PHILADELPHIA -- You just know the Philadelphia Eagles are going to make a splash in the 2021 NFL draft.
They're the Eagles. It's what they do, especially with general manager Howie Roseman behind the wheel. Since Roseman first took charge of personnel in 2010, Philadelphia has made 33 draft-day trades, the fourth most behind the New England Patriots (46), Minnesota Vikings (38) and San Francisco 49ers (36), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
The Eagles enter Thursday's draft in Cleveland (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN/ESPN App) with a league-high 11 picks, giving Roseman all sorts of capital to maneuver around the draft board. Will he use it to move back into the top 10? Would it be for a quarterback? Let's dive in:
Are the Eagles eyeing quarterback Justin Fields?
In his draft buzz column this week, ESPN's Todd McShay said he has heard "there's some interest in Justin Fields within the [Eagles] organization." That's a spicy nugget. McShay adds the Eagles "are apparently tossing out feelers to QB-needy teams that might want to move up to No. 12" should one fall, and that the alleged interest in Fields could be posturing as they negotiate a potential trade back.
What to make of it?
The Eagles have declined to name Jalen Hurts the starter to date, with coach Nick Sirianni citing the importance of creating competition at all positions as the primary reason. While the reason might be that straightforward, the Eagles are leaving themselves some wiggle room should an opportunity present itself during the draft, or even after, by not publicly committing to Hurts.
You can bet there are people inside the building who view Fields as one of the top three quarterbacks in this draft class. There is a thought one of the QBs could be in play should they slide to 12.
But there seems to be a growing sense around the league that all five of the top QBs -- Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, BYU's Zach Wilson, Alabama's Mac Jones, Fields and North Dakota State's Trey Lance -- will be drafted within the first eight picks, meaning the Eagles would have to trade back into the top 10, a month after moving from No. 6 to 12 overall in a deal with the Miami Dolphins that netted a future first-round pick.
It's possible they move back up at a lesser price -- call it a second-rounder -- and secure a coveted player while holding onto that newly acquired first-round pick. But the initial move back is not the kind of behavior teams typically exhibit when pursuing a franchise quarterback, because it increases the risk of missing out on the prospect.
If the Eagles were hot after Fields, I don't think they would have moved out of the six hole just to improve their overall draft stock.
Then again, it's the Eagles, so you can never say never.
If not Fields, whom would Philly move up for?
Three prospects make the most sense to me: Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II. If Pitts or Chase somehow drop down the board because of all the quarterback activity, and the Eagles were able to move up and snag one the top playmakers in the draft, the initial trade back from No. 6 to 12 would end up looking pretty smart.
The more realistic move-up candidate might be Surtain. The Eagles have several teams in front of them that could use a cornerback, including the Dallas Cowboys at No. 10. If Surtain is one of the Eagles' top-rated prospects -- and the bet here is that is the case -- they will have to move up a few slots to guarantee landing him.
When will tight end Zach Ertz be traded?
The Ertz trade speculation has been dragging on for months now, but the end seems to be in sight.
The stall hasn't been due to a lack of suitors. Rather, the proposed compensation hasn't motivated the Eagles to hurry up and part with Ertz, their Super Bowl LII hero and three-time Pro Bowler.
The draft creates a pressure point that should facilitate action. Adam Caplan recently reported that an Ertz trade is going to happen by the end of the weekend, and perhaps even before Round 1 starts up Thursday, noting the Eagles would be wise to make a deal before a team looking for a tight end fills the need in the draft.
The Buffalo Bills (who hold the No. 30 pick) and Indianapolis Colts (No. 21) are among the teams that make sense as a landing spot for Ertz.
The Eagles' biggest needs entering the draft are ...
You can make a case for just about every position. The offensive and defensive lines need a youth infusion. The wide receiver and running back groups feel incomplete. There are only two quarterbacks on the roster. Linebackers. Defensive backs. You name it, the Eagles could use it.
Two of the most glaring needs are on the defensive side: cornerback and defensive end. The CB2 spot opposite Darius Slay is wide open, begging for someone such as Surtain to step in and fill it. And while Philadelphia has a decent group of edge rushers, Brandon Graham is 33 years old and fellow starter Derek Barnett is in the final year of his rookie deal. If the Eagles trade back in the first round, perhaps they walk away with someone like defensive end Kwity Paye.
The bad news is the Eagles have a lot of work to do to get this roster into tip-top shape. The good news is they don't have to reach for need in this draft, seeing as there is need all over.