The 6-foot-6, 281-pounder played for Kelly and assistant Jerry Azzinaro and was a three-year starter in college. He’s got the length the Eagles are looking for along the defensive line and is familiar with the team’s two-gap scheme up front.
“When I watched him on film, you know who he struck me as? I thought he was Aaron Smith,” said NFL Films’ Greg Cosell during a recent interview with Ross Tucker. “Remember him from the Pittsburgh Steelers? I thought he was very similar to that [kind of player]. Those kinds of players are not necessarily drafted in the first or second round. I bet Aaron Smith, who you could argue was the best 3-4 defensive end for eight, nine years running in the NFL and nobody talked about him because he didn’t get 15 sacks… I think Taylor Hart is a very similar player.”
Hart broke his foot while training in January and didn’t participate in the Senior Bowl. The injury was likely one of the reasons the Eagles had Hart in for an official visit.
“I’ve been 100 percent so far. My foot’s all healed,” said Hart. “I guess they wanted to see how that was doing, and say hello.”
Kelly was the one to break the news to Hart that the Eagles had selected him. His message to the Oregon product?
“We’re putting the family back together,” Kelly said, according to Hart.
That’s two Ducks now taken by the Eagles in this draft. Josh Huff was selected in the third round. They join fellow alums Brandon Bair, Josh Kaddu, Jeff Maehl, Casey Matthews (a holdover from the previous regime) and Will Murphy on the roster. Undoubtedly, some will be concerned that Kelly is leaning on the familiar rather than selecting the best players.
“We’re taking the best players in our opinion,” said Kelly. “There’s still a lot of Oregon players out there. But they’ve won a lot of games the last couple years…There’s some top programs out there that will continue to produce talented players. We drafted a lot of good LSU players. We drafted Stanford players. We took some guys from different programs. Look at Louisville, they put three players in the first round.
“We’re going to take the best players, and that’s always the way we’ve looked at it. Just because we have a familiarity, if someone wants to say that’s a concern, that’s OK. You know when you’re going to take them, that’s what they’re going to do. But I’m not-not going to take one because I’m afraid someone is going to say something about them.”
Sheil Kapadia contributed to this story.