In these times of uncharted waters, Howie Roseman and the Eagles are in the same boat as every NFL team: There is no "draft room" setup at the NovaCare Complex. A room with the highest level of technology will sit empty during the NFL Draft which starts two weeks from Thursday. Instead, Roseman will be at his home. Jeffrey Lurie will be at his home. Doug Pederson has his office space in his South Jersey home. Vice President of Player Personnel Andy Weidl, the same. And so on and so on.
In normal times, the Eagles would have more than a dozen people in the Draft Room conducting face-to-face communication and Roseman would have phone lines open for trade talks with other teams. In normal times, the NovaCare Complex would buzz with the coordinated movement of the draft upstairs on the second floor of the team's headquarters while the downstairs would be filled with dozens of members of the Philadelphia-area media waiting for picks to be made and press conferences to be conducted.
Not this year.
"We have to operate the way the situation is presented to us," Roseman said a couple of weeks ago. "No excuses. We have prepared for this and we're going to make sure we work hard to coordinate everything."
What the new setup means for teams remains to be seen, of course. Will trades be reduced, as some have suggested, given limited communication channels with other teams? Will the NFL grant teams a minute or two or three of extra time in case there is a legitimate technology challenge?
So many questions, with teams understanding that answers are going to come on the fly. With that in mind, let's pose a series of questions here that, honestly, have no real answers at this moment. We're still two weeks away from the NFL Draft. We're all going be watching (and in my case, working) from our living rooms. And let's keep these questions in mind through the course of the draft …
1. How many draft picks will the Eagles end up having?
They've talked a lot about having a high number of draft picks. It's a big deal. "The big thing for us is, because we haven't had a large number of picks, we have to hit on more of them," Roseman said in January. "Volume is important to us going forward."
The Eagles traded two of their 10 draft picks to Detroit a few weeks ago to acquire Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay, a move met with overwhelmingly strong reviews. Now, the Eagles have eight draft picks having dealt a third-round pick and a fifth-rounder to the Lions. Is eight enough?
There is going to be the temptation to move up in the first round of the draft – in all rounds, for Roseman – but at what cost? Would the Eagles further deplete their draft capital to move up in Round 1? History says that anything is possible in that opening round. In 2019, the Eagles traded up to get in position to take offensive tackle Andre Dillard. In 2018, the Eagles dealt out of the first round, sending the 32nd overall pick to Baltimore. Nobody is ruling out the possibility of a trade, and that leads to this question …
2. Roseman likes to wheel and deal: Can he do that in this draft?
The national speculation is that teams are going to be a little bit, even if just a teeny, tiny bit, more cautious moving around in the draft in two weeks given the communications restraints as well as the idea that, with the reduced in-person time with prospective draft picks, teams may stick to their draft position just a little more securely.
What Roseman thinks is something he keeps close to the vest, but he's one of the league's top deal-makers. The 2016 NFL Draft, the one in which the Eagles selected quarterback Carson Wentz, was classic Roseman: He moved players and draft picks leading up to and throughout the draft and the Eagles quickly remade the roster and won the Super Bowl one season later. In the 2017 NFL Draft, Roseman actually started moving three weeks before the draft, acquiring defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and the draft pick that became cornerback Rasul Douglas at the price of a third-round draft pick. Then he made three trades during the draft weekend and another three trades after the draft (during Training Camp, specifically) to acquire two 2018 picks and cornerback Ronald Darby. Roseman is never finished building the roster, as we've learned.
The point is that it takes two to tango in the trade world in this league. Will Roseman find willing partners, should he want to make a move? Will he be more inclined to hold on to his picks (eight at the moment)?
3. Which positions are the Eagles NOT likely to address?
I've learned never to have any predispositions for a draft because, truly, anything can happen. But if you want to predict where the Eagles might not draft, let's look at the depth chart. The Eagles addressed defensive tackle in free agency, retaining Hassan Ridgeway and adding Javon Hargrave. Add in Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Anthony Rush, and Bruce Hector, and, yeah, the Eagles are loaded there.
How about tight end? With Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert on board, plus all the confidence that Joshua Perkins earned with his performance last season, it might be that the Eagles feel pretty good about the position now – not forgetting Alex Ellis, a young player who impressed last preseason.
Any other positions where the Eagles are stacked up besides the kicking game? Probably not. Every other position is fair game, I guess.
4. What is the impact of the reduction of in-person visits for this draft?
This is the question that every team has to answer. The Eagles, like every team, cut off its facility to in-person visits from prospective draft picks – Top 30 visits, they are called – and they're able to have video conferencing interviews now. The idea at this time of the year is to collect every bit of information on potential draft picks – background checks, references from coaches and teammates, etc. – and that's compromised given the current COVID-19 global pandemic.
So, do they go with what they know? Do they shy away from later-round players who they just haven't collected enough information on to feel comfortable? Do teams weigh the on-field evaluation from college more heavily not having the in-person visits available?
All good questions and something Roseman and the Eagles will have to answer on April 23-25.
5. What business can the Eagles get done prior to April 23?
Things can get busy between now and the start of the NFL Draft. In 2016, for example, Roseman completed the move to get up to No. 2 in the draft, sending the eighth overall pick and four additional selections to Cleveland to move up to two – the pick used to select Wentz – and a fourth-round draft pick in 2017. Last year on the opening day of the draft, the Eagles brought back Jernigan after he tested free agency and found that Philadelphia was his best option.
It's been quiet in the last week here since the Eagles added cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman in free agency, but you never know. There are still some veteran players on the market. It's a buyer's time, and the Eagles have some cap room – not a bunch, but enough – if they want to make some additions. They can also look to extend the contracts of current players on the roster.
That's a summation of the questions that the Eagles are facing between now and the end of the draft. Surely, there are plenty more that are going to crop up between now and April 23. This is a step-by-step process, and everything is fluid. The Eagles are preparing for any scenario they can imagine. That's usually the way it is, but this year with the social distancing in place and the communications restrictions, the added layers of questions make the draft process even more speculative.