Eagles Mailbag: RB in Round 1, Chris Long, old guys

Eagles Mailbag: RB in Round 1, Chris Long, old guys

We’ve reached the end of the mailbag line. You guys gave me enough Eagles questions to split this into three parts. 

Part 1

Part 2

And, now, here’s part three: 

If I had to guess between Josh Jacobs and the field, I’d still choose the field by a wide margin. But I also wouldn’t be completely stunned if the Eagles were on the clock at 25 and they deemed him to be the best player available and went that way. Ultimately, I still think they end up with a lineman there, but Jacobs is an intriguing fit for the Eagles. He would fill their greatest need on offense and could become a true three-down back in the NFL. He really could step in and be a starter in his rookie season. 

As for Love, I think the second round is too early for him. If he’s there in the fourth round or later, that would be an option. Remember, the draft is about value. You don’t draft someone in an early round if you think they’ll be there later. It’s hard to figure out where injured players will go, but Love isn’t a sure thing to me. I’ll get into other running back options in a bit. 

Nah, I thought Long had another pretty good year. He had 6 1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles. He’s played in every game since coming to Philly. I don’t know if he’ll be back, but the Eagles should want him back. Without Long, they’re down to Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, and Josh Sweat. There’s a really good chance they draft a defensive end with a high pick too, but with the rotation, the more the merrier. Long has a $5.6 million cap hit in 2019, but I can deal with that. I think he’s worth keeping around. 

There aren’t many running backs still left on the open market, but Yeldon would be a good fit. He’s a big back but can also be used as a receiver out of the backfield. He’s still just 25 too. The trade options are also open and it wouldn’t hurt the compensatory pick formula, something that’s been important to Howie Roseman this offseason. 

In the draft, we already talked about Jacobs. He would fit. In the second round, the two players I like most are David Montgomery and Miles Sanders. Montgomery didn’t put up a great 40 time, but I don’t care. His tape says enough to me. I think he has star potential in the NFL. And the Eagles have shown a lot of interest in Sanders. He is quicker than Montgomery, but is also a little more unproven after sitting behind Saquon Barkley for two years. But that means he has less mileage too. 

It’s interesting because this has been the way the Eagles have used free agency in the last few years. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The Eagles have signed guys like Chris Long who worked and guys like Mike Wallace who didn’t. The important thing for the Eagles is making sure these old guys still have some sort of fire left in them, that they’re not collecting paychecks. It’s not always easy to tell. 

These contracts show the Eagles are clearly in a win-now mode (as they should be), but most of them don’t really change the organization’s longer-term plans. It does, however, put even more emphasis on nailing their draft picks. That’s how the Eagles need to get younger now, so there’s a lot of pressure on Joe Douglas and his team.

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Without desperate needs, look for Eagles to play long game in this NFL draft

Without desperate needs, look for Eagles to play long game in this NFL draft

If the Eagles draft a lineman early in the 2019 draft and then everything goes perfectly with the guys who are already on the roster, that rookie might not play much or at all in his first NFL season.

The Eagles would be OK with that. 

And that goes for any position where the Eagles don’t have immediate, desperate needs. By design, there are many.  

See, the Birds tried their best to fill the holes in their roster during free agency. Now, they enter the draft Thursday feeling pretty free. They’re not beholden to any particularly dire draft needs, which should help them avoid an unnecessary reach when they’re on the clock at 25. It’s a sound plan to avoid a dangerous temptation. 

“That’s one of the things that’s exciting with where we are right now,” Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said last week. “We could go play right now and we think we’re a pretty good team.”

Roseman insists the Eagles are completely focused on the long-term welfare of the franchise. Part of the luxury of having a de facto GM and a head coach with long leashes is that there’s less pressure to find players who will produce and start immediately. Roseman and Doug Pederson can afford to think about the long term without worrying about saving their hides in 2019. Many teams have a much different dynamic. 

Last week, I asked Roseman how the Eagles balance long-term goals with wanting to see their high draft picks contribute immediately: 

Certainly, when you draft someone high, when it’s in the first round, second round, you love to see him play. That’s part of the great process that we have, that you get to see them play on the field in the National Football League after you spend all this time evaluating and scouting them, taking them off the board and bringing them to Philly. But that’s really about what’s best for the team. 

