I noticed something 2 years ago, and then something last year – and now this year it is even more glaring. Howie Roseman, the GM of the Eagles, is perhaps creating a blueprint that other teams are about to follow. The strategy I’m looking at has to do with building core groups of talent from elite schools (who played together) and then fill in gaps with others.

Since Jeffrey Lurie had bought the Eagles in the 1990s, he has time and time again put a great product on the field. You have occasional down years, but even with the abysmal reign of Chip Kelly – who dismantled incredible talent – the product was still enjoyable. Coming off of a Super Bowl loss, where they were leading into the 3rd quarter, you have a team here who can be destined to have a strong run at many more playoff wins to come. As the owner, your job is to put asses in seats, and with that, it makes it even more sweet if you win Super Bowls with it.

One thing many of us die hard Eagles fans remember was a “Dream Team” that was assembled of all-world talent through free agency, but didn’t deliver. The hype was so high, but what it looked like was that you had a lot of individual talent that didn’t play well together. If only teams could find ways of playing well together? What about….putting strong teams together who played well together in college?

This draft solidified my theory.

Alabama connection

I don’t follow college football as closely as I did 20 years ago, but I had recalled Jalen Hurts played at Alabama, was a starter, lost his starter job to Tua Tagoviola, and then transferred to Oklahoma for his senior season. He was then drafted by the Eagles in the second round of 2020. Let’s look at the SEC folks taken in 2020….I’m counting Hurts as SEC for this discussion. But we’ll get to Oklahoma later.

We then go to 2021…let’s see the SEC in red. Note the top two were his CENTER at Alabama and his WR.

So we had the center, main wide receiver, and QB all from Alabama.

Let’s now look at the next connection.

Georgia on my mind

In red again, is SEC…

Note – the two SEC guys played at Georgia together.

Now, let’s look at the 2023 draft…

Then – Eagles also traded with the Lions to get a stuf RB in D’Andre Swift. From…Philadelphia…who played at….GEORGIA.

That is 4 players in this draft from GA. In the last two years, this is 2 LB, 2 DT, and a CB from arguably the best college defenses ever. Then the other SEC guy is – an Offensive Lineman from Alabama.

The numbers

We now look at the last 4 draft classes. You see 41% of ALL of the draft picks were from SEC schools. However, as the years have gone on, the percent has increased those last 4 years.

Of all of those picked from the SEC, 85% of them were from Georgia or Alabama. I think the Justin Jefferson pick the Eagles did NOT take, and picked Jalen Reagor over him – launched the idea of reducing risk in early rounds.

If you look at the Eagles roster, let’s count how many on the roster are now SEC.

Let’s not forget special teams…

Look at how the red boxes are ALL OVER the place, and skewed towards the left side of the top of the depth chart.

Above, it’s 21 of 53 players likely on the roster are from the SEC (39.6%). Of them, half are from Alabama/Georgia. There are 254 college football teams in Division 1. I count 11 conferences. Yet two schools now have about 20% of the roster space.

Those studs on the team who are NOT SEC, are those who were either from quality schools in strong conferences OR we got lucky with.

The good players from traditionally good schools:

Lane Johnson, 4th overall from Oklahoma

Brandon Graham, 1st Rd pick from Michigan (took him YEARS to develop. Many thought he was a bust for a long time)

Josh Sweat, FSU

Who we got lucky with:

Jordan Mailata – 7th Rd pick, never played football in his life before being drafted

Jason Kelce – 6th Rd pick from Cincinnati.

The strategy

I had seen a graphic before the Super Bowl against Kansas City, and I recall all but one of the Eagles starters were drafted. This appears to be very important to them being able to stay within the salary cap. Duh, right? But HOW do you draft?

  1. Pick from the best schools for projected starters or high order draft picks. IF the SEC is the best conference, by a lot, then it would make sense they have the best competition. And, with this, the best talent. It appears to me, clearly, that the Eagles are accumulating the best talent from this conference.
  2. Reduce risks. The Reagor pick (he was from TCU) to me may have been the moment that Howie decided to NOT take a leap on a school with lessor competition anymore. TCU plays in the Big 12, but historically in that conference you are looking at Oklahoma and Texas as perhaps the dominant teams. The level of competition is good, but not like the SEC.
  3. Draft “known” entities. Kind of like when you get a reference at work from someone, this is a KNOWN entity. These guys seem to be picking people from the same college teams. If you can reduce risks by having solid players on your team vouch for the character of the people, that can help.
  4. Comradery. I see 4-5 starters from those dominant GA teams about to be starters for the Eagles, out of 11 starters. These people played with each other, know each other well, and perhaps were roommates in college. It is very possible you avoid the “dream team” scenario where you have great individual parts, but lesser teams. Drafting these studs from the best teams can perhaps build a CORE defense (GA) and a CORE offense (Alabama) where these people may want to win together for a decade.
  5. Get value later in the draft. Where someone might be picking a WR from PSU in the second round, the Big Ten as a whole isn’t as competitive as the SEC. Maybe there’s a lesser known Tenn WR that slips to the 5th Rd and had tremendous numbers. While the TEAM may not have won, this WR went up against vaulted defense after defense. An SEC player in the 4th Rd might have the same actual skill as a Big Ten player taken in the 2nd Rd.
  6. Age out veterans. Philly has always been good about not keeping players over 30 years old. However, the last 2 years we have seen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham stick around, perhaps for less money. I believe that is the key – these guys COULD make more to play in Cleveland or Jacksonville, but they would go 3-14 and be miserable. Instead, they take a few million less to be cap friendly to the team, and retire LEGENDS in Philly – forever eating for free and getting media gigs for years to come. I believe this will be the last year for Cox and Graham, and next year we may see this backfill with even more SEC talent – at a fraction of the cost.
  7. Don’t overpay for running back. When I was a kid, we had some feature backs, but they always got hurt. Seems like the last 20 years or so, there’s always been a “three headed monster” in Philly. At times, you would have a Westbrook, McCoy, or Sanders take more snaps, but Philly saves money by not paying running backs.
  8. Draft for the trenches. On both sides of the ball, they have stud lineman. For years, both sides of the ball in the trenches, Eagles have been one or two. On the defensive side of things, a stud D line gets pressure and we never spent a lot for linebackers. On the offensive side of things, I went 30 years of my life without seeing an offensive lineman going to the HOF, and now I may see 4 of them from this core (Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, Jason Peters). With a stud O-line, you give your QB time to throw and open up gaping holes for running backs. It also allows your WR to get open if there’s more time they buy.
  9. Free agents are rare, but if you get one, get the best. Darius Slay is a good example of that. Great pickup. I can see next year Eagles drafting a CB top of the charts to start that backfill. Free agents can cost a lot, and if you are drafting properly, you kind of don’t need them other than to fill in for depth.
  10. Cap friendly everything. I believe they gave Jalen Hurts $100+ million upfront, which reduced his cap hit to like $15m despite having a $50m salary. Everything they do is about cap. Smart maneuvering.

My friend thinks Howie has a chance for HOF as a GM. I think in the next 2-3 years, IF this experiment works, everyone is going to be copying Howie. However, many don’t consider Lurie is also on track for HOF as well. He’s now owned the Eagles for like 30 years and is getting up there in age. This guy was a movie producer and bought the Eagles, and in the early years there were rumors of him moving it to LA. Glad they stayed, now have the Linc, and he may get another SB title sooner rather than later. Eagles have been in the SB 3 times with him, but have been in the playoffs silly numbers of times – including 4 NFC championships in a row in the early 2000s.