If the date holds and April 23 is, indeed, the opening night of the 2020 NFL Draft and league Commissioner Roger Goodell steps to a microphone wherever he is stationed – and will the television networks pipe in the traditional fan reaction each time Goodell appears? – and announces the name of a first-round draft pick, a team's fortunes change, well, forever.
It is far from a slam dunk that it's going to work out to the delight of the team – a 2015 Bleacher Report study found that of players selected in the draft's first round in the previous 25 years, linebackers led the way with an All-Pro rate of 26.4 percent and that first-round quarterbacks had an All-Pro rate of 5.3 percent. The Pro Bowl rate ranged from 51.4 percent for safeties taken in the first round to 30.3 percent of wide receivers taken in Round 1.
In other words, it's far from a sure thing and that's why the risk/reward factor is so significant for every franchise.
The Eagles have had, by those measures, a pretty fair hit rate in their drafts of the 2010s, and it's a reason why the team had so much success in that decade – five postseason appearances, one Super Bowl victory – and enters the 2020s with a playoff-caliber roster dotted with blue-chip talent, some of which came from the draft's first rounds.
So, with the 21st pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles are going to select …
We don't know that answer. For the next two-plus weeks the mock drafts will take guesses – wide receivers are far and away the leading position of contention now – and the Eagles will finalize their plans from their various remote locations and then, when April 23 rolls around, Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman will be prepared for every scenario, including staying put at 21 and picking from a list of expected available players who best fit this roster.
In this look back to the first rounds of the 2010s, we see where the Eagles had their hits, where they didn't get the value they anticipated, and which positions they leaned on to build the roster at the top of the draft. In all, the nine first-round draft picks produced four All-Pro players and three who have been to the Pro Bowl. That's a pretty darn strong success rate.
2010: Defensive end Brandon Graham
A second-team All-Pro selection in the 2016 season, Brandon Graham remains a strong heartbeat of this football team. Graham is coming off a 2019 season in which he registered a career-high 18 tackles for loss and added 8.5 quarterback sacks, the second most of his career in a single season. Graham remains a top defensive end who plays with incredible energy and his ability to slide inside and rush the quarterback from there gives the defensive line a lot of flexibility.
2011: Guard Danny Watkins
This was a draft pick that paid no positive dividends. Danny Watkins played tackle at Baylor and the Eagles drafted him believing that he could be a road-grading guard, but he played in just 23 games through 2012 and was released.
"The toughness we saw at Baylor never translated to Philadelphia," Roseman said when the team reduced the roster to 53 players on August 31, 2013. "That's what I was most confused by. We're starting new."
2012: Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox
In one of Roseman's most masterful draft-weekend moves, he sent to Seattle the 15th overall pick, a fourth-round selection, and a sixth-rounder and moved to No. 12 overall to select Cox, a member of the NFL All-Decade Team who has been at the top of the defensive tackle rankings for years. He has been named to five straight Pro Bowls and is a four-time All-Pro selection. Entering his ninth season with the Eagles and surrounded by more talent than the Eagles have ever had at the defensive tackle position, Cox is primed for a great 2020 season.
2013: Offensive tackle Lane Johnson
The fourth overall pick of the 2013 draft, Lane Johnson was named a first-team All-Pro in 2017 and has been selected to three Pro Bowls. When he's healthy and on his game, Johnson is the best right tackle in the NFL with a rare combination of speed and athletic ability and football intelligence. Johnson has become a student of the game and he's still very much in the prime of his career.
2014: Defensive end/linebacker Marcus Smith
In three seasons and 37 games with the Eagles, Marcus Smith registered four quarterback sacks and 38 total tackles. It just didn't work out for Smith, the 26th overall pick in that draft. The Eagles tried to move Smith around as a standup pass rusher, but he just never made it click. Smith did not play in the NFL in the 2019 season.
2015: Wide receiver Nelson Agholor
When Nelson Agholor was good with the Eagles, as in the 2017 season when he recorded 62 receptions and eight touchdowns and then added 15 catches and eight first downs (on 18 targets) in that Super Bowl-winning postseason, he was very good. But Agholor was not able to sustain that production and he entered free agency this spring and signed with the Las Vegas Raiders on a one-year deal. His inconsistency catching the football proved to be the major shortcoming, but there is no doubt that in the Super Bowl season, Agholor was a weapon running routes out of the slot.
2016: Quarterback Carson Wentz
He is the Face of the Franchise and one of the primary reasons the Eagles turned their football fortunes around following the tenure of former Head Coach Chip Kelly. Carson Wentz has thrown 97 touchdown passes and only 35 interceptions (14 of them in his rookie year) in four seasons of play and he was named an All-Pro and a Pro Bowl player in the 2017 campaign. It's hard to believe that Wentz already enters his fifth season, but here we are. He is a quarterback in his prime and the Eagles intend to have an offense around him in 2020 that continues to bring out the best in Wentz.
2017: Defensive end Derek Barnett
He doesn't talk much and maybe that's why Derek Barnett doesn't get a whole lot of attention from the media. Injuries have hampered Barnett during his three Eagles seasons, but he's been productive. In 14 games in 2019, Barnett recorded 6.5 quarterback sacks, 40 total tackles, including 11 tackles for loss – all career highs – playing 69 percent of the team's defensive snaps. Barnett goes into the category of "solid starter," rather than an All-Pro or a Pro Bowl player and that's OK. He's going to give the Eagles maximum effort and intensity and he will be an important part of an improved defensive line in 2020.
2018: Traded No. 1 pick; Selected tight end Dallas Goedert in second round
The Eagles traded the final pick of the first round in this draft to Baltimore – which made the most of the trade, selecting quarterback Lamar Jackson – and the Eagles used their first pick in that draft to take tight end Dallas Goedert, who has been an extremely valuable piece of the offense in his two seasons. It's fair to say that Goedert is probably a top-10 tight end in this league and would likely post huge numbers had it not been for the presence of Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz. The two are the best 1-2 tandem at tight end in the league. The Eagles also selected cornerback Avonte Maddox with the fourth-round pick they acquired from Baltimore, so the Eagles are pleased with the way the trade worked out from Philadelphia's vantage point.
2019: Offensive tackle Andre Dillard
Trading up to No. 22 in the first round last spring, the Eagles selected the athletically gifted Andre Dillard from Washington State, fully intending for him to spend his rookie season watching and learning from future Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters. That's pretty much the way it went down, but Dillard did play 29 percent of the offensive snaps, and started three games at left tackle. Peters became an unrestricted free agent in March and, as of Monday, he hadn't signed anywhere. Roseman always keeps his door open in cases like this, so we will see how the Peters story plays out. In the meantime, the Eagles have expressed "full confidence" in Dillard, who described his rookie season as a "learning experience." It's too early to get a true read on Dillard, but he looked natural and smooth in his early showings at left tackle in 2019.