Howie Roseman directed his first drafts as general manager with a Shakespearean flair.
He traded up, he traded down, he multiplied picks and padded future drafts, sometimes to dizzying effect. For instance, the Eagles’ 2010 second-round selection, after a series of moves, yielded six picks over two drafts. But Roseman’s wheeling and dealing, full of sound and fury, ultimately signified nothing.
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He recouped a third, two fourths, two fifths and a 2011 fifth for the No. 55 overall pick. It was, in some respects, an amazing return. But the six players drafted – Daniel Te’o-Neshiem, Mike Kafka, Clay Harbor, Ricky Sapp, Riley Cooper and Dion Lewis – had little impact with the Eagles and even as a whole fell short of matching the player the Cowboys took after their swap with Roseman – linebacker Sean Lee.
Roseman, promoted before the 2010 draft, was like a caged animal unleashed. He didn’t yet have final say on the first few choices, but he had a formula for recouping picks and when the Eagles traded away two third-rounders to move up for defensive end Brandon Graham in the first round, the then-youngest GM in the NFL made four trades over the course of four rounds.
“I think looking back, we had a clear draft board and a clear target and I think that I got so consumed with the trading back and getting the resources that I kind of lost track of the draft board a little bit and maybe missed a player or two,” Roseman said last week. “And it was a great lesson for me that we have to have two focuses there.”
The Eagles’ 2011 draft similarly had many trades, many of which netted little in return. By 2012, however, Roseman had become more economical with his maneuvering and the results have generally been better. The now vice president of football operations is still one of the more active executives in terms of trades throughout the year, but there doesn’t seem to be as much of a need to impress.
Roseman’s last three drafts after returning to personnel power following a one-year sabbatical have featured trades, nothing more dramatic than the pre-draft moves he made in 2016 to jump into the No. 2 overall spot for quarterback Carson Wentz. But the actual three days of selecting have been mostly workmanlike.
Last year, the Eagles traded out of the first round and then up in the second to nab tight end Dallas Goedert. But there was a purpose. They didn’t see value at No. 32, where they were slotted to pick, and moved back to No. 52. They picked up a 2019 second-rounder from the Ravens, and while they expended a fifth-rounder to jump back up to No. 49 for Goedert, they felt comfortable with the long-term compensation.
“With the position we were in last year, we had a chance to kind of look at the strengths of the draft last year and the potential strengths of the draft this year,” Roseman said, “and we felt like if there was an opportunity to get a high pick in this year’s draft and still get one of the players that we had targeted at 32, that would really help us going forward.”
The Eagles have seven picks in this year’s draft, which starts with Thursday’s first round, but they find themselves with a similar late first-round pick at No. 25. Roseman and vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas, who essentially crafts the Eagles’ board, could see only 20 or so first-round talents in the class, which could prompt another move back.
But they also have two second-round and two fourth-round picks if they feel compelled to make a significant leap forward. Trading back seems more realistic, though. Roseman may want to recover the third-rounder he parted with last season to get receiver Golden Tate, a trade that ultimately didn’t pay off. He certainly has trade scenarios in place with various teams.
“Most of our draft prep is done,” Roseman said, “and it’s really going through every scenario and making sure that we’re prepared so that nothing is new.”
In 2012, the Eagles had a pre-draft deal in place with the Seahawks in case they wanted to move up from No. 15 to No. 12. They had targeted defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and when he slipped, Roseman just had to push a button to confirm the trade with Seattle GM John Schneider.
Two years later, the Eagles got caught between standing pat and trading back. They had identified six prospects they would have been willing to take at No. 22. But when it appeared all six would go beforehand, and they were unable to deal up, they traded back four spots. They picked up an additional third-rounder, but settled on outside linebacker Marcus Smith at No. 26, a pick that still lives in infamy.
All told, Roseman has conducted 26 draft-day trades over the previous nine years, excluding the 2015 draft when coach Chip Kelly wrestled control of personnel. Most of the moves have involved only picks, but three players had been shipped, as well, the most prominent being running back Bryce Brown, whom Roseman turned into a fourth-rounder the next year.
Roseman’s inability to sit still during the draft is renowned. He joked before that he would sometimes have to leave the war room during long breaks in between picks to refrain from picking up the phone. Roseman certainly does his scouting work on prospects, but the amount of reconnaissance he does on how the draft could play out is what most NFL personnel people note about his methodology.
“He understands the board in terms of supply and demand at certain positions,” said NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who previously worked under Roseman as a scout. “He understands how to move around and just maximizing your value, and being able to say, ‘Hey, I know we like this guy, but we can move, we can still get him or we can get somebody else we like just as much, and we can get a little something extra.’”
In 2014, Kelly wanted to draft receiver Jordan Matthews with the Eagles’ first pick, but Roseman had to convince the coach that he would be available a round later. The same happened with defensive tackle Taylor Hart, who would have gone in the third rather than the fifth round had Roseman not intervened.