Eagles Pass On Geno, Select TE Zach Ertz

Geno Smith fell to the Eagles at 35. If they wanted him, they had him. They didn’t want him.

At least not as much as Stanford tight end Zach Ertz — the 6-5, 249-pounder out of Alamo, California.

“He’s a mismatch nightmare,” said Chip Kelly. “If you get him isolated on a defensive back it’s  very, very difficult to cover because of his size, but he’s also too athletic to put linebackers on.”

Kelly has seen the damage Ertz can do up close. He had 11 grabs for 106 yards against Oregon last season, including a game-tying touchdown late in regulation. Stanford won in overtime, handing the Ducks their only defeat of the season.

“Very smart player. A great route-runner. I think he’s a guy that will really give us a lot flexibility in terms of what we can do,” said Kelly. “I’ve always been a heavy tight end guy. We don’t play with a fullback. We really use that second tight end — and now a third tight end. He’ll go in with Brent Celek and James Casey and add to the mix of what we can do and present a lot of problems for people.”

Jacksonville selected Florida International safety John Cyprien with the first pick in the second round.  Tennessee then traded into the 34th slot (from San Francisco) and took Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter.  The Eagles’ true feelings on the West Virginia signal-caller would be known.

Instead of selecting the man that Jeffrey Lurie traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia to check out, they went after arguably the second-best  prospect in what is considered a quality tight-end class.

Kelly wasn’t concerned about whether Smith was going to come off the board (he went 39th to the Jets) but rather whether Ertz would be there. The Niners seemed like a good fit. So did trade partner Tennessee, which just lost Jared Cook in free agency.

“He was at the top of our board,” said Kelly. “Honestly we didn’t think he would be there.”

Ertz caught 69 balls for 898 yards and six touchdowns last season. He started nine games during his time in Stanford, finishing with 112 grabs for 1,434 yards and 15 TDs.

Kelly wouldn’t say what grade the team had on Smith or the rest of the QBs, only that they are going by their board and taking the best available player.

“It’s  obviously a marquee position and gets a lot of notoriety but there’s also been some really good players picked,” said Kelly. “We thought of Zach as a first-round pick.”

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A Couple Notes On Geno Smith

A couple notes and thoughts while we wait to see if Geno Smith is coming to Philly:

– Yesterday was Smith’s mother’s birthday. Obviously, it wasn’t as festive of an occasion as everyone had hoped. That was part of the reason why Smith planned on leaving New York City instead of sticking around for Day 2 of the draft, according to a source who was with the signal-caller Thursday night. He didn’t want his mom to be upset, and planned on going home with her and watching the draft there.

After resting on it and getting some sound advice, Smith decided to stay in New York.

– Smith’s camp didn’t have a feel as of Friday morning as to where the QB would be picked, though the anticipation was that it would be early in the second round. The Jets (currently slotted 39th) could take a quarterback, and Jacksonville (33rd) may potentially grab one as well. They seemed uncertain as to whether the Eagles were even in the market for a quarterback. That doesn’t mean anything, necessarily. The Eagles often play it close to the vest.

Gil Brandt, for one, believes they want one.

– It’s always good practice to be on the lookout for smokescreens, but let it be known that the only pre-draft workout Jeffrey Lurie attended not just this year, but since 1999, was Smith’s.

“When you select a quarterback it’s a very big decision so you want to have every piece of information you can and just have as many eyes on it. Nothing more than that, but it’s an important thing,” said the owner.

I am on record as saying that there are a lot easier ways to run misdirection than putting your owner on a plane and flying him to West Virginia. If they were going to take a quarterback with that fourth pick, I believe it would have been Smith. Now he could be available at 35. It is still a big organizational decision to go with a QB that high. Maybe they pass a second time. Maybe they will feel fortunate that what they believe to be a first-round quarterback talent fell in their laps.

– Of all the write-ups on Smith I have read, this sliver of Greg Cosell‘s analysis was the most unsettling.

One final point with Smith, and this is the one that most troubles me. Quite honestly, I do not know if this can be rectified or not. Some I have talked to say yes, others no. It’s what I call “slow eyes.” Smith consistently took an extra beat to pull the trigger on well defined throws that were there. It was particularly noticeable, but not limited to, play action, which provides more clarity and definition for the quarterback since it’s almost always an either-or read. If it’s an anticipation issue, that’s something that must be looked at very closely. I thought back to Matt Ryan when he came out of Boston College in 2008. He threw with outstanding anticipation; he had an intuitive feel for delivering the ball before receivers came out of their breaks. That was one reason I felt very good about his transition to the NFL. Smith did not show that attribute on film. It must be evaluated carefully. It’s not something that can be overlooked.

