Two months ago, the Eagles considered Washington cornerback Sidney Jones a possible pick at No. 14 in the first round of the NFL draft. So when Jones was available in the second round Friday night with the No. 43 overall pick, the Eagles were eager to hand in the card with his name on it - as long as the medical staff was confident with the pick, too.
Jones, 20, was available to become the Eagles' second-round pick only because he tore his left Achilles tendon at his pro day in March, a significant injury that sank his draft stock and put part - or maybe all - of his 2017 season in doubt. The Eagles saw a top talent who offered significant value in the second round. He also comes with notable risk and requires patience.
Eagles executive Howie Roseman would not even commit to Jones' taking the field this season, and the pick was made with Jones' long-term future in mind.
"We anticipate a full recovery for him," said Roseman, the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations. "We don't know that timetable. And to be fair, we're just going to make sure he's healthy and ready to go because we think he's going to be an impact player for us going forward when he gets back out on the field."
In the third round, the Eagles selected another cornerback, West Virginia's Rasul Douglas, with the 99th overall pick. Douglas is 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds with 323/8-inch arms. But he ran his 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds, which is the blemish on his profile.
Cornerback is the Eagles' biggest need, although Jones does not solve the problem in the immediate future. He has the talent to develop into the homegrown No. 1 cornerback that the Eagles have lacked in recent years if he can make a full recovery. The medical staff "spent a lot of time" reviewing Jones' injury. Jones said he hopes to play this season, but he deferred to the team's patient approach. He added that his recovery was "going great," and he's working on his range of motion.
The front office looked at precedent for recovery and were encouraged that Jones could return. Roseman said the Eagles would take Jones only if there was a "a very, very good chance that he would be exactly what he was before the injury." Of course, there's no insurance on draft picks for a reason.
"I don't believe I should have any problem with coming back," Jones said. "It's just a roadblock. It's going to be a good story at the end of my career."
At 6 feet and 186 pounds, Jones ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the combine and started all three years he played for Washington. He was first-team all-Pac 12 during the last two seasons and arrives with coverage ability and ball skills. As a sophomore, Jones led the Pac-12 with 14 pass breakups and intercepted four passes and forced three fumbles. He recorded three interceptions last year with the reputation as one nation's top cornerbacks, and he has been compared to Kansas City Chiefs standout and former teammate Marcus Peters.
"His length, his feet, very smooth, can easily flip his hips, he can carry guys down the field, he's very instinctive, very route aware, has a really good gauge at what WRs will do at the top of the route," Eagles executive Joe Douglas said of what impressed him about Jones, adding that Jones has "ideal ball skills."
Douglas watched Jones in person on the day before the Eagles-Seahawks game in Seattle in November. Anthony Patch, the Eagles' senior director of college scouting, watched Jones' injury up close. Patch sent Jones a hand-written letter, a gesture that was meaningful to Jones. It was the only handwritten note Jones received from a team, and he said he had a feeling the Eagles would pick him.
"It's an indescribable feeling," Jones said. "I saw the call and it said Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then I answered it and I talked to [the] coaching staff. I was tearing up as I was talking to everyone."
There was speculation that Jones could slip to the third round with the injury, but the Eagles thought he would go within the range they selected him. Jones believed he would be taken within seven picks of the Eagles' selection.
The Minnesota Vikings traded two spots ahead of the Eagles to pick Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, who could have been a target for the Eagles. The fans attending the draft at the Art Museum let out boos that could be heard on television when Cook's name was announced, but the applause was noticeable when the Eagles took Jones. Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon went five picks later to Cincinnati.
The Eagles were bullish on Friday night that they have landed two of the players they rated among the 14 best in the draft, although Jones' value is tied to his recovery and it still does not immediately plug the biggest hole. The Eagles think it'll be worth the wait.
"He's a difference-maker at the corner position," Roseman said. "That's something we've been looking for. It's hard to get that guy period - let alone at the 43rd pick in the draft."
As for Douglas, he was a productive corner last year for the Mountaineers, when he led the nation with eight interceptions. He also had 70 tackles and was named first-team all-Big 12. Douglas comes with ideal size and ball skills, which the Eagles will hope can compensate for the lack of speed, and he appears to be a fit for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's scheme.