Projecting the Eagles Pick

The draft starts this Thursday, which means we have about as much information as we are going to get regarding scouting reports, projections, team interests, etc…  Normally, I don’t do much projecting for the draft. I’ve been pretty clear in the past regarding optimal draft strategy (i’ll try to repost those this week), and the major takeaway is: Do Not Fall In Love With One Player.   That’s arguable the single most destructive thing a team can do.  Nobody’s projections are perfect.  In fact, they’re so far from perfect that the margin of evaluative error likely outweighs the difference between most (or all) prospects within a given tier.

However, I do want to point everyone to a post over at BGN.  James Keane took my TPR rankings and a set of team needs compiled by SBNation local sites and created this probability-driven simulation for the draft.  The results are pretty informative, but they’re not perfect.  I encourage you to read the post and play around with the simulation (it’s interactive), but I’ll cut to the headline.  Here are the “most likely” players to be drafted by the Eagles with their 1st round pick:

Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 4.37.31 PM

Now about that “not perfect” part.  The biggest issue I see with the above list is Ryan Shazier.  I don’t think he’s a legitimate target for the Eagles.  Unfortunately, the system (my rankings and team needs) don’t allow for the resolution needed to differentiate between weak-side OLBs and strong-side OLBs.  Shazier looks to be a good fit at the WILL spot in a 3-4 defense.  Of course, the Eagles already have Mychal Kendricks there.  I haven’t done any scouting, so perhaps Shazier can be a pass-rushing 3-4 OLB (Trent Cole’s spot), but I doubt it.

Removing him from the list, we’re left with:  Marquise Lee (WR), Calvin Pryor (S), Odell Beckham (WR), Ha-ha Clinton-Dix (S), and Anthony Barr (LB) followed by two CBs.

As much as I disagree with the idea of selecting a WR in the first round, that seems like a pretty good projection given what we know about the Eagles and Chip Kelly.  So those are the guys to watch if you’re looking to do some pre-draft research.

Now, a note on WRs.  Here’s why I don’t like the idea of taking one in the first round:

– The Eagles just cut D-Jax.  Many are suggesting that the team now NEEDs a new WR weapon.  I think that’s backwards.  Ideally, the Eagles would have felt comfortable cutting Jackson precisely because they felt like they DIDNT need him.  If the Eagles end up using a 1st round pick on a WR, then the opportunity cost of the D-Jax move skyrockets.

– The WR position is widely considered the “deepest” in the draft.  If that’s the case, why take one early?  If a position is truly “deep”, then it means the best value MUST lie in selecting one relatively later in the draft.  “Deep” means there are a lot of high-quality players and that the difference between the best guy and the 7th best guy (just throwing numbers in there) is smaller than normal.  Hence, taking one of the first guys is a relatively poor value.

– Lastly, Wide Receivers have the highest miss rate of any position in the 1st round, according to the research I did for the Hack the Draft post.  In other words, WRs carry the highest inherent risk.  Confidence in an individual player can not mitigate the systematic risk inherent in that position.  When you combine that with the relatively small contributions rookie WRs make, it seems like a poor strategy for a team that still has holes throughout the roster.

Officially, I’m just rooting for a value-maximizing pick that adheres roughly to the TPR rankings I developed.  Personally, though, I’d love it if that pick happened to be a Safety (as I’m sure most of you would).

Or maybe they’ll just trade for Johnny Manziel…

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4 thoughts on “Projecting the Eagles Pick

  1. With news leaking out today that Howie Roseman has been making calls in regards to moving up in round 1 to acquire a WR, I’m actually feeling relatively more confident that they won’t draft one with their 1st Rd’er.

    With so many needs on defense, it was clear 2 months ago that the Eagles would need to lean so heavily in that direction during May’s draft that they were practically cutting their 1st rd. draft board in half. At the time, draftable offensive commodities were likely to be merely depth pieces on the 2014 roster. Outside of future OL starters (who I believe Chip would ideally prefer to mold from late-round flyers), there are few obvious future offensive holes opening up in the next offseason or two.

    Alternatively, the defensive side of the ball could use both an immediate influx of talent at a variety of patchwork positions, as well as anticipated future starters in both the secondary and LB corps. While drafting for need has been widely discussed as a horrible way to build a team, it seems probable that there will be a defensive fit of value coming off the board somewhere within the Eagle’s range, at a position where they are currently bereft of talent and/or depth. Given the lack of impact snaps available on offense, pre-Desean release, team’s could (relatively) safely assume that offensive commodities would not end up in Philly in the first round.

    Leverage and options are great things to afford yourself in the draft. As you noted above, the need to hit on one particular player is a recipe for disaster. With Kelly’s Eagles putting such a heavy emphasis on detailed research into every prospect that seems likely to end up in midnight green this week, it would be hard to outright fool teams into being unaware of their interest in a particular player. The Eagle’s most beneficial form of deception is to put out so many feelers at so many different positions of need that teams can’t determine how they stack their board. For instance, we can be fairly certain they like Kyle Fuller, Haha Clinton-Dix, and Anthony Barr, but who would be the selection if all were available at #22.

