In this inexact science or projecting college players into the NFL world of grown men, personnel evaluators have so many variables to weigh -- how a player projects to a new scheme, how his body will develop, how his skills translate to the highest level, how a 22-year-old kid will handle the pressure, and so on.
But do teams really "follow their boards" and take the "best available player" on their boards?
Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. Most of the time, it is a combination of the two, something that can better be translated into taking the "best player on the board who fits an area of need."
Unless there is a single player who is so far and away graded higher than anyone on the team's board, the preference is to take a player who can contribute to the roster as a rookie and work his way into a starting role two or three years down the line. That's the way I have always read the way the Eagles have done business all the way back to 1987.
I don't think Andy Reid and Howie Roseman are going to deviate too much from the way they have conducted their previous drafts. They haven't hit on all of their draft picks -- nobody does -- but the Eagles have been in contention for most of Reid's 13 seasons as the head coach and the current roster stacks up very nicely in terms of talent from top to bottom.
The Eagles believe that they have a depth chart that can line up and win a Super Bowl right now. I believe that as well. So the Eagles think they are in position heading into the draft that allows them to draft "the best player on the board," and that sounds great in theory.
But we all know teams can't always take "the best player on the board." It just doesn't work that way. The Eagles aren't taking, for example, a defensive end early in this draft unless they think he can supplant Trent Cole and Jason Babin, or at least come right in and bump Darryl Tapp and Phillip Hunt and Brandon Graham out of the rotation. I'm not saying there isn't a player like that, but it sure seems like it will be hard to find.
So what do I think the Eagles are going to do in the first round of Thursday's draft? I think, as Roseman said to me on Thursday, that they are now exploring "scenarios." That's the word he used. I think anything is possible. The Eagles usually attack it this way: They identify one or two players they would try to move up to draft, should those players last to a certain spot in the draft. Let's say, for the sake of the conversation, that the position in the draft where the Eagles would consider trading up to is the seventh spot. If there is a player still on the board at seven, then the Eagles explore opportunities to move up.
They also have a group of players -- a handful of three to five players -- whom they will consider should they stay at 15. At that point, as they discuss the scenarios in the days to come, the Eagles will decide on a player or on a move back in the first round.
Within all of that, there is the rest of the draft to consider. Do the Eagles take, for example, a defensive tackle in the first round or do they wait until a later pick to take advantage of what is said to be an extremely deep position in the draft?
The point is this, as I meander along, the draft is less than a week away and I really have no idea which players the Eagles are targeting with their nine draft selections. I hear all of the rumors about moving up for Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and, as discussed in this space earlier in the week, that's fine with me. If he is that good, go get him.
I just want good players at every position. The Eagles have to challenge the roster as much as they possibly can throughout the offseason. They have to work trades, manage the salary cap and build for both the short and long term.
If you ask me right now who the Eagles will take if they stay at No. 15, I'm not even sure I can give you a name. I don't know who will be on the board at that point. I would lean toward defense as being more of a need than offense, but if the Eagles have a highly-rated player still available on offense and they are picking at 15, it makes sense to take him.
Roseman did the media tour thing on Thursday and spoke for about four hours to a plethora of media. He was energetic and he answered every question and he masterfully didn't say much of anything other than to say that the Eagles are considering everything.
That's where we stand now. Everything is in play for the Eagles with the draft around the corner.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- During our interview in the Xfinity Studio, Roseman heaped praise on second-year fullback Stanley Havili, whom Roseman said is up to 250 pounds and is rock solid. The Eagles like Havili a lot as he demonstrated play-making skills at USC. He's completely healed from his shoulder injury suffered in college and he is the front-runner for the starting job. Competition will be added, of course.
- There sure seems to be a lot of smoke surrounding interest in cornerback Asante Samuel. Will the Eagles trade him? I imagine it either happens or it doesn't during draft weekend, all the way through Saturday.
- I don't anticipate any unrestricted free-agent signings prior to the draft. If the Eagles don't take a safety or a running back, as I see it, look for them to dip back into the veteran market for some depth. There are plenty of unrestricted free agents still on the streets.
- I think the Eagles are keeping their eyes wide open regarding the quarterback position as they look to challenge Mike Kafka and Trent Edwards. I just don't know if there is a true "franchise type" of a quarterback after Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin, III. I would be stunned, as would you, if the Eagles used a first-round pick on a quarterback.
- One thing that is very hard for me to do is to comment on a college player and how he fits in to the NFL. I don't watch film. I rarely watch college games. I am not going to provide an inaccurate evaluation based on nothing, so it's unfair of me to say that so-and-so player is a good fit or not a good fit. I will evaluate the players once I see them in an Eagles uniform.
- Just guessing that the Eagles won't take a wide receiver high. Don't they want to get a first pick who comes in and plays right away? I'm not sure a wide receiver will do that as a rookie, unless he is a stud return man.