The Eagles have nine selections in this weekend's draft and we know that the collective success of the picks will determine the overall productivity of the rookie class. This is not a one-player draft.
But for the fans and the media, most of the emphasis will be on the first round. Thursday night, then, is hugely important, as the Eagles are in a position of strength with the fourth pick in the draft.
For months we heard that having a top-5 draft pick wasn't as desirable as in past years, given the perceived lack of blue-chip talent in this draft. That perception has changed. While there may not be any franchise-changing quarterbacks, running backs or wide receivers at the top of the draft, the quality is high for players who can dominate at the line of scrimmage.
And so, as the draft nears, there appears to be a lot of rumbling about teams all of a sudden wanting to move up into the top 5 of this draft. It behooves the Eagles, then, to be all ears. There are going to be offers on the table. The Eagles are going to have some options -- to stay at four and pick the best player on their board, to move out of four and pick up extra draft picks, and just about anything else possible, including the unlikely-but-who-knows? idea of moving out of the first round entirely.
This is the time in the pre-draft process when general manager Howie Roseman is working the phones and considering scenarios. Last year's trade to move up from 15 to 12 in round 1 was agreed to with Seattle the day before the draft if the player the Eagles wanted, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, was still on the board. He was, and the Eagles and Seattle made the deal and the Eagles drafted the player they wanted.
Cox had a strong rookie season and is looking to taking his game up another level in his second year. It was, looking back a year later, a winning move for both teams.
What does Roseman have in the oven right now? What is he talking about doing with teams who have their eyes on "that player" at No. 4?
The real question is this for the Eagles: At what point do they feel the talent level in this draft drops prohibitively enough that it makes no sense to drop in the first round? Is there a clear distinction in the grades on players from the fourth pick to, say, the 11th pick? Do the Eagles feel like if they moved out of No. 4 they could get a player with an equal performance ceiling a few picks later? More than a few picks later? A dozen picks later?
Or do the Eagles stay put at four knowing they can have one of the players from a very talented group of offensive linemen, or from a promising two or three players along the defensive line? Do the Eagles stay at four and take pass-rushing threat Dion Jordan, a star at Oregon who the draft "experts" say is the closest thing to a game-changing pass rusher as there is in this draft? Do the Eagles stay put and take the best cornerback in the draft, Alabama's Dee Milliner? Is there a safety who could be a difference maker on this team?
The Eagles have their draft room arranged and their draft grades finalized. Barring any last-minute shockers -- the discovery of a previously undisclosed injury, an off-the-field incident from a potential draft pick, etc. -- the Eagles' order is the order they will take into Thursday night's draft.
There is still work to be done as the Eagles create scenarios and entertain trade conversations. There will be plenty of them, by the way. That No. 4 pick is a desirable one, and the Eagles are wise to listen to every option.
A 4-12 team that underperformed last year is rebuilding its roster. The moves in free agency proved that to be the case. The Eagles have a real chance to build the foundation of this roster with nine picks in the draft. It isn't all about No. 1, but initially it is.
How do the Eagles treat the first round? Hopefully this is the last time in many, many years the team picks so high, but while the Eagles are there, they need to maximize the return. Do they stay, or do they go? That's one of the many intriguing questions for head coach Chip Kelly and Roseman to answer on Thursday night.