NFL Draft: Why the Eagles Were Smart to Trade for No. 2

Doug Pederson is introduced as the new coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. | Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Doug Pederson is introduced as the new coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. | Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The 2016 NFL draft was shaken up when the Los Angeles Rams acquired the No. 1 overall pick in a blockbuster trade with the Tennessee Titans. For the Philadelphia Eagles, this aforementioned deal prevented them from jumping to the top of the board. But you know what they say: if you can’t beat them, work out a deal with the next guy in line.

On Wednesday, after making their second major move of the offseason, the Eagles acquired the No. 2 overall pick from the Cleveland Browns, officially guaranteeing themselves one of the draft’s top two quarterbacks. Will it end up being Cal’s Jared Goff (probably not) or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz (most likely)? The answer: whoever the Rams don’t pick. But fear not Philly fans, the Eagles feel good about either gunslinger.

“You have to be very comfortable with both of those quarterbacks and believe they have a shot to be great, Pro Bowl-caliber,” said Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman. “It’s hard to be great if you don’t take some risks.”

The cost to move up from No. 8 to No. 2 wasn’t cheap. In exchange for the second pick in this year’s draft, as well as a fourth-round selection in 2017, the Eagles sent Cleveland three picks in 2016 — first round (No. 8), third round (No. 77), and fourth round (No. 100) — along with a first-round pick in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018. Like we said, not cheap at all.

However, while many out there will question this move, we’re not among them. Sure, the price was steep, but that’s just the cost of doing business. And when it comes to making a play for your quarterback of the future, no cost is too much.

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie (L) speaks with Howie Roseman. | Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie (L) speaks with Howie Roseman. | Rich Schultz/Getty Images

In the National Football League, unless you’ve managed to construct a historically great defense (hello, Denver Broncos), you’re not going anywhere without a legitimate quarterback. This is a pass-driven league, and not only is the QB is the most important position in the game, it’s the most important position in all of sports. It’s really that simple. And for the first time in a while — you’d have to reach all the way to Donovan McNabb back in 1999 — the Eagles found themselves in a position to get a game-changer. So they went for it.

“The compelling thing for us,” Roseman said, “was when we went about doing this research and looked at what the landscape looked like, not only in the college market, in the NFL market, but the possibility that a lot more teams were needing quarterbacks or that you’d go forward and you’d need a quarterback three years from now and even if you’re picking in the top five, teams that are at one or two wouldn’t trade out. For us, it was a bigger risk of all those factors going forward. Maybe the certainty of it cost a little bit more, but the upside on that from our franchise and from our position was not worth the risk.”

Unlike other teams that trade away draft picks in the hopes of finding a franchise quarterback, the Eagles have the luxury of time. With veteran quarterbacks Sam Bradford — the unquestioned starter — and Chase Daniel on the roster, Philadelphia won’t be forced to rush the young quarterback into action before they’re ready. And trust us, neither Goff nor Wentz is prepared to be a day-one starter.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Carson Wentz speaks to the media at the NFL combine. | Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Despite the Eagles spending much of the pre-draft period flying across the country and working out the top quarterback prospects, most assumed it was nothing more than a smokescreen. And when you consider how much money they have invested in the quarterback position already, along with the fact that Bradford appeared to find his groove during the second half of the 2015 season while establishing himself as a leader in the Eagles locker room, it seemed unfathomable that the Eagles would give up so many assets to move up and draft a quarterback.

Yet, Bradford hasn’t done much in his career to prove that he’s the long-term answer at quarterback. And based on the way new head coach Doug Pederson speaks about Goff and Wentz (particularly Wentz), it’s pretty clear he believes they each have the chance to be.

“These guys are pretty even,” said Pederson. “From all the physical tools, both of them are extremely gifted. Good arm strength, good mobility. Obviously, Carson is a little bigger, maybe a little better athlete right now. There’s not much separating those two.”

The Philadelphia Eagles gave up a lot to move up to the No. 2 pick. Some will say they gave up too much. And in the end, it could easily blow up in their face. But that’s the risk they were willing to take. However, if they strike gold at the quarterback position, then it will all be worth it. For the fact is, when you see an opportunity to draft someone you believe could be “The Guy,” you take it. The Eagles did just that. And we approve.

Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.comESPN.go.com, and PhiladelphiaEagles.com.

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