    Until the Jackson trade, team’s would be likely to assume that the vast majority of the Eagle’s 1st rd. board would be made up of LB’s, CB’s and S’s. Post-Jackson, however, the Eagle’s have now given themselves the luxury of being viewed as having a larger pool of players with which to select in the 1st round, especially since we know this draft will feature a wealth of draftable 1st rd WR’s.

    By cutting Jackson prior to the draft, the Eagle’s have given themselves a ‘perceived’ need, which is exactly what makes me skeptical that they view the position as an actual dire need. If they were aware that they needed a top-shelf WR to replace Djax, they would have held onto Desean until they secured such a talent (likely through a surprising draft-day acquisition). As of now, it would be shocking to teams to hear that the Eagle’s aren’t interested in a 1st rd. WR, giving Howie an easy faux-target in trade negotiations. In my mind, the timing of the Jackson release makes the chances all the more likely that they can freely move around the board and end up with one of the defensive players that they had targeted all along.

  2. “Do Not Fall In Love With One Player” – man, I wish Larry Brown and Billy King would have heeded this advice before they fell in love with Larry Hughes.

  3. Brent, I love your site, but I strongly disagree with you on this one. I will approach each of your main points from my perspective.

    > I do believe that the Eagles felt comfortable cutting Jackson because they don’t think it will hurt our offense too much, but it’s shortsighted to think that means WR isn’t a major need in the team’s eyes. I think that the addition of Sproles, the return of Maclin, and the jump that Ertz will make from year one to two will go a long way towards replacing Desean’s production this year (emphasis on this year). However, we’re still left with our number one WR (Maclin) coming off of his second major knee injury while being on a one year contract. There is no guarantee that we can re-sign him next year. That would leave us with Cooper as our number one. I’m not comfortable with that. I don’t think they believe the loss of Jackson will cripple us this upcoming season, but I do think they realize that it’s a position that must be addressed moving forward. Great teams address positions of concern rather than being reactionary and focusing on positions of need as the arise.

    > The word deep has been thrown around quite a bit in regards to this WR class and I do believe that is accurate to an extent but I don’t think it’s something to take at face value. It certainly has depth, but it’s also very top heavy at the same time. I urge you to look at a lot of the big boards by sites like ESPN, CBS, etc. (not implying you haven’t just asking you to re-visit them). You’ll notice that there are a significant number of WR’s in the top 50 of overall prospects. According to ESPN, Matthews (10th ranked WR by them) is also their 56th ranked prospect. For those scoring at home that means that if their big board were to play out exactly as they have it we would only have a shot at the 10th ranked WR. Once you get beyond the top 10 WR’s it thins out quite a bit. There are 10 WR’s ranked in the top 56 and 12 from 57-150. Additionally, you have to consider that Chip has a certain type of WR in mind. We never received word on exactly what he wants but based on the Desean Jackson situation I think it’s fair to say that it’s a clearly defined thing within the organization. Related; combined between CBS and ESPN there are 44 WR’s in the top 150 and 42 CB’s. This class is deep in more than one position but it comes down to which players fit Chip’s scheme.

    > I don’t have the numbers, but I can’t imagine the S or CB hit rates are very good either. Another thing to consider is the fact that I don’t think either of the top safeties in this class fit what Chip wants. He wants his safeties to be interchangeable and versatile. I think both of the first round prospects are more conventional than what he wants. BPA is influenced by scheme fit and need. Those two guys may be a need, but I don’t think they’re a scheme fit. I’m more interested in guys like Jaylen Watkins (I suggest you watch his tape) or Dontae Johnson.

    I’ll leave you with this thought… people hoping for a defensive heavy draft are setting themselves up for a major letdown. Here is a quote from Roseman after last year’s draft:

    “When we went back and studied the teams who’ve won, they have a strength,” Roseman said. “They’re not just in the middle on both sides of the ball. And when we looked at our offense and looked at where we had players rated in the draft, we saw that there was an opportunity to really strengthen positions there that we thought could really help us be successful on offense.”

    Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/b

    • The Roseman quote about being elite at something keeps coming back to me too. It’s become somewhat of a meme, but not like all the WR love.

      That said, I’m fully expecting the Eagles to zig sometime in the first few rounds while other teams zag. Tommy’s posts at igglesblitz re possibly drafting an RB make a ton of sense to me. Shady is in his prime now and he’s been durable, but he’s accumulating mileage fast. If a window is really opening in a year or 2 and stays open for a while, an RB could make a lot of sense. Especially if it’s a talented RB who freelances less often, given Kelly’s confidence in his system.

      I do get the sense that such a move would be because of a BPA mentality. Putting aside all the BS that floats around this time of year, I get the sense that the Eagles have a reasoned plan and are sticking to it. Last year’s picks (especially the Barkley one) reflect this kind of approach. If a great player falls in an unexpected position, so be it. I’m sure the team would be thrilled to walk away with an impending need filled, but there are also second tier needs (e.g. ILB) and just the chance to pick up a great talent on the cheap.

      Finally, I think the Eagles have done a remarkable job shoring up their needs going into the draft. Some positions are clearly weaker. I think WR, S, and OLB could particularly use players. But these positions are good enough that the Eagles don’t have to draft a starter there (they’re probably fail if they tried because they’d need to reach and there’d be pressure to insert a rookie before he’s ready).

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