Here’s the weird thing about the NFL draft: People watch it.
They don’t just watch it. They love it. They bunker themselves in their living rooms and man caves and local flatscreen-laden sports bars, and they are riveted by the repeated sight of large, young men shaking hands and chest-bumping with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Actually, that’s not quite right. What draws them in is the combination of hope and mystery and uncertainty posing as certainty and the prospect of witnessing the exact moment that a particular team began to turn it all round or sank deeper into the muck.
You might think that you could spend a more enjoyable evening or two by going out for drinks with friends or playing Boggle with the kids or reading a good book or reading a terrible book, but no.
The Giants select Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the No. 6 pick, and it feeds the debate chambers for days, even weeks, maybe years. An analyst is confounded that a player was picked so early? Now credibility is on the line — the analyst’s, the team’s, the player’s, everybody’s. A big trade in which a team moves up to get its guy? Oh, baby. That’s living.
Even by that modest standard of entertainment, the Eagles’ last three drafts have been uneventful at best and downright boring at worst.
In 2017, they stayed where they were, with the No. 14 pick, and took defensive end Derek Barnett. Last year, they didn’t have a first-round pick; they made just five picks in that entire draft.
This year provided a little tingle when, through a trade with the Baltimore Ravens, they jumped from No. 25 to No. 22. But their selection, Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard, wasn’t exactly thrilling.
Don’t misunderstand: Dillard was a terrific college player, and he might very well become the Eagles’ starting left tackle for a decade. It’s just that the Eagles’ decision to draft him was fairly predictable.
Howie Roseman, the team’s football-operations chief, has long held to a philosophy of accumulating as much talent and depth along the offensive and defensive lines as possible, and adding a promising young left tackle to succeed Jason Peters and protect Carson Wentz’s blind side made plenty of sense.
But Wentz’s influence goes beyond the Eagles’ first-round maneuvering and selection this year. He is the reason that their recent drafts have been so calm, relatively speaking.
They set off fireworks in 2016 when they made two trades to acquire the No. 2 pick and take Wentz, and his ability to start as a rookie and quickly become an excellent quarterback charted the organization’s course.
Since drafting Wentz, the Eagles have made all their personnel moves — the succession of short-term veteran signings from 2016 to 2018, the trade for DeSean Jackson, the drafting of Dillard, all of them — with the recognition and reality that they had found their franchise quarterback, and that he would be their franchise quarterback for a long time. There has been no need for further fireworks.
That’s why other teams — the Giants with Jones, the Redskins with Dwayne Haskins, the Cardinals with their drafting of Kyler Murray, the Raiders with their failure to get Murray — generated most of the post-first-round discussion and speculation.
Those teams, generally, have been NFL bottom-feeders, and they needed quarterbacks, or believed they did, so they had more at stake than the Eagles did. And it’s why the notion, floated a few days ago by a former Eagles quarterback named Donovan McNabb, that the Eagles should be hesitant about signing Wentz to a long-term contract until he proves he’s worth such a contract is so misguided.
The Eagles already know they have their guy, and the price tag for retaining such a player is doing nothing but increasing. If they wait to sign Wentz, for fear that he might get hurt again, and he remains healthy — a fair bet, given that his injuries have been varied and none of them seems a chronic problem — they’ll end up spending more money and salary-cap space on an older quarterback.