Eagles have mastered the math of the NFL draft


Thursday, May 12, 2011
Posted: 2:25 p.m.

By Reuben Frank

This is really math more than football. And its pretty simple math.

The more players you draft, the better your odds of landing good players.

The Eagles have made math a pretty big part of their drafting philosophy. Addition. Or in some cases, multiplication.

Last year, the Eagles turned their initial allotment of draft picks into 13 players, seven of whom started at some point and nine of whom contributed along the way. And this year, they drafted 11 more players.

No NFL team has drafted as many players as the Eagles the last two years, and head coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman believe they can dramatically increase their odds of landing quality players -- especially in the middle and late rounds, when the odds of hitting on anybody drop -- simply by dramatically increasing the number of players they take. And theyve found ways to do that without moving far down in making those deals.

In Rosemans first draft as general manager, he did something pretty remarkable, trading down four times to turn a single second-round pick into six players taken over two years -- Daniel Teo-Nesheim, Mike Kafka, Clay Harbor, Ricky Sapp, Riley Cooper and Dion Lewis.

This year, Roseman did something almost as impressive, taking a single fourth-round pick and turning it into a fourth-round pick this year (Casey Matthews) and another one next year in a trade with the Bucs.

Just by moving down 12 picks, the Eagles turned one fourth-round pick into two. And that fourth-round pick came from the Redskins courtesy of the Donovan McNabb trade, so whoever the Eagles take with that pick next year you can add to Nate Allen and Casey Matthews as products of the McNabb deal.

Donovan might not even be in the league by the time the Eagles draft the final player they got by trading him.

The Eagles believe in building a roster through the draft, and with 24 picks over the last two years, theyre doing that to the extreme.

The Eagles already have nine picks in next years draft, a figure that will invariably rise once the league year officially begins and the Eagles can start making trades.

When I was fortunate enough to get this opportunity, and I sat down with Andy, I think one of the things we went back and looked at was that we hadnt had a lot of picks, Roseman said. We had not had a double-digit pick year, and we thought in the next couple years we could come out with 24, 25 picks. If you hit on half those guys, wow, youve really replenished the bottom half of your roster.

Depth is an important part. Its football, people are going to get hurt, so the more depth we have, the more good players we have, the better football team well end up being. And obviously you want to have star players, youve got to have star players, but we think we got some quality as well as quantity, not only in this draft but along our roster.

In all, the Eagles have made 11 draft-weekend trades the past two years. The Eagles place a unique premium on late-round picks, and its pretty easy to multiply seventh-round picks. Last year, the Eagles wound up with three guys in the seventh round, two of whom were starting and playing at a fairly high level by the end of the season (Jamar Chaney, Kurt Coleman) and another who got a chance to play before getting hurt (Jeff Owens).

It makes sense. If a seventh-round pick generally has maybe a 20 percent chance of panning out, a team can turn those odds into better than 50 percent by drafting three players in the seventh round.

For a couple years, we didnt have a lot of picks, and the depth on this team we thought we needed to turn over and get some good players, Roseman said. The more picks you have, the more chances you have of hitting on players and you saw that last year even when you went into the seventh round, getting guys like Kurt Coleman and Jamar Chaney, youve got to keep drafting. Youve got to keep seeing guys on the board.

Everybody makes fun of me when I come in the draft room and were in the seventh round, and Im like, Man, I wish we had four or five more picks. ... Thats like my favorite round. I love it.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

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