Why the Eagles didn't draft a corner until the 4th round originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
If you’ve ever criticized Howie Roseman for reaching for players in previous drafts, you can’t criticize him for not taking a cornerback this year.
Maybe the Eagles’ evaluations were off. We won’t know that for a couple years. But they sure stayed true to their board.
“We weren't going to get into a situation where we were going to force a position,” Roseman said. “We promised ourselves that.”
So as desperately as the Eagles need cornerback help, they made sure they didn’t draft a corner just to draft a corner. It was just a matter of the value at the position not matching up with the picks the Eagles had the first two days of the draft.
1st round: The Eagles picked at 10 and Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn were already gone. No other corner was taken for a dozen picks. DeVonta Smith was a no-brainer.
“The best player on the board was, in our opinion, DeVonta,” Roseman said. “I don't know that there was a conversation really about anyone else there for us.”
2nd round: Tyson Campbell was gone before the Eagles picked at 37. Kelvin Joseph and Asante Samuel Jr. were on the board (and went 44 and 47), but the Eagles had Landon Dickerson rated much higher than either corner. They weren’t going to miss out on an interior lineman they loved for a corner they didn’t love.
“We just felt like there was a potential difference maker on the board as a player and a person,” Roseman said. “And we felt like it was somebody that it was a person and player worth gambling on in Landon. … You just feel like this is a person who understands what it takes to overcome adversity and play at a high level and have people rally around him. And being in this league for as long as I have, and it's been a long time, those are special things. Those are hard things to find. And they're hard things to find certainly in the second round. And so that's why we took him.”
3rd round: The Eagles started out with the 70th pick and traded down to 73, missing out on one corner – Aaron Robinson – but still within reach of two others who went in the 70s, Benjamin St-Juste and Paulson Adebo.
Roseman said at this point the Eagles had defensive tackle Milton Williams rated higher than any of the corners.
“Listen, we're always going to build this football team and we're going to start with the line of scrimmage,” he said. “Right or wrong, as long as I'm here, that's going to be the priority. And I think the great things about the two guys next to me (Andy Weidl and Nick Sirianni) is that's what they believe too. And you could say it all you want, but it better show in your actions. If we have an offensive lineman or defensive lineman sticking out on our board and they're the highest guy, I promise you we're going to take them. You saw that in the last couple of days.”
“I'm sure there's some people sick and tired of seeing the Philadelphia Eagles take linemen, but that's how we won a championship and that's how we're going to win another championship.”
4th round: The Eagles finally did draft a cornerback in the fourth round in Texas Tech’s Zech McPhearson, but Roseman made it clear that they didn’t select him because they needed a cornerback but because he was their highest-rated player still on the board.
“Toward the end of the third round, we saw another player sticking on our board and that was Zech McPhearson,” Roseman said. “We thought about (trading) back up, because we had Zech McPhearson right there. We wanted to get him because of the player he was, not because he was a corner and we needed a corner.”
As it turned out, McPhearson was the only cornerback the Eagles drafted over the weekend. They still haven’t drafted a corner on Day 1 or 2 since 2017, when they picked Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas in the second and third rounds.
Avonte Maddox – 4th-round pick in 2018 - is the only corner on the roster that the Eagles drafted.
Maddox and Darius Slay are the only corners on the roster who’ve ever started an NFL game.
So the Eagles didn’t reach for a corner, and that’s great. But they still have a dire situation at the position, and that’s not so great.
“I know in 2017 we needed a corner, too,” he said. “And we got to August and we had a preseason game in Green Bay, and we made a trade with the Buffalo Bills and got a corner (Ronald Darby) that helped us win a Super Bowl.
“We've had experiences about getting guys late in the process. And in that same year we needed a running back at the trade deadline, we made a trade at the trade deadline (for Ajayi). I promise you and the fans we'll do whatever it takes at any time of the year to improve the roster.”