NFL Draft 2021: A theory for why the Eagles traded down to No. 12

Reuben Frank
·5 min read
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A theory about why the Eagles traded down to 12 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Maybe we’re looking at this backwards.

Maybe the reason the Eagles moved from the No. 6 to No. 12 wasn’t to get the third-best wide receiver along with a 2022 1st-round pick.

Maybe it was to get the best cornerback in the draft.

The consensus when the Eagles made their trade with the Dolphins last week was that they made the move to gain assets while still being able to draft a very good wide receiver in Jaylen Waddle of Alabama.

And there’s a lot of logic there. Waddle is considered by just about everybody the 4th-best offensive weapon in the draft, behind Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase and his teammate, Alabama WR Devonta Smith.

There’s a chance Pitts and/or Chase wouldn’t even be there at No. 6 anyway, so why not add a 1st-round pick and get a receiver who might not project to be a Pitts, Chase or Smith type of weapon but is a terrific prospect who was having a monster year this past fall through six games before he got hurt?

Then you can go cornerback in the second round and have your two-biggest needs addressed a day and a half into the draft.

But the more I think about it, the more sense it makes to flip-flop those two positions.

For a few reasons.

Unlike receiver, there is no consensus on who the best cornerback is in the draft. Depending who you ask, that title could go to Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech, Patrick Surtain II of Alabama or Jaycee Horn of South Carolina. All three are projected to go in the 10-to-20 range.

You never know what the future holds, but the perception is that there’s a bigger drop-off from the best WR in the draft (Chase) to the 3rd-best (Waddell) than the best CB in the draft (who knows?) to the 3rd-best (who knows?). In fact, one team’s top corner could be another team’s third-best. 

If that’s the case, the Eagles would theoretically be getting better value by taking a corner instead of a receiver at 12, then addressing wide receiver at 37.

Anything is possible, but there’s a good chance the Cowboys - picking at No. 11 - will be the only team taking a corner before the Eagles. If the Eagles feel there are two corners worthy of the No. 12 spot - or if they prefer a different corner than the Cowboys - it makes a lot of sense to go corner instead of WR at 12.

Why not get your favorite corner in the draft instead of your 3rd-favorite receiver?

You can even make a case that the Eagles need a corner more than a receiver. 

At least they have some young WR prospects who’ve shown some promise. With a new offense and a head coach with a background coaching receivers, guys like Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham, Quez Watkins, John Hightower and even J.J. Arcega-Whiteside at least have upside. 

At corner, the Eagles have 30-year-old Darius Slay at CB1, but the only corner on the roster that the Eagles drafted is Avonte Maddox, and after last year it’s hard to imagine him being in the mix to be a starting outside corner. After that it’s guys like Michael Jacquet, Jameson Houston and Kevon Seymour.

In a division with Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Terry McLaurin, Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton, you’re not going very far without legit corners.

But a weapon at 37?

Sure. The Eagles have found some pretty good weapons in the second round, including DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and Miles Sanders over the last 13 years.

In the last 50 years, the Eagles have drafted more players in the second round who’ve netted 2,500 yards of offense (10) then in the first round (7).

And when you look at the best corners in the NFL over the last few years - Jalen Ramsey, Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, Xavier Rhodes, Stephon Gilmore, Kyle Fuller, Tre’Davious White - they’re 1st-round picks.

That’s where you find elite corners. Right where the Eagles pick.

If the Eagles could get a receiver at No. 37 like Rashod Bateman from Minnesota or Elijah Moore from Ole Miss - who Dave Zangaro mocked to the Eagles - on top of a potential CB1, that’s a successful draft. And with all their picks, they’ll have the assets to spring up from 37 if there’s a WR they covet sitting there late in the 1st round or early in the 2nd.

It’s always fun to think about 1st-round receivers. They’re the guys you read about the most, the guys you watch the most, the guys putting on a show at their pro days.

But it’s been 19 years since the Eagles took a cornerback in the 1st-round. That was Lito Sheppard in 2002. And it’s been 52 years since they drafted any defensive back in the first 20 picks. That was Leroy Keyes in 1969, and he began his career as a running back.

This could be the perfect year to end that streak.

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