Last year was Kelly and Roseman’s first draft working together and as things stand now it was a success. The top three picks (Johnson, Ertz, and Logan) all played a significant number of snaps as rookies and showed promise. Earl Wolff and Matt Barkley also saw time as well, with limited success compared to the other three. Of the Eagles late round picks LB/DE Joe Kruger is still with the team after spending the year on IR, and could be a contributor this season.
Using last year’s draft as a guide to what the Eagles look for in players a few things stand out. For starters all the players the Eagles selected in 2013 were at the top end of the spectrum in terms of measurables for their position. Each ranked as at least a 3 out of 5 (1 being the best, 3 being the lowest) according to Scouts Inc on ESPN.com with the exception of Matt Barkley, who was a 4. Johnson, Logan, Wolff, Kruger, were all a 1 or a 2. Johnson’s 4.72 40 time was actually a little better than TE Zach Ertz.
Another thing that stood out was that the Eagles seemed to keep their word when they said they “stuck to their draft board.” This selection of Ertz in the 2nd round was maybe the best example from the 2013 draft. Despite already having productive TE Brent Celek on roster, and countless holes to fill the Eagles picked Ertz, who so thought would be a late first round pick. While some Eagles fans balked at first, myself included, Ertz looks like a potential Pro Bowler at the position in the coming years. This philosophy is welcomed in Philly after watching Reid spend two seasons reaching for players like Danny Watkins and Jaiquawon Jarrett.
The third trait that carried through the Eagles draft picks was that they were all productive college players. Johnson was an Academic 1st Team All American at OU for two years and Ertz caught 69 passes for almost 900 yards and 6 touchdowns at Stanford. Logan a DT from LSU was a productive member of the NCAA’s best defensive line in 2012. Matt Barkley was a four year starter at USC and safety Earl Wolff was a three year starter at NC State and 1st team All ACC his senior year after he recorded 119 tackles, 8 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions.
The last thing every Eagles selection had in common with the exception of Jordan Poyer was each player was described as a leader, with a great work ethic, and passion for football. Hopefully ESPN doesn’t come and revoke my insider subscription for posting premium content, but here is what Scouts Inc wrote about each player under the Intangibles column.
Outstanding student. Academic All-Big 12 First Team in 2011 and 2012. No off the field incidents to our knowledge. Hard worker and determined football player. Versatile athlete with experience at QB, TE, DE, ROT and LOT. Human relations major at OU.
Accountable on and off the field. Active in community service. Not a partier and not a drinker. Continues to mature and develop as a leader. Son of Douglas and Lisa Ertz. Oldest of four children. Father played football at Lehigh.
Outstanding football character. Earned right to wear prestigious No. 18 as a junior in 2012. Tradition goes back to QB Matt Mauck, who wore No. 18 during 2003 national title run. Jersey is handed down to a player best representing what it means to be a Tiger on and off the field. Coordinator John Chavis on Logan: ‘It’s important to help your young guys learn how to practice, and leadership is not just in the games. It’s every day. It’s every minute you’re on the field, and when you’ve got a guy like Bennie Logan in your room, he’s going to set the tempo’. Son of Sandra Logan and Bennie Frost. Has seven siblings.
Disciplined individual. Showed good leadership during transition from Pete Carroll to Lane Kiffin, in addition to severe sanctions levied on USC football program prior to the 2010 season. A three-time team captain and was the first sophomore in USC history to be named team captain. Understands the necessary sacrifices on the field, in the film room and weight room in order to be successful at the most demanding position in professional sports. Holds a career mark of 34-13 in 47 starts. Matt and his family have spent recent Christmas’ volunteering with orphans in third world countries.
Excellent intangibles. Young man of high character. Grades out very high in terms of football character and intelligence. Graduated with a degree in sport management in December, 2011 (in three-and-a-half years). His mother, Sharon Davis, is a master sergeant in the National Guard. Davis was deployed in Kuwait, with the 113th Sustainment Brigade, for a year. She worked in logistics and acquisitions.
Son of Paul and Jennifer Kruger. Father played football for Oregon State. Oldest brother Paul is 3-4 outside linebacker who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens last year and signed with the Cleveland Browns during the off-season. Older brother Dave played defensive tackle for the Utes last year. Brother-in-law Tony Bergstrom is a backup offensive tackle for Oakland Raiders. Hard worker.