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Twitter Mailbag: On Geno, Manti Te’o And the Honey Badger

A day late on the Twitter Mailbag this week. A little busy yesterday. But that turned out to be a good thing because there is a ton of intrigue and several big names tied to rounds two and three. Much to chomp on, so let’s get to it.

From @TomWelke: Will Geno not coming back to the green room cause mental makeup questions and cause him to drop more?

I would hope that the Eagles — or any team in the NFL — would rely on the information they have been gathering over time, and wouldn’t be swayed by something like that. If that moves you off your position, then you didn’t have much conviction regarding Geno Smith to begin with.

If I am honest, some of what I have seen/read in the run-up to the draft has given me pause when it comes to Smith. I know Philadelphia, I know the scrutiny that the quarterback position receives, and I know that Nolan Nawrocki’s evaluation will seem like a four-star review compared to what Smith is going to hear in this town (or elsewhere) after a couple down Sundays.

We take those 140 character bites, or watch his body language through the television, and draw sweeping conclusions. But the truth is, it is unfair to judge a man’s character based off such limited evidence. He could very well have an iron will, and may turn a few moments of adversity into years of fuel to the benefit of the franchise that drafts him.

The Eagles have met with him, analyzed his game, talked to people around him. They should have a sound understanding by now of who Geno Smith is, and likely don’t care whether or not he shows up to Radio City Music Hall tonight.

[The latest report suggests he will be in attendance.]

From @penseur76: Will the Eagles select Jonathan Cyprien? Geno Smith? “Tank” Carradine? or surprise pick with Te’o? in 2nd.

I would imagine Smith is in play assuming he’s still on the board at 35. They made an organizational decision to pass on him at 4 and probably thought he would land elsewhere. But at this point, it might just be considered a good value pick. Would you doubt that the Eagles have a first-round grade on him? And how many other of the remaining players could you say that about?

I’m not ruling  Manti Te’o out, either. This guy was recently regarded as one of the top players in the country. Then came the championship game and the stories about his personal life, and that stock plunged big time. Two questions: Is he a fit for Chip Kelly‘s defensive scheme, and does he have thick enough skin to endure all the attention/ribbing he’ll receive in a major market? If the answer is yes on both fronts, then you might be getting a steal.

Outside of those two marquee names, I could see the Eagles going with Stanford tight end  Zach Ertz, Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien, Florida State DL/OLB Tank Carradine, Texas A&M DE/OLB Damontre Moore,  or Mississippi State corner Johnthan Banks.

From @Jfr1978Josh: Any chance we select the Honey Badger?

The Eagles believe Tyrann Mathieu is a draftable player, but you really have to do your homework on this guy and figure out where you would be willing to pull the trigger. This is a first-round talent with red flags coming out of his pockets. Is he on the straight and narrow? If so, what are the chances he stays there? Big questions that I am sure every team has looked into. The answers mean everything when it comes to this prospect.

There is a point where he probably becomes too enticing to pass up. But I’m not sure that point comes on Day 2.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Five Options At No. 35

The Eagles landed offensive tackle Lane Johnson with the No. 4 pick.

But there’s still plenty of work to be done. Here are five options for Birds with the 35th pick:

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia – I’ll admit I didn’t see this coming. The West Virginia QB spent all of Thursday night in the green room without a team taking him. Only one signal-caller was selected in the first round, and that was Florida State’s EJ Manuel, who went to the Bills at No. 16. The Eagles did plenty of homework on Smith, and as I’ve written, there are likely aspects of his game that Kelly finds appealing. There are two picks before the Eagles are on the clock: Jacksonville and San Francisco. The Jaguars could certainly take Smith, or a team could trade up. If the Birds have the chance to take Smith at 35 and pass, it’s probably fair to say he’s not on their board at all. And that has to be considered a possibility at this point.

Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International – I thought he would go in the first round, but Cyprien is still available. Three safeties went off the board on Thursday: Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro (No. 15 to the Saints), LSU’s Eric Reid (No. 18 to the 49ers) and Florida’s Matt Elam (No. 32 to the Ravens). Cyprien (6-0, 217) and South Carolina’s DJ Swearinger are probably the top two safeties still available. It’s a need area for the Eagles, and there are still good players on the board.

