ESPN has a weird beef with the Eagles’ trade up to pick 13 for Jordan Davis

The Philadelphia Eagles made the worst trade in the 2022 NFL Draft (or tied for it or whatever), according to Seth Walder of ESPN, when the Birds gave up a fourth-round pick and a pair of fifth-round picks to move up from. pick no 15 to pick No. 13 to select DT Jordan Davis. Here’s what Walder said:

Philadelphia paid a steep price to move up two spots and take Jordan Davis at no. 13. It only costs three picks for Day 3, but the difference between what you get at 13 and 15 is tiny, and so the Eagles paid three picks for almost nothing.

In fact, according to our Draft Day Predictor there was a 55% chance before pick no. 13 that Davis would still be available at pick no. 15, so there was about a coin flip’s shot they literally traded for those three picks for nothing.

I’m slightly sympathetic to the argument that there was a talent drop-off after 14 in this draft – and you could argue that a knock against Houston’s side of things – though they could also be traded down again. That theory could also ease the burden of the Eagles’ trade up, though I’m skeptical of any player whose primary strength is coming into the run game – like Davis – being considered an elite tier of prospects. Regardless, though: This deal wasn’t close – Houston came out ahead.

Within Walder’s piece, it should be noted that in the five trades listed, the team trading back “won” every trade.

The Eagles’ trade against Walder’s argument of the initial premise is that the pick no. 13 is a stone’s throw away from pick no. 15, and thus historically not much of a difference, or “tiny” as he put it. Walder further cemented his argument by claiming that it was more likely than not that Davis would have been available to the Eagles if they had simply been pat at pick no. 15, according to ESPN’s “Draft Day Predictor.”

Don’t know what ESPN’s “Draft Day Predictor” is or how it arrived at that conclusion? Well, me neither, as it has not been explained in the piece. It may as well be just this:

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Walder’s argument fails to consider any context whatsoever from the Eagles’ point of view. Unless Walder was privy to the Eagles’ draft board, with full knowledge of the team where Davis was rated and at what points the Eagles felt there were enough dropoffs in talent, he couldn’t possibly assert that the difference between 15 and 13 was “almost nothing.”

From the Eagles’ perspective, if they had just dug into their heels and hoped Davis or Kyle Hamilton were still there at 15, they would have been rather strong risk of not getting either player. Houston may have just taken Davis or Hamilton at 13, or traded a different team to one of those two players instead. And then at 14, it was widely assumed that Davis would have been Baltimore’s pick if he were available, and as we saw, he selected Hamilton with Davis gone.

The only way to be sure that the Eagles got the player is that they almost certainly had a much heavier value than what would have been available if they had pat patted up the trade. If they hadn’t, the player available in the menu wasn’t quite as appealing, as pointed out by Justis Mosqueda of SB Nation.

Pick Team Player
13 Eagles DT Jordan Davis
14 Ravens S Kyle Hamilton
15 Texans OG Kenyon Green
16 Commanders WR Jahan Dotson
17 Chargers OG Zion Johnson
18 Titans WR Treylon Burks
19 Saints OT Trevor Penning
20 Steelers QB Kenny Pickett
21 Chiefs CB Trent McDuffie
22 Packers LB Quay Walker
23 Bills CB Kaiir Elam
24 Cowboys OL Tyler Smith
25 Ravens C Tyler Linderbaum

If they sat at pick no. 15, what would the Eagles have done if Davis and Hamilton were gone?

  1. They weren’t taken to a receiver, given that they were already dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on a trade for AJ Brown.
  2. An offensive lineman in the first round didn’t make any sense.
  3. It was already pretty clear that they didn’t like the quarterbacks in this class.
  4. The media and fans had a higher opinion of Jermaine Johnson than the NFL did.

If they haven’t been traded out at 15 for good value, they probably would’ve been stuck for a second-tier cornerback like Trent McDuffie or Kaiir Elam, who both got picked in the 20’s.

The reality is that this was a lesson learned from the 2014 NFL Draft, when the Eagles had six prospects on their sights set. We’ll call them “The Sexy Six.” They were LB Anthony Barr, WR Odell Beckham, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, WR Brandin Cooks, CB Kyle Fuller, and LB CJ Mosley. The Eagles held the 22nd overall pick, and were hoping that one of those players would fall to them.

Barr was never in play, as he was picked 9th overall by the Vikings. Beckham went 12th to the Giants, Fuller went 14th to the Bears, and Mosley went 17th to the Ravens.

With the Cardinals on the clock at pick no. The only players left in the # Sexy6 were the Cooks and Clinton-Dix. If the Eagles wanted to trade up to be 100% sure they got one of their guys, they could be partnered up with the Cardinals, who were listening to offers.

Instead, the Saints traded up with the Cardinals, giving up their third-round pick to move up from 27 to 20. They selected the Cooks, the Packers took on Clinton-Dix at 21, and yada yada yada, the Eagles ended up with Marcus Smith.

So, sure, if you look at the number 13 and conclude that it’s close to the number 15, it says “almost nothing.” Except, you know, it doesn’t.

What Walder Chance really wants to say is that he doesn’t like Davis as a prospect. And that’s fine. We all have potential for differentiating conflicts, which is part of what makes the draft fun. However, the notion that Davis can’t be an elite prospect because his “primary strength is in the run game” is reductive, at best, when the player in question is the most athletic DT prospect from 1987 to 2022 (and thus, ever, if ever. We’re being realistic), and the second-most athletic player overall behind only Calvin Johnson.

Most draft boards do not vary significantly from team to team at the very top of the draft. It’s typically the first dozen or so picks within the characters of the same cast, perhaps a bit reordered. Thereafter, one team’s 20th-ranked prospect may be another team’s 60th-ranked prospect. With that premise in place, it’s not worth the Cowboys’ leaked draft board (via The Athletic’s Jon Machota) to include, oh hey look (!), 14 First-round talents, with Davis coming in at No. 11 on their board.

The only player on their board with a first-round grade who would be available to the Eagles at pick 15 if Davis and Hamilton were selected at 13 and 14 by other teams was Georgia safety Lewis Cine.

But the “Draft Day Predictor” says there was a 55 percent chance Davis would have been available, so the Eagles should not have been traded up. 👍


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