Lately, Eagles’ general manager Howie Roseman has come under fire for the lack of results and progress from the young talent on the team. Roseman was restored back to power in 2016 and hit a home run with his first selection in that draft - QB Carson Wentz from North Dakota state. However, here are Roseman’s post-Wentz draft results before this year:
Isaac Seumalo, Wendell Smallwood, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Blake Countess, Jalen Mills, Alex McAlister, Joe Walker
Derek Barnett, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Mack Hollins, Donnel Pumphrey, Shelton Gibson, Nathan Gerry, Elijah Qualls
Dallas Goedert, Avonte Maddox, Josh Sweat, Matt Pryor, Jordan Mailata
Did some of these players contribute on the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl-winning team? Absolutely. Does Goedert look like an upper-tier NFL tight end? Yes. But that 2017 team, as we know, also consisted of many free agent signings and a roster that had its share of patchwork, which is hardly a recipe for long-term success in the NFL.
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None of these players have yet made the Pro Bowl. Roseman hasn’t drafted a Pro Bowl player besides Wentz since 2013, when he selected Lane Johnson and Zach Ertz with the first two picks.
Bottom line is the Eagles need to do a much better job of hitting on draft picks. For every Sidney Jones, who was a redshirt rookie, the Dallas Cowboys have drafted a Jaylon Smith, another redshirt rookie who has had far more success. For every Donnell Pumphrey, the Eagles missed out on players like Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara.
With many of the Eagles’ draft picks and free agent signings beginning to age and recent picks not performing, the Eagles find themselves in sort of a no-mans land right now. Unsure of whether they can truly contend another year or need to begin to retool the roster. They need to draft better. They need to find more true superstars.
If a good draft class consists of at least two “studs” – the good news is the Eagles’ 2019 class is looking good early on.
Left tackle Andre Dillard was selected to be the replacement for Jason Peters, whether it be this year or next year. Peters was brought back this season so Dillard did not have to start immediately and could learn behind a future Hall-of-Famer. Peters is now sidelined with a knee injury and Dillard has been forced to step in. Dillard came into the NFL with developed technique beyond his years, and that has been on full display. After struggling while being thrown into the fire in Minnesota, Dillard has improved each and every week. He has committed 0 penalties in 180 snaps. He was graded 68.9 on the Pro Football Focus scale in Buffalo, only 9 points behind Peters’ season average. He helped seal Miles Sanders’ long TD run in Buffalo. He certainly hasn’t lost the team any games, which oftentimes a rookie offensive lineman thrown into the fire can do. It sure looks like as Dillard continues to grow, both physically and mentally, the Eagles have Carson Wentz’s blindside protector moving forward.
The Eagles then drafted RB Miles Sanders higher than any running back since LeSean McCoy in 2009, and before that Brian Westbrook in 2002. This signaled that the Eagles viewed Sanders as a true franchise running back and so far he has delivered in his rookie role alongside Jordan Howard. While Sanders has surprisingly been a force in the passing game, he struggled a bit with vision and hitting open running lanes through the first 7 games of the season. Sanders, who according to reporters was far and away the team’s best running back in training camp, finally broke through in a game on the ground in Buffalo. His 65-yard score, aided by a Howard block, gave the Eagles a 10-point lead and was really the first glimpse we’ve seen of Sanders' explosiveness as a runner. As Sanders’ vision improves and he matures, he could be primed to be the Eagles’ true feature back as soon as next season with Howard an impending free agent, similar to how McCoy took over lead-back duties in 2010.
While the remainder of the 2019 class so far leaves a lot to be desired, Dillard and Sanders have already emerged as possible fixtures on this offense for a long time – Dillard as Carson Wentz’s blindside protector, and Sanders as Wentz’s best friend in the backfield leading the running game. Both have the look of future Pro Bowlers. If the Eagles can draft two Pro Bowlers each draft class, as they did in 2009, 2012, and 2013, they can really begin building a young core moving forward faster than expected. For all the misses and so-so impact players of the last few classes, the 2019 draft class seems to be a step in the right direction.