By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
Disclaimer: I wrote most of this article on Saturday morning before rounds 4-7, but I tweaked the analysis to more accurately portray what the Eagles have done since Friday night.
Going into Thursday night, Eagles fans had some high expectations for Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson. After Friday night, I could confidently say that Philadelphia was disappointed, but a productive day three of filling needs with speedy receivers may have changed the fan bases outlook.
Yet, I still think that the Eagles second round pick does deserve a closer look. I think I can safely say that we were all confused. Certainly shocked, at the very least. I can almost guarantee that most Eagles fans were feeling differing levels of anger, too.
Since Roger Goodell read to the world the 53rd overall selection of the NFL Draft, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this decision. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t know if I will ever fully understand it. Although the moves made on Saturday did help justify the argument to select a quarterback in the second round a little bit, there are still too many questions left unanswered.
There is still so much that was so confusing about not only the selection itself, but the timing of the selection. This draft choice still needs to be analyzed heavily. There may be more layers to this than you think.
Why This Pick Left Me At A Loss For Words
Let's make something very clear out the gate.
Do not compare this to the Packers drafting Jordan Love. Aaron Rodgers is 36 years old and likely only has a few serviceable years left in him. Drafting his eventual successor is something that can be easily justified.
Carson Wentz is 27 years old and not even in the prime of his career yet. The Eagles shouldn’t be trying to churn out quarterbacks like a factory, they should be building around their franchise quarterback while he’s in his prime. Wentz has proven what he can do with the right guys around him, or even with practice squad dudes around him. The last thing they should be doing is bringing in competition. If you think for a second that the Eagles drafted a quarterback in the second round to just sit there with a clipboard, you're dead wrong.
Furthermore, if holding on to this pick along with the 21st pick in the first round was part of the reason that Roseman didn’t trade up for CeeDee Lamb (who was selected by the hated Jerry Jones), Howie should be ashamed of himself. As of now, I don’t see a way that having both Jalen Reagor and Jalen Hurts on this team instead of Lamb helps this team in the present or in the near future.
I'm sure Reagor will turn out to be a good receiver for this team. But, if you have a chance to draft the best receiver in the draft, you make it happen.
So they didnt want to go get CeeDee Lamb to make sure they drafted Jalen Hurts. I don't get it— John Barchard (@JohnBarchard) April 25, 2020
With all of the holes on this team's defense, you simply cannot pass on the amount of talent that was left at that time for a guy you are hoping never has to take the field. Especially when you just signed your supposed franchise quarterback to an extension worth $130 million that has not even kicked in yet.
Here are some notable players on the board at the time of the Eagles selection in the second round: wide receiver Denzel Mims, cornerback Kristian Fulton, linebackers Zack Baun and Logan Wilson. Any one of those guys would have filled a massive need with a solid player that could have contributed on the field week one, unlike some of the late round selections.
As of right now, even including the two linebackers selected by the Eagles, they have seven linebackers on their roster. The best player of that group, debatably: Nathan Gerry. Even based off of the eye test, anyone that watched the Eagles last season can put two and two together and say that he should not be the best linebacker on a team that wants to compete for a Super Bowl.
Let's further drive home this point, just for fun. According to Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation, Nathan Gerry was ranked as one of the worst tackling linebackers in the entire league. Assuming that the Eagles knew this fact, which they should, given that it is their job, how can you possibly rationalize prioritizing a backup quarterback over a position in such dire need?
Moving on, I want to address the comments that Mr. Roseman made in an interview following the selection of Hurts. There were certainly some remarks that really made me want to throw a chair through my television, as the comments only confused fans more.
First, Roseman said that the Eagles believe wholeheartedly in Carson Wentz, and that “Carson is our franchise quarterback to lead us to our next Super Bowl title.” He then went on to say that the Eagles proved their faith in Wentz based on the contract extension (obviously) and with the assets they used to surround Carson. Let's pause right there.
Here are all of the players the Eagles have brought in on the offensive side of the ball this offseason to “help” our franchise quarterback at the time of Roseman's statement: Jalen Reagor. That’s it, that’s the list.
Now, obviously the Eagles did upgrade their offense by drafting two more receivers, John Hightower and Quez Watkins, as well as trading with the 49ers for speedster Marquise Goodwin. However, they all come with their own red flags. Goodwin has had injury issues throughout his career, something that I'm sure will not change on this team. The two aforementioned draftees are more probable to miss than hit, especially with the way this organization has developed receivers.
It's obvious that Roseman had an agenda. Yet, the fact that Roseman waited so long to add playmakers after watching who Wentz played with at the end of last season when he was dragging the practice squad all-stars to a division title is outright delusional. If I were Wentz, based on just that comment alone, I would be irate.
It didn’t stop there. Roseman also said that, “We are quarterback developers. We want to be a quarterback factory.” What is this, IMG Academy? This isn’t college football, where players are being cycled in and out and the entire roster is changing significantly from year-to-year. This is the NFL, if you have your franchise quarterback in place, you build around him. You don't make it a goal to develop guys behind him.
Hypothetically, what happens if the Eagles do develop Hurts into a great quarterback? First of all, that’s going to take a couple of years for any quarterback. But for a guy that you’re hoping doesn’t ever have to see the field? It’s going to take some very realistic cone drills for that to happen.
What other outcomes are there if you develop Hurts? Do you trade Wentz? Do you trade Hurts for picks that are higher up than the 53rd selection in the draft? Even if you do, there is no guarantee that the players you take with those picks turn out to be more valuable than the players you could have had at that spot.
Then, there were the rumors that were floating around on Saturday about the possibility of the Eagles using both Hurts and Wentz on the field at the same time. If this is true, and that's a big if, it feels like the Eagles are trying way too hard to be innovative. You don't need two quarterbacks at one time, you need healthy skill players around them. As my high school football coach always said, you don't need to reinvent the wheel to win football games.
