Now that everyone’s had a chance to recover from the draft, it’s time to start breaking it down in more detail. I had a few notes earlier this week, but today I want to take things a bit further. First, though (as usual), I have to clear a few things up regarding the TPR model:
– The TPR model is not predictive; it is not meant to be. Moreover, I developed the TPR model as a conceptual demonstration of what I believe to be the correct method of drafting. Namely, consensus forecasts are more valuable, over the long term, than those of individual scouts. Additionally, any useful draft board has to account for the difference in positional impacts. Unfortunately, I don’t have nearly enough data to work with, hence the TPR model is mainly useful conceptually, and not practically. So, just because the TPR model lists a prospect as a “reach” or a “steal” does not necessarily mean it was a bad pick, we’re just nowhere near the confidence level required to make such classifications.
However, that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. While the model can’t tell us anything definitively, it can certainly shed light on particular picks and prospects that warrant increased scrutiny (that’s the law classes bleeding into my vocabulary). So, I don’t want to represent that the TPR model is definitive. Also, my personal opinions diverge from the model’s results sometimes (significantly in certain cases).
Hopefully that clears things up a bit.
That brings us to the Eagles draft.
Overall, I thought the team did OK:
– The trades, in particular, were phenomenal. Getting a 3rd round pick for moving down 4 spots in the 20s is an absolute heist. Getting anything for Bryce Brown is as well. I like Brown, but it was abundantly clear last season that he did not fit the new offense. The trade up for Jordan Matthews wasn’t quite as good, from a probabilistic view. But, I’m willing to cut the team more slack here because (a) it was in the 2nd round, and (b) I really like Matthews. With Lee coming off the board at 39, Matthews appeared to be the top WR remaining for most people (not the TPR rankings though). As a result, he probably wouldn’t have been there at 54 (Davonte Adams, another WR, was taken at 53).
Theoretically, it’s possible the Eagles could have traded up fewer spots and still grabbed Matthews, but we have to assume Howie chose the best option available. Hence, the Matthews trade wasn’t a great one, from a strategic standpoint, but it also wasn’t bad.
– I mentioned the possibility of saturation drafting at the WR position. Hopefully you listened, because that’s exactly what the team did. Rather than taking on in the first round, the Eagles took two later on. See this post for the full breakdown of why that was a good decision. Note, though, that the idea behind saturation drafting is that it dramatically increases the odds of finding ONE good player. Hence, the Eagles are likely to get a good WR out of this draft. That does NOT mean that both Huff and Matthews are both likely to pan out.
– The Eagles also seemed to follow what I had outlined as my Plans A, B, and C. Plan A was to draft a LB (Mosley or Barr), Plan B was to draft a S (Pryor or Dix), Plan C was to trade down or take the best CB available. Those top 4 players were off the board at 22 (Dix went with the 21st pick), so trading down became the best option. Post-draft buzz says the Eagles also would have taken Cooks or Beckham (WRs) if they had been available at 22. Regardless, I was pretty happy with the 1st round strategy (though not necessarily the end result).
– The Eagles did, however, take a LB after trading down to 26, just not one of the players we were all expecting or hoping for. This, of course, is the biggest question in the Eagles draft: Was Marcus Smith a “reach”?
The short answer is yes. Howie admitted as much. He said that the team really wanted an OLB and that Smith was the last player at that position they’d be happy with. So they traded down a few spots and grabbed him. That’s a relatively defensible strategy, provided they REALLY like this kid and there really weren’t other opportunities to trade down farther (but not too far). However, it does seem like a low-probability play. See the disclaimer above, but Smith was ranked just 140th overall in the TPR model. He was selected 26th… The only comparable “reach” in the first two rounds was the selection of Justin Britt, chosen 64th overall by the Seahawks. He was unranked (i.e. not in the top 150).
One the bright side, the model does not differentiate between 3-4 and 4-3 positions. Generally, I don’t think this is a big deal. BUT, if there is one position the model is probably undervaluing, it’s the rush LB in a 3-4 scheme. That seems to be where Smith fits.
Moreover, it’s been reported that there were two other teams ready to move up for or ready to draft pick in the late first round. I’ve explained previously why I’m somewhat skeptical of reports like that, but to the extent it IS true, it adds confidence to the pick.
The upshot is: there were almost definitely higher probability prospects available at 26. So Smith was not the optimal choice. That doesn’t mean he won’t work out. Drafting for need CAN result in fantastic picks, because a “hit” occurs where it will have the biggest impact. However, it’s a higher risk play, because drafting for need means you pass on prospects with better chances of panning out.
So…Higher risk, higher reward (though the tradeoff is not equal, hence sub-optimal). I’m guessing some fans are fine with that strategy, especially because the Eagles were able to trade down first before doing it.
– You’ll hopefully remember that I don’t pay much attention to the late round picks. They usually don’t matter. It’s fun to get excited about these guys, but the cold hard fact is that nearly all of them will end up either not making the roster or as bottom-of-the-depth-chart players. So Taylor Hart, Beau Allen, Ed Reynolds….hope for the best, but it’s not worth spending much time analyzing them now.
The Bad News
There are a couple of higher level issues I have with this year’s draft:
– The team did not draft an OL. I’ve made it clear that I think the aging line is a big area of risk. The team’s offense revolves around the running game, and Foles isn’t exactly going to run away from guys that get through. I was hoping the team would at least add a late-round OT (those guys have much higher hit rates than any other late-round position). Maybe they means they’re confident in the current depth OL. At some point, though, the Eagles will need to start lining up replacements for Peters and Mathis. Herremans I was kind of hoping would be replaced this offseason…
The danger is in having to replace them all at once. That’s the situation the team should be trying to avoid, because finding one good starter is hard enough. Finding 3 at the same time almost guarantees that you’re going to have a big hole for at least a season or two.
– The Eagles, on paper, appear to be a worse team than they were last season. I know this is a long term build, but it still hurts to see the team take a step backwards. On offense, the team lost D-Jax and added two rookie WRs (not likely to contribute) and Darren Sproles (old and getting older). On defense, the team added Malcolm Jenkins and Smith, who seems unlikely to start. I know people expect guys like Ertz, Kendricks, Logan, etc…to get better, and that will probably happen (for at least 1 or 2 of them). Still, I just don’t see any reasonably objective way to say this teams roster is better now than it was last season.
Again, I’d rather look long-term than short, but just start preparing yourselves for a potential step-backwards season.