Should the Eagles tank for a higher draft pick?
Updated: Dec 23, 2020
The Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Arizona Cardinals this past Sunday, 33-26, in Jalen Hurts’ first loss as a starter. But even the most passionate Eagles fans will find it difficult to be upset with the loss. Hurts balled out: he completed 24 of 44 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed 11 more times for 63 yards and a TD. Despite early mistakes—most notably an intentional grounding penalty in the Eagles' own end zone that resulted in a safety—he rebounded quite well from a 16-0 deficit, keeping them in the game until the very end. He looked remarkable against an 8-6 Cardinals team that is better than its record shows.
The quarterback controversy I wrote about last week is only heating up the more Hurts is on the field. Let's face it: as much as Wentz holds a special place in each of our hearts, it’s getting more and more difficult to root against Hurts having the job going forward.
The loss brings the Eagles to a record of 4-9-1 and last place in the NFC (L)East. Fear not however, as last place in this division is only two games back from winning it. The question to be answered now is whether or not it is worth it to go for that division crown, make the playoffs, and see what happens. The NFL playoffs are a completely different vibe and no matter what the matchup is, any team has a chance.
But the Eagles are also deeply flawed with a lot of roster issues, so perhaps it would be more sensible to just cut their losses and take the higher draft pick. I have stipulations against that philosophy though: never have I been a fan of purposely losing in favor of higher draft picks (yes, that includes The Process), and it would be even tougher to agree with in this case. A team with a solid chance at the playoffs shouldn’t throw that opportunity away.
Regardless of the organization’s choice, the draft will be extremely important for the Eagles if they want to make a jump next season. What options do the Eagles have, and what positions should they take?
If the season ended today, Philly would get the 7th overall pick. There should be fewer ways for Howie Roseman to screw up that high of a pick, though we have been wrong before. I’ll stay away from mentioning specific players simply because college scouting is not my forte. Rather, I will focus more on positions and why they would be good targets.
The benefit of having a pick so high is that there is less room for debate. The top of a draft class is typically easier to rank given how much data there is and the specific needs of those teams at the top (they’re usually bad teams with obvious holes). That’s especially true for the wide receiver position, a group with distinct skills that usually either do or don’t translate. The Eagles haven’t gotten that memo recently; they have a pretty bad track record with drafting receivers, consistently missing out on the likes of D.K. Metcalf and Justin Jefferson in favor of JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Jalen Reagor (though it is early for Reagor). It should be easier to hit on a receiver this high, but as has become a theme of this team, I have been wrong before.
A cornerback could also be smart at this pick, as we could use as much help as possible in the secondary. Corner has not been a strength of the Eagles’ for quite some time; even with the addition of Darius Slay, the depth behind him is so poor that it almost doesn’t matter.
If we were to somehow make the playoffs, our draft position would fall somewhere in the 20s (depending on playoff finish). Looking at a WR/CB is still the way to go in that range, but a drop like that would give Roseman more options to look at positions such as offensive lineman and linebackers.
Giving up on our playoff chances for a higher draft pick seems like a mistake. This team has shown its resilience in the past, and could be a surprise in the playoffs to the teams that choose to take such an opponent lightly. Tanking is not the best option, especially for a front office with such a shaky track record in the draft.