By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
It’s official. Following Thursday night’s first round of the NFL draft, Philadelphia Eagles fans know who is going to be quarterbacking their favorite club for the better part of the next decade, and he hails from North Dakota. For better or worse, the franchise’s fate in the near future is entirely tied to Carson Wentz. Whether he becomes a star or not will determine whether history regards Howie Roseman as a genius or a dunce for trading so much to move up to the second overall pick and grab him.
Now, I’m not going to pretend like I’ve watched any Division I-AA football in recent years aside from the occasional stray Villanova highlight. So I’m not in a proper position to evaluate whether Wentz projects to be a star or warranted his swift rise up the draft board. However, since the Eagles apparently did determine he’s going to be a top quarterback in the NFL, I had absolutely no problem with their giving up that bounty of picks to go get him, even if every draft value calculator says they lost the deal.
Like the NBA is a star-driven league, the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. In both sports, you’re not winning a title without one of those true difference makers on your roster. Sure, there will be the rare exception like the 2004 Detroit Pistons or last year’s Denver Broncos (Peyton Manning is an all-time great but last year’s Broncos title had almost nothing to do with him), but for the most part, you need that top guy to really lift the squad up from out of the pack.
Sam Bradford is the living embodiment of the NBA’s treadmill of mediocrity. He’s not making you a contender (he’s never had a winning season or made the playoffs), but he’s also not bad enough where management generally feels compelled to start from scratch. Bradford’s number 7 might as well represent the 7th seed where you would always wind up in the NBA playoffs with a Bradford-equivalent roster. It’s a harsh way to judge somebody who is somewhere between the 15th to 20th best in the world at his profession, but there you have it.
Therefore, just as I supported the Sixers tanking in search of grabbing that star player in the draft, I support the Eagles trading up to snag that quarterback to get them over the hump. Naturally, both decisions involved an inherent amount of risk in making them; the Sixers have needed to endure years of losing, while the Eagles have made their roster worse in the short term by giving up so many draft picks. But what’s the worst case scenario, really? We fans miss out on a couple 9-7 or 8-8 seasons with Bradford at the helm?
No, I’d rather shoot for the moon. There’s every possibility that Carson Wentz isn’t the guy Philadelphia needs. But there’s also every possibility that he is. Meanwhile, there is 5 seasons worth of film against NFL competition that shows Sam Bradford is definitively not that guy. I’ll take Wentz. I’ll side with hope.