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2017 NFL Draft: Eagles Set Focus to Future with Draft Picks

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Eagles made eight selections out of the 253 made in the NFL Draft this weekend in Philadelphia, and put the focus on several particular positions. They drafted two defensive linemen, two cornerbacks, two wide receivers, a running back and a safety/linebacker.

There was a common theme to these picks: upside and potential. While their impact may not be felt in the immediate future, the Eagles felt that they at least set the stage for the future.

"We won't know a lot about the things we did this weekend for a while here, but as we sit here, we feel good about it," Howie Roseman said. "We feel like we did the right things for our team, not necessarily only for this moment, but going forward. We got a lot of good people into the building who reflect the values and culture and playing temperament we're trying to bring."

From their first-round pick of Derek Barnett -- who is projected to see modest playing time in his rookie year but not starting time -- to players like Sidney Jones -- whose rookie season is in jeopardy as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles -- to three offensive prospects at the dynamic positions of running back and wide receiver, it is a waiting game.

At the very least, the Eagles made clear that there is a sense of new direction and new beginnings with these draft picks.

Derek Barnett was a popular target for the Eagles among mock drafts as the first round approached. He was the type of player Joe Douglas admired and coveted. It was really not a surprising move that the Eagles took him, even if it is a safe pick on the grounds of upside instead of instant gratification.

Sidney Jones was arguably a first-round talent, maybe even higher than the Eagles were slotted at 14th overall, if not for his devastating pro day injury. So many will look at the pick as a risk because of such an injury. It is a risk, but if he returns to form, Jones will be the steal of the draft at 43rd overall.

To get some form of new life in the secondary, the Eagles did add Rasul Douglas in the third round. Taking back-to-back cornerbacks was certainly interesting, but after providing aid to the pass rush in the first round, they addressed their biggest need on Day 2.

Douglas is not going to be the solution to the Eagles secondary problem single-handedly, but he's a solid upgrade to an otherwise depleted secondary at cornerback.

The Eagles added two wide receivers that don't overly have the wow factor on paper, but certainly provide a new identity to the Eagles receiver core. The Eagles big upgrades at receiver were in free agency with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. With Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson in the fold now too, all of the pressure is on Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham, who have to earn their place on the roster over with four newcomers added to the team this offseason.

The Eagles probably would have liked to address the running back need sooner, but saw a first-round talent in Dalvin Cook slip all the way to the 41st pick before Minnesota traded up to swipe him before the Eagles could. Character was obviously a factor in the picks made this weekend, so Joe Mixon was passed over by the Eagles and later came off the board at 48th overall. The Eagles were caught in a lengthy gap at that point, so when four more running backs came off the board in the third round, it was obvious the Eagles were not seeing the board fall in their favor at that position.

They did trade up in the fourth round to take Donnel Pumphrey. Pumphrey is a grinder and a heart and soul player, so Philadelphia will embrace his work ethic and drive, but he is built like Darren Sproles and may be more of a specialty back than an every-down starter like the Eagles need. With Ryan Mathews likely on the way out, some veteran presence has to be coming in, not unless the Eagles are really going to roll with Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Pumphrey as their top three backs. The Eagles did add Corey Clement following the draft as a UDFA, so that should help since Clement is more of a power back.

Nate Gerry and Elijah Qualls were two solid late picks for the Eagles on the defensive side of the ball. While being players that need a little grooming for the NFL level, they were potential sleeper picks that the Eagles got much later than anticipated, so there is certainly upside in that alone.

Ultimately, none of these players may be the answer for the Eagles next season. This isn't the same as landing Carson Wentz, the franchise quarterback of the future. But the groundwork is there. They have a record-setting running back in the system. They have two new wide receivers whose game is built on speed. They used their top two picks to address the top two areas of need on defense: pass rush and secondary.

With eyes on the future, the Eagles put themselves on the road to success and road to victory. It's just a matter of how long that road will be and how long it will take to travel that road.


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