Louis Riddick drove from his South Jersey home to the Art Museum a few weeks ago and did his form of advance scouting.
A Bucks County native who went to Pennridge High School and played six NFL seasons before more than a decade in NFL front offices, including the Eagles, Riddick is now an ESPN analyst. He will be on the main set for the draft this year, and his initial skepticism about an outdoor draft faded when he looked down the Parkway on a beautiful spring day in Philadelphia.
"This is going to be freaking awesome," Riddick said. "My skepticism has given way to serious, serious excitement, and anybody who you talk to about me concerning this draft will tell you he's fired up about getting down here."
Riddick has heard from his neighbors asking what he thinks of the Eagles. When he discusses them, it's hard to find an analyst with the breadth of experience as Riddick.
Riddick experienced draft day as a prospect when the San Francisco 49ers selected him in the ninth round of the 1991 draft. He experienced it as a scout and executive, including three years as the Eagles' director of pro personnel. And now he experiences it as a TV personality, offering immediate insight to the viewing public.
"Being a player, being a scout, doing some of the things I did with the coaches as far as advance scouting, I think I can give people some pretty good insight of how it really works and talk about it from multiple different perspectives," Riddick said. "It's the different hats that I've worn. I can give you the 'when I played' stories, the stories about how Nick Saban coached me or some of the things Bill Belichick put me through that I'm now grateful for, some of the great players I played with and great teams I played against.
"But at the same time, I can talk to you about the decisions that go into putting a team together, when to get rid of players on the downside of their career, when to transition to younger players, how the draft works, how free agency works, how the combine works."
Riddick went on, from preparing for roster cuts to the trade deadline to shaping the roster at different times of the year. They're nuances of team building that come only when you've been part of building a team.
After leaving the Eagles in 2013 and joining ESPN, Riddick remained in the area instead of uprooting his family. He always thought he could end up on TV, even if those jobs more often went to high-profile players and coaches than journeymen safeties and front-office scouts. But Riddick used to have the TV on in the background in his office or the weight room or cafeteria, and he thought there was a level of discourse he could offer that hadn't been heard before. He's continued to work at perfecting his delivery and making sure the information he offers is not too complicated. But his perspective is almost unmatched.
"There have not been people who have that background," Riddick said. "People respect it and want to hear about it, and they trust that it gives you credibility that hasn't been tapped into."
As an executive with the Eagles, Riddick said he learned "how to do things properly" with communication, leadership, and organization from former coach Andy Reid. Even though the signings before the 2011 season were a "fiasco," Riddick said he was proud of the process that led to signing Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins as fits for the Eagles' scheme.
Now, his job includes analyzing the Eagles. He emphasized that the Eagles must address cornerback, which he called the "third-most important position on your football team behind quarterback and primary pass rusher," and he thinks they would be a foolish to pass on one that presents good value at No. 14. He also said the Eagles must find running back to help Carson Wentz and need to continue to add wide receivers for Wentz to blossom. Those skill positions should be a priority, according to Riddick.
And when they're on the board, Riddick has an idea of what will take place in the theater and on the Parkway. He grew up in the area, worked here and still lives here, and he knows the passion for football that was part of his upbringing will be on display for a national audience.
"When you've got the earpiece in your ear and just talking the game, you don't think about it too much," Riddick said. "And I expect that the roar of the crowd will pick up. . . . There's going to be a lot of people [on air] who have some serious connections to the city talking about what they're going to do. It should make for one of the more interesting picks in the first round, if not the most interesting."