This emphasis on character extended into the Eagles free agency approach as well. Barwin and Casey were both known as players with high character. Carey Williams, while concerned with his sconces was known as a fierce competitor and it showed. This season the acquisition of Malcolm Jenkins continued to follow that trend. Coming into the draft from OSU here is a scouting report on Jenkins character from CBS Sports. I couldn’t find one from ESPN.
Jenkins was a mentor for the team’s younger players at Ohio State. He is a leader by example on the field, but grabbed a more vocal role in the locker room after being named defensive captain. He is very mature for his age and has the blue-collar work ethic to go with his blue-chip ability. He does well in the classroom and has no known off-field issues. He is not the type that needs attention. He takes well to hard coaching and comes across as very respective and team-oriented in interviews.
The most discussed Eagles off season move also has the smell of a player’s character being brought into question. Desean Jackson’s release this off season has produced the most venom on the local radio airwaves since J.D. Drew refused to sign with the Phillies. While I don’t believe Jackson was let go “for football reasons” I also am skeptical it had anything to do with his supposed gang ties. From what’s leaked to the media and other rumors swirling Jackson was maybe the Eagles most difficult employee. There was the visible argument with a coach during the Vikings game and of course his comment after the season ended that he would like to be paid more. I find it hard to fault NFL players looking to make more money, but Jackson was due 8 figures this coming season had he remained an Eagle, which would have made him one of the five highest paid WR in the NFL. So from the sound of things Jackson was a little more me and a little less team, than Kelly liked and they made the decision to let him walk. Looking at last year’s draft and free agent signings regardless of whether or not I believe the Eagles screwed up in getting nothing in return for Jackson I have to give him credit for remaining consistent. Now I hope that carries over to this year’s draft or I’m going look like an ass.
Unless Kelly goes rogue and decides to dump Foles for Manziel, which I believe is highly unlikely, I don’t see quarterback being a focus for the Eagles this year. Maybe in the later rounds I could see them draft Logan Thomas from Va Tech, but that would be more as an athlete than a QB. At 6’6″ 250 with a 4.6 40 yard dash time, large hands, and supposedly a great work ethic I could see the Kelly and the Eagles try to develop Thomas into a WR or TE.
Much like QB, I can’t see RB being a high priority this draft. Not only do the Eagles have the 2013 rushing leader in McCoy, but they also carry Bryce Brown, Carlos Polk, and newly acquired RB/WR Darren Sproles already. So I think you can scratch Hyde, Hill, and Mason off the board. As for the smaller RB/WR types maybe the Eagles pick one in the 3rd or 4th if they like the value. Both Dri Archer and De’Anthony Thomas returned kicks and or punts at their respective schools, which is something the Eagles could use with Jackson now gone and Demerius Johnson providing little in the return game last year. Thomas and the Eagles interest or lack of interest in him will be worth watching. He was incredibly productive at Oregon, but has some red flags. In three seasons at Oregon Thomas scored 46 touchdowns amassed over 1,800 yards rushing, and another 1,000 yards receiving. However Thomas also ran into some injuries and actually saw his numbers drop each year. With that said though he was absolutely one of the most exciting players to watch the last few years, at one point being must see tv. Maybe Chip feels like he knows him well enough to take a shot in the 3rd/4th round, or he goes the other way and feels he knows him well enough to know that the shenanigans will continue at the pro level.
Is the position officially extinct or are they still on the endangered species list?
Here’s where it finally gets interesting. Personally, I don’t see WR as being as big of a need as most of Philadelphia. Yes, Jackson is gone, but I don’t think the Eagles will have as difficult a time replacing his production. Maclin is back this season and even though he is coming off an ACL this isn’t 1988. In four season, which includes the dumpster fire of 2012, Maclin has been consistent. After taking a deep breath if Eagles fans would realize he’ll be stepping into Jackson’s spot and that they will need to fill the spot vacated by Avant in the draft things don’t seem so dire.
