The Eagles had a third-round grade on Oregon defensive lineman Taylor Hart and were eager to land him as Day 3 of the draft commenced. They held the first pick of the fourth round and had to decide whether to pull the trigger immediately or go in a different direction and take the chance that Hart would still be on the board the next time they were on the clock.
“I think Howie [Roseman] did a great job of how we ordered it,” said Chip Kelly. “The other guy [Florida DB Jaylen Watkins] would be gone first, so let’s take him. He guaranteed me Hart would be there in the fifth, and he was right.”
How could Roseman be confident enough to offer a guarantee? Teams don’t make it a habit of disclosing their draft boards to the rest of the league. How could he know that Hart would fall to them in the fifth? We asked the general manager prior to the draft how they go about gathering that type of intel.
“It’s almost like anything else – you have guys with a history of being right that you turn to throughout the league and get a sense,” he said. “It may not be directly, ‘This guy is going to [this team],’ but it’s, ‘There is no chance this guy is there when you pick.’
And then the guys that kind of get in the range, you just try to get as much information as you can.”
This is where logic and research comes in. They viewed Hart as a 3-4 end. Only so many teams run a 3-4, so that narrows the field. And of the 3-4 teams, even fewer run the type of scheme that Hart is best fit for, shrinking the pool even further.
“You also kind of look at top 30 visits and who’s worked them out privately,” said Roseman. “I felt like we had a good handle on Taylor and the teams that are interested in him. Of the teams that are interested in him, had they addressed that pick with a different player at that time, were they going to go back in the first four rounds and get the second guy?”
The answer, it turned out, was no. Hart was still there for the Eagles in the fifth. It played out as Roseman predicted it would.
‘That was on me on Josh Huff’
It’s hard to look at the selections of Hart and fellow Duck Josh Huff and not think those picks were all Kelly. The head coach, though, says that he stays out of those evaluations and allows the personnel department to form their own opinions on Oregon players. And Roseman went out of his way to take ownership of the third-round pick in particular.
“You know, it’s funny because I know coach got up here and he says he stays away from the evaluations, and it’s the truth. He really does. I know when I started with Oregon in August, I don’t ask for his opinion, I tell him mine, and then if we have a difference of opinion we kind of talk about it and he tells me what he sees,” said Roseman. “Obviously really liked Josh, but as an evaluator of the personnel staff, we really like Josh because it’s easy to see what he does in our offense, right, so it’s an easy transition for us.
“I would say if anything that was on me on Josh Huff, and I was as excited as [Kelly] if not more.”
If Huff doesn’t pan out, the line above could come back to bite Roseman. If he’s a home run, Kelly will probably get the credit for it. So it goes…
Roseman was asked if he sees anyone in this class emerging as a starter for them in 2014.
“I think we have a group of players in this draft that will immediately come in and compete for playing time, and then it’s up to them. But definitely, I do see immediate impact,” he said. “Now, some of it may be in a role initially.”
Jordan Matthews has arguably the best shot of earning significant playing time immediately. He seems like the front-runner for the slot heading into spring practices. Whether you consider the slot receiver a starter or not, it’s a big role. Perhaps Huff can push him for the gig.
It will be difficult for Marcus Smith to wrestle one of the starting OLB spots away from Connor Barwin or Trent Cole, at least initially, though he could certainly be part of the rotation. Same might be said for Beau Allen at nose guard and Hart at defensive end. I’m assuming that Ed Reynolds will start out on special teams. Jaylen Watkins is an interesting one. I’m anxious to see him in camp. He’s expected to compete at cornerback initially.
“[H]e certainly could be a starting outside corner in the National Football League. He’s got enough ability to play three spots. That makes him intriguing as he grows,” said Roseman.