LET'S CONSIDER, "What if?"
As in, "What if the Eagles stood pat for the 2016 draft? What if they never made the two big trades and simply drafted 13th?"
And, so: A retro mock draft.
It's impossible to completely put the horse back in the barn. The team's salary structure was altered the day it began delousing itself of the Chip Kelly era, trading Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso, DeMarco Murray and Mark Sanchez for picks. Its needs changed, too, some of which were filled before the draft; Sanchez and Maxwell, for instance.
However, while Howie Roseman's move from No. 13 to No. 8 was remarkable, the move from No. 8 to No. 2 to draft Carson Wentz was seismic, mainly because it was predicated on this flawed evaluation, expressed by King Howie:
"We spent a ton of time looking at the quarterback market, not only this year but next year, and in 2018. Understanding that, although this doesn't fit an immediate need, this is a rare opportunity that we're in."
The flaw: It is difficult to project what the college quarterback market will be in 12 months and impossible to predict what it will be in 24 months. No player is a better example of this than Wentz, the player the Eagles moved up to take. He had not even started a college game 24 months ago.
Since Matt Ryan rocketed from relative obscurity at the beginning of 2007 to the No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 draft, there have been eight other "franchise"-caliber quarterbacks drafted among the top three picks. Most, but not all, were expected to be first-round picks entering their final college season. None was considered a "franchise" talent two seasons prior.
However, the Eagles saw in Wentz someone like Andrew Luck or Brett Favre: a generational talent within their reach. To be clear: If they believe this, then it justifies everything they did. The league exists solely to promote passers. This outweighs Sam Bradford's happiness and it makes his current boycott irrelevant. This is more important than building depth at receiver and defensive line.
Still, it was an unprecedented strategy; mortgaging the future having freshly signed a veteran to a two-year, $35 million deal. In order to get Wentz, the Eagles traded the eighth overall pick, the 77th overall pick (a third-rounder), the 100th overall pick (fourth-rounder), next year's first-round pick and a second-round pick in 2018. Remember, too, that moving from No. 13 to No. 8 cost them Maxwell and Alonso.
Assume that any pick taken in the fourth round or above should make the roster for at least two seasons. Assume any pick taken in the first three rounds should start by the end of his second season.
Therefore, Wentz cost them six viable NFL players, including four probable starters: Maxwell, this year's third-rounder, the 2017 first-rounder and the 2018 second-rounder.
This is why it would be interesting to consider a universe in which the Eagles stayed at No. 13.
For argument's sake, let's allow the Murray and Sanchez deals to have happened. Murray's profile in the locker room was poison, and new coach Doug Pederson preferred Chase Daniel as a backup quarterback, since Daniel will act as an unofficial assistant coach.
But there was no imperative to trade Alonso and Maxwell besides jumping from No. 13 overall to No. 8. Neither caused a problem. Maxwell was overpaid, but he played well enough at the end of 2015. Alonso would have provided cheap depth at linebacker and, a year removed from knee surgery, might regain some of the playmaking ability he showed in Buffalo in 2013.
This alternative scenario gives the Eagles picks 13, 77, 79, 100, 153, 164, and, thanks to a draft-day deal, 196, 233, 240 and 251.
We will assume the Eagles would have remained interested in a quarterback, offensive linemen, a running back, at least one defensive back (Maxwell stays) and defensive-line help. We must assume no butterfly effect: that is, a chain reaction resulting from pick No. 13 affecting later decisions around the league.
And calm down. It's just an exercise:
First round, 13th overall: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis. At 6-7 and 244 pounds, Lynch has the size, the arm, the athleticism and the pocket presence to play in the NFL. He might lack Wentz's "intangibles" and he needs a year or two of understudy work to refine his mechanics, but so does Wentz; so do most college QBs. Also, Bradford might still be at work if the Eagles had stood pat and drafted Lynch.
Third round, 77th overall: Isaac Seumalo, OL, Oregon State. The Eagles wound up taking Seumalo with the 79th pick but they would not have waited two more picks.
Third round, 79th overall: Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State. He gained national attention with his successful conversion from star quarterback to promising wide receiver, but despite his ragged route-running and questionable hands, a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at 6-1 and 201 pounds makes him an excellent gamble in the third round.
Fourth round, 100th overall: Sheldon Day, DL, Notre Dame. A playmaker at tackle in college and likely a hybrid NFL lineman (6-1, 293), he's the kind of guy who plays for 10 years and, when complemented and coached, goes on hot streaks.
Fifth round, 153rd overall: Wendell Smallwood, RB, West Virgina. This was their actual selection.
Fifth round, 164th overall: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT, TCU. Also their actual selection; adds offensive-line depth.
Sixth round, 196th overall: Blake Countess, CB, Auburn: Again, their actual pick. Adds depth, versatility, special-teams value.
Seventh round, 233rd overall: Alex McAlister, DE, Florida. They actually took him 240th but they would not have waited. In the proud tradition of Marcus Smith and Jon Harris, the Eagles cannot resist undersized pass rushers with lots of issues. Also, Roseman went to Florida.
Seventh round, 240th overall: Tyler Matakevich, ILB, Temple: Makes the team, plays 30 percent of the snaps by Week 8.
In this parallel universe the Eagles emerge with:
* A different franchise quarterback two years from relevance.
* A nice-sized wide receiver with lots of potential.
* A versatile defensive lineman.
* A stone-cold playmaking linebacker in the seventh round.
And, undoubtedly, a happy Sam Bradford.