As for the WR prospects using last draft as a road map I think you can cross Kelvin Benjamin right off the Eagles list. He’s got character questions, he’s described as a sloppy route runner, and at almost 260 he might not even be a WR two years from now. Off the top of my head he sounds a lot like a former 1st round WR from USC named Mike Williams. Bill Barnwell, a solid NFL writer at Grantland, thinks Evans is the ideal WR for Kelly. That’s probably true, but at the same time Evans is the ideal WR for any NFL team. He’s productive, has great size and enough speed. That doesn’t make him ideal for one coach. That makes him ideal for any coach. As for the next tier, Cooks, Lee, and Beckum I could see Lee or Beckum being the Eagles pick. Again using last year’s draft Cooks, while checking the boxes of being incredibly productive and of high character, he’s behind in the measurables department. While Kelly’s biggest leading WR at Oregon was Jeff Maehl, at six feet, that may have been more do to recruiting limitations than preference. Marqise Lee looks like he is right in Kelly’s wheelhouse. I think they could use more help on defense but, if Lee is the highest rated guy on their board then they should go for it instead of reaching for a 29 year old safety that was a sheriff before playing football for two years at Texas Tech.
If the Eagles pass on a WR in the first then they can pick one on the 2nd day of the draft. Martavis Bryant can be crossed off the board, along with Benjamin if he makes it to day two. I’d be willing to bet my mediocre salary neither guy is coming here. I’d have zero issues with them drafting Davante Adams, Jordan Matthews, Jarvis Landry, Cody Latimer, Donte Moncrief, or Brandon Coleman.
On the third day or even third round I’d love for them to pick up Jarred Abbrederis from Wisconsin. He was Wisconsin’s only receiving threat for three seasons, everyone on the field knew it and the guy still produced. I had two watch him on two occasions beat the ever loving shit out of former Buckeye and 1st round prospect Bradley Roby. This past season Abbrederis caught 10 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown against Roby and OSU.
With the selection of Lane Johnson last year and the extension of Jason Peters this offseason offensive tackle doesn’t appear to be a big priority either. I could see them taking a developmental guy in the later rounds, but kind of doubt we’ll see a tackle picked in the first three rounds.
Guard on the other hand I could see the Eagles selecting at some point on the second day. Herremans was the weak spot on what might have been the best offensive line in the NFL last year, so selecting a guard really isn’t a need, but would be nice to have looking forward. As for the players available I’m no expert, and can’t in any way claim to have watched guards closely last season. Going off of ESPN Xavier Su’a Filo from UCLA looks to be the best guy out there. All I know is he’s Samoan and that there have been a number of nasty lineman that have come from that tiny island. Plus he’s got a cool name, so I’m all in.
At center Jason Kelce and his facial hair were locked up this winter for a bunch of money so there isn’t a need to worry about the guy whose butt will be the home of Nick Foles’ hands.
The Eagles need defensive line or linebacker help because somebody needs to be able to rush the quarterback. The Eagles ranked 20th in sacks last year with 37, and to be honest that was higher than I thought they would have ranked. There were games like the San Diego one when the quarterback had eons before having to get rid of the ball resulting in Rivers throwing for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Trouble is it doesn’t look like there are very many pass rushers in the draft. Clowney and Mack are sure to be gone. Aaron Donald doesn’t look like a fit for what the Eagles want to do. Anthony Barr would be my ideal pick for the Eagles and despite his slide into the 20s in a lot of mock drafts Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said Barr’s slide was more of a media fabrication than truth. After those three I’m not sure who is left that fits what the Eagles want to do. Ford, Ealy, and Crichton all had success getting to the QB in college, but also look more suited to be 4-3 ends. Stephen Tuitt from Notre Dame would be a solid pick for the Eagles, but I don’t know how much pressure you can expect out of a 3-4 end. Another Notre Dame defensive lineman I’d like is nose tackle Louis Nix III. I hope he’s an Eagle because of his performance on the field, but maybe more so to see where his Chocolate News YouTube show goes as he becomes a pro. Judging from the moves they’ve made since Kelly became coach defensively they’ve geared their philosophy towards stopping the pass, so with that in mind maybe a player like Nix isn’t as high on their board since he’s known more for his run stuffing ability.
Other lineman or rush LB that aren’t YouTube sensations that I could see the Eagles taking in the early rounds are Kareem Martin from UNC, Marcus Smith from Louisville, Jeremiah Attaochu from Georgia Tech, and Brent Urban from UVA. Those four all look like they fit the profile for the type of players Kelly and Roseman are looking for.
