The NFL Draft is just a few weeks away and for the Eagles, it’s an exciting time. With Joe Douglas setting the draft board for the Eagles this time around, there is plenty of speculation over how it will all pan out. His imprint can already be seen on the current roster, with a slew of prove-it deals given to free agents who tick off the right boxes..and trades for those with ties to his days in Baltimore.
Douglas spent 15 seasons with the Ravens, rising through the ranks before becoming their national scout in 2012. An area scout in years prior, he had a hand in scouting some of the Ravens most notable talent in the last decade..but 15 drafts is a large sample size..and a lot can change in a team’s direction in that time. What I decided to do, was examine the drafts from 2008, through 2015. The 2008 Draft was arguably the most important in recent memory for the Ravens, as they drafted the future of their franchise, Joe Flacco. By taking a closer look at that point forward, we can see how the team surrounded Flacco with talent and if there are any patterns that could fit the new era in Philadelphia.
While Douglas didn’t decide who was drafted, nor did he have a direct impact on that front, he did play a huge role in scouting and evaluating the talent, earning a reputation as a future GM in the NFL. His prints can be seen all over the Ravens draft strategy in recent years..so let’s take a closer look.
Average round drafted: 4.3
There isn’t really much to say here, the Ravens found their future leader in Flacco in the first round of the 2008 draft. Now a Super Bowl winner, Flacco leads the franchise in all-time passing yards and has already cemented his place as one of the best quarterbacks to play for the Ravens. Douglas did play a huge role in scouting the small school standout, but that we already knew.
What is interesting however, are the two quarterbacks that followed. Drafted in the sixth round to be backups to Flacco in the case of an injury and create an ever developing corps, the same kind of continuity is looking to be established in Philadelphia. The arrival of Foles gives the team an immediate answer, as Marc Bulger did for the Ravens in 2010.
Pederson has stated on numerous occasions his intent to groom a third quarterback..and given that Aaron Murray, a former pupil of Pederson had departed at the end of the year, it is likely that the Eagles could be looking to draft a prospect in the late rounds..which would fit perfectly with the Joe Douglas mould.
The obvious standout here is Ray Rice, who would go on to amass 6,180 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns in 6 seasons. 4 of which saw consecutive years of 1,000 yards gathered on the ground by the former Rutgers standout. What is interesting, is how many running backs were taken in the 3rd/4th rounds, while just two were taken at the bottom of the draft.
Obviously, Rice was the lead back in Baltimore..but the team showed no desire to stop adding talent to the backfield. Lorenzo Taliaferro and Javorius Allen remain on the roster, while Bernard Pierce appeared to be the ultimate compliment to Rice, racking up 1,334 yards in 3-years before a DUI incident saw him released by the team instantly.
If the Eagles believe that they can draft a lead back early (and there’s an abundance of them), then finding talent in years to come in the mid/late rounds won’t be tough for the Eagles. With Sproles, Mathews, Smallwood, Marshall and Watson currently on the roster..the blueprint already appears to be in place.
Average round drafted: 4.1
There are certainly some impressive names on this list. Ricky Wagner, Gino Gradkowski, In fact, of all ten offensive linemen drafted in this period..ONLY ONE is no longer playing in the National Football League. Seven of these players were drafted in the fourth round and beyond and given the Eagles recent additions to the line, it’s safe to say that the trenches are a unified priority.
Interestingly, Seumalo and Vaitai were taken in the midst of last year’s draft, fitting this prototype perfectly. If there’s one thing we can definitely say about Joe Douglas, he knows what he’s doing when it comes to finding sustainable talent along the offensive line. Of course, this goes without saying. There is a reason why Ray Rice had four consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and why Joe Flacco was able to develop so quickly. Football is won and lost in the trenches..and for the Ravens, they were built by Joe Douglas.
Make no mistake, the Eagles are absolutely building from the ball outward, fortifying the castle for Carson Wentz. Douglas could be the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to sustaining the talent along a line with at least three positions subject to change in the next year or so.
Average round drafted: 3.6
The Eagles tight end picture is all but complete for now, however Celek isn’t going to play forever and Burton is only on a one-year tender. Douglas has looked to solidify the position previously a little higher than the other positions on offense. But the question is, how have the tight ends drafted turned out?
Former AFC Comeback Player Of The Year, Dennis Pitta, needs no introduction. What’s even more impressive, is that 2016 was actually his best season yet in the NFL, as he amassed 729 yards and 2 scores. Crockett Gilmore has flashed plenty of potential but been hampered by injuries. Ed Dickson would land with the Panthers a little later in his career, while 24-year old Nick Boyle played in just six games last season after an under-the-radar rookie year. Maxx Williams, the highest spent pick of the Ravens, dealt with injuries that stood in the way of his sophomore effort and Davon Drew is the only player to have retired from the NFL of this list.
When it comes to rounds 2/4, Douglas seems to have found a sweet spot for discovering tight end talent. It may not be needed right away for the Eagles, but it’s certainly something worth noting, especially with the development theme in mind.
The two names that jump out straight away are Torrey Smith and Breshad Perriman. A PCL injury sidelined Perriman during his rookie year, before he bounced back to receive for 499 yards in 2016. Smith on the contrary enjoyed his best season dressed in purple, receiving for 1,128 yards in 2013. As we all know, a step backward in San Francisco following a huge contract, would see him find his way to Philadelphia, reuniting with Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl for a low-risk, high-reward contract.
Interestingly, none of the other receivers are currently on the Ravens roster, but you have to bear in mind that their corps was largely solidified with the addition of Torrey Smith..as the team never really lacked a number one wideout. Steve Smith and Anquan Boldin are just two of the names who were present throughout this period, ensuring Flacco had a dominant wideout to throw to.
The rest of the talent was drafted in rounds 4 and below, with a low-risk, high-reward sentiment in mind. Injuries plagued some, while others flashed brilliance before bouncing around numerous teams. Tommy Streeter for instance, now plays in the CFL, most recently for the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
The Eagles solidified their corps through free agency and for 2017 at least, they should be fine in terms of starting talent. But interestingly enough, the abundance of talent makes the mid rounds beyond intriguing. Cooper Kupp is just one of the names who has been linked with the Eagles this offseason, while West Virginia’s Shelton Gibson could also provide a spark in the 4th round.
There is a chance the Eagles could draft a wideout early..but it’s clear that Douglas prefers to find the home run hitters who have already proven it at the plate, before aiming to develop the remainder of the corps.
Stay locked in for part two tomorrow, which will take a closer look at the defensive picks influenced by the Eagles Vice President of Player Personnel.
Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports