Imagine this: The key to the Philadelphia Eagles’ draft strategy could rest in the hands of Lamar Jackson.
Or, perhaps, Mason Rudolph.
The Eagles are more than fine in the quarterback department, even with Carson Wentz rehabbing from the knee injury that derailed his MVP season and set the stage for backup Nick Foles to lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title.
With Wentz and Foles, the Eagles have perhaps the NFL’s best quarterback grouping, but Jackson, the 2016 Heisman winner from Louisville, could be the biggest boost to the Eagles’ ability to come out of this year’s draft with a decent haul.
The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles pick 32nd and don’t pick again until the fourth round thanks to separate trades for Wentz and cornerback Ronald Darby that involved giving up their second- and third-round picks.
That’s where Jackson, the human-highlight Louisville quarterback, can help them.
In a draft deep at quarterback, Jackson, who some NFL analysts think lacks the overall polish to acclimate seamlessly into NFL offense, probably won’t go in the top 15.
But if he’s still there at the bottom of the first round, Jackson could easily become the target for a quarterback-needy team that craves the fifth-year contract option that comes with first-round picks.
There’s recent precedent for this. In 2014, another former Louisville quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, was still around at 32 with the Seattle Seahawks on the board. The Vikings traded back into the first round, giving up the 40th pick and a fourth-round pick (108th) to the Seahawks to pick Bridgewater.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, in a conference call Monday, alluded to the Eagles’ trade-down opportunities at 32 because of quarterback depth.
“When you look at sitting at 32, and I’ve had this conversation with teams that are used to drafting late, I think you’ve got to be multiple,” he said. “By that I mean you’ve got to get a good football player, but you also have to have an ability to move down if possible, if necessary.
“And the Eagles don’t have, if I remember this correctly, a two and a three. So an ability to move down would be first and foremost in my mind. So, sitting at 32 is prime real estate for a move down.”
Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman is no stranger to moving up and down the draft. The Eagles have made 23 total trades in eight drafts since 2010, Roseman’s first year as Eagle general manager – an average of nearly three deals per draft weekend. Roseman made six deals alone in 2010 and four apiece in 2011 and 2014. Last year, he made three.
Mayock referred to Jackson, who passed for more than 9,000 yards and rushed for more than 4,000 yards in three seasons at Louisville, as “the most electrifying player in this draft.”
Rudolph, the Oklahoma State product, is another quarterback not currently projected to go in the first half of the draft who could be there at 32 when the Eagles pick.
Mayock has a second-round grade on Rudolph, but teams constantly reach for quarterbacks in the first round to get cost efficiency and control in the fifth season.
Mayock said one team will fall in love with Jackson’s overall skill set and prioritize him in its draft strategy.
“I think somebody’s going to take him and commit their offensive philosophy to him,” he said. “I would tell you that the most nervous 31 people in the league would be the defensive coordinators that would have to play against him.”
— Geoff Mosher, a longtime Philadelphia sports reporter, is also a host on @975TheFanatic in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffMosherNFL.