During an interview with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic, Sal Paolantonio offered a word of caution to Philadelphia Eagles fans. He said, “If the two tackles [Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher] are off the board by the fourth pick, don’t be shocked if the Eagles select wide receiver Tavon Austin.” Missanelli was appalled and pressed Sal Pal further, but Sal Pal simply responded, “All I’m saying is, don’t be shocked.” I was driving home from work at the time and nearly swerved off the road. Could Howie Roseman really have the diminutive West Virginia product that high on his draft board? It’s the NFL Draft, after all, so expect the unexpected.
My answer to that question, by the way, is no. At least, not before Chip Kelly was hired. With a good number of weapons on offense, and a larger number of holes to fill elsewhere, it’s hard to believe Austin was that high on Roseman’s initial board. So in my opinion the better question to ask, and the question that will be answered Thursday is, “How much did Howie’s big board change after Kelly’s hire?” It’s an intriguing question because it may provide insight into how Roseman, the Clean-Slated GM, operates in this new regime.
The Philadelphia Eagles could certainly use “ten year” tackles Joeckel, Fisher, or Lane Johnson. They could also use guard Chance Warmack or linebacker Dion Jordan, all more so than Austin. But many times the draft is not about need and instead about the best player on your board. Tavon Austin is a prototypical Chip Kelly player. He is the kind of guy who could thrive in a quick, spread offense, a creator in space. The problem is he’s shorter than DeSean Jackson, so it seems unlikely he can survive long taking hits from NFL defenders. But is Austin high on the board?
He is an electrifying player, no doubt, but I think it is unlikely the Eagles will draft him. What Sal Pal’s word of caution illustrates, however, is an important tenet regarding the NFL Draft: expect the unexpected.
In this regard, we are witnessing a rebirth. The NFL Draft was not always the media even it is now, and there haven’t always been dozens of analysts, hundreds of mock drafts, millions of tweets to fuel conjecture. We have them now. Due to the exposure of so many possible outcomes, fans have the ability to choose the one of their liking and root for it.
This draft in particular is amazingly unpredictable. According to analysts on NFL.com and CBSSports.com, the Philadelphia Eagles with the fourth pick in the draft will select Oklahoma LT Lane Johnson, BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah, Alabama CB Demarcus Milliner, West Virginia QB Geno Smith, Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher, Alabama OG Chance Warmack, Utah DT Star Lotulelei, or Oregon OLB Dion Jordan. Or the Eagles could trade back. Ten outcomes. Pick one.
Tomorrow we will see what impact Kelly had on Roseman’s big board. We will gain insight into what the front office views as critical for the team’s success. We will root, boo, and cheer, and not in unison because the Draft is that unique event that divides fan bases, rather than unify them.
To terribly paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, in the NFL Draft nothing is said to be certain, except uncertainty (and taxes). So it doesn’t really matter who calls the shots in the Philadelphia Eagles’ war room: Andy Reid, Tom Modrak, Tom Heckert, Howie Roseman, Tom Gamble, or Chip Kelly. The result is essentially the same, the unexpected. So sit back, watch, tweet, and enjoy the ride. Just don’t drive off the road if Tavon Austin is an Eagle tomorrow night.Tags: Andy Reid, Chance Warmack, Chip Kelly, Dee Milliner, DeSean Jackson, Dion Jordan, Eric Fisher, Geno Smith, Howie Roseman, Lane Johnson, Luke Joeckel, Mike Missanelli, NFL Draft, Philadelphia Eagles, Sal Paolantonio, Star Lotulelei, Tavon Austin, Tom Gamble, Tom Heckert, Tom Modrak, Ziggy Ansah