Should the Philadelphia Eagles Trade or Keep the No. 4 Overall Draft Pick?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistApril 22, 2013

Apr 26, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

I'm sure you're already well aware, but in three days, the Philadelphia Eagles are scheduled to pick fourth overall in the 2013 NFL draft. It'll mark the first time the Eagles have picked in the top five since 1999, assuming of course that they hold onto said pick.

If they decide that they're not in love with anyone in the No. 4 spot, they could trade down for more picks or veteran contributors, or a combination of both. When you consider that six of the top seven picks in last year's draft were dealt, a development such as that would be far from unprecedented. 

Of course, trades require two consenting parties. It's not as easy as deciding you'd like to make a deal and doing so. There's a chance nobody will be willing to part with what the Eagles require for the pick, especially in a draft that is short on stars. 

But if they do find a partner, trading down would seem to make a lot of sense for Philadelphia. No team picking in the top six has been linked to as many prospects as the Eagles have, and it appears they'll have a wide array of options available in the No. 4 spot. If that's the case, it's probably safe to assume that some of those options will be on the board once they've dropped, say, five or 10 spots.

Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer suggested earlier this month that the Eagles would probably be down with a trade but that the market might not exist. However, that can change. All it takes is one team and one player. Some scenarios to consider on draft night:

  • If the draft's top two tackles, Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher, go off the board before Philadelphia is on the clock, a team desperate for tackle help could look to deal into the No. 4 spot in order to secure Lane Johnson ahead of the Detroit Lions.
  • If the draft's top pass-rusher, Dion Jordan, gets past Jacksonville and Oakland, somebody could be intrigued enough to jump up and grab him before the Lions or Browns do. Speculation: That somebody could be the Jets, who now possess two picks in the top half of the first round after the Darrelle Revis trade. 
  • If somebody is really passionate about top cornerback Dee Milliner, they could look to acquire Philly's pick or Detroit's pick in order to leap ahead of Cleveland. A prime candidate for a move like this would be the Falcons, but they might not have the ammunition to pull that off. 

Phil Sheridan of the Inquirer doesn't favor the trade route because he feels the organization needs to add a difference-maker

Yes, they could improve their odds with sheer numbers, but that would be a cop-out here. If [Howie] Roseman and his revamped staff can't identify a Pro Bowl-caliber player from the hundreds available this week, the Eagles have a bigger problem than a single draft bust.

Roseman (smartly, considering the market) added depth and breadth to the roster during free agency. Now is the time to add a difference-maker to the top. This draft should be about grabbing an elite player you believe in strongly, not settling for two or three players who aren't as high on your list.

True. But logically, if GM Howie Roseman and his revamped staff identify a Pro Bowl-caliber player who can be had later, wouldn't a trade be prudent?

The rub there, of course, is that there's never a guarantee your guy will still be on the board once the trade's been made.

People laughed when the Titans selected Chris Johnson with the 24th pick of the 2008 draft, claiming that Tennessee could have had him in Round 2 or 3. But general manager Mike Reinfeldt obviously saw something in Johnson. How was he supposed to know if he was the only GM with such strong feelings for the man we'd end up calling CJ2K?

So the safest approach is to identify your top four guys and swing the bat in the four spot. If you're confident in your abilities and the abilities of your staff, that should pay off and we won't be forced to have this debate again in future years, with hindsight serving as fuel.