Howie Roseman sat down with Dave Spadaro for a 15-minute interview to analyze the Eagles' 2017 draft class. Here are some of the highlights:
1. The Anecdote
Early in the interview, Roseman referenced a story that he shared back on draft night that illustrated how badly the Eagles wanted defensive end Derek Barnett. Here is the tale from vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas.
"It's funny because back in November, I was watching tape on Derek Barnett. I walked into Howie's office, and I said, 'Howie, you have to watch this defensive end from Tennessee, Derek Barnett. If he's available in the first round, we really need to consider him," Douglas said on the Eagles Live podcast. "Howie looks at me, and gives me a sheepish grin. He shows me this note, and it reads, 'Derek Barnett, take him in the first round.' He had just watched him as well. This has been a long time in the making."
2. The Role Of The Coin Toss
Would Derek Barnett have been available at No. 15? Good thing the Eagles won the coin toss (OK, the Vikings won the coin toss, but the Eagles got their first-round pick) at the NFL Scouting Combine back in February. The Eagles anxiously awaited the Arizona Cardinals' selection at No. 13. Once it was known that Temple's Haason Reddick was heading west, the Eagles breathed a sigh of relief. Barnett was going to be an Eagle.
3. An Under-The-Radar Second-Year Player
Roseman listed the depth that the Eagles have along the defensive line with the additions of Barnett and defensive tackle Elijah Qualls. Roseman went out of his way to make a point about second-year defensive end Alex McCalister, who "looks great out there (in the offseason workouts)." McCalister was a seventh-round pick out of Florida in 2016. He spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve with a calf injury. Listed at 6-6, 239 pounds, McCalister is a project with immense length. He'll be a player to watch during the spring.
On Journey to the Draft presented by AAA, here are the six players who benefited most from the Eagles' draft.
4. Two Top-10 Players?
Would you trade a 2017 second-round pick for a top-10 choice in 2018? That's how the Eagles view the selection of cornerback Sidney Jones.
"He was a top-10 player on our board, just like Derek was," Roseman said.
The ability to get a potential No. 1 cornerback "changes everything," according to Roseman. With Jones, Rasul Douglas, and Jalen Mills, the Eagles envision a talented cornerback trio that can grow together in the years to come.
5. Hollins Brings "Alpha Dog Mentality"
Pro Football Focus listed wide receiver Mack Hollins as one of the 10 mid-round gems of the 2017 NFL Draft. Hollins' play on special teams helped his draft grade, but the Eagles are excited about his size, skill set, and mental approach to the game.
"This is the alpha dog mentality we need at the wide receiver position," Roseman said.
Roseman added that at 6-4, 221 pounds, Hollins is a "4.4 guy all day long" (referring to his speed) who comes from a military family.
6. Coaches Have Role In Mind For Pumphrey
"He's a big dog in a little dog's body," Roseman said.
"He's a little dog that thinks he's a big dog," Douglas said.
However you want to frame it, the Eagles are very high on fourth-round running back Donnel Pumphrey. The most prolific rusher in FBS history, Pumphrey would have been drafted higher, but he's not for everyone with his 5-9, 180-pound body.
The Eagles chose Pumphrey knowing that the coaches have a very specific plan in place.
"They do have a vision of what that role looks like," Roseman said.
7. Eagles Want To Continue Special Teams Dominance
The Eagles' special teams unit under the leadership of Dave Fipp ranked first in the league in two of the past three seasons. With the additions on offense and defense this offseason, the Eagles did not want to ignore the critical third phase of the game.
"We have to be good on special teams," Roseman said. "We do not want to take a step back on special teams."
Hollins' special teams prowess has already been noted. He was a four-year captain at North Carolina. Rasul Douglas played special teams in his first year at West Virginia before becoming a starter in 2016. Pumphrey can be utilized as a returner. Linebacker Nathan Gerry, a third-team All-America pick at safety in 2016, could find a home on special teams as a rookie.
8. Eagles Didn't Force Need Positions
Roseman understands that fans will still have questions about the running back and cornerback positions for 2017. Pumphrey isn't considered a feature back, and while Douglas could make an immediate impact the same can't be said for Jones because of his Achilles rehab.
"We wanted to address those positions and we did," Roseman said.
At the same time, Roseman preached being "patient with the process" because the team "didn't want to force anything."
The Eagles stuck to their board and came away with a draft class that has received acclaim from analysts. Now, it's time for that promise to turn into production on the field.