If you're one of the top eligible prospects for this year's NFL draft, chances are you've either been or are headed to Philadelphia sometime soon. The Philadelphia Eagles are in the process of hosting pre-draft visits for everyone from quarterback Geno Smith to tackles Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher to defensive linemen Ezekiel Ansah, Sharrif Floyd and Star Lotulelei, as Jeff McLane details here.
Now, it's easy to get excited whenever you hear that one of these names is visiting your team ahead of the draft. And it's generally important to remember that teams can bring in as many as 30 guys and the fact that someone is visiting doesn't necessarily mean they're under consideration to be picked. Sometimes teams just want to get a sense of a guy they're going to be playing against for the next several years. Sometimes teams want to throw up smokescreens.
But in this case, with the Eagles holding the No. 4 pick in the draft, I think there are a couple of things you can take from the facts of all of these pre-draft meetings with the top draft prospects:
1. The Eagles have put themselves in a good position. Their free-agent additions have addressed positions of need, from the secondary to the defensive line to the linebacker corps to wide receiver, and they're not going to be sitting there at No. 4 feeling they need to draft a specific position. Yes, they're still looking for a franchise quarterback, but the re-signing of Michael Vick and the other depth they've added at that position means they don't have to reach for a quarterback with that pick if they're not convinced he's a franchise quarterback. They can wait until later rounds, or even next year, to address that long-term need. At No. 4 this year, the Eagles will truly be able to take the highest-ranked player on their board, regardless of position, and feel confident that they've improved the team in the short-term and the long-term. That's the position in which teams want to find themselves come draft night, and the Eagles clearly feel they are in that position.
2. They have to get this right. Ideally, you don't pick this high every year. The last time the Eagles had a pick this high, they used it on Donovan McNabb. Largely because of the way that pick worked out, the Eagles aren't used to picking in the top five, and their hope is that it'll be a very long time before they have to again. To that end, the Eagles need to make as certain as possible that they find a franchise building-block type of player at No. 4. And while certainty with regard to draft picks is unattainable, they need to be thinking less about immediate need and raw potential and more about reliability. They need someone with low "bust" potential. That's why I kind of doubt they'll take Smith, the West Virginia quarterback, at No. 4. The book on Smith is that he has the tools to be a franchise guy but that he was inconsistent in college from game to game and has too much "bad tape." Someone like that feels more risky than the Eagles need to be at No. 4, in my personal opinion. Which is, I believe, what you come here to read.