Howie Roseman, the General Manager of the Philadelphia Eagles, has been under a lot of fire lately for different reasons. With the trade deadline approaching and the Eagles seemingly in disarray after 2 straight blowout losses, people are wondering why Roseman hasn’t pulled the trigger on a trade yet (another discussion for possibly next week). The recent struggles of the team have also brought to surface the lack of young talent on the roster, which is a result of questionable drafting. Therefore, many have blamed Roseman for not drafting well enough in years past.
However, nothing is ever as black and white as it might seem. Simply saying “Howie’s been bad at drafting” doesn’t provide context behind some of the decisions he’s made in the draft. So, to formulate an objective and reasonable view on his drafting resume, I went back and analyzed every pick of each of his draft classes since 2016, which was when he resumed control of football operations for the Eagles.
=== 2016 ===
Carson Wentz, QB, 1st Round, 2nd pick Overall
Howie Roseman traded several picks to move up to this spot and take the Eagles’ current franchise QB. Wentz is an elite talent and just signed a 4-year contract extension a few months ago. This has been Roseman’s best pick of his tenure.
Isaac Seumalo, iOL, 3rd Round, 79th pick Overall
Seumalo has developed into a solid starting LG for the Eagles. He signed a 3-year contract extension with the team back in March, meaning he’s pretty much set as the starter there for a couple more seasons. He’s not a “great” player, but Roseman was still able to find a starting-caliber offensive lineman on Day 2. This was not a bad pick by Roseman here at all.
Wendell Smallwood, RB, 5th Round, 153rd pick Overall
Current Assistant Coach Duce Staley was high on Smallwood at the time and wanted Howie to target him. While Smallwood contributed at times, specifically in 2018, he was never able to develop into the lead back that some were hoping he’d become. He was released before the start of this season and was picked up by the Washington Redskins.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT, 5th Round, 164th pick Overall
Nicknamed “Big V”, this 5th round selection stepped in during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run after Jason Peters was lost for the year. He may just be a backup OT, but he did his job when the team needed him to. I’m counting this pick as a hit by Roseman.
Blake Countess, DB, 6th Round, 196th pick overall
Countess had 2 very short stints with the Eagles but ended up getting waived both times before he could play a regular season snap for them.
Jalen Mills, CB, 7th Round, 233rd pick overall
Mills, aka “The Green Goblin”, is one of the leaders of this team and a fan favorite. He’s a solid talent with great intangibles. That’s an incredible find for a 7th round selection.
Alex McAlister, EDGE, 7th Round, 240th pick overall
No real contributions from McAlister.
Joe Walker, LB, 7th Round, 251st pick overall
Walker didn’t play his rookie year due to injury. In 2017, he filled in at LB for several weeks after Jordan Hicks was placed on IR but then suffered a season-ending neck injury in Week 12. He was waived in 2018.
Roseman had to make multiple trades to land a much-needed franchise QB. He had only one Day 1 pick (Wentz), one Day 2 pick, and then six Day 3 picks. Roseman deserves credit for acquiring the talent he did despite the lack of early picks available to him. This was absolutely a great draft.
=== 2017 ===
Derek Barnett, EDGE, 1st Round, 14th pick overall
It’s tough to get a grasp on the Barnett pick and determine if it was a good one or not. In his rookie season he came up with numerous clutch plays as a rotational guy, with the most important one being the fumble recovery on Brandon Graham’s strip-sack in the Super Bowl. He started to show progression in 2018 but then suffered a season-ending injury. In 2019 he’s been inconsistent. The jury is still out on Barnett but considering where he was selected you have to say that he hasn’t lived up to expectations yet.
Sidney Jones, CB, 2nd Round, 43rd Pick Overall
I don’t blame the thought process here by Roseman. Jones was projected to be one of the top CBs in the draft class, but his stock fell after he tore his Achilles. Picking Jones here was high-risk, high-reward. But it’s at the point now where we can say the experiment was a failure.
Rasul Douglas, CB, 3rd Round, 99th Pick Overall
There are a handful of people that view Douglas as a safety, not a cornerback. But until he officially switches positions, we can only assess him as a cornerback. Douglas is a playmaker and ballhawk, and he’s not afraid to play physical. But his lack of athleticism and speed limits what he can do as a corner. He’s a solid player that is a borderline starter but is probably more suited for a backup role.
Mack Hollins, WR, 4th Round, 118th Pick Overall
Drafted to be a special teams ace, there was a time when it was believed he could be a very good WR. That’s far from the case now.
Donnel Pumphrey, RB, 4th Round, 132nd Pick Overall
It’s too frustrating to talk about this one. It was a very bad selection. Let’s just leave it at that.
Shelton Gibson, WR, 5th Round, 166th Pick Overall
Gibson flashed some deep threat ability during the 2018 preseason, but he was never able to learn how to play against the physicality of the pro game.
Nathan Gerry, S/LB, 5th Round, 184th Pick Overall
Is Gerry a starter for this team right now? Yes, he is. Does that mean Gerry is a good player? No, it does not. I understand what they were attempting to do with him, but it hasn’t worked. Gerry is not a good LB.
Elijah Qualls, iDL, 6th Round, 214th Pick Overall
Qualls never panned out for the Eagles.
Corey Clement, RB, Undrafted Free Agent
Clement will likely remain as a fan favorite because of his performance in Super Bowl XLII. When it comes down to it though, Clement is nothing more than a rotational back. With Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, and Darren Sproles on the roster now, Clement’s playing time was scarce.
