Last year, I could have told you the Eagles would be well served to get a defensive end. I didn't know it would be Brandon Graham, but by the time the Eagles reached the draft after minimal pickings in free agency -- improved by the acquisition via trade of Darry Tapp -- the defensive end position was a screaming position of need for this defense.
This year? Well, there hasn't been free agency. And the Eagles have a good team in place, not one without areas to improve, but a team that can go out and compete as a playoff team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
There is no "get me" player, unless you want to dream and think the Eagles can go up into the top 10 and take LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. It isn't going to happen, folks. The Eagles aren't going to mortgage their draft to take Peterson, who could be the first pick overall for all we know at this point about Carolina's draft plans at the top.
I think the Eagles can go anywhere in the first round and come away feeling really, really good. The key here is to get a good football player who has a chance to be a great producer in the NFL over the course of the next four to five seasons. The first round isn't about filling "the" need, because the Eagles expect to have free agency at some point to address needs, and they think there will be time for a trade and, well, the offseason hasn't even started yet and here we are at the draft.
So when you analyze this draft, and what the Eagles have done, understand that there is another season ahead before the regular season begins. And whether that's going to be a three-day or three-week period of free agency, it's going to come in some way, shape or form.
The teams that are going to lose this draft are the ones that draft for positions of need. The smart way is to go in and trust your draft board and pick off of that board. Don't force players because you have a weakness at a certain position.
In other words, don't move up and take Jon Harris, the huge bust of a defensive end of the Ray Rhodes era. If the Eagles, for example, feel they have such a dramatic need at a position, they have to ask themselves if it is worth more to give up multiple draft picks to move up and get a player, or to spend a lot of dollars -- but no draft picks -- to add one in free agency.
It is an interesting conversation that Andy Reid and Howie Roseman have had throughout the months since the Eagles lost to Green Bay in the 2010 playoffs.
The Eagles would be smart, then, to stay true to their board. I'm not suggesting they stay put in rounds one though seven and go home happy with their 10 draft picks. There comes a point in every round where the talent falls off. The Eagles have invested a lot in their scouts and in their personnel evaluation, so if they see a ledge they need to climb before the talent level plummets in that round, and they feel they can move into position to maximize the talent they bring to the roster without too much of a draft-pick cost, go for it. Trust your scouts.
But the Eagles know that this is only one phase of the offseason. There is lot more to come, at some point. And there is no sense forcing a first-round draft pick when a young roster won 10 games and a division title a year ago.
Get a good football player who can mature into a great one, no matter the position. The Eagles don't need to force things one bit in this draft. They are dealing from a position of strength -- 10 draft picks
(second only to San Francisco in this draft), an excellent young roster, a great coaching staff, money to spend in free agency when it gets here -- so they need to go in with that sense.
Get a Pro Bowl player in the first round, and it doesn't matter what position he plays. If he is good enough, no matter where he lines up, he's going to make the Eagles a better team. And that's all that matters in round one on Thursday night.