Tank Carradine, OLB/DL Florida State - I was way off on my projection here, thinking Carradine would go in the top half of the first round. At 6-4, 276 (34 3/4-inch arms), he has size and versatility. But Carradine suffered a torn ACL in November, which could explain why he’s still available. The Eagles had him in for an official visit to the team facility. Chip Kelly said Thursday night that Dion Jordan was an option with the No. 4 pick. While Carradine’s a different player, perhaps he will be the outside linebacker the Eagles end up with. Update: Bad news on Carradine’s medical could cause him to drop.

Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State – He could be the best cornerback on the board. Taylor (5-11, 192) ran a 4.39 40 at the Combine, and many projected him to be a first-round pick. Four cornerbacks were taken Thursday night: Alabama’s Dee Milliner (No. 9 to the Jets), Houston’s D.J. Hayden (No. 12 to the Raiders), Washington’s Desmond Trufant (No. 22 to the Falcons) and Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes (No. 25 to the Vikings).

Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford – The Eagles did plenty of work on tight ends during the pre-draft process. Ertz (6-5, 249) had 69 catches for 898 yards and six touchdowns last season. And Kelly knows his talents all too well. Against Oregon last season, Ertz caught 11 balls for 106 yards and a score. He could be an option at No. 35.

WHAT YOU MISSED

T-Mac has the full story on the Birds going with Johnson.

And here is what Johnson had to say about being selected fourth.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com offers his take on Johnson:

Johnson is a great athlete. His Combine workout would have been solid for a running back or linebacker, but it was phenomenal for an offensive tackle. He ran faster in the 40-yard dash than Anquan Boldin did at the Combine. Johnson is also strong, agile and explosive. His arms are 35 inches long, giving him an ideal frame for the offensive tackle position. Don’t think of Johnson as a finesse athlete. He has a big-time mean streak. He loves to run block and wants to bury his opponent in the ground. Johnson has excellent potential and could develop into a Pro Bowl player.

Rich Hofmann of the Daily News thinks the Eagles made the right choice:

I like it. We all have seen this team, in past seasons, attempt to prove that they were the smartest people in the room. To be fair, they did some smart things in the past. The way they have manipulated their picks in the later rounds of the draft really has been smart and profitable.

But in their first big spot together, Roseman and Kelly chose a solid, sensible guy who fit both the coach’s philosophy and the long-term needs of the franchise. We don’t know if Johnson can play, obviously, but the reviews have been good and the athletic potential is interesting.

COMING UP

More reaction on the Johnson pick, and we’ll look ahead to the rest of the draft.

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Eagles Draft Cheat Sheet: Offensive Options

Back for the second straight year is the Eagles’ first-round cheat sheet (with some slight tweaks).

I’ve put together a list of 40 potential first-round prospects. Yes, I know, there are only 32 picks in the first round, but we don’t know exactly who those 32 are going to be. Since the Eagles also hold the 35th pick, I thought rounding up 40 prospects would make sense.

The idea is simple: How would each guy fit with the Eagles, and what is the likelihood of each guy landing in Philadelphia?

We’ll start with the offense (17 prospects) and move on to the defense (23 prospects) in the next post.

Update: Here’s the post on the defensive prospects.

QUARTERBACKS

Geno Smith, West Virginia – He’s easily been the most talked-about prospect in this class. The Eagles have done plenty of homework on Smith, but there are two reasons why I don’t think they take him at No. 4. One, he was not a classic spread-option quarterback in college. Two, he’s not so good of a prospect that you dismiss point one and take him anyway.

My guess is there is plenty that Chip Kelly likes about Smith. He’s athletic (4.59 40), has decent size (6-2, 218) and has an NFL arm. Smith also played in an up-tempo offense at West Virginia. If he slips in the first round or makes it to No. 35, he’s certainly an option, but I would be surprised if he was the pick at No. 4. The important thing to remember is the only man whose opinion matters is Kelly’s. He’s in charge of finding this franchise its best option at QB.

EJ Manuel, Florida State – From a physical stand point (6-5, 237, 4.65), he would appear to be a nice fit. But Manuel’s production didn’t always match his talent in college. If he’s there at No. 35, I think the Eagles take him. And it’s possible Kelly likes him so much that the Eagles trade into the back end of the first round to take him, although that would be at least somewhat surprising.

