If you know my philosophy on the NFL Draft, you know I love a good trade down. The best way, in my opinion, to ensure you hit on your draft picks is to assume as many draft picks as possible.
But over the weekend, the Philadelphia Eagles provided an important example that trading down does not always get you the results you want, and it may have been the Detroit Lions that handed them that valuable lesson.
On Friday night, the Eagles were on the clock with the 70th pick in the draft. Deciding that they could wait a couple of spots to pick their next player, they traded down just three spots to 73, picking up a sixth-round pick from the Panthers in the process. By most trade-down standards, this was an extremely mild risk. All they needed were three players they were comfortable taking at 70, and one would be guaranteed to be there by 73. Even if they only had two players in mind, what are the chances both would be taken in the next two picks?
So the Eagles waited two extra picks and with Pick 73, they selected Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Milton Williams. Success! Right? Well, let’s check in on the Eagles war room:
Oh. That does not look like a team that just got their guy.
That’s general manager Howie Roseman trying to cheer up a clearly-downtrodden room with the magical powers of fist bumps. At the end of the clip, there is an exchange with senior advisor Tom Donahue, who is clearly distressed in this moment.
So where do the Lions come in? Well, they were one of the two picks the Eagles had to evade in between where they stood (70) and where they eventually landed (73). The Lions, at 72, ended up taking defensive tackle Alim McNeill. The Eagles end up taking the next defensive tackle (Williams) off the board. Coincidence?
Roseman did admit that the frustration in the room was because one of their players were taken.
“When we were at Pick 70, there were a couple guys we liked on the board and moved back a little bit to see how it would go,” Roseman said after Day 2. “Couple guys we liked went as well. You know, these guys spend all year scouting these guys and you get favorites, you get guys that you feel really strongly about.”
It sounds like both Picks 71 and 72 were some of the Eagles’ guys. But when you’re that mad, it’s clear there was one guy they wanted. So let’s take a closer look.
They could have been mad about the 71st pick. Cornerback Aaron Robinson went to the New York Giants, their rival. The Eagles had a pressing need at corner, and they ended up taking Zech McPhearson in the fourth round. McPhearson is a similarly-built corner that brings a lot of the inside-outside versatility that Robinson possesses.
Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that while McNeill and Williams are both defensive tackles, they are not at all built the same way. McNeill is a 317-pound nose tackle with pass rushing upside while Milton Williams is a 284-pound three-tech.
But given that the Lions had the pick right before Philadelphia, one has to wonder if they were the true sources of the Eagles’ frustrations on Friday night.