Nobody can deny that Brandon Graham is one of the All-Time great Philadelphia Eagles. His forced fumble in Super Bowl LII is the most important play in franchise history (You heard me right). But, as many Eagle fans remember, Graham was considered a bust for a long time.
Drafted in the first round in 2010, he struggled to get consistent success as a pass rusher shifting from a 4-3 defense, to a 3-4, and then back to a 4-3. In the end, with the help of from Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator, Graham has become one of the most beloved Eagles of All-Time.
While Howie Roseman and Eagles management can look at the career of Graham as a success, they can no longer afford to wait as long as they did for another rookie pass rusher to develop into a stud. If Defensive end is the selection with the 12th overall pick in a week, the player MUST be a Pro-Bowl type player right away.
In the early 2010’s, the Eagles could afford to be patient with Graham. As a backup to one of the league’s best at the time in Trent Cole, Graham never really needed to break out early on in his career. The Eagles pass rush was solid as long as Cole was leading the charge.
It wasn’t just Cole carrying the load either. Connor Barwin had 30 sacks in three seasons with the Eagles. Jason Babin had 18 sacks in 2011.
By the time Cole left the Eagles in 2015, Graham was in his sixth NFL season and stepped up as the team’s most consistent edge rusher.
The talent-level at DE enjoyed by the team in the early 2010’s was very high. That’s not the case in 2021 and the Eagles do not have six years to find a successor to Brandon Graham.
Brandon Graham is the team’s best edge rusher coming into the 2021 season. Outside of him, it’s a lottery.
Derek Barnett has really struggled to live up to the reputation of a first-round pick and has lacked consistency. This, partnered with durability concerns and a few to many flags, leave a $10M cap hit hard to justify as he enters his option year.
Josh Sweat had a big 2020 season and will be breathing down Barnett’s neck this Summer, but he too has some injury concerns. Now going into a new scheme, Eagles fans will be hoping he can build on what is becoming a solid foundation, but it’s still too early to go all-in on him.
Outside of that, Joe Ostman, anyone?
If the Eagles decide that they must take an EDGE in Round One, the player needs to be able to produce right away. Not like Derek Barnett’s gradual rise, and certainly not like Shareef Miller’s Eagles tenure as a fourth-round pick.
Roseman’s job is in jeopardy already. What happens when the fans, and ownership are forced to wait six years for a rookie to break out again?
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Let’s say Howie takes a player like Kwity Paye in the first round and Paye needs to develop as long as Graham did.
How long of a leash will Eagles coaching, and management give the rookie? The depth on the roster now isn’t good enough to win and expectations on whichever DE is drafted would be way too high as a result.
There is no edge rusher in this draft that is a Chase Young-type player. Any lineman drafted poses their own risks. There are more sure-fire selections to be made that directly help the Eagles with their roster holes.
If the Eagles need to wait for an edge rusher to develop into a player like Graham, then drafting talent much deeper into the draft, or even trading for players who have NFL experience are options that should be far more viable.
It’s not worth the risk.
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