Howie Roseman now has two drafts under his belt as general manager of the Eagles. He was very aggressive and active in 2010, moving up and down the board to bring in 13 prospects. He was more laid back in 2011, not moving around until the middle rounds. He helped the Eagles to draft 11 players and added a fourth round pick for the 2012 draft.
It is too early to know the results of Roseman's drafts, but we can assess how he handled the process. I would give him a good review after two years on the job. Roseman has shown the ability to do what his team needs. Going into the 2010 draft the Eagles decided they wanted an impact pass rusher. Brandon Graham is the player they targeted and Roseman was able to deal up from pick 24 to pick 13 and get him. That trade showed a few things. First, it proved that Roseman could make a big trade. You don't move that far up in the draft lightly. Roseman had to negotiate a price that he was willing to pay and that Denver would accept. Roseman was able to do that and both parties came away happy.
Roseman also had to know when to pull the trigger. He had to read the tea leaves and decide where Graham might go. Roseman probably moved up to the perfect spot. There were whispers that Seattle liked Graham at pick 14. Right after that a pair of teams drafted defensive ends. Had Roseman tried to get maximum value he might have lost out on his primary target. Instead, he was willing to pay a fair price to land a player he felt could be an impact pass rusher.
In this year's first round Roseman didn't see any prospects that were worth aggressively moving up for (at a realistic price...I'm sure Roseman would love dealing up for a CB like Patrick Peterson). The Eagles stayed at pick 23 and took offensive lineman Danny Watkins. Sometimes a GM has to know that staying put and taking a player of need is the best move. Teams like the Steelers, Ravens, and Packers do a terrific job of this. You don't burn up resources by moving up in the draft. Also, there is usually a quality prospect on the board when you do pick. Sometimes there is a solid prospect that slid for some reason and you get great value. The Ravens got Michael Oher a couple of years ago and Jimmy Smith this year. Both guys slid further than expected. Oher has proven to be a good tackle. We'll see how Smith pans out.
Watkins didn't slide to 23, but I do like the fact that Roseman didn't try to out-smart everyone. He could have tried to move back and get Watkins a few picks later. There is no guarantee that Watkins would have made it that far. Roseman knew he had a chance to get the top rated guard in the whole draft and that guard was a position of need for the Eagles. Why complicate things? Just make the pick and secure the player.
Roseman stayed put in the second round each year and added solid players that he felt could start right away. Both Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett happen to be safeties, but I don't think that is by design so much as coincidence. The Eagles needed a free safety last year. They needed a strong safety this year. Allen went right where he was projected, in the early second round. Jarrett went earlier than expected. I had him projected as a fourth round type of player. Reportedly NFL teams saw him as more of a third round prospect. The Eagles took him at pick 54. You can question the value of the pick, but there is something I like about the pick. Roseman took a player who he really believed in and felt was NFL ready.
The second round was a problem for the Eagles for much of the early part of the Reid era. Too often the team took projects. Linebacker Quinton Caver was big and fast, but lacked the maturity and focus needed to succeed in the NFL. L.J. Smith was another gifted player who seemed to be lacking in intangibles. Todd Pinkston had excellent speed, but was a project because of his size and inconsistency. Matt McCoy had the talent, but wasn't ready for the NFL. He left college early to help support his mom. He struggled with the change from the game of college football to the business of pro football. These types of picks changed in recent years. The Eagles began taking solid players. They might have had less upside, but also were safer picks. This is definitely true of Kevin Kolb, Trevor Laws, LeSean McCoy, and Allen. The Eagles did take a couple of chances on players who slid, Winston Justice and DeSean Jackson. The jury is still out on Justice. Jackson was obviously a home run.
It is good to see Roseman continuing the recent trend and taking solid players in the second round. There isn't anything great about Allen or Jarrett, but they are good football players. Allen has a complete game and could be a Pro Bowl player in the future. Jarrett isn't as athletic or gifted in coverage, but he still has a good chance to become at least an effective starter at strong safety. Both players do have excellent intangibles to go along with their on-field skills. That makes you feel confident that they'll do what it takes to succeed in the league.
Rounds three through five are considered the middle rounds of the draft. This is where Roseman has shown the ability to really move around and be creative. So far he's only moved back. Roseman did this to add picks for the late rounds or in future drafts. Roseman was still able to get multiple players he had targeted before the draft. How do we know this? Several of the picks from the middle rounds in the last two years were players the Eagles brought to Philadelphia for pre-draft visits or showed a lot of interest in by visiting with the players elsewhere. This makes you think that Roseman has a good feel for how players are valued around the league. Part of being a good GM is knowing what is going on around the league and the ability to gather information. Heckert was great at this. Roseman shows promise. Time will tell just how good he is.
The sixth and seventh rounds are the late rounds of the draft. Most of those picks do not pan out for any team. Roseman landed a pair of players from the 2010 draft that not only made the team, but that started for part of the season. Jamar Chaney projects to start this year as well. Kurt Coleman will have a chance to win a starting job, but he seems more likely to end up a reserve. The Eagles were very high on the sixth round picks from the 2011 class, linebacker Brian Rolle and center Jason Kelce. It will be interesting to see if Roseman struck gold again and found either starters or reserves capable of starting when needed.
I'm very encouraged by what I've seen of Roseman late in the draft. He's finding talented players that have one key issue that dropped them. Coleman, Rolle, and Kelce were small. Chaney, Jeff Owens, and Greg Lloyd slipped due to injury concerns. If the players didn't have these issues, they would be mid-round selections. I see this as Roseman taking a wise risk. There is no question about whether the players can play. Early in the Reid era the Eagles took late rounders that felt like real longshots. We know not all picks will pan out, but Roseman has come up with a good late round strategy. It will be really interesting to look back in a few years and see if it worked or was just a good idea that led to mediocre results.
We won't know for a while whether Roseman is selecting the right players in the draft, but I think his overall ideas and strategies are sound. I think we were all at least a bit nervous when Roseman took over as GM. The Eagles liked him internally, but running an NFL team is a huge challenge. The hardest part of all is the draft. There is a tremendous amount of information to sort through and you can't fake your way through a situation like that. Roseman has shown that he is more than just the "bean counter" that some fans saw him as. He knows how to run a draft. Anyone who thought he might be in over his head has been shown that is definitely not the case. That doesn't mean everyone will agree with all his picks, but Roseman has proven that he knows what he's doing.
We'll have to wait and judge him as an overall GM after the offseason starts. Trading Kevin Kolb and landing a good cornerback will be challenging litmus tests for Roseman. If he can do both of those things successfully, Roseman will show that he's got the potential to become one of the better GMs in the NFL.