Howie Roseman can look at the last two NFL drafts - his two drafts as general manager of the Eagles - and see the same things as everyone else.
Among the 24 players taken in 2010 and 2011, there were a few nice hits, some spectacular misses, and a general sense that the Eagles got players who were good enough for now, but perhaps not great enough for the long-term.
Perhaps down the line, as Roseman suggested during a predraft press briefing on Thursday, defensive end Brandon Graham, the first-round pick in 2010, will rebound and become a star player, and guard Danny Watkins, the 2011 first-round pick, will do more than just fill space on the offensive line until someone better comes along.
Maybe this and maybe that on safeties Kurt Coleman and Jaiquawn Jarrett, and on linebackers Casey Matthews, and Jamar Chaney, and on down the line of guys like Curtis Marsh and Mike Kafka, all of whom were considered "finds" in one way or another, but collectively couldn't help the Eagles find more than eight wins last season.
Roseman, who replaced Tom Heckert in January 2010, declined to grade the job of the player personnel department since his promotion, but it sounded as if he might lobby for "incomplete" right now. And, to be honest, he could be right.
"They haven't had an offseason here yet," Roseman said of his draft picks. "I think that makes it difficult for us to know exactly what we have in our last two draft classes. They haven't had the benefit of a strength and conditioning program here, dealing with the coaches here, having offseason camps. . . . And so we have two years of draft classes who, we think we know about them, but I don't think we have a complete picture of them."
However that picture turns out, Roseman and the Eagles get a chance to do better next week when the NFL draft unfurls over three days starting Thursday. In some ways, this will be the most important draft of recent memory for a number of reasons. The Eagles have three picks among the top 51 selections, including No. 15 in the first round, and they have a number of serious needs. They also have a head coach who just might need a really good season to keep his job. If Roseman's player personnel department is finally where he wants it to be, this would be the time to show it.
"Tom ran it for a long time and I got the opportunity to have this job and you want to put your own spin on it and you want to bring in some of your own people and the people who share your philosophy, and I think that takes time," Roseman said. "In the first year, you can't do that, because the scouting's been going on and then you have a draft right there, and then last year was a unique situation. No excuses . . . [but] you feel like this is the first year where the playing field is level and it is what it was supposed to be."
Heckert's top two player-personnel assistants in Cleveland, Jon Sandusky and John Spytek, are scouts and evaluators he spirited away with him from the Eagles. More recently, Roseman's department lost director of player personnel Ryan Grigson, who was named general manager of Indianapolis in January.
The top men under Roseman, his guys, are Phil Savage, a former GM in Cleveland and player personnel director in Baltimore, and Rick Mueller, who has more than 15 years of league experience in other organizations. The other big player is Anthony Patch, a former regional scout who was promoted to assistant director of college scouting when Roseman became general manger and was promoted again in January to director of college scouting.
Those three men - as anonymous in Philadelphia as any major forces could be - along with Roseman, are making the personnel recommendations for Reid to approve and, in a real way, will decide if the coach gets what he needs to win right away or what they believe will best serve the franchise in the long run. It is the difference between wanting to clear an accident from an intersection so traffic can get moving, and between fixing the intersection so there aren't any more accidents.
Roseman made it sound as if the Eagles have failed to secure the best talent in the past because of goals that were too shortsighted.
"I think when we go back in our draft, sometimes we have probably drafted based on need, based on some circumstances, and we're trying to make sure we're taking the best player available now going forward," he said. "If the guy that we project as the best player is going to take a little longer, that wouldn't scare us away from taking him."
It is exactly the right way to think, because the Eagles don't have enough talent on their roster. They have some overachievers and some guys the organization is sticking with because they were low-round draft picks who are both cheap and serviceable, but, overall, the Eagles don't match up with the elite teams of the league on pure talent.
Everyone wants to win now, but without better players, now could turn into never for Reid and the organization under him. Reid, of course, would like to have both great players and great players now.
If it can work out that way, Roseman says that would be fine with him, too. We'll see. This is draft year three, and this time, everyone agrees, there are no more excuses.
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