Andy Reid is undoubtedly locked in a closet somewhere, ignoring his delinquent kids, crouched over a sheet of stats, a video screen or a ouija board preparing for the upcoming draft.
His method of preparation is as much a mystery as the players he covets, and while educated guesses may have come close in the past, each year he’s been at the Eagles helm, pretty much no one really knew who the big guy was going to take, the exception being Donovan McNabb. Maybe the McNabb draft set the tone for Reid’s tight-lipped future. In 1999 everyone, their grandmother and their mayor was calling for Ricky Williams and Andy Reid’s head if he didn’t take the running back. Reid stuck to his guns, drafted a franchise QB, and 8 years later Iggles fans everywhere still feel a little bit of shame for doubting him.
Since then, Reid’s first round selections have run the gamut from reaching to fill a need, to trading up for value, to completely blowing everyone’s mind. Here’s a year-by-year look at the Eagles first-round selections under Reid:
- 1999: Donovan McNabb (Expected, but highly questioned)
- 2000: Corey Simon (Pretty much expected)
- 2001: Freddy “People’s Champ/FredEx” Mitchell (Un-mitigated bust)
- 2002: Lito Sheppard (Followed by two other DB’s in the second round. The Eagles had Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent, pro bowl-calibur corners, as their starters, but restocked the position a year before both guys left in free agency. This draft set the Eagles up to reach 4 consecutive NFC Championship games, and reach 1 Super Bowl.)
- 2003: Jerome McDougle (Disaster)
- 2004: Shawn Andrews (Great pick, traded up to get him)
- 2005: Mike Patterson (TBD)
- 2006: Broderick Bunkley (TBD)
Like I said, the Eagles first rounders have been a mixed bag. The common thread over the past five drafts is that the picks were not expected. When we look at the mock drafts around the Internet, this year is shaping up to be no different. People have the Eagles drafting everything from a safety, to a linebacker, to a tight end, to a full back, to a lineman…anything is possible.
So what should we expect? Well, the reason the Eagles have sat atop the NFC East for 5 of the past 6 years is a system. It’s not an offensive or defensive system, it’s more of a business system. The organization assigns a value to each player, if they can have that player for that value, they go for it. Mainly, this formula is applied to their own talent.
They lock down the players they project to be vital cogs in the machine early, before they reach their potential. The let players, even fan favorites like Duce Staley and Trotter, walk when their price is too high. They anticipate, at least a year ahead of time, when they’re going to lose a key player, and they draft accordingly.
That last point is the key to this year’s draft, I think. In the 2002 draft, the Eagles took Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown and Michael Lewis in the first and second rounds. Like I said, the defensive backfield was the furthest thing from a need on the team, but Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent were a year away from free agency, and the Eagles knew that it wouldn’t make business sense to pay through the nose for them. They got tremendous young talent to replace them, before the position became a need. Why? Because the db’s were, and still are, the key to Jim Johnson’s pressure defense. Without corners who can cover man-on-man, blitzing is a fool’s errand.
So, using the past as an indicator, I’m going to say that the Eagles take a safety in the first round, but not for the reason you’d think. Yes, an upgrade over Sean Considine should be high on the Eagles’ list of immediate needs, but I don’t think it’s at the top of the list. Stopping the run is the most immediate need for the upcoming season. The reason the Eagles will take a safety is that the key to their defense, Brian Dawkins, probably only has a year or two left. Draft now for the future, that was the motto in 2002, and it applies here too. Losing Dawkins will hurt this defense more than any other player, they need to start grooming his replacement now, so when the time comes, the drop off won’t be as great.
Here’s ESPN’s list of the top safeties on the board, expect the Eagles to take one of them, maybe even trade up for one.
That’s my take on things, but if it doesn’t go down this way next Saturday, well, in Andy I trust.