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Spadaro: Another QB? Inside the decision to draft Tanner McKee

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

The good teams, the best teams, never go into an NFL Draft saying, "We will never take a ...," or, "We are not in the business of addressing that position ..."

You just don't do that. You go in with an open mind, you trust the work your scouts have done, and you select the best value/best player to help your team at a certain position.

And then you add it all up and continue to evaluate your roster.

The Eagles on Saturday used a sixth-round draft pick on a quarterback, Tanner McKee from Stanford. He started for two seasons in that pro-style offense and at 6-foot-6, 231 pounds brings a live arm, intelligence, performance trending in the right direction, and accuracy to the Eagles' quarterback picture. He also brings questions, the first of which may have occurred to Eagles fans in the moment: Why draft a quarterback?

It's true the Eagles are committed, and very happily so, to Jalen Hurts through at least the 2028 season and there is certainly great joy knowing that one of the very best quarterbacks in the NFL is here and glad to be so and in an offense that should thrive again in 2023. Philadelphia also went out in free agency and signed veteran Marcus Mariota to a one-year contract and Mariota brings a wealth of experience, winning, and quarterback traits that will make him a perfect fit in the room. Ian Book is a young, developing quarterback who spent the 2022 season with the Eagles, knows the system, and will look forward to getting Training Camp and preseason reps after spending most of last season taking scout-team snaps in practice.

So, why draft a quarterback?

Because, as General Manager Howie Roseman said on Saturday when the draft ended, if you see one you like, you take him. You develop him. You prepare that position – the most important in the game – for any and every scenario.

"When we look at the things that we value, it starts with the O-line, starts with the D-line, and it starts with the quarterback position," Roseman said. "We like Ian, obviously we like Marcus. This isn't anything about them. This was about that we think it's a really important position. We had a guy who was highly graded on the board, and so we took him. It's no reflection of anyone else. We can go back to the (NFC) Championship Game and the 49ers were playing their fourth-string quarterback, and I think for us, you look at that, and these guys are hard to find. If you like one, you'd better take one."

The memories are fresh. San Francisco came into the NFC title game with rookie Brock Purdy starting at quarterback and riding high until Haason Reddick's strip-sack of Purdy sent him to the sidelines and, essentially, sunk San Francisco's offense. With that in mind, and with a high draft grade on McKee, the decision was the right one to make late on Saturday afternoon.

McKee passed for nearly 3,000 yards last season for the Cardinal, completing 62 percent of his passes and tossing 11 touchdowns. In his previous full season, McKee started 10 games, with 15 touchdown passes including three games of at least three TD passes. The Eagles liked enough of what they saw from him on film, what he showed in the pre-draft process, and how he presented himself in a meeting at the NFL Scouting Combine and on Zoom meetings to take him.

The next step is developing his skills, refining the rough edges, and seeing if McKee can become a longer-term part of the quarterback puzzle.

"Through the process of talking to him, intelligent, really knows his offense and made good, quick decisions with the football," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said. "So, we think he's a great decision-maker, has a big arm, and we think he's accurate. The things you look at with a quarterback, the first couple things that ever come to your mind when evaluating a quarterback are those three things I said and then ability to extend plays. He definitely has those first three things, and we're excited to work with him. No indication of anything with the room. We're excited to work with the entire room.

"I've got a lot of high hopes for Ian Book, too. That's why we brought him in here, and it's going to be good with Ian, he did a lot of scout team reps last year. We have a good developmental program where he gets some reps, as well, there, but it's going to be good to see him in the offseason, as well, but looking forward to working with all four guys. We feel really good about that room."

McKee, for his part, is obviously excited for the opportunity to work in a great environment. He has a chance to improve his game by leaps and bounds and, really, that's what this whole player development thing is all about.

"I'm going to try to play to the best of my ability," said McKee, a former four-star recruit who lived in Brazil for 21 months after high school as part of a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I'm obviously going to try to expand the tools that I have and be able to run when I need to run, and if we're going to run zone read or whatever that is that Coach asks of us, I'm going to try to expand and have a bigger toolbox to try to just get the job done with anything that I need to do.

"Obviously, there are a lot of things that I can learn from, especially from Jalen, on how to read a defensive end and how to do things like that in the NFL with all their speed and size and things like that. I'm really looking forward to hearing what he has to say."

After that, who knows where it goes? But the lesson here is that a team can never have too many good quarterbacks, and if you see one that you can bring into the program, you do so and you hope for the best after that.

Nearly a year's worth of work culminated with the selection of seven players and the acquisition of running back D'Andre Swift during the 2023 NFL Draft. Go inside the Eagles' Draft Room as the big decisions were made.

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