Three Eagles (Draft) Numbers That Matter

Here are three Eagles draft-related numbers that matter:

14 – The number of cornerbacks who are 5-10 or taller and ran under a 4.50 40 at the Combine.

Howie Roseman explained back in January that Chip Kelly has specific measurables for different positions on the roster. Given that this was before free agency and the draft, the Eagles’ GM didn’t want to specify exactly what those were, but by the end of next weekend, we should be able to offer up some logical guesses.

Even though the Eagles added Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher in free agency, they will almost certainly come out of this draft with a cornerback (or two). Williams is 6-1, and Fletcher is 6-0. Williams didn’t run at the Combine, and Fletcher clocked a 4.50.

Of course, their measurables are probably less important, since Williams and Fletcher have NFL tape off which to be evaluated.

But in this year’s class, even if you make the cut-off 6-0 (and under a 4.50), you’re still left with seven corners. In last year’s class, there were only two such players who fit both those requirements.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com wrote today that we could see a run on corners at the end of the first round. If the Eagles trade out of the No. 4 spot, they could take a chance on someone like Alabama’s Dee Milliner, Houston’s D.J. Hayden or Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes.

Others who could go in the first, or could fall to the Eagles in the second, include Mississippi State’s Darius Slay, Boise State’s Jamar Taylor and Washington’s Desmond Trufant. In the middle rounds, keep an eye on Georgia’s Sanders Commings.

Remember, this is not just about finding starters for 2013. This is about building for the future. While Williams can be penciled in at one spot, Fletcher has started just eight games the past two seasons. And the Eagles have no depth. Curtis Marsh has shown no evidence that he can be a starter, and Brandon Hughes is primarily a special-teams player.

It all depends on how picks come off the board, but I’d expect the Eagles to have a new starting-caliber corner by the end of the third round.

77 – The number of offensive plays West Virginia ran per game last season, with Geno Smith at quarterback. Kelly’s Oregon squad averaged 81 – not a stark difference.

For much of the offseason, the Eagles talked about how there would be many differences between what Kelly did at Oregon and what he did in the NFL. And that very well could end up being the case, but talking to players at last week’s mini-camp, there are a lot of similarities.

All aspects of the new program are fast – including the tempo on offense. Todd Herremans basically said the offense has no plans of huddling. LeSean McCoy called it a “track meet.” And Michael Vick said the team was practicing a lot of read-option already.

I still don’t think the Eagles are going to take Smith with the No. 4 pick, but my guess is they are intrigued with him because of a couple factors. One is the pace at which he ran his college offense. And the second is where he threw the ball.

Many have pointed out that Smith’s 71.2 completion percentage as a senior is inflated because of the system he played in. And that’s totally fair. Take a look at this graphic – 33.1 percent of Smith’s attempts were thrown behind the line of scrimmage, the highest number of the 43 quarterbacks listed.

But take a look at where Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is on the chart. He completed 68.5 percent of his passes, and 22.9 percent of those were behind the line of scrimmage. Only four quarterbacks (including Smith) had a higher percentage.

The point? Kelly is going to want his quarterback to be capable of making pre-snap reads and getting rid of the ball quickly. So while those throws inflated Smith’s completion percentage, they might have actually made him more appealing in Kelly’s eyes.

91.2 – The percentage of snaps Star Lotulelei played last year, according to Josh Norris of Rotoworld. That’s impressive for a 311-pounder.

Lotulelei’s versatility has to intrigue the Eagles. He can line up anywhere on the defensive line – nose tackle or defensive end in a 3-4, and inside in a 4-3. His sheer power is impressive.

But to me, it comes down to what the Eagles see as his potential as a pass-rusher. If they view him as a disruptive presence in the run game, I’m not sure that’s enough to warrant the No. 4 pick. If they envision him and Fletcher Cox lining up side-by-side on passing downs and giving opposing quarterbacks fits, it’s a different story.

Lotulelei flashed pass-rushing chops at times in the games I watched from last year, and overall he ended up with five sacks. But there’s still a projection involved with that aspect of his game.

There are a couple other issues too. Three teams have taken Lotulelei off their board because of his heart issue, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Roseman said last week that the Eagles had cleared him, but teams are never eager to offer up their detailed medical evaluations.

Lotulelei took a roundabout path to the NFL and will turn 24 in December. That’s certainly not old, but as a point of reference, Sharrif Floyd will only be 21 in May.

My guess is that the Eagles are more likely to end up with someone like Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher or Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan if they stay at No. 4. But if they trade down, Lotulelei has to be considered a possibility.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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