It's always difficult, even after hearing from the participants, to determine the true pecking order of an NFL organizational chart on draft night. After the fact, when seasons pass and the players can be judged as successes or failures, sorting out the parentage of a pick is like figuring out which play was written by Shakespeare and which by Francis Bacon.
The trail gets cold fast on the busts. Being really sure which Eagles guy banged on the table just three years ago and said, "OK, we're going to trade down and grab Marcus Smith," is virtually impossible. We do know that owner Jeffrey Lurie keeps track, however, and compiles a yearly score sheet on the positions taken around the draft room by the team's scouts, coaches, and front office executives. Parsing the exact feelings of the participants on every decision, weighing their commitment, factoring in their personal connections, is about as easy as monitoring a sixth-grade hallway. But Lurie writes down who likes who, and who likes-likes who, and eventually he looks back, exactly three years down the line, he has said, and figures out which guys knew what they were talking about on draft night.
While it's only moderately comforting to realize that the owner will know in 2020 if he has the right draft team in place in 2017, things did appear to be a little different this time around, if only because new player personnel director Joe Douglas casts a literal shadow that might also describe the figurative power he wields.
There's no question Howie Roseman is still in charge and still making the final calls. But there is also no question, at least as far as we can tell from outside the room, that Roseman is playing well with Douglas, which is smart politics since Lurie is the one who insisted Howie hire a right-hand man.
The selection of Derek Barnett with the 14th pick of the draft on Thursday night - a rugged defensive end in the mold of Terrell Suggs, whom Douglas scouted for Baltimore - was interpreted as the sort of solid, traditional pick that the new guy would make. That might be true, and Roseman said Douglas was "raving" about Barnett back in December. He also said that when Douglas went to Roseman's office to share his feelings then, Howie plucked a piece of paper from his desk, David Blaine-like, upon which was written the name "Derek Barnett." Now, how many pieces of paper and how many names were on that desk, we'll never know, but Roseman was backing Douglas big-time Thursday night.
In some ways, Roseman's career in Philadelphia - this is either his second or third of those - will hinge on whether Carson Wentz is a great quarterback. Lurie and coach Doug Pederson were both smitten with the kid from North Dakota, too, but Roseman was the one who moved heaven and earth and set the team back about two years in order to acquire him. It would be practical to think Roseman preferred to grab offensive help in the first round in order to put a quicker shine on the apple. That might be true as well, but picking 14th left them at the mercy of some odd decisions by other teams, and three attractive wide receivers and two running backs were gone by the ninth pick.
So, they took Barnett, who might be Suggs and might be Brandon Graham. We'll know in three years. Roseman did slam the door on the notion that Barnett was a Douglas selection. He wasn't going to share that much.
"It's not about just one of us here," Roseman said. "It's about all of us being on the same page about the vision and how this looks."
Roseman described the vision as building through the lines with players who have high motors and tremendous characters and "war-daddy" mentalities, and that Barnett is an example of what the team will tell its scouts to go find. That's great, but Roseman has never really talked about the lines that much before, recently said he would like to hop into a DeLorean and travel back to before the Eagles (read: Chip Kelly) got rid of all the skill players, and is just one year removed from sole ownership of a draft in which character was not a consideration at all.
Anyway, it sounded good, although 31 other teams would give you the same speech about their vision in a perfect world. Tough guys, character guys, high motors, passion for the game, hard workers. Well, who can argue with that? The tough part is deciding which ones can play in the NFL. That's the rub, and the stakes are pretty high when the owner is at the end of the table keeping score. Maybe he won't announce the winner for three years, but he won't throw away the book, either.
The Howie and Joe era, at least the public portion of it, started with a quiet first-round pick Thursday. It will get more exciting before the new, somewhat unlikely partnership plays out and, just like at the draft, the Eagles are on the clock.