Ryan Nassib, Syracuse – He’s generated some buzz as potentially the top QB in the draft, but I don’t see the Eagles being a fit, especially since he’s expected to go in the first round or early in the second.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M -One of the “cleanest” prospects in the draft. The 6-6, 310-pounder started three years before deciding to leave early. He projects as a high-end left tackle, even though Joeckel has not shown elite-level athleticism. He played in an up-tempo offense in college, and the Eagles would love to have him, but it would be a pretty big upset if Joeckel somehow made it to the fourth pick.

Eric Fisher, Central Michigan – There has been a growing buzz that Andy Reid could choose him over Joeckel with the top pick. At 6-7, 306, he’s got the size and length to be a Pro Bowl left tackle. Given his level of competition in college, the pre-draft process was important for Fisher, but he answered any lingering questions at the Senior Bowl and Combine. If he stays on the board at No. 4, the Eagles will feel really good about taking him, or they could receive some enticing trade offers from tackle-needy teams.

Lane Johnson, Oklahoma – The most athletic of the top-three left tackles. Johnson started his career as a junior-college quarterback. He then joined the Sooners as a tight end before switching over to defensive end. The 6-6, 303-pounder kept getting bigger and was eventually moved to the offensive line. He played right tackle as a junior and left tackle as a senior. He’s not considered as polished as Joeckel and Fisher, but might have the most upside, given his off-the-charts athleticism. Johnson could certainly be an option for the Eagles at No. 4. If they move down, they’ll probably lose out on him. The Lions (No. 5) or Cardinals (No. 7) could take him. A team could also trade up once Joeckel and Fisher are off the board.

D.J. Fluker, Alabama – Does not seem like an ideal scheme fit for the Eagles. Fluker (6-5, 339, 36 3/4-inch arms) is more power than athleticism and is considered a right tackle prospect. It’s unlikely that he lands in Philadelphia, although new offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland coached Fluker in Tuscaloosa. With teams desperate for tackles, don’t be surprised if Fluker goes off the board in the top half of the first round.

Chance Warmack, Alabama – Seems to universally be considered a can’t-miss prospect (although we know that those don’t really exist). The Eagles have a glaring need at right guard, but my guess is if they were going to spend a first-round pick on the position, they would want a special athlete. Like Fluker, Warmack (6-2, 317) is considered more of a power player. He might be talented enough to play in any scheme, but I don’t see him landing with the Eagles.

Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina -If the Eagles are going to take a guard in the first round, my guess is they’d have Cooper (6-2, 317) ranked ahead of Warmack. Greg Cosell of NFL Films recently called Cooper the most purely athletic guard he’s seen since he started watching college tape (the last eight or nine years). I still think it’s unlikely the Eagles go guard in the first round, but if they trade down from No. 4, I wouldn’t rule Cooper out completely.

Justin Pugh, Syracuse – There’s a chance he could be available when the Eagles pick at No. 35, but my guess is he’s going to sneak into the first round. Pugh (6-4, 307) brings positional versatility, having gotten looks at tackle, guard and even center. Pugh played tackle in college, but the knock on him is he only has 32-inch arms. The local product (Council Rock South) would be a fit for the Eagles, but like I said, they probably won’t be in position to draft him.

Menelik Watson, Florida State – From a physical standpoint, there’s a lot to like. Watson is 6-5, 310 with 34-inch arms. Even though he didn’t test great at the Combine, Watson is considered an excellent athlete. The issues? Experience and age. Watson hails from England and has a basketball background. He played one year of football in junior college and one more at right tackle for the Seminoles. He’ll also turn 25 in December. My guess? Watson will get taken towards the end of the first round. But if he’s still there at 35, the Eagles could give him a look, depending on what they perceive his learning curve to be.

Kyle Long, Oregon – His story isn’t that different from Watson’s. In fact, the two played together at junior college. Long (6-6, 313) played baseball at Florida State before trying his hand at football. He only has one year playing at the D-1 level and turns 25 in December. Then again, Long is versatile (has played both guard and tackle), athletic and has experience playing in Kelly’s system. For those reasons, he made our list of possibilities at No. 35.

WIDE RECEIVER

Tavon Austin, West Virginia – Sometimes, we tend to over-think things with the draft. Would Kelly be interested in an explosive playmaker who can line up anywhere in the formation and has blazing 4.34 speed? Of course! Think about what Kelly’s offense is about: Getting to the line of scrimmage quickly, assessing the defense, moving versatile pieces around the formation and putting points on the board. No player in this class embodies those principles more than Austin.

Don’t forget the whole “best player available” mantra. Jeremy Maclin is on the final year of his contract. Jason Avant just turned 30. And Austin is different than DeSean Jackson. He’s far more than a vertical threat and has the ability to score in a variety of ways. At the very least, he’ll provide consistent matchup problems as a slot receiver. The major question is obviously size. Austin measured in at just 5-8, 174 at the Combine. He’s drawn comparisons to Wes Welker and Percy Harvin, but Welker was 195 coming out of school, and Harvin was 192. Austin said he never missed a game due to injury in high school or college, but that’s unlikely to alleviate concerns about his size. I don’t think the Eagles will take him at No. 4, but I can’t say I’d be shocked if they pulled the trigger. And if they trade down, he’s absolutely an option.

Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee – Has one of the best size/speed combos in the draft (6-2, 216, 4.42). In his mock draft on Yahoo Sports, Cosell pointed out qualities in Patterson that Kelly could find appealing: the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands and the versatility to line up anywhere in the formation. Patterson is not considered a polished receiver, and he’ll likely be a first-round pick, so while the Eagles might like his skill set, I doubt they’ll be in position to take him.

DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson – Doesn’t have top-end speed (4.52), but if we’re talking about complementing what the Eagles already have, Hopkins would be a nice option. Has good size (6-1, 214) and scored 18 touchdowns last year alone. But again, he’ll probably go in the first round in a spot where the Eagles are unlikely to draft him.

TIGHT ENDS

Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame – Seems to have become the consensus top tight end on the board. Eifert has size (6-6, 251) and athleticism (4.68 40). This is a deep tight end class, and given that the Eagles already have Brent Celek and signed James Casey, I don’t expect them to go that route in the first round. But from a skill-set standpoint, Eifert appears to be a fit with pretty much every team in the league.

** Note: It’s certainly possible that more than one tight end goes int he top-40, but I had to narrow my list somehow, so am only including Eifert.

RUNNING BACKS

Eddie Lacy, Alabama – I’m not sure he’s going to go in the first round, but Lacy has a good chance of being the first running back off the board. With LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown in the fold, this is the one position we can pretty much say definitively that the Eagles won’t use a pick on before Day 3.

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Eagles Mock Draft Roundup

With the draft just two days away, here’s one final mock draft roundup.

Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com has the Eagles landing Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson and Florida State QB EJ Manuel with their first two picks:

The offensive tackles are going to fly off the board fast and even if both Joeckel and Fisher are still available at the fourth pick, Johnson might be the best fit for Chip Kelly and his offense. Johnson is just scratching the surface of his potential at tackle.

Charley Casserly of NFL.com also goes with Johnson:

Both of the Eagles’ starting offensive tackles are coming off surgery.

ESPN.com’s Todd McShay thinks it’ll be Johnson too.

Josh Norris of Rotoworld has the Birds taking Utah DL Star Lotulelei:

Don’t pigeonhole Star as a nose tackle, since he can help the entire three man front in a variety of different ways. Sure, he wasn’t effective on every one of his snaps, but he was on the field for 91.2 percent of the team’s defense plays in 2012.

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com also thinks it’ll be Lotulelei:

This feels like a spot ripe for trade (if the Raiders don’t move out ahead of Philly anyway) given the presence of Luke Joeckel on the board. Someone could hop up ahead of Detroit and nab the big left tackle. But for right now we’re going to give the Eagles the talented Utah defensive tackle.

Rob Rang of CBSSports.com goes with Lotulelei too:

Chip Kelly is known for the fast pace of his offense, but if the Eagles are to improve in the NFC East it is their defense that will need to improve the most. With Philadelphia expected to make the transition to a 3-4 scheme, it needs help up front, which the powerful Lotulelei can provide. The Eagles are one of three teams currently picking in the top 10 who have both worked out Lotulelei and invited him to visit their facility, NFLDraftScout.com has learned.

SI.com’s Don Banks has Lotulelei:

The Eagles would seem to be in prime position to trade down here, with teams just behind them coveting either Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel or Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner. If the Eagles are content with the notion of winding up with Lotulelei in a lower slot, why not try to get the tackle-needy Lions, Cardinals, Chargers and Dolphins bidding on Joeckel? By next week’s final mock, Philly’s No. 4 slot might be almost slam-dunk trade territory.

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com has Lotulelei at No. 4.

Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com goes with Oregon OLB Dion Jordan:

The Eagles are building a 3-4 defense and need an OLB with pass rush skills. Jordan played for Chip Kelly. If they take Jordan I would expect them to re-enter the first round late and grab a QB. Either Geno Smith or EJ Manuel could be the choice.

Greg Cosell of NFL Films/Yahoo Sports goes with Jordan:

At Oregon this past season, he primarily played in space, which he did exceptionally well. I had to study a lot of games to get a feel for his pass rush skills. They were impressive, and I believe he will become a very good edge rusher in the NFL. He showed the ability to get low and bend the edge with the needed flexibility to succeed against quality NFL offensive tackles.

Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times put together a mock with beat writers from across the country. Les Bowen picked for the Eagles at No. 4 and went with Jordan:

“The Eagles don’t have anybody who was drafted as a 3-4 linebacker. They’d like someone who can both rush the passer and drop back in coverage.”

Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting put together a “need-based” fantasy draft and gave the Eagles Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien:

A bit of a reach (both in real life and on my board), the Eagles have done a fantastic job adding pieces to their defense in free agency to the point where they really only have a need at safety. Cyprien gets the nod over a 5-technique (Sharrif Floyd) and an offensive tackle (Luke Joeckel).

Clark Judge of CBSSports.com goes with West Virginia QB Geno Smith:

Chip Kelly knows he can’t win with Michael Vick. So who’s next? You’re looking at him.

ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper Jr. goes with Smith too:

More inclined to believe they’ll trade up from their Round 2 pick to get him later in Round 1, but can’t reflect that here.

Russ Lande of the National Football Post says Smith:

The Eagles have a number of quarterbacks on their roster, but none is a proven starter and new head coach Chip Kelly needs an athletic quarterback to run his offense. Although Smith’s mechanics need work, his ability to make big plays with his feet and strong arm could be a perfect fit for the new Eagles’ offense.

Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com has the Eagles trading back into the first round (No. 17) and taking Smith. He awards them Jordan with the No. 4 pick:

It’s my mock draft and I’ll make trades if I want to. Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman get aggressive and pounce on the opportunity to grab Smith when he slips all the way to 17. The trade would likely be for 2014’s first-round pick and the Eagles’ second-round pick this year. Geno goes to Philly, where he backs up Michael Vick and Nick Foles for a year, learns Kelly’s offense, and is the ideal system QB. He could go as high as No. 4 to Philly. I think Philly ends up with him if he slips out of the top 10.

Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News also thinks it’ll be Smith:

We’re sticking with the stance that Chip Kelly isn’t really sold on any of his current Eagles quarterbacks, whether it’s Michael Vick, Nick Foles or old Oregon pupil Dennis Dixon. Kelly can go in many directions with his first Philly draft, but he should want to start with a hand-picked passing prospect.

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution thinks it’ll be BYU’s Ziggy Ansah:

He is very raw. He didn’t start playing football until 2010. Some have compared him with Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants.

Matt Smith of NFL.com also goes with Ansah:

There isn’t a lot of tape out there, but you can’t deny what you see when you watch him play. He’s an impact player, and if the Jags can take Jordan at No. 2, the Birds certainly can take Ansah at No. 4. Eric Fisher will get a long look, but ultimately Ansah is a player who can change the game.

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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.

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Draft Buzz: How Far Could Geno Smith Fall?

Welcome to draft week. Let’s get started with a league-wide roundup. And if you haven’t done so already, check out yesterday’s post on Darrelle Revis, EJ Manuel and Matt Scott.

Let’s start with Geno Smith. Good luck finding anyone who has a handle on where the West Virginia quarterback is going to go. Tweeted ESPN’s Chris Mortensen:

And SI.com’s Peter King added:

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, tweeting Sunday night about what more and more people in the NFL feel: Only four or five teams in the first round could take West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith — the consensus top quarterback in this week’s draft — and there is absolutely no guarantee that one will.

