This is the final leg in the distance race preparing for the draft. The draft board is set. All the visits have been made, the interviews conducted. The Eagles are now working the telephones and firming up scenarios for this draft weekend, one that still has the makings of being wild and unpredictable. What are some of the scenarios the Eagles might be considering? Let's think out loud ...
A TRADE INTO THE TOP 15
Some out there believe that the Eagles are targeting Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno, and that to get him the Eagles would have to move up into the top 15 to guarantee a shot. Would the Eagles move up and give up a draft pick and a chance at taking another good player for Moreno? Maybe. Maybe not.
To go from 21 to 15, the Eagles would likely have to give -- and I'm guessing here -- the 21st pick and a third-round selection. It is a stiff price to pay to select a running back who is a good player, but who is also among a talented crop of running backs in this draft. How much of a difference is there in talent between the 15th player taken and the 85th player (third round) picked? I don't know that answer. The Eagles do, which is why they are evaluating this option.
The Eagles have a star running back in Brian Westbrook on the roster. He is healthy, with no lingering issues with a balky knee that limited him throughout the 2008 campaign. Westbrook is also 30 years old, and history says that 30 is a scary age for a running back in the NFL. Still, the Eagles are counting on Westbrook to be outstanding this year. The running back the Eagles bring in at some point -- and the Eagles insist it could be via the draft, a trade or by signing an available free agent still out there -- isn't going to step on the field and start in 2009. He will need to learn the offense and convince the coaching staff that he can be counted on to spell Westbrook and run, catch and block the way the Eagles need.
So it is worth moving up to get a player who isn't going to be a starter? Is Moreno, or any other player worth targeting, that much better than the rest of the draft crop?
STAYING PUT AT 21
Assume accurately that the Eagles have a grouping of players they think will be there at 21. This is how it works. The team has groupings of players all throughout the draft, and grades those players within that grouping.
Who might be there at 21? Who would the Eagles consider at 21? General Manager Tom Heckert insists the Eagles are keeping every position open as a possibility, but let's go out on a limb here and suggest the Eagles won't take a quarterback, doubtfully would take a fullback and may not take a linebacker. Every other position would seem to be in play, and linebacker certainly may get challenged. After all, the Eagles have 10 picks. They have plenty of options.
But you look at the mock drafts -- and we have all looked at 50 of them, right? -- and what jumps out at you if, say, Moreno is off the board? What about tight end Brandon Pettigrew? Would the Eagles take a tight end in the first round? What else could be out there? A defensive end, which would mean seven good ones on the current roster? Another defensive tackle, giving the Eagles four-deep at the position?
A cornerback? Given the Sheldon Brown story that escalated this week, anything is possible at that position.
The draft experts say there are varying degrees of talent level in this first round, that the first five or six picks are at one level, followed by a group of players that runs to about 15 and then there is the rest of the first round. There is a lot of first-round talent, but the highest of the high picks clearly has a different level of ability.
With those 10 picks, the Eagles could still move way, way up. They could also do well if they stay at 21, depending upon the grouping of players they have there. The next option is one that, yes, the Eagles have to consider ...
STAYING IN FIRST ROUND AND MOVING DOWN
It makes sense if the Eagles don't like the pool of players available at 21, or if they decide that moving up is too pricey. If you want to maximize value in this draft, what about moving back to the 26th or 27th pick and adding another third-round pick to the mix? It would give the Eagles a lot of ammunition if they wanted to attack that early-second round-through-third round territory. .
And whether you agree or not, the Eagles had a lot of success trading down the last couple of years. The moves weren't exactly popular at the time, but the plus/minus of those moves certainly seem to have turned in the Eagles' favor.
Then again, with this roster, how much sense does it make having 11 or 12 draft picks? Is quantity more important than quality in this draft?
USING A PICK OR TWO TO TRADE FOR A VETERAN
Let's update the stories every Eagles fan is tuned to: Arizona says it has not received offers for wide receiver Anquan Boldin, which could be translated to mean that the Cardinals haven't received an offer they like. I will say this: I'll be surprised if the Cardinals trade Boldin. I think they want to ask for such a high price and that only an offer that blows them away will force them to trade Boldin.
In Cincinnati, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis says that Chad Ocho Cinco won't be traded. That could be pre-draft posturing. Or maybe Lewis really means it and that there is no way, no how that Ocho Cinco is moved. We will see.
I think it's going to be difficult to swing a trade for either player once the draft begins. There just isn't a lot of time to get those things done, especially if there are new contracts involved. So I am not expecting a move to be made. Or, at least, I am not expecting one of those moves to be made. The Eagles are a wheeling-and-dealing team on draft weekend, so if they move a couple of their own players, I won't be surprised. If they trade draft picks, it will not be a shock at all. I can't imagine, for example, the Eagles using all four of their fifth-round draft picks. They could package a couple of those picks to move into the fourth round. They could send a fifth-round pick this year for a fourth-round pick next year.
You know that Andy Reid is going to have an itchy trigger finger somewhere along the way in this draft.
These next two-plus days are critical for strategic purposes. The groundwork for scenarios is put in place here and now. The Eagles have a lot of things to consider, and not much time to accomplish their goals.