It’s officially NFL Draft week. Speculation is at an all-time high, yet the world remains in the dark. Will the Eagles draft a running back in the first round or will they trade back? Is a Safety the answer to their problem at pick 32, or will they instead opt to bolster the trenches? While we still have a long way to go until we find that answer, what we can do is look at previous trends.
I wrote a pair of articles last year detailing the draft history of Joe Douglas during his time with the Ravens. I decided to dive back into these, focusing on the team’s current needs and update them with the Eagles players drafted last year. The results open up some intriguing patterns.
Running backs (Pre Eagles):
Average round drafted: 4.62
Since joining Eagles:
Donnell Pumphrey Round 4
Corey Clement UDFA
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.
When it comes to the Eagles, Douglas continued this trend. The average number of 4.62 sat perfectly with the pick of Donnell Pumphrey, while the pick up of Corey Clement as an undrafted free agent fits the late-round value mold just as snugly. Pumphrey’s production was non-existent after a poor preseason and an injury that cost him his rookie year, but Corey Clement’s continued development has to be praised.
From the early trust bestowed on him to pound the rock late in games, to being called upon in Super Bowl 52 and recording a monumental touchdown pass, the former Wisconsin Badger continued to grow throughout the regular season, amassing 321 yards on the ground and 4 touchdowns to go with over 100 yards and another 3 touchdowns as a receiver.
While the Eagles have a variety of options with pick number 32 and some very attractive running backs who could fall into their laps, the Birds already have Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement on the roster, both of whom only got better with time. At this stage, a complimentary back would be a far greater addition to this committee effort, sustaining Pederson’s vision and retaining the mid-late round value we’ve come to expect with Joe Douglas and his talent evaluation. Drafting a feature back seems unlikely in the first round.
Average round drafted: 4.1
Since joining Eagles:
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 have become a unified priority.
Interestingly, Seumalo and Vaitai were taken in the midst of the 2016 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. Surprisingly, the Eagles also opted against picking up an offensive lineman int he 2017 class, instead bringing in some free agent help to bolster a developing unit.
The Eagles could be looking to add a foundation block for the future in a highly drafted interior guard, but with only two players drafted in round 2 or above and the Eagles having the last pick in the first round, that only really leaves them with UTEP’s Will Hernandez. It’s a stern possibility, but again, the Birds could just as easily seek to bolster this in the later rounds with some more developmental talent in the mold of ‘Big V’.
Average round drafted: 3.6
Since joining Eagles:
Billy Brown UDFA
Adam Zaruba UDFA
One year ago, the Eagles tight end picture was the most complete in the league. Fast forward today and with no Trey Burton or Brent Celek, Stanford star, Zach Ertz is now the veteran in a room of undrafted free agents. The Eagles need help at tight end, but just how highly will they want to draft?
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. With that in mind, projected fifth rounder Troy Fumagalli, would be a great steal here. One of the NCAA’s most exciting receiving tight ends, Fumgalli stands at 6’6, 248 lbs. It’s hard to believe that this young man amassed 1,627 receiving yards during his career, averaging 12.9 yards per catch…and he did so with nine fingers.
Average round drafted: 2.6
Since joining the Eagles:
Nate Gerry Round 5
There are two things we can take away from this stat and both are incredibly impressive.
1) The fact that the Ravens only drafted six linebackers in that period is a testament to the value each provided.
2) The average round drafted is the highest of any position on the roster. An average of a mid second round pick is very high for any position, but it’s clear that the scouting team, led by Douglas felt far more comfortable drafting linebackers early..and it worked beautifully.
Re-signing Nigel Bradham was a HUGE move for the Eagles, but Jordan Hicks is in his contract year and the future of Mychal Kendricks has become as predictable as a season of Game of Thrones. It would not be surprising to see the Eagles take a linebacker with the 32nd overall pick and Joe Douglas appears to have a knack for finding elite talent at the position.
Average round drafted: 3.6
Since joining Eagles:
Sidney Jones round 2
Rasul Douglas round 3
The Eagles have a stern need at defensive back. With no Corey Graham or Jaylen Watkins, Malcolm Jenkins would be pigeon-holed into playing over the top as opposed to being the most versatile and dangerous weapon on the entire defense. Depth here to allow Jenkins to fly around the ball while McLeod partners up with a new running-mate is key.
At cornerback, losing Patrick Robinson throws up an interesting discussion, but the Eagles do already have a flurry of players who could move into the nickel role.
Prior to the Marlon Humphrey pick, the Ravens hadn’t drafted a corner in the first round since 2011, where Jimmy Smith has done nothing but flash talent before having his progress thwarted with injuries, playing in just one full season since entering the league.
The other first round pick in this list, is Safety Matt Elam. From substance abuse to being benched in the heart of the 2014 season after struggling to make tackles and cover on deep routes, he has easily been one of the most disappointing first round picks in the Ravens recent memory. He wasn’t the only DB in this list to fall victim to substance issues. Asa Jackson was suspended in 2012 and violated the PED policy once again a year later. Although he was later approved to use Adderall for his attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, the suspensions stung his career.
Terrence Brooks was actually signed by the Eagles in the midst of the 2016 season and spent the majority of his short time with the team on the special teams unit. However, he did come down with a crucial interception, the first of his career, in the win over New York late in the year and was able to turn some heads during his cornerback reps.
Ladarius Webb is obviously the name that stands out here. The free safety has battled injury throughout his career but has gone on to become a staple of the Ravens Defense, amassing 87 passes defensed, 13 interceptions and 428 tackles in his career to date. Douglas played a HUGE role in evaluating Webb, who is easily the most notable name on the above list.
This year is a little different. There is an array of big-name corners and safeties available to the Eagles at 32 which may prompt Douglas to take a first round punt once again. Ronnie Harrison? Isaiah Oliver? The thing is that the opening picks of the second round (Cleveland and Indy) will likely ignite a cornerback run, so if the Eagles are all-in on one player, they may have to show that without a day-two pick to fall on.
What is encouraging, is how successful Webb has turned out for the Ravens..and just how pivotal Douglas was in that process.
This isn’t to be used as a strict formula. The Ravens team was obviously different every season and it’s not as if team needs stay the same each time. But trends emerge and it’s interesting to see how many have stayed the same through one season with the Eagles. What do you make of Douglas’ draft history? Let me know in the comments!
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports