Eagles GM says team has narrowed draft options

Posted: April 17, 2013

Less than two weeks before the NFL draft begins on April 25, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Monday that the Eagles have narrowed their options with the No. 4 pick to four players.

Considering that Roseman continues to preach "best player available," those four players are the top four players on the Eagles' draft board.

General managers are cryptic this time of year, so Roseman did not mention names. But those four players are expected to be from this group: Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher, Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (from George Washington High School), Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson.

There's more to being the "best player available" than simply rankings on a draft board. The Eagles must weigh multiple factors when considering whether they will draft one of the top prospects in this draft, including how the player ultimately projects a few seasons into his career and what position he plays.

"The most important question we ask, whether it's our scouts or myself or our coaches is: Three years from now, what is this player gong to be?" Roseman said. "We look at this draft - at every draft - as a long-term decision for our football team. So just because a player may be better in year one, he better also be better in year three, four, five, and so on from that."

There are also premium positions that are harder to find later in the draft, meaning the Eagles are more apt to take one of those players. Those positions include quarterback, tackle and pass rusher. Guards and running backs are among the positions that are not considered priorities that early in the draft.

"When you have very close grades on players, and they better be really close, you will lean towards taking the harder-to-find position, the priority position," Roseman said.

Medical evaluations can also factor into a grade. Roseman said the Eagles have medically cleared Lotulelei, who had a heart condition that was discovered in February.

The Eagles also consider a player's personality, and Roseman said they even analyze the Twitter and Facebook accounts of every prospect on their board.

One of the reasons the Eagles emphasize "best player available" is because they admit that they've reached for players to fill needs in the past. After firing Andy Reid and hiring Chip Kelly as coach, the organization is at a different point and holds a top-five pick for the first time since 1999.

The Eagles drafted Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 overall pick that season, a selection that produced a clear-cut franchise quarterback and buoyed Reid to a decade of playoff appearances. The importance of quarterback is one of the reasons the Eagles are linked to Smith, although this class pales in comparison to last season's group. Roseman said that has created an unrealistic standard for rookie quarterbacks.

However, Roseman was also honest about the risk of misevaluating a quarterback. More than any other position, a quarterback drafted in the top five who becomes a bust can set the franchise back for a significant period and also keeps the team from adding a potential blue-chip player at another position. That was why Roseman emphasized that, "You need to be sure."

Historically, the surest picks early in the draft are tackles. Since 2000, there have been 11 tackles taken in the top five. Seven have reached the Pro Bowl.

"I think it's hard to find really big men who can move, so when you get those guys, they're very clear," Roseman said. "It's not like you're projecting as much."

It's a positive, then, that Roseman identified the offensive and defensive lines as the strongest positions in this draft. He described it as a "really meat and potatoes draft." That might not be good for promotions, but it helps in building a team.

Roseman also continued disputing the notion that there are not elite players available this year. It might be an attempt to create leverage for a team to trade into the top five, or it could be a way to stay positive about what appears an inconvenient year to land a top-five pick. But he sounded confident Monday that he can find top talent when the Eagles are on the clock.

"I think that there is, certainly on our draft board, a clear line of players we think can be elite talents in this league," Roseman said.

Edwards released. The Eagles released reserve quarterback Trent Edwards on Monday, a day before the team opens its first minicamp under Kelly.

Edwards' release comes as little surprise. The Eagles added two quarterbacks already this offseason - Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne - and are expected to select another during next week's NFL draft.

Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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