The Eagles, according to general manager Howie Roseman, did not expect Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox to make it past the top 10 picks. They were, however, prepared, just in case.
"We went in with all the scenarios laid out and we had gone over every possible outcome and we felt like if we stayed (at No. 15) we would get a good player," said Roseman to a group of Philadelphia reporters Monday. "We were able to have a phone conversation with the teams around us prior to the draft and to talk about if there was a guy that we wanted, what the price would be. We had made a lot of progress with Seattle about if their guy wasn't necessarily there or if they thought they could get their guy a little bit later and what the price was. Being up front about the fact that we didn't think it was necessary to jump three spots and give a third-round pick and I think the value on both sides was good."
Cox, Roseman said, was the top-rated defensive lineman on the Eagles' draft board, and "was among our top-rated defensive players in the entire draft."
But the Eagles were hesitant to move into the top-10 picks for two reasons. First, the depth of the draft gave the team pause when it came to giving up a bounty of draft picks. Roseman, Andy Reid and co. had all but decided they were unwilling to trade any of their picks in the second or third rounds. Second, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement slots different contract rules for top-10 picks versus the first-round picks from 11-32.
"If one of these guys had fallen past (the 10th overall pick), now you're at a point where 1-10 are a different dynamic than 11-32, based on the rookie pool consideration," Roseman said. "So now you're giving up substantially more money, plus picks. So that factored into where we wanted to trade up, not because we didn't value the player, but because it wasn't just the player, you're giving up a lot of resources now to go get that player in terms of cash, cap and picks.
"The way we looked at it was at 10, we would have a better feel about Fletcher being there. There were certain things that had to happen to get to 10, certain players had to come off and then, by the same token, there were certain teams that we felt probably weren't going to take a defensive lineman. One of the teams that we did think was going to, we felt pretty certain St. Louis was going to take a defensive lineman pretty high, and so when St. Louis traded out (with the Dallas Cowboys, moving from No. 6 to No. 14), that kind of took away one contender for that pick."
Roseman also mentioned the Carolina Panthers, who selected Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly at No. 9, as a potential suitor for Cox.
"There was a lot of sweating it out, and we were happy to get our guy," said Roseman.
It wasn't the only time the Eagles came out on the right side of some nervous moments. Roseman said once the team traded their fourth-round pick to help move up for Cox, they decided "we were going to try to recoup those picks." So after the selection of California linebacker Mychal Kendricks with the 46th overall selection, the Eagles received an offer from the Green Bay Packers to move from No. 59 to No. 51 (the Eagles' second of two second-round picks) in exchange for a fourth-round pick.
"When we looked at our draft after we traded the fourth-round pick and we saw that big hole in the fourth round and the players that we thought might be there, and I can't tell you we thought Brandon (Boykin) would be one of them, but we felt very eager to get that pick back," said Roseman. "So there were a couple high fives when were able to trade for the fourth-round pick and Vinny was still there.
"When we traded back to pick back up the fourth-round pick, we were struggling with that because we thought that we'd lose Vinny, even though we weren't going into it looking for a defensive end, he was just so highly ranked on our board and fit for the scheme. When he was still there, we were really surprised that he was still available when we picked 59th."
The addition of Cox to the Eagles, meanwhile, was the culmination of a lot of work put in by Roseman and the rest of his scouting staff. The 6-4, 298-pound defensive tackle had long been on the Eagles' radar.
"Our area scout in that area is Brett Veach, but here's a player that we had heard through the grapevine was possibly coming out," said Roseman. "I had done him in November when I'd done their school on tape. We had always thought he was coming out, so this wasn't a case where someone said we have to go look at Fletcher Cox, he's coming out. We had pretty strong indications that's where it was going ... just because he was so productive in the SEC and such a good player. All of us evaluated him from there."
Of course, what they looked at turned out to be pretty impressive.
"When we look at players, being players of the week, being voted on by coaches, is a very important thing," Roseman said. "He was a four-time SEC Defensive Player of the Week, and that tells you what opposing coaches thought about him. You put that together with the film and the character and the upside and it's a very intriguing package."
Intriguing enough, it turned out, that the Eagles felt compelled to send a fourth- and sixth-round pick to the Seahawks in order to move up three spots for the opportunity to select Cox. An unlikely scenario for sure, but not one for which Roseman and crew were unprepared.
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