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Why Selling The Farm To Trade Up Would Be A Bad Move For Birds

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

With the NFL draft growing ever closer, there seems to be more momentum, at least among fans, for the Eagles to trade up in the draft.

The report that the team was "aggressively pursuing" a trade up to draft CeeDee Lamb that came out on Wednesday night did nothing but fuel that flame.

The key portion of that report, however, would be how aggressively the Eagles are pursuing a trade and in what manner.

The Eagles making a few different deals to progress up, as they did when they moved up to get Wentz, or moving some players that the roster may not have room for, like Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas or Alshon Jeffery, in order move up makes sense.

It may even make sense to move up if their guy begins to fall in the draft, a situation that Howie Roseman alluded to him looking at in this draft during his press conference on Thursday afternoon.

It does not, however, make sense for the Eagles to sell the farm in a big move up right now.

Most experts expect receivers to start going off the board around pick 11. That is where the Eagles would likely need to jump to in order to get their guy, which can change on draft day, of course.

That's a ten-pick jump into the earlier part of the draft and would likely carry a hefty price without the guarantee their guy, presumably CeeDee Lamb per the Wednesday report, is there.

A trade up like that would have to start with pick 21 and would likely involve pick 53 or a 2021 first-round pick. Even if either of those things are out, the Eagles would likely have to give up their 2021 second-round pick.

Giving up either of those 2021 picks would significantly hinder the team's ability to complete any trades in the coming season and could leave the team with just two picks in the top 150. Both those picks could come after pick 50, too. Early mocks have around six receivers going in the first round of the 2021 draft along with many other impact offensive tackles and defenders like Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.

The projections of who will declare and where they'll be drafted in 2021 are sure to change, but by making such a deal, the Eagles would almost certainly be giving up any chance at top talent in the draft next season. The closest draft to what the Eagles would be left with would be their 2018 draft, but the Birds would likely not have a pick as high as the one they used on Goedert and they'd likely wind up with more picks, just collectively lower in the draft than in 2018.

The Eagles have dealt with very little trade capital in recent years to attempt to build a younger, more cost controlled team around Wentz. Much of the reason for that was that the team needed to give a lot to move up that high in the draft to get a franchise quarterback. The team wouldn't need to spend as much to get into position to draft a top receiver in this draft, but they would still likely deplete their war chest for the next year or two in doing so.

It is a very high-risk move for the team to make and one that would almost certainly get GM Howie Roseman accused of being unable to draft when his 2021 draft of a third-round pick and five fifth and sixth-round picks doesn't consist of a boatload of Pro Bowl players.

The liklihood of filling out offensive line depth while adding some top-tier defensive backs and a good rotation of linebackers following such a trade becomes difficult in the draft and would effectively leave those positions to be filled with free agents or total lottery tickets. That's not an effective way to build a team.

Not only would it hinder their ability to add in the future and contain a lot of risk that their guy may not be there, but the position they'd be doing it for is one that has become difficult to evaluate.

Sinking significant resources into drafting a single wideout in the first round has not been a good idea over the past half a decade.

Teams simply do not evaluate the same and the position itself is difficult to project, which can be seen over this recent history.

First-Round Wide Receivers Since 2015

Player Year
Amari Cooper 2015
Kevin White 2015
DeVante Parker 2015
Nelson Agholor 2015
Breshad Perriman 2015
Phillip Dorsett 2015
Corey Coleman 2016
Will Fuller 2016
Josh Doctson 2016
Laquon Treadwell 2016
Corey Davis 2017
Mike Williams 2017
John Ross 2017
D.J. Moore 2018
Calvin Ridley 2018
Marquise Brown 2019
N'Keal Harry 2019

That's 17 receivers that have been drafted in the first round of the past five drafts. Amari Cooper, DJ Moore and Calvin Ridley have been the only three to achieve over 650 yards in each season of their career. Mike Williams and DeVante Parker are coming off of breakout campaigns following multiple seasons of under-achieving. If the intention is to get an immediate impact player, those two would not have provided it.

That's a 17.6% hit rate at the position over the last five seasons.

DJ Moore and Calvin Ridley have too small a sample size to say for sure whether they are or are not a top-tier player at the position, but the only player that would seem to fit that category in the above group is Amari Cooper.

You've got some other solid receivers in there and some guys that could make it to the top after three to five seasons, but is that something the Eagles should be willing to spend multiple first and second round picks on?

If the receiver needs a few seasons to adjust to the league or has simply modest production for five season, are they worth trading the next two first-round picks for? Worth trading both of your top picks this year for?

Do I hope this year's draft is better? Not really, because I'd prefer if not every opponent the Eagles faced had one or two top-tier receivers. I do think there are some better receivers in this draft than in those five prior, but analysts are wrong all the time and you can't take hope to the bank.

You would have to go back to the 2014 draft to see the last draft where there were multiple elite receivers taken in the first round, but the likes of other top-tier receivers have come in the later rounds - players like Michael Thomas, Chris Godwin and Terry McLauren.

The 2020 draft class of receivers may turn out like that 2014 class did in the first round, but there's a good chance it's later rounds turn out even better.

This draft is so deep at the position, that players like Denzel Mims and KJ Hamler could fall to the second round, Tyler Johnson, Van Jefferson and Bryan Edwards could fall anywhere from the third to the fifth and Quintez Cephus is unlikely to be picked anytime before the fifth round starts. The talent is simply incredible, even in the later rounds of the draft.

The top prospects this season have pushed down so many other talented players at a position where these talented players are already routinely misjudged and now that the Eagles have a serious amount of picks, the team could choose to take their chances on two or three of those talents and give themselves more chances at finding the next top-tier players. It is so deep that the Eagles may do so even if they pick a receiver in round one.

A trade should not be totally off the table. The argument isn't that. It is that the Eagles need to be careful. They need to ensure they're trading resources that they might not need or that won't compromise the future of the team.

Fans shouldn't be upset if the team doesn't move up in the draft or if they trade back. It may not be a flashy start to the draft, but providing the team with a successful future instead of mortgaging the future on a single player at one of the most difficult positions to project is certainly the smart move for Howie Roseman and the Birds.

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