We had a situation where in 2002, we drafted Lito (Sheppard) and Sheldon (Brown) and they didn’t play at all (as rookies). And in 2004, they were huge contributors to our football team. We can’t view the draft as just what’s best for just this moment. We have to view this draft as what’s best for our team going forward.

We’ve heard the Lito/Sheldon example before and, even though that was 17 years ago and Roseman was still a low-level front office employee back then, it’s a good example. Neither player (Sheppard was a first-rounder, Brown was a second-rounder) started a single game as rookies because they were stuck behind Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. But both were starters for the Super Bowl team just two years later. 

Still, teams would typically like to get a certain level of production out of their first pick in the draft. Here’s a look at the Eagles’ first picks of the last several drafts and how much they’ve played as rookies: 

2018: Dallas Goedert (No. 49): 16 games, 8 starts, 48% of offensive snaps

2017: Derek Barnett (No. 14): 15 games, 0 starts, 41% of defensive snaps

2016: Carson Wentz (No. 2): 16 games, 16 starts, 99% of offensive snaps

2015: Nelson Agholor (No. 20): 13 games, 12 starts, 58% of offensive snaps

2014: Marcus Smith (No. 26): 8 games, 0 starts, 6% of defensive snaps 

2013: Lane Johnson (No. 4) 16 games, 16 starts, 100% of offensive snaps 

2012: Fletcher Cox (No. 12) 15 games, 9 starts, 48.6% of defensive snaps 

Just three of the Eagles’ last seven first picks have played more than 50 percent of snaps on their respective side of the ball and two of them were top-five picks. Just look at the last two years. The Eagles took Barnett in 2017 despite having Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Chris Long on the roster. They took Goedert last year despite having Zach Ertz. 

So how much will the Eagles’ first pick play in 2019? That’s a hard question to answer. It’s really dependent on the position of the player and the health of the veterans in front of them. Assuming good health, a defensive lineman would be a rotational player, an offensive lineman might be a backup, a receiver would be rotational, a safety would see the field in big nickel, a running back would be in a rotation and a linebacker might start. 

But the beauty of the Eagles’ situation right now is that they don’t have to care about any of that. They can afford to take the best player on the board and play the long game. 

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Eagles NFL draft options at No. 25: Chris Lindstrom

Eagles NFL draft options at No. 25: Chris Lindstrom

In four years at BC, Chris Lindstrom played in 50 games and became a starter as a freshman back in 2015. That’s a ton of college experience. 

Most of his time in college was spent at right guard, but Lindstrom did play some tackle briefly. He clearly projects as a guard or possibly center at the next level, but a damn good one. And he comes from a family of good offensive linemen, specifically his father, who was a Hall of Famer at Boston University. 

There’s a thought that guard might not be as valuable a position as tackle, but with the increasing threat of interior pass-rushers, that’s not exactly a fair assessment. And Lindstrom was a first-team All-ACC player as a senior in 2018. 

Lindstrom is a good athlete with quickness, with a football pedigree and plenty of starting college experience. Plug-and-play. There’s not much to dislike about him. 

Current roster at iOL: The Eagles didn’t pick up the option on Stefen Wisniewski’s contract, so he’s a free agent. Isaac Seumalo is the starter at left guard, Jason Kelce is the starter at center and Brandon Brooks is the starter at right guard, although, he is coming off an Achilles tear. Their top (and only) interior backup is Matt Pryor, who was a sixth-rounder last season. 

How he would fit: Lindstrom has the ability to come in and start, which is big if Brooks isn’t ready. But he might also challenge Seumalo for that starting left guard spot. Then Seumalo could be a utility backup and a good one at that.  

Eagles history at iOL in draft: The last time the Eagles drafted a guard in the first round, they took an old Canadian fireman in 2011. But that can’t prevent the Eagles from going guard again. They did use a Day 2 pick on Seumalo just a couple years ago, so they still value interior linemen. 

Other options at 25