This draft class has really hurt the team, and Roseman deserves a lot of criticism for it. The best-case scenario is that your 1st round pick Derek Barnett continues to progress and ends up being a good player and Douglas stays on the team for a couple more seasons as a backup CB (or maybe a safety if the coaches ever decide to try him there). But this class had a lot of talent, especially at the RB position, and to know that all you came away with was those 2 players is almost inexcusable.
How great was the 2017 RB class, seriously.
— Charles “Chux” Maranan (@ChuxMaranan) October 8, 2019
=== 2018 ===
Dallas Goedert, TE, 2nd Round, 49th Pick Overall
Goedert is a very talented player. He has the potential to be one of the best tight ends in the league. Some believe he could even end up being better than Zach Ertz. He’s already contributed quite a bit as the 2nd TE, and he just keeps getting better. The only issue right now is that his impact is capped because Ertz is the starter, not him. But this is a very good, if not great, pick here by Roseman.
Avonte Maddox, CB, 4th Round, 125th Pick Overall
There may not have been a more impressive DB for the Eagles in 2018 than Maddox. The rookie was being groomed to be the team’s future slot corner but due to injury had to learn how to play safety. By the end of the year, he was the defense’s starting outside corner. I feel as though we’ve just scratched the surface with Maddox. This is looking like another good selection by Roseman.
Josh Sweat, EDGE, 4th Round, 130th Pick Overall
Sweat has incredible length and athleticism for an EDGE player, but he had a lot of learning to do regarding the nuances of the position. He also had prior injury concerns that contributed to his stock dropping. But this season he’s starting to show steady development and has had some impressive plays here and there. He still needs some more time, but so far so good.
Matt Pryor, OG/OT, 6th Round, 206th Pick Overall
Pryor is currently one of the backup offensive linemen on the roster.
Jordan Mailata, OT, 7th Round, 233rd Pick Overall
Mailata is a project, and it’s going to take a few years before we can tell if he has what it takes to play in the NFL. But you can make these types of selections in the 7th round; there was no risk here.
Josh Adams, RB, Undrafted Free Agent
Adams was the Eagles leading rusher in 2018 with a mere 511 yards. That doesn’t speak to Adams’ talent as much as it speaks to the lack of talent at the RB position for the Eagles in 2018.
Joe Ostman, EDGE, Undrafted Free Agent
Ostman was making some heads turn this past Summer before unfortunately tearing his ACL in the preseason.
It’s still going to take another year or two before we get a more concrete idea of how good this draft class was for Roseman. It’s looking to at least be a solid turnout, though. A portion of that assessment depends on how you view Maddox and Sweat, as some people don’t seem to be as high on them as me.
Grade: C+ (for now)
=== 2019 ===
Andre Dillard, OT, 1st Round, 22nd Pick Overall
Miles Sanders, RB, 2nd Round, 53rd Pick Overall
JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, 2nd Round, 57th Pick Overall
Shareef Miller, EDGE, 4th Round, 138th Pick Overall
Clayton Thorson, QB, 5th Round, 167th Pick Overall
TJ Edwards, LB, Undrafted Free Agent
Nate Herbig, iOL, Undrafted Free Agent
It’s way too early to reach any sort of judgment on the 2019 prospects, so I am omitting this draft class for the sake of this exercise. What I will say, though, is that I was a big fan of the Dillard, Sanders, and Arcega-Whiteside selections based on my evaluations of them pre-draft. On the flip side, I was not a big fan of the Miller and Thorson selections.
As we look back at the 3 draft classes, it’s a mixed big back of results and that’s why it’s not as simple as saying “Howie Roseman is terrible when it comes to the NFL Draft.” He did a masterful job in 2016 and a solid job in 2018 but failed badly in 2017. What makes that 2017 class hurt so much is that Roseman had the most selections that year compared to all the other years. As a result, there just isn’t enough young talent infused in this roster right now, especially elite or great ones. And even though I like a handful of the players Roseman has acquired in the draft the past 2 years, he hasn’t had a lot of selections in either of them.
Something else that needs to be addressed is the narrative that Joe Douglas was the only reason for Roseman’s success, and therefore with him gone Roseman won’t be able to draft well. But while Douglas does deserve credit and respect for how much he helped Roseman during those 3 seasons, he wasn’t perfect. The first draft that Douglas was with the Eagles was in 2017. He was the one setting the draft board for Roseman to base his decisions on. So if the 2017 Eagles draft class failed, Douglas undoubtedly deserves part of the blame for it too, not just Roseman. And what bothered me most about how Roseman and Douglas went about the 2017 draft was their emphasis on college production over athletic ability. Producing at the college level is something to take note of during the scouting process, but a prospect’s athleticism oftentimes needs to be highlighted even more.
The Eagles are one of the oldest teams in the league, and there is a clear lack of premier young talent. The only way to fix that is by holding onto draft picks when you should and by drafting well. If there is a really good player that is available via trade and is still young, then trading away draft picks is fine. The known quantity of that player’s value is better than the unknown quantity of those picks. But Howie cannot make a trade for the sake of making a trade. Giving up draft picks for a seasoned vet that is ultimately just a rental is not what is best for this team right now.
Roseman needs to capitalize on the future picks he has now. Not only does he have to hit on his early picks, but he needs to start finding “diamonds in the rough” with his middle and later round picks also. Making great trades and signing good free agents were great short-term ways of building the team and getting Carson Wentz some immediate talent around him. But with Wentz’s contract extension kicking in for the 2021 season, that way of roster building isn’t going to work anymore. The draft is the key for the Eagles to be a consistent contender for several years to come. And while he hasn’t been as terrible as some may believe he’s been, he certainly can do much better.