Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Quick Takes on a Massive Eagles Trade

Last night all of Eagles Twitter was, well, atwitter, with rumors of the team trading up for the Browns pick in the NFL draft. The Eagles would move up from #8 overall, which they acquired from Miami for Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell, for #2 overall. Such a move would put them in a spot to guarantee the ability to draft one of the two top quarterback prospects -- Jared Goff or Carson Wentz.

I was really hoping the rumors were false, and then, sure enough, news broke just a few hours ago that the Eagles and Browns made the trade.

The Eagles acquire the 2nd overall pick and an additional conditional fourth round pick next year in exchange for pick #8, 3rd and 4th round picks this year, next year's first round pick, 2018's second round pick.

That's a mouthful. But basically, the Eagles gave up a ton of picks to move to #2. So, here are a few quick thoughts:

- I hate this trade: I don't believe trading up is a successful strategy in NFL drafting, and the evidence seems to back me up. There's just too much uncertainty around the success of any individual football player to put all your eggs in one basket. Just go back and look at the data, rare is the example that works out for the team moving up. I'm not going to re-litigate the issue, but Bill Barnwell recently posted an article on ESPN making exactly the same point analysts have made for years. Draft picks are lottery tickets, you should always want more.

- Just because I hate it, doesn't mean it will work out: Look, given all that, I'm still an Eagles fan, and I'd much rather this trade become the exception that teams will cite for years and years as the time moving up for a QB worked out. The one counterargument I can think of to my 'never trade up' philosophy is when it comes to the game's most valuable position.

My last analysis looked at where QB value is generated, and a majority comes from first round draft picks (one of my recent posts, link on the right). Also, that share of value has been progressively shifting towards first round draft picks over time.

Basically, the place you really need to look for a stud quarterback is early in the draft. And if you believe that, then moving up to take the best prospect seems a little less insane

- The odds say this won't work: I don't want to be a Debbie Downer...but drafting QBs is a low-odds game even when it's at the high end of the first round. Here's a list of QBs drafted in the top 10 since 2000:

Jameis Winston
Marcus Mariota
Blake Bortles
Andrew Luck
Robert Griffin
Ryan Tannehill
Cam Newton
Jake Locker
Blaine Gabbert
Sam Bradford
Matthew Stafford
Mark Sanchez
Matt Ryan
JaMarcus Russell
Vince Young
Matt Leinart
Alex Smith
Eli Manning
Philip Rivers
Carson Palmer
Byron Leftwich
David Carr
Joey Harrington
Michael Vick

Not exactly a murderer's row. Go through that list and count the number of teams that would do the same thing all over again if they had the choice. If you hold out the newest guys (Winston, Mariota, Bortles) I think you come up with 7 of 21. I'd guess that Luck, Newton, Stafford, Ryan, Manning, Rivers, and Palmer would all be repeated. And if Wentz/Goff turns out to be in that category then great for the Eagles...but the data would suggest there's a 66% chance at being wrong. Now, you could certainly argue that Bradford hasn't worked out and there was no other way to get a QB - but let's not pretend like this is a lock to succeed

- I worry that recency bias played a huge role in this: My concern as the Eagles approached this draft was that Roseman has been overly concerned with getting his targets sniped by another team. My take is that he saw what happened in 2014, where he had several targets and all of them went just before he was forced to take Marcus Smith, and he's vowed never to let that happen again. That means fewer trade downs and way more aggressive trade ups to get 'his guy' because it's so fresh in his mind. I worried that it could lead Roseman to overpay to move up, and we may be in exactly that scenario.

- This determines Howie and Doug's future in Philadelphia: Some of my other research into coaching tenure made one thing abundantly clear. Coaches get one shot at investing draft resources in a QB, they almost never get more than one. So Pederson's job security is now entirely dependent on whether the new Eagles QB can play or not. Roseman, even more so than Pederson, is now in the same boat. No one is going to remember he traded Kiko Alonso or DeMarco Murray, or even that he drafted Marcus Smith (w/ Chip). The singular defining event of Roseman's entire tenure is this draft pick -- he'll either have a long career here or be gone in three years, but there's really no in between.

- Howie thinks this team doesn't have lots of holes: Make no mistake, the Eagles gave up a boatload of draft assets to move up and get this quarterback. Not as much as the Redskins in going after RGIII, but a LOT of draft assets. To me, that signals both a clear need for a quarterback and that Roseman is fairly confident the rest of the team is pretty solid. If the team had a TON of holes, giving up so much draft capital would be hard to reconcile, but I think Roseman thinks the Eagles aren't that bad. On this point I think he could very well be right.

The Eagles have a bunch of good defensive assets -- and now Jim Schwartz to run them. They also have offensive assets that I don't think are as bad as people believe. I think Kelce and Johnson are good, and supplemented with new FA additions. I think Ertz and Matthews are good. I think Ryan Mathews is good. Do they need more talent at receiver? Probably. Do they need another lineman and a starting cornerback? Probably. But I don't think this team is in bad shape - maybe that's just wishful thinking.

But the trade up for the #2 pick is a massive decision that will define the Eagles success/failure for the next five years. While I still think the odds are against us, I must remind everyone of one simple question:

When's the last time the Cleveland Browns came out ahead in any trade???

No comments: