Eagles draft aggression goes far beyond moving up and down the board

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Aggressive. That was the word many associated with the Eagles ahead of this year’s NFL Draft. Expected to push up the board, using their arsenal of mid-round picks, to snag the players they want, this would be the year of putting the icing on what’s become a very large, Super Bowl enthused, cake.

But the aggression goes beyond just moving up to bolster the trenches or to continue building from the ball outward. Last night saw the Eagles spend their pair of second-round picks on offensive skill positions, something that has become alien to this franchise.

The last time the Eagles drafted a running back in the second-round or above, was LeSean McCoy back in 2009. The last time they drafted a wide receiver in the second round or above, was of course Nelson Agholor in 2015.

Even Howie Roseman recognized this ahead of his post-day two conference. “Guess what guys? We got a running back. We draft running backs in Philadelphia.” But it was Joe Douglas who perhaps provided the most insight into this surge of aggression.

“J.J. is a great fit for what we do. Him and Miles, two of the highest-character guys in this draft. So that separated them from a few guys, but you know, J.J.’s ability to go up and get the ball, his strength, his ability to separate and finish contested catches in the scoring zone. He’s just a highly-productive guy and really tough, really strong.”

The Eagles effectively had their entire draft-board in their laps when they moved onto the clock at 53. First-round safeties had fallen. First-round receivers had fallen…and all of the running backs you could ever dream of, were still there.

Fans may view the selections and be annoyed that the team didn’t address a different position, but the fact is with so much optionality available, these had to have been the two players whom the Eagles were most confident in, because every other plausible option was still on the table.

What’s even more interesting, is that both rookies, Miles Sanders and J.J Arcega-Whiteside, referenced very familiar names on a conference call after their selection.

“I’d love to say [WR] Alshon Jeffery.” Stanford product, Arcega-Whiteside stated when asked about receivers he modeled his game after. “I grew up watching him. He competes for the ball. He is a great competitor out in the field, and I know that is kind of cliché to say even though I am going to be on this team. But he is a great guy to look after and model after. And also [former NFL WR] Steve Smith. He is one of the greatest competitors to play football and he played wide receiver with the biggest heart. Those are some of the guys off the top of my head.”

One could only be impressed with Penn State’s Miles Sanders when asked if he was familiar with Jordan Howard’s game. His response was so educated.

“I am very familiar with his game. He is a great running back. Going on to his second contract. He’s been in this league for a good amount of time, his fourth or fifth year and he’s done a lot in this league. Great running back like I said. I can’t wait to work with all the running backs in that room; [Corey] Clement, [Wendell] Smallwood and Josh Adams. I can’t wait to get in there and learn from them and I’m ready to compete with them. The only goal is to get a Super Bowl.”

The Eagles didn’t just draft players who would fill needs. They had every chance to do that with both picks and put the priority on high-character, cultural fits…and that, once again, shows just how forward thinking Howie Roseman can be.

Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

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