Players you won’t see coming to Philly include Ra’Shede Hageman, Demarcus Lawrence, and Timmy Jernigan. All have serious red flags particularly Jernigan who reportedly failed his drug test at the combine. If a player is dumb enough to fail the combine drug test than he might not be smart enough to pick up the defense. Think about it, this guy gets busted WHEN HE KNEW EXACTLY WHAT DAY HE WAS BEING TESTED. That’s like knowing where a sobriety checkpoint is and deciding to down a 5th of Jack Daniels moments before it’s your turn to speak to the police officer.
Late round guys I could see here include Ed Stinson of Alabama, Jackson Jeffcoat of Texas, Taylor Hart of Oregon, or Deandre Coleman of Cal.
Mosley and Shazier both look like they’ll be gone when the Eagles pick. Of the two I’d prefer Mosley to Shazier, but neither is a player I’ll be heartbroken to miss out on. Of the linebackers that will be around in the 2nd and 3rd rounds I’d be thrilled to see Kyle Van Noy or Chris Borland in an Eagles uniform. Borland could slide right into Ryans spot after this season and Van Noy is the kind of “swiss army knife” type (think Barwin) that Kelly covets.
Neither FSU linebacker, Smith and Jones, will end up an Eagle. Both had red flags prior to the combine and both like Jernigan failed the combine drug test so they’ve been voted off the island. Ditto for Prince Shembo from Notre Dame, despite the great name.
Players I could see here from mid to late rounds would be Adrian Hubbard of Bama, Shayne Skov of Stanford, or Ronald Powell from Florida. The one player though I want more than any other in the draft though is Trent Murphy from Stanford. The guy is a absolute ox, and was the clear leader of what may have been college football’s best defense last year. Murphy also produced at Stanford racking up 25 sacks and 41.5 tackles for a loss during his last two years of college. Maybe the best part thing about Murphy is under hobbies ESPN listed steer wrestling. Who the fuck is steer wrestling in 2014? Bring this guy to Philly. As my buddy Steve said he looks like some J.J. Watt Connor Barwin hybrid.
At corner I could see Gilbert, Dennard, Verrett or Fuller fitting in with the Eagles next season if any of them fall to the Eagles in the first round. Bradley Roby is the one I don’t want in Philly. I saw enough of him in college and heard enough stories to know he was inconsistent and kind of a dog. Add in the off field stuff and Roby ain’t making the flight to Philadelphia.
After the top group I could see Jean-Baptise or Joyner make their way to Philadelphia. Jean-Baptiste exceeds the physical requirements the Eagles look for, while Joyner fulfills the character and intangible qualities Kelly and Roseman value. Again I haven’t watched enough cornerback play to know much, but of all the guys listed Dennard from MSU did jump out a number of times this season when playing for Michigan State.
At safety I’m in the Philadelphia minority (typically the right place to be) I don’t think safety is such a pressing need. The Eagles brought in Malcolm Jenkins, saw solid contributions from Earl Wolff, and most importantly cut Patrick Chung. The subtraction of Chung alone will lead to 3 fewer passing touchdowns allowed next season. On top the that the safeties this year are nothing to get too excited over. Pryor was labeled a big hitter, which is swell but he isn’t as well know for his coverage skills which is just a bit more important. As I said before Kelly seems geared toward stopping the pass so I don’t see Pryor being a fit even if he is there at 22. As for Clinton-Dix I saw enough of him at Bama to know he really isn’t that special. He was highly recruited and was solid while at Alabama, but he was spectacular. Also if he’s in Philly can you imagine the puns the paper will come up with? “Ha Ha and Eagles Get Last Laugh” or “The Eagles Ha Ha Moment” maybe “Ha Ha Has Nobody Laughing About The Eagles Defense Now.” I don’t need that in my life, and you shouldn’t want it in your life either. Jimmie Ward has serious character issues so that’s the big N-Zero. If Deone Bucannon or Terrence Brooks from FSU are there in the 2nd round either may be the pick, but again I don’t see the Eagles all that concerned with safety.
My Ideal Scenario
I’d love Anthony Barr to be there for the Eagles, but if he isn’t I’d really like to see the Eagles move down and add another 2nd or 3rd round pick. For what has felt like years all Kiper, McShay, and Mayock have said is that this is a historically deep draft. I have no reason not to trust them, so I hope the Eagles can add more picks because while the Eagles don’t really have a lot specific needs they do need to just add more overall talent to the defense and general depth across the board.