. He undoubtedly needs to sharpen his technique to match what projects as NFL level start-stop ability, but what really concerns me is his serious lack of size: 5’9’’ and very stubby arms. Not only does this hurt him against bigger more physical receivers, but it renders him useless against the run.
When preparing for my mock drafts I only briefly researched Maddox, and for good reason: he didn’t stack up with the other nickel corners in the middle rounds. Maddox needs to hone his technique and find a way to mitigate his tiny stature; those aren’t things that can be overcome in one offseason, so there’s no reason to think he could fill the starting nickel spot at any point this season.
Josh Sweat, a defensive end from Florida State.
This is the only pick the team that I can say I like, and even so it comes at a position that hardly needs more talent.
I remember hearing about Sweat when he was a top rated high school recruit a few years ago, and while he still has the elite level athletic ability and strength that made him highly coveted out of high school, I haven’t heard his name discussed much leading up to the draft. That’s because of his injury history. Sweat missed his entire senior season of high school because of a dislocated knee that required surgery on his ACL, PCL, & MCL… Yikes. And yet he somehow found himself contributing on FSU’s defensive line as a true freshman a little over a year later.
There are serious concerns over how that will affect the durability of his left knee and his long-term availability in this league, but if he’s able to overcome that, then Jim Schwartz just got a first round talent in the back end of round four. If Sweat is able to develop a quality repertoire of pass rush moves to complement his world-class talent then he could notch a few double-digit sack seasons down the line.
In the sixth round the team drafted Matt Pryor, an offensive lineman from TCU.
I’m glad the team added a developmental lineman and I can’t complain with Pryor, who is relatively raw but possesses the tools to develop into a starting lineman if coached right. He was a former teammate of Big V in college and figures to have an equal opportunity to become Peters’ replacement, or a versatile depth piece at the least.
I considered Pryor in all three of my mock drafts but never pulled the trigger. He’s dealt with some serious weight problems in the past, and certainly isn’t a lock to make the team, but I think he’ll flash enough potential to hang around.
And last but not least: Jordan Mailata, a f***ing rugby player from Australia.
Had we not just won the Super Bowl I can only imagine what fans would be saying about drafting a guy who has never played a snap of organized football in his life. I realize it’s the seventh round, so I won’t make too big of a deal over it, but this pick could have been used on any number of players who A) have a better shot at making the roster B) will be more coveted as a “priority free agent,” and C) actually have experience playing the sport; which, as shocking as it may be, actually matters.
Overall the team only made five picks.
I could spend 1,000 more words outlining the players who they passed up on that could have helped the team, but I’ll spare you. If you’ve convinced yourself that the Eagles had a great draft, you could probably convince yourself of anything.
I hope I’m wrong, and I hope next year’s class is as loaded and important as Howie and Doug are making it out to be.