Howie Roseman was high on this safety class heading in, and admitted afterwards that “there were a lot of safeties that we wanted in this draft.”
Despite the temptations the Eagles stayed disciplined and watched while 12 safeties came off the board (Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid, Matt Elam, John Cyprien, D.J. Swearinger, T.J. McDonald, J.J. Wilcox, Shawn Williams, Duron Harmon, Duke Williams, Shamarko Thomas and Phillip Thomas) and were content to walk away with the 5-11, 209-pound Earl Wolff, whom they selected in the fifth round with the 136th overall pick.
“For us, Earl Wolff, he’s a combination of speed, athleticism, production at N.C. State,” said Roseman. “We had a chance to work him out. It’s always good to get your hands on guys. He’s an impressive guy. His ability to come right in, contribute on special teams as well while he is learning safety spot and then compete. Explosive player, tough player, productive player in a big time conference. We have some relationship with people at N.C. State and when you talk to them about their team this year they had a disappointing team this year and their defense, he was the leader of that defense.”
One of the contacts at N.C. State is Dana Bible, the former Eagles offensive coordinator who holds the same position now with the Wolfpack. His message to Chip Kelly?
“The first thing he said, he said, ‘Go get him.’ Physical. Explosive. Will really hit you,” said Kelly. “Just the type of guy that will make your team better. He’s a real leader. People are going to follow him.”
Wolff was called the “heart and soul” of the defense by former N.C. State head coach Tom O’Brien. He posted over 100 tackles in each of the last two seasons, and has seven forced fumbles over his career. Kelly believed he can play centerfield and in the box.
It will be interesting to see if Wolff can make a legitimate push for playing time his rookie season. Certainly, last year’s starters are guaranteed nothing.
Pro Football Focus has safety rankings from the 2012 season based on overall performance. Of the 88 safeties evaluated, Nate Allen ranked 84th and Kurt Coleman 85th.The Eagles yielded a league-worst 33 touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks had an average rating of 99.6 against them. Only Kansas City (99.9) was more generous.
Kelly was asked about Allen in the wake of the Wolff pick.
“We’re encouraged with Nate right now,” he said. “I know John Lovett, our secondary coach, and Billy Davis, our defensive coordinator, are excited to work with him because I know Billy had him as a very high pick coming out and was really intrigued with him when we got here. So far, so good. We’ll see as we continue to go along but I think he’s a guy that we’ve got to see what we can do and get out of Nate, but I think he’s got, obviously, the skill set to be a very good safety in this league.”
The Eagles also added Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips in free agency. Both come in with question marks.
It’s wide open.
Roseman and Kelly did not want to reach in the name of need. As a result, they took just one safety, and waited until the fifth round to do so. They are hoping Wolff makes them look smart.
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