After spending three days letting the NFL Draft wash over me, one thing is pretty clear: The Eagles are going to win the Super Bowl.
It’s almost a certainty, really. The Birds nailed their first-round pick. Added a future Hall of Fame tight end, shocked the world first thing Saturday by trading up to get amazing value at quarterback and then grabbed the steal of the draft in the seventh round by drafting a cornerback with off-field issues who ran a slow 40 time.
Fans had better head to the store and start updating their cold-weather wardrobe, because they’re going to be at MetLife Stadium in early February, cheering on the Eagles against the AFC’s finest.
That’s what happens during the draft. Spurred on by a hysterical media machine that aims to make its broadcast partner look good, fans believe that every choice their team makes is an immediate starter, future Pro Bowler and potential Canton inductee. In reality, most teams will be lucky to get reasonable production from 50 percent of their choices, and in the case of the last few Eagles drafts, could end up receiving very little help from assorted firemen, overmatched reaches and mid-round nobodies.
It’s entirely possible the Eagles could end up with a few long-term starters from this year’s draft. Maybe Lane Johnson locks down a tackle position for a decade, and Zach Ertz becomes a tremendous weapon at tight end. And, who knows, maybe USC’s Matt Barkley is a victim of the same senior year slide that afflicted Dan Marino back in 1982 at Pitt and he’ll become an NFL superstar.
The fact is that nobody knows. The Eagles don’t. Neither does SI.com’s Chris Burke and ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper, both of whom gave the Birds B+ grades for their drafts. Walterfootball.com assessed the team’s draft performance as a B effort. It’s hardly a sign of disrespect to dismiss those appraisals as meaningless. Sure, they generate interest for the various sites and are based on long hours of work. In two years, they all might look ridiculous. Or, they could be dead on. It’s impossible to know.
What we do know is that the Eagles are still a team that went 4-12 last year and returns no 2012 Pro Bowl selections. Their coach has revealed little about what he will do schematically on either side of the ball. The Birds’ off-season acquisitions, while need-specific, aren’t likely to vault the Eagles into the NFC’s elite. The acquiring of eight new players—rookies all—is unlikely to turn the team from a disaster into a playoff contender, no matter how much “upside” Lane Johnson has or diverse talents Ertz possesses.
The fact is, there are probably two or three—at most—starters in this bunch, and I’m not talking about emergency types, like former seventh-rounder Kurt Coleman, who was part of a secondary that surrendered 33 touchdown passes last year. I mean full-fledged anchors who can be counted on every week for first-rate production. A couple years in a row of those kinds of additions, coupled with some shrewd free agent signings, can vault a team into serious contention.
This isn’t a slam of the eight newcomers. They all had strong collegiate careers and could well be fine pros. It’s more of a plea for Eagles fans to limit their excitement about the draft and realize that this remains a seriously flawed team (secondary, wide receiver depth, linebacking, punting) with a first-year coach who is trying to buck the trend of pure college coaches’ thriving in the NFL. The additions of some new blood can’t do too much to change that, unless said fresh faces happen to be big-time quarterbacks or game-changing defenders. In a draft lacking much front-line talent, that’s not the case.
Since the draft is the unofficial beginning of the 2013 season, with mini-camps, OTAs, training camp and pre-season games to follow in the next four months, it’s natural fans would get excited about football, any football. But considering the Eagles’ eight draft choices as reason for great optimism is a bad idea, just as getting too excited about a “freaking track meet” offense, post-“training” smoothies and loud music during workouts isn’t so wise, either.
The Eagles have added some names to their roster. All should be around for much of the 2013 season, either suiting up on Sundays or spending quality time on the practice squad. Regard assessments of their worth warily and remember that the NFL is an unforgiving place that requires newcomers to have equal parts talent, discipline, mental toughness, work ethic, maturity and luck to make big impacts. There’s no telling which—if any—of the draft picks have those necessary ingredients. In the draft’s immediate aftermath, it’s wise to lower expectations and wait to see who can handle NFL life.
Or, you can just say, “Screw it” and start searching for Super Bowl tickets on StubHub.
• It’s pretty obvious the Phillies will never lose again. Sweeping the fetid Mets (don’t be fooled by their good start; this is a 75-win team) is a good way to build momentum, but the key to continued success is good bullpen work and sound baseball fundamentals, which weren’t obvious in last week’s face-plant against the Pirates.
• Now that the Flyers’ season is over, it’s time for some serious rebuilding, no matter how GM Paul Holmgren wants to spin it. The worst thing the franchise can do is think it’s just a couple players away from contention. The defense must be rebuilt. That’s the most important thing. Oh, and amnesty Bryzgalov. Immediately. There’s no way he will be remotely worth what he’s owed over the next 35 years or so.
• Before Saturday, the Philadelphia Bell enjoyed first place in the ridiculous nickname category for local teams. But the Sixers’ new D-League franchise, the Delaware 87ers, has taken over that distinction. It’s going to take some work to top that one. Possibilities include the New Jersey Abscammers, the Philly 39th District Corrupters or the Atlantic City Chicken Men.