The focus is, understandably, on what the Eagles are going to do on the night of April 27 when the 2023 NFL Draft begins. It's all about Round 1 and the assets the Eagles have – considerable ones at that, picks 10 and 30 overall. What will Howie Roseman do? It's a consuming question and very worthy of the scrutiny it is receiving at this time.
I've always, though, given deference to the scouts who are on the road for so many months of the year, pounding it from stop to stop, driving in the late hours of the night on back roads to make sure they arrive in time to see the next day's football practice at College Town USA. These are the ones who watch college football practice, talk to many around the program, file reports on NFL Draft prospects, and watch every bit of game tape they can watch until their eyes bleed as they grade, grade again, and then re-grade players to reach this very moment.
Only a handful, at best, of the players they watch will be Night 1, or even Night 2, draft picks. Some will go as late as the third day – Rounds 4-7 – and then another large group will be signed in the post-draft period, one that yielded for the Eagles in recent seasons the likes of linebacker T.J. Edwards, a Super Bowl starter and a key player these last few seasons; safety Reed Blankenship, who is line to be a key player in his second season here; No. 2 tight end Jack Stoll; punt returner/wide receiver Britain Covey; and reserve cornerback/special teams player Josh Jobe. The list of players who have impacted the Eagles through the years – many seasons included – who were not drafted includes players such as tight end Chad Lewis, cornerback Herman Edwards, defensive tackle Ken Clarke, and on and on and on the list goes.
The point is this, and I venture to say that this is an annual reminder: The strength of a team's NFL Draft extends far beyond the first round or even the second night: It's an entire-weekend process that impacts a roster more than any single offseason event. Winning the draft means maximizing the seven rounds of the weekend as well as finding some gems in the free-agent frenzy that happens on Saturday night when teams fill out their rosters with players not taken.
There are a lot of darts being thrown around right now among the various Mock Drafts – we're less than two weeks from Round 1 and nobody knows what the Eagles have in mind. The Top 30 visits continue for another week and then it's truly crunch time and in those days parameters of potential trades will be set in place as maybe, just maybe, deals will be consummated. The Eagles haven't tipped their hand in the least, so everybody out there is guessing as to what they could do with picks 10 and 30 two Thursday nights from now.
We know from the makeup of this roster just how vital late-round and post-draft success will be. Look no further than an offensive line that features center Jason Kelce (sixth round, 2011) and left tackle Jordan Mailata (seventh round, 2018). Without those two players, where would the Eagles be?
Look, there is no doubt that it's extremely important to hit the top of the draft, because from there is where much of a team's talent comes. Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, DeVonta Smith are all key pieces taken in Round 1. Jalen Hurts was a great Round 2 draft pick. Dallas Goedert and Landon Dickerson are impact players the Eagles have picked in that same round.
The odds decrease as the rounds go along, of course, but it all adds up to a 90-man roster that whittles down to 53 for a regular season and pushes toward 70 with the practice squad and injury list included.
Volume is important. Connecting on a high percentage of that volume exponentially increases the chances of building a championship-caliber roster, the likes of which the Eagles have had multiple times in the last gulpful of seasons.
Every move counts, including those ones in the late-Saturday hours of an NFL Draft weekend when the national television glare cools and the commentators are quiet and all the work the scouts do crisscrossing the country is put to the test. It is a cumulative effort, not just a one-round spectacle required to put a great team in place. It is something to remember as we close in on the 2023 NFL Draft, one that is far deeper than what happens during the glitz and glamour of the first round.