Months and months of planning lead to this day, to this moment. The NFL Draft process is a year-round endeavor, so for the Eagles and the rest of the NFL, this day is the culmination of work that began last spring. And back then, we really didn't know what the Eagles' needs would be. We knew that they loaded up for the 2019 season, only to have what appeared to be a standout roster decimated by injury and yet still strong enough to win the NFC East.
Being division champions isn't enough for the Eagles. "The new normal" means deep playoff runs, Super Bowls, parades. So, how do the Eagles get back to that level?
"We want to bring in players who fit what we're looking for – tough, competitive, productive guys," Vice President of Player Personnel Andy Weidl said. "That's what you want in your locker room."
An active offseason that mostly addressed the defensive side of the ball brought in two blue-chip talents in cornerback Darius Slay and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, the former a Pro Bowl player and the latter a player on the rise whom the Eagles expect to thrive playing in a rotation that includes Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson. The defensive also added standout nickel cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, hybrid safety Will Parks, who will have a chance to earn significant playing time, and athletic linebacker Jatavis Brown, who is also going to have his opportunity to be a starter.
Is tonight time for the offense to get some love?
That's what most of the predictions say, but as we know, the NFL Draft never plays along with the mocks, so the best way to approach it is to understand all the directions it can take. Who expected the Eagles to trade up last spring for offensive tackle Andre Dillard? Pretty much nobody. But the Eagles saw a player sliding more than they projected and they used draft capital to jump up a couple of spots and they nabbed their left tackle of the future, who could very well start in 2020.
For tonight, with the 21st pick in the draft, the Eagles have a chance to select a player who potentially helps as a rookie.
"We'll make a pick based on what we think is the best fit for our team as we build the team. For us, I think it's important that build a team that maximizes the skill set of the player(s) that we select, that matches also what we have on the team. That's what we'll look for," Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman said.
What does that mean? It means the Eagles aren't going to force it. They're going to let the draft come to them and not overcomplicate the process. Roseman doesn't look at his roster as "perfect." He knows the focus through the offseason has been on defense and he knows what people are saying about the offense, and he feels good about the offensive roster as it looks right now. The wide receivers? DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery are "good players." Second-year receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, the Eagles expect, is going "to take a jump."
The state of the offense, specifically the wide receiver position, per Roseman?
"I think before we get into the draft, getting those guys (Jackson and Jeffery) back and healthy will be a huge addition to our offense," Roseman said.
Does that mean the Eagles are going defense tonight at No. 21? No, not at all. The Eagles are keeping their options open, even as the mock-draft world overwhelmingly says the Eagles are going to take a wide receiver.
Understand this: The Eagles are not going to force a position, any position. That's how a team gets into trouble.
"I think that's what leads to some of the mistakes we've made is to go in and say, 'We have to address that position,'" Roseman said. "I think what we've done with our coaching staff and our personnel staff and our front office staff is that we have a list of contingency plans in case that we're not able to address those positions and what we would do otherwise. I think the draft strengths kind of line up with some of the things we were looking at, anyway. So, I think naturally we haven't tried to change the board that way.
"I don't anticipate coming out of this draft disappointed in any way, shape, or form. I think we're going to get players who are going to help our football team next year. Our coaching staff is very responsive to playing young guys and when we're allowed to talk to these rookies – which is different than the 2011 lockout in that we're allowed to communicate with these guys and have this virtual offseason program where we're helping them with their workouts and we're helping them with the playbook."
The stage is set, then. The Eagles have eight draft picks in all through the seven rounds and then they will enter with confidence the post-draft mad dash to sign non-drafted players. And as Roseman understands, there are still veterans on the streets, trades to be made, and a roster to build all the way through the regular season.
Tonight is the focus, though. And with the 21st pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select …
"I think that we've got a good football team but that doesn't mean we can't get better," Roseman said. "I think we can go play a game right now and play at a high level, but fortunately for us, we've got other opportunities to improve this team and that's what we'll do over the weekend."