The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles illustrate the fine line between success and failure in the NFL as well as any team in the league. After a defensive debacle overseen by a baffling selection at defensive coordinator, former offensive line coach Juan Castillo, head coach Andy Reid's seat was getting a little warmer.
2012 would be the first draft since 2005 without current Colts general manager Ryan Grigson as Director of College Scouting or Director of Player Personnel. With an extra second-round pick, the Eagles had the ammunition to give the franchise a big boost going into the season. How would they use that ammo?
The Eagles have clarity in the first round
How else do you explain the team trading up for their first-round selection three out of the last four years, and trading out of the first round two years before that. The Eagles know exactly who they like in the first round, how much they're willing give for that player and when there's no one available worth their pick.
This year, the target was Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Defensive line coach Jim Washburn was so thrilled to add Cox that he told the Philadelphia Daily News, "When God made (Cox), he made him to be in this system right here." The Eagles were lucky to have Cox fall within three picks of their No. 15th selection, so they didn't have surrender the extra second-round pick to do it.
The Eagles did have a need at safety, but apparently did not make a play for Mark Barron, as they had the picks to top the offer of a first and second-round selection that St. Louis took from Dallas for the sixth pick—one ahead of the pick Tampa Bay used to select Barron.
Howie Roseman's new "best player available" approach was in effect early
Roseman was candid about his assessment of previous drafts to Paul Domowitch of Philly.com:
"At some point, you get entrenched into what your team needs," he said. "And because we're so determined to win a championship as quickly as possible, we wanted to address those [needs] as quickly as possible.
"When you look back at the moves, particularly in the draft, that we've made successfully, it was situations where we took the best players [rather than the best player at the position of greatest need]. It's something I believe in."
Every team can always use more depth at defensive tackle, but with Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson starting, the position was certainly not one of great need for Philadelphia. Cox was still a compelling enough talent to not only merit a first-round pick, but a fourth and sixth to be certain of securing his services. This means that Cox was likely a top 5-7 player on the Eagles' board. Kudos to them for going strong to the hole to obtain their target.
The team did it again when they selected defensive end Vinny Curry in the second round. The Eagles have one of the best set of starting ends in the league with Trent Cole and Jason Babin, and they have a first-round pick entering his third season on the bench. No matter, Curry, a potential Pro Bowl defensive end, was worth the pick.
Needs will still be addressed
The long-running sore spot of linebacker got an instant starter (Mychal Kendricks) in the second round, and the Eagles traded a fourth-round pick and bump in the third for DeMeco Ryans. The suddenly thin cornerback unit added Brandon Boykin in the fourth. While Curry and third-round pick Nick Foles won't contribute much early, Boykin and Kendricks will be on field in some capacity from day one.
Of course, Kendricks and Boykin were probably on more than a few draftniks' wishlist when they were taken, so maybe Roseman and Reid were just sticking to best player available and the intersection with need was a "happy accident," as Bob Ross would say.
The Eagles will draft a new quarterback prospect every two or three years
And why shouldn't they? 2001 fifth-round pick AJ Feeley was on the roster for three years and garnered a second-round pick from Miami. 2007 second-round pick Kevin Kolb was on the roster for four years and fetched a second-round pick and a starting cornerback from Arizona. Nick Foles is a project, but one that can be sold for a high draft pick if he can show promise like Feeley and Kolb.