Welcome to draft season. The Rams’ blockbuster deal to pry the No. 1 pick out of the Titans’ hands always felt like the beginning of the fun rather than the end, and the Eagles kept the party going by orchestrating a mammoth deal of their own. Philadelphia traded the Nos. 8, 77 and 100 overall picks in this year’s draft as well as a 2017 first-rounder and a 2018 second-rounder to the Browns for a fourth-round pick next year and the No. 2 overall pick, which they have already confirmed they will use on whichever quarterback slips past the Rams. Los Angeles is expected to take Jared Goff, which means the Eagles will likely end up with Carson Wentz.
On the surface, giving up all of those picks to land a quarterback after spending $34 million guaranteed on Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel this offseason does not make much sense. Digging a little deeper, however, it is easy to see why Philadelphia made the move.
New coach Doug Pederson, who himself was a caretaker starter for Donovan McNabb, has spoken openly about his belief rookie quarterbacks need to sit behind a veteran starter before being elevated to the starting spot. Bradford can be that veteran, and the structure of his deal means the Eagles can get out of it with relatively minimal cap ramifications next spring if Wentz is ready or walk away clean after the 2017 season. The contract indicates they always viewed Bradford as the bridge to the next quarterback, and now they have taken the steps necessary to get that quarterback.
The rationale, then, is sound, but the decision to give up so much for these particular quarterbacks is more questionable. Neither Goff nor Wentz is viewed in anything close to the same stratosphere as Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota were last season, and while Wentz has a ton of upside, his experience, deep accuracy and processing speed remain question marks. That said, Howie Roseman spoke about the perceived lack of talent in the next several quarterback classes when announcing the deal, and the Eagles likely believe they can iron out some of Wentz’s wrinkles as he develops behind Bradford. If Philadelphia views Wentz as clearly better than any of the top quarterbacks likely to be available in the next couple drafts – quarterbacks they might not be in a position to draft anyway – then, again, the move makes sense.
While the rationale makes sense in the present, it is important to remember this deal, like the one the Rams orchestrated a week ago, will ultimately be judged by the outcome. If Wentz is able to realize his massive upside and turns into a high-end starter, few will remember the bounty Philadelphia paid to get him. If he crashes and burns, Roseman and Pederson will likely find themselves out of a job. It may not be fair to judge decision makers purely on results, but that is the modus operandi of the NFL. This deal will not be any different.
As for the Browns, this trade is a momentous win. They landed two top-100 picks this year, a first-round pick next year and a second-rounder in 2018 while maintaining a valuable spot inside the top 10. If they do not like what they see at No. 8, they will almost certainly have the opportunity to move down and grab even more assets. For a team with one of the worst rosters in the league, quality volume is the name of the game. With six picks in the top 100 of an incredibly deep draft, they have a great opportunity to add plenty of quality this year.
The knock-on effects of this deal are not likely to be earth shattering. It was widely expected a quarterback would be taken at No. 2 even before the Browns moved down, and this trade simply sets that projection in stone. Perhaps the certainty of the top two picks being quarterbacks could prompt a team to move up or reach for Paxton Lynch, but those discussions were already happening. If Lynch does end up in the top 10, the Rams will deserve more credit than the Eagles.
One player who could be affected is Ezekiel Elliott, who has seen his pick-floor fall with the Eagles jumping up to No. 2. While the Browns could look at Elliott at No. 8, an analytics-driven organization seems far less likely to spend a first-round pick on a running back than Philadelphia.
That leaves Elliott with limited options inside the top 10. The Chargers’ running game was a mess last season, but the offensive line shoulders much of the blame for their struggles and there is no way they are spending back-to-back firsts on a running back. The Cowboys have been strongly linked with Elliott, but it will be difficult for them to pass on Joey Bosa with seemingly all of their defensive ends suspended. The Jaguars took T.J. Yeldon last year and signed Chris Ivory in free agency, and the Ravens are chomping at the bit to take Laremy Tunsil if he falls that far. The 49ers and Giants could conceivably take a running back, but San Francisco has bigger needs and New York appears destined to bolster the defense.
All of this means Elliott could easily slip out of the top 10 and into the waiting arms of the Dolphins, who have been desperate to add a top-line running back all offseason. If that happens, fantasy owners will likely moan at the thought of Elliott being underused like Lamar Miller was for far too long in Miami, but it is important to remember this is a new coaching staff. As ready to be a three-down back as any runner in recent memory, Elliott should dominate work wherever he ends up. As of now, Miami seems like the most likely landing spot.