Eagles can’t let another ‘historic draft class’ pass them by

We’ve been here before. We’ve seen this before. In two of the last three offseasons, Philadelphia Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman walks up to the podium in a fitted suit, with a glint in his eye and a list of sassy comebacks to silly questions. In two of the last three offseasons, Howie Roseman has declared that the draft class is ‘historic’ at a certain position…and in two of the last three offseasons, the Eagles have missed woefully at those positions.

2017

The Eagles needed a running back, badly. It became rapidly clear that a backfield of Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, and Wendell Smallwood just wasn’t going to cut it and there were so many intriguing options in the first few rounds.

One of those names, Christian McCaffrey, has just been made the highest-paid RB in NFL history, while Joe Mixon and Dalvin Cook have turned in some scintillating seasons of their own. A little further down the pecking order, Marlon Mack and Tarik Cohen were fourth-round selections who would materialize into impactful talents at the next level. A mid-round run at the position forced Howie’s hand to hit the ‘trade-up’ button, and one of the team’s most forgettable draft choices was made.

The Eagles traded up to the 132 spot for the services of San Diego State running back, Donnel Pumphrey.

The most prolific rusher in NCAA history at the time, Pumphrey drew a lot of interest during Senior Bowl week due to his size. At just 5’8 and 169 pounds, comparisons were naturally made with Darren Sproles..and rightly so. The only difference was, Sproles had a thick base that allowed him to thrive at the next level. Pumphrey spent preseason games being bullied by defenders and looked like a ragdoll at times.

After a phantom injury ended his rookie year as early as September, he’d be waived one year later. He joined the Eagles for another rodeo in the 2019 offseason, but again it was one that was cut short.

Obviously hindsight is 2020 and had the Eagles selected a back like Marlon Mack, maybe Super Bowl 52 would never have happened (Butterfly effect and all), but this was nothing short of a whiff.

The NFL Draft is notoriously a roulette wheel when it comes to hitting on players and no GM should be expected to hit every single time, but there’s a feeling that with so much talent on the board at the position, the Eagles got complacent and it cost them.

But hey, if they had drafted a Tarik Cohen or even a Jamaal Adams, would Miles Sanders be an Eagle?

2019

The historic class this time around was along the defensive front. The less said about human cheat code Nick Bosa, the better, but from Brian Burns and Christian Wilkins, to Dexter Lawrence and Kingsley Keke, the depth was stunning. On the outside, it was just as impressive….and the Eagles came away with Shareef Miller.

Miller is only one year into his NFL career and he was always seen to be a project, but that’s what made the pick so confusing just one year after Josh Sweat was taken in the same round.

At 6’5″ and 260 lbs, Miller has the size that defenses covet in their edge-rushers and during his time at Penn State, Miller grew into one of the team’s biggest leaders. But he is very one dimensional. He doesn’t have a vast array of pass-rushing moves and plays at one speed once his impressive first step and burst is behind him. He’s quick, has an impressive ability to bend and really drive lineman around the arc, but what he has in finesse, he’s missing in those technical intricacies that have seen this class receive such astonishing praise. 

That really doesn’t appear to have changed much after his first season. Miller was buried underneath a depth chart full of other players trying to prove themselves. With the emergence of Josh Sweat and Daeshon Hall in preseason, the ceiling was lowered even further.

It’s a little too early to throw the word ‘bust’ around, but that’s two fourth-round picks in two years who have had as much impact as a rookie as you or I.

2020

Here we are again. Another historic draft class, another year where Howie Roseman acknowledges that. The wide receivers this offseason are exceptional and there are so many of them. It’s no surprise then, that Howie Roseman’s team has met with 13 in the run-up to next week’s big event.

This article wasn’t written to say that Howie Roseman should go against his former grain and draft a wide receiver at 21, 53, or even trade up for one (although it’s likely). There is every chance, like the CB dip in 2017, that the Eagles double-dip at wide receiver…but they have to be the right compliments.

There can’t be a front office crush who becomes a coaching misfit in Rasul Douglas. There’s no time for injury concerns that can rip away a rookie season in the hopes that star potential is one day reached like we saw with Sidney Jones. The pressure is simply too high for a position that has come under scrutiny at each and every turn since Pederson’s arrival.

If the Eagles are going to be aggressive in getting ‘their guy’, it has to be ‘the guy’. Complacency has been the bane of the Eagles’ front office when it comes to historically deep classes and anything other than a home run here just won’t get the team over the line. Howie Roseman, no matter which path he chooses to walk down, has to do so with absolute conviction and certainty at this is indeed the third time lucky.

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