Eagles remained patient and landed arguably draft’s top CB in Quinyon Mitchell

Howie Roseman exercised unusual restraint while facing an unexpected scenario. The general manager, known for his fondness for frequently trading, decided he’d be better off pocketing his extra picks thanks to one of the NFL Draft’s most bizarre first rounds in recent memory.

He supported the Philadelphia Eagles’ hunt for a cornerback by exploring trade-up possibilities earlier in the week. Suddenly, none of them were sensible. For the first time in NFL history, no defensive players were drafted until No. 15.

The Atlanta Falcons stunned their $180 million quarterback, Kirk Cousins, by spending No. 8 on the fourth quarterback taken, Michael Penix Jr. Then the Denver Broncos strangely spent No. 12 on the sixth, Bo Nix, whom The Athletic’s expert Dane Brugler had given a second-to-third-round grade.

The Nix selection “really affected us a lot,” Roseman told reporters at the NovaCare Complex on a Thursday night that turned so late, the longtime executive joked how he could hear a janitorial vacuum cleaner running just outside the auditorium. Perhaps, fans of other franchises might’ve said, that was just the sound of their decision-makers sucking.

But the night probably couldn’t have turned out more ideal for the Eagles and their original pick at No. 22 overall. It’s fortunate irony for a franchise whose war room runs through several draft drills predicated on worst-case scenarios.

What if it’s pick No. 15 and we’ve only got three players on our board with first-round grades?

Start following up on phone calls!

What if it’s pick No. 18 and now there’s only one? 

Better call in a deal!

Well, what if at No. 15 there are actually eight?

That’s basically how the Eagles wound up selecting Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell, the top cornerback in the draft.



Eagles draft Quinyon Mitchell: How he fits, pick grade and scouting intel

Here’s how the seven previous picks played out:

15. Indianapolis Colts: Laiatu Latu, Edge, UCLA
16. Seattle Seahawks: Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas
17. Minnesota Vikings (from Jacksonville): Dallas Turner, Edge, Alabama
18. Cincinnati Bengals: Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia
19. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Verse, Edge, Florida State
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Troy Fautanu, OL, Washington
21. Miami Dolphins: Chop Robinson, Edge, Penn State

It’s not certain if each of those players were ones the Eagles had specifically awarded a first-round grade. It’s possible some of the subsequent selections — like LSU wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. (Jaguars, No. 23) or Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold (Detroit Lions, No. 24) — also had first-round grades. But Roseman only said Mitchell was the highest-rated player remaining on their board.

The Eagles are a team with a best available approach in the draft. Although their needs in the secondary have been well-documented, they still have a vacancy at right guard, no long-term succession plan to replace right tackle Lane Johnson and depth needs along the defensive front. So, it’s not hard to imagine Roseman’s hands twitching toward the phone out of habit when a premier pass rusher like Turner fell to No. 17.

The Vikings, gazing from No. 23, swooped down to secure Turner. They surrendered their first-round selection along with their sixth-rounder (No. 167) to the Jaguars, plus a third- and fourth-round selection in 2025. It would’ve been costly for the Eagles, who only hold six picks in 2025, to submit a similar deal. It would’ve also been foolhardy, according to Roseman, given the talent remaining on the board.

So, the Eagles waited.

“It’s not normally in my nature to do that,” Roseman said.

Roseman couldn’t know for certain that cornerback, a position of particular focus for the Eagles during the pre-draft process, would’ve arrived at No. 22 untouched. But the Eagles had the luxury of choosing between Mitchell and Arnold. They chose Mitchell.

Roseman wouldn’t say why the Eagles preferred Mitchell, the larger (6 feet, 195 pounds) and faster (4.33 40-yard dash) prospect. Both were two-time All-Americans. Brugler considered Arnold, who led the SEC in passes defended (17) and interceptions (five) in 2023, the No. 1 cornerback in the draft. Roseman also veered away from his tendency toward picking prospects from high-level programs. Only five of the previous 21 players the Eagles drafted weren’t from Power 5 conferences. Nine of them played in the SEC.

Mitchell, who played in the MAC, also snagged six interceptions and two pick-sixes in his final two seasons while playing in a zone-heavy defensive scheme. Roseman acknowledged “that was one of the concerns” while envisioning Mitchell playing in newly hired defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s system, which requires its cornerbacks to play man coverage. But Mitchell debunked such concerns while blanketing top wideouts at the Senior Bowl.

“When he got in people’s faces at the Senior Bowl, we thought he was one of the best players at the Senior Bowl,” Roseman said. “Against really good competition, against a really good receiving class, we’ll see a bunch of those guys come off today and we’ll see a bunch of those guys come off tomorrow.”

The proliferation of points via explosive passing attacks in the last few decades has necessitated sufficient investment at cornerback. Four first-round cornerbacks have been selected in each of the last two drafts. In 2022, the Houston Texans and New York Jets spent the No. 3 and 4 overall picks on Derek Stingley Jr. and Sauce Gardner, respectively.

The Eagles hadn’t spent a first-round pick on a cornerback since Lito Sheppard in 2002. But this factoid somewhat deludes Roseman’s investment. He exchanged a third- and fifth-round pick in a 2020 trade with the Lions for Darius Slay, then a three-time Pro Bowler. Roseman also signed James Bradberry to a three-year, $38 million extension last offseason.



Eagles NFL Draft picks 2024: Grades, fits and scouting reports

Bradberry’s regression on a 2023 Eagles defense that surrendered the second-most passing yards in the NFL made the positional need more urgent. Roseman, who has noted this offseason that Bradberry “remains in our plans,” said the Eagles drafted Mitchell to instill competition at cornerback. Mitchell has both the pedigree and skill to start in 2024. He shouldn’t sit for long, if at all.

By exercising restraint in the draft process, the Eagles retained the remainder of their seven draft picks on Days 2 and 3. By selecting Mitchell, they also stuck to their organizational philosophy of building their team through the draft and developing them behind franchise pillars. Mitchell said he’s modeled his game after Slay. He’ll join his new mentor in May.

Will Mitchell eventually develop into a star? There’s always assumed risk in the draft, especially once the selections drift beyond the top 10. Roseman cited his own statistic that “four out of 10 first-round picks don’t make it,” and acknowledged that the Eagles haven’t largely succeeded when selecting in the early 20s. Of Jalen Reagor (No. 21, 2020), Andre Dillard (No. 22, 2019), Nelson Agholor (No. 20, 2015) and Marcus Smith (No. 26, 2014), only Agholor played with the Eagles for the entirety of his rookie contract.

Roseman and coach Nick Sirianni have both said they’re seeking to regain “toughness” as a defense in 2024. They’re an organization that often discusses how they value the “dog mentality.” Perhaps by being patient, they’ve found yet another such player in Mitchell.

“Yeah, I feel like my whole life I’ve just been trying to demand respect,” said Mitchell, a Williston, Fla., native. “Coming from a small town, coming from a small college, just wanted to demand respect, and feel like I did that through my college career and through the pre-draft process.”

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(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

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