General manager Howie Roseman preached before the draft about the importance of staying true to the team's draft board and taking the best player available.
Roseman hinted that the team has previously made some reaches in order to fill a need. Roseman was certainly tested in his third draft as the Eagles' general manager. No situation better highlighted Roseman's mission than what was presented to them with the 59th overall pick when the Eagles selected Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry.
"He was the best player on our board," Roseman said. "He was standing out to us. We just felt like we were in a position where we had to take him. He's a talented guy."
The Eagles had used a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick to move up in the first round for defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, the team's No. 1-rated defensive lineman in the entire draft. Roseman tried to forecast the pool of talent that would be available in the fourth round and wanted to get that pick back.
When the Eagles were on the clock with the 51st overall pick in the second round, they recouped that pick back from Green Bay and in the process moved back eight spots to No. 59. The Eagles were pleasantly surprised to still see Curry, the 2011 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, available. They had a late first/early second-round grade on Curry and thought that the move back would result in losing the opportunity to draft Curry.
However, when Curry was still available there was no hesitation on the Eagles' part to take him despite the presence of two Pro Bowl players in Jason Babin and Trent Cole, a 2010 first-round pick in Brandon Graham, a veteran in Darryl Tapp and a promising young player in Phillip Hunt.
"There's no message to any other defensive end on our roster. It doesn't mean we can't go heavy at defensive line," Roseman said. "We're not going to let a good player go just because we're heavy at a particular position."
Roseman admitted that it takes a lot of discipline to stay true to the board when there could be another player at a position of need available. However, the team's approach to free agency allowed for some flexibility in the draft.
This was Roseman's first "regular" offseason in three years as general manager. In 2010, players needed an extra year to reach free agency because of the uncapped year. Many players who would have hit the market in an otherwise normal year didn't make it. Last year, the draft was held before free agency. This year, the Eagles made a number of offseason moves, but they were designed to keep the nucleus of the team intact. The biggest splash with the signing of Demetress Bell to fortify the left tackle spot after Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles.
"Free agency is a way to address a need and obtain flexibility going into the draft," Roseman said.
The Eagles gave out 27 first-round grades and 36 second-round grades in this year's draft class. Roseman acknowledged that linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who was selected in the second round with the No. 46 overall pick, also had a late first/early second-round grade. The Eagles were very happy to get Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin with that fourth-round pick acquired in the Packers trade. Boykin was clearly the best player available and Roseman admitted the team was sweating it out when it came to whether the cornerback would make it to the Eagles' pick.
This draft was also the first for Roseman without Director of Player Personnel Ryan Grigson, who left earlier this season to become the Colts general manager. Anthony Patch, the longest-tenured scout on the staff, assumed the Director of College Scouting title after Grigson's departure.
"I couldn't be more proud of Anthony Patch, a great Philadelphia success story," Roseman said. "There's not a more honest, hard-working person in the business."
After the draft and free agency frenzy died down on Saturday, Roseman returned to his home and the adrenaline from a monumental three days kept him awake until two in the morning. Roseman reflected on the entire process and his willingness and strength to avoid jumping the gun on picks due to a particular need could be the difference in what eventually defines this draft class.
"If you have glaring holes on your team it's hard to do that. It's hard to be disciplined," Roseman said. "Being able to do what we did prior to the draft, it at least gave us the flexibility to not have to have something."
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