The Psychological Issue
Now, we’ve gotten to arguably the most annoying reason for this pick to have the potential to be an unmitigated disaster from a fan standpoint. This is Foles vs. Wentz 2.0. The Foles or Wentz argument has already torn this city to shreds on sports radio and in the Twitter-verse ever since Super Bowl LII. Even to this day, with Foles having been gone for nearly a year, there are still people who want Foles over Wentz.
Carson can say all the right things he wants to about the Foles situation, but it’s obvious that the debate at least bothered him a little bit. He had to deal with his backup coming in not once, but twice, to lead the Eagles to the playoffs and ultimately playoff victories. That has to mess with the man’s psyche.
Now, when Carson finally has some room to breathe without the threat of a guy the city is enamored with directly behind him, the front office puts him right back on the hot seat. I don’t care what you say, you don’t draft a quarterback in the second round if you don’t have some doubts about your starter.
It’s obvious to me that the organization isn’t concerned with Wentz’s on field performance. Actually, I have no idea what they’re thinking anymore. I should say that they shouldn’t have any reason to be concerned with his on field performance. The concern rises with Carson’s injury history.
It seems like the Wild Card game was the final straw. The front office doesn’t want to be caught in a situation where if Wentz goes down, they don’t have a good emergency option. Is that fair? Probably. I support Wentz as much as the next guy, but his injury history is something that’s going to follow him around until the injuries stop happening.
My issue remains this: is using a second round pick on a quarterback that you are hoping never has to play the correct choice at that spot? My answer is unequivocally no, especially with the holes on this team in other areas. If you feel that backup quarterback is that big of a hole for this team then fine, address it with a guy with a ton of talent on day three.
Roseman & Pederson can say whatever they want. For the Eagles, a team with a ton of needs, you don’t draft a QB in the second rd just for trick plays.— Jon Johnson (@jonjohnsonwip) April 25, 2020
Hindsight is always 20-20, but there are some super capable backup quarterbacks remaining in this draft on day three. Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason, Anthony Gordon or even James Morgan. Those are all guys with a ton of talent that would be more than capable of being a serviceable backup quarterback, and you could have taken them with any of your day three selections.
There's also still a plethora of veteran, serviceable quarterbacks on the free agent market. Joe Flacco, Matt Moore, Blake Bortles, heck even Jamies Winston is a decent option as a backup at a low price (Winston is likely to sign with New Orleans).
Now, it’s entirely possible that the public doesn’t know all of the information that inside Eagles personnel does. There could be a big plan for Hurts that we don’t see yet (like an eventual trade, not the two quarterback thing). There could even be something concerning going on with Carson, we just don’t know. Those are two things that the front office would never discuss publicly at this time. When it comes to these scenarios, I guess we’ll see.
There are a couple scenarios for how this all ends up, none of which are particularly good.
Scenario One: Wentz stays healthy, Hurts never sees the field for a meaningful snap with a wing on his helmet, and the Eagles have officially wasted a second round pick on a player who’s biggest contribution to the team will have come on trick plays and preseason games.
Scenario Two: Wentz gets injured, Hurts comes in and stinks it up, and the Eagles are still searching for a backup. The Eagles have wasted a second round pick.
Scenario Three: Wentz gets injured, Hurts comes in and is sensational, and Philadelphia sports radio becomes a toxic place. One of Wentz or Hurts gets shipped off for a likely decent return, but even still the Eagles will have wasted either a second round pick or a hefty chunk of money in the wrong franchise quarterback.
Lost in all of this hoopla is that Jalen Hurts seems like a magnificent human being. He had an incredible, up-and-down college career that saw him have tons of success at two storied, big-time programs. Most of us would not have handled the adversity he faced in his career as well as he did.
On Friday night in an interview posted by the Eagles, he said all the right things but seemed a little discouraged. The kid wants to play, and he wants to play quarterback. He doesn’t want to be used as a gadget, even though he’ll likely go the route of saying he’ll do anything he can to help the team win.
Trust me, he sees all the stuff on social media too. He sees the outrage from fans. He knows this city’s reputation of being a tough town to play in. Before ESPN could even show his highlights after announcing the selection, the city was in metaphorical flames, tweeting as fast as their thumbs could go (guilty as charged). What was supposed to be the happiest moment of his life, a culmination of everything he has worked for to get to this spot, is now not even a secondary thought to all of the reactions. I truly feel bad for Jalen and sympathize with him, he deserves better.
Which brings me back to the Eagles General Manager. It’s likely that Howie Roseman has destroyed his image in the eyes of some of the fan base, even though he had a solid third day of the draft. Still, the fan's trust in Howie is not going to be the same as it was before the draft. This pick will be lingering in the back of fan's minds, ready to use this as ammunition against him in the future. Philly fans may forgive, but they don't forget.
The biggest concern for me is the possibility that the organization has altered its relationship with their franchise player for the worse. If I were Wentz, I’d frankly be pretty pissed off. He has done and said all the right things, even including Friday night when Wentz took to Twitter to welcome Hurts to Philly.
Welcome to the best football city in America brotha! https://t.co/CKAMNLO7mb— Carson Wentz (@cj_wentz) April 25, 2020
One thing is for certain: Wentz is too good of a human being and too good of a player to deserve the constant doubt. He gets enough pessimism from the media, he doesn't need it from the organization too. He deserves better from a front office that should have prioritized giving him young, elite playmakers rather than guys that are more likely to be on special teams than at starting wide receiver.
Instead, the organization has only given Carson Wentz more questions to answer and more opportunities to look over his shoulder.