The Eagles traded ahead of the rival Dallas Cowboys on Friday night to select South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert in the second round of the NFL draft, a pick announced – in the Dallas area – by former Eagles kicker David Akers mocking Cowboys fans.
Hours earlier, reports surfaced that Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is retiring. Goedert thought he might be selected by Dallas.
"I think Philadelphia might have thought that as well," Goedert said.
The Eagles owned the No. 52 overall pick entering the night. The Cowboys had the No. 50 pick. So the Eagles packaged their fifth-round pick (No. 169 overall) with No. 52 to jump to the No. 49 pick for Goedert, whose first name was inspired by his father's Cowboys fandom. (For the record, Goedert grew up a Green Bay Packers fan.)
With that move, the Eagles added the 23-year-old Goedert to a depth chart that already features Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz. It was the first time the Eagles selected a tight end since Ertz in 2013. Ertz was also a second-round pick. The Eagles didn't want to force a pick, but it had been clear leading up to the draft that they were interested in adding a tight end.
Howie Roseman, the Eagles' top executive, would not confirm that the trade was made to move ahead of the Cowboys. Roseman would say only that the Eagles wanted to make sure they could take one of the prospects they had listed among the 32 they were willing to pick on Thursday, when they traded out of the first round.
"When those guys started to go, we wanted to make sure we felt really good about our first pick," Roseman said.
There's a lot to be intrigued about with Goedert, a 6-foot-5, 256-pound former walk-on. The Britton, S.D., native stayed in-state and developed into one of the best players at the football championship subdivision level. He was twice an all-American and a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, which is awarded to the top offensive player in the FCS. He finished with 72 catches for 1,111 yards and seven touchdowns last season. His numbers were even better in 2016, when he had 92 catches for 1,293 yards and 11 touchdowns.
"This is a guy we felt dominated at that level of play," said Joe Douglas, the Eagles' vice president of player personnel. "Last two years, excellent production."
There were two reference points to test him against superior competition. One was the Senior Bowl, where Goedert injured his hamstring. Before the injury, Douglas said, Goedert displayed "promising traits." There was also a 2016 game against 13th-ranked TCU in which Goedert caught five passes for 96 yards and a touchdown and blocked TCU's defensive ends in the running game.
"I just kind of proved to anybody that I could play at any level," Goedert said.
Goedert's hamstring injury kept him from running the 40-yard dash before the draft. Goedert said he would have run in the 4.6's. The Eagles have a time from last spring in the 4.7's.
Plus, the Eagles have success going to the Missouri Valley Conference for a prospect. The last one they drafted was Carson Wentz, which seemed to work out. Goedert, who has the same agent as Wentz, met Wentz during his visit to the Eagles facility before the draft. After the pick, Wentz sent Goedert two text messages. The first read, "Let's go homie" with emojis of sunglasses and fist pound. The next one told Goedert to "get ready" and that the Eagles "have some business to do."
Wentz is not the only teammate Goedert is eager to join. Goedert models his game after that of Ertz and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, so learning from Ertz is a source of excitement. The Eagles lost Trey Burton and Brent Celek during the offseason, opening 762 offensive snaps. Richard Rodgers signed as a veteran tight end, but there would seem to be a ripe opportunity for Goedert to be a Day 1 contributor.
"It's going to add some depth, some competition to the position, obviously," coach Doug Pederson said. "He's a tremendous player, tremendous asset, weapon for us, that I think we can utilize with some of the things you saw with Trey Burton and having him on the field with Zach."
The Eagles would have had a harder time finding this caliber of tight end had they waited. The top three tight ends entering the draft were considered some order of Goedert, South Carolina's Hayden Hurst, and Penn State's Mike Gesicki. Hurst went in the first round and Gesicki went with the No. 42 overall pick. If the Eagles didn't make the trade and the Cowboys picked Goedert, they would have spent the coming years trying to stop Goedert instead of featuring him with Wentz.
So with the Cowboys pick approaching, Goedert was delighted to receive a call from the Eagles.
"Would you be all right if we traded up to get you?" Roseman asked.
"Man," Goedert said, "that would be the most incredible thing ever!"