Obviously, there’s plenty of misdirection this time of year, but up until now, we’ve been discussing Smith as a possibility for the Eagles at No. 4. I’ve said for weeks that I don’t think they’re going to take him at that spot, but what if he falls into the 20s? What if he’s there at the start of the day Friday?

On one hand, you could argue that if the Eagles don’t like him enough to take him at No. 4, then they’re not going to take him if he falls. But that’s not really true. The farther he falls, the lower the risk. To exaggerate the point, I can pretty much guarantee the Eagles would take Smith if he was available in the sixth or seventh round.

My guess? Smith is still going to go in the top-10, but clearly, no scenario is off the table for Thursday night.

On that same note, Mortensen reports that there’s a “growing belief” that the Bills could take Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib with the No. 8 pick. Nassib played for coach Doug Marrone at Syracuse, and if Buffalo feels good about him, it might avoid the risk of waiting for him in the second round.

In his latest mock draft for Rotoworld, Josh Norris has Nassib going No. 8:

The closer we get, the more confident I am that this will be the pick. A “get your guy when you can” scenario, if you will. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the quarterback run does not take place until later in the first-round.

Norris also thinks the Eagles could trade back into the first round (No. 29) for EJ Manuel:

Like the Jaguars, this selection could be a number of quarterbacks, but Manuel fits the bill in many categories. “Clean slate” and “coachable” are words frequently floating around Manuel, which leads me to think the NFL believes the QB was held back by coaches in college.

Greg Cosell of NFL Films unveiled the first of his two-part mock draft on Yahoo Sports, projecting picks 17 to 32. Obviously, that’s not where the Eagles pick, but there are some names he has going in the first round that are of interest: Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien (No. 21), Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown (No. 25), UCLA defensive lineman Datone Jones (No. 26), Florida State defensive lineman Tank Carradine (No. 28) and Alabama defensive lineman Jesse Williams (No. 31).

All of those players could be second-round targets for the Eagles if they fall.

Meanwhile, King predicts another potential target, Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long, will also go in the first round.

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

With the NFL draft only eight days away, here’s the latest mock draft roundup with projections for the Eagles at No. 4.

Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com has the Birds taking West Virginia QB Geno Smith:

With Michael Vick currently under contract, quarterback isn’t a huge need for the Eagles, but head coach Chip Kelly will be on the lookout for the long-term solution at the position. Smith has all the physical tools for Kelly’s offense and would be able to sit and digest the playbook and not thrown into the fire on day one.

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com thinks it’ll be Smith too:

With this move, Chip Kelly would be getting a young quarterback who has experience playing in an up-tempo offense. Michael Vick’s veteran presence will give Smith some time to sit and learn before he takes the reins in Philly.

OurLads.com also has the Eagles taking Smith:

Demonstrates good accuracy vertically as well as horizontally. Sudden release. Snaps ball out to perimeter receivers after setting his feet. Ready to pull the trigger at all times. Right on target with his passes.Student of the game. Can fire a dart through a smoke ring.

Clark Judge of CBSSports.com has Smith:

I know it’s too high for him, but the Eagles can’t survive with Michael Vick.

Rob Rang of CBSSports.com says it’ll be Smith:

Michael Vick has proven unreliable. Nick Foles, despite what the Eagles are saying publicly, is clearly not a fit in head coach Chip Kelly’s offense. Thus, this seems to be the logical spot for Smith, the most gifted talent of an average quarterback class. The Eagles are certainly doing their homework on the strong-armed quarterback. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Chip Kelly traveled to Morgantown to put the former Mountaineer quarterback through a personal workout three days before WVU’s scheduled Pro Day.

Lance Zierlein of the Houston Chronicle goes with Smith:

I was told to “plug Geno in here” by a league source and I usually listen when this guy speaks.  Kelly’s offense probably won’t ask the QB to run as much as people would like to believe, but I do think his offense will try to stretch the field and play up-tempo which is something that Geno Smith is used to.

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com has the Birds trading down to No. 7 with the Cardinals and picking Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei:

Honestly I could have Philly going four different ways with this pick. Part of me wants to give them an athletic guard, part of me wants to give them Geno with a move down and part of me wants them to take a pass-rusher. But I think they’ll see serious value in Lotulelei as a guy who can wreck havoc on opposing offensive lines.

Nate Davis of USA Today has the Eagles taking Lotulelei with the No. 4 pick:

It makes sense to connect Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan to the Eagles given new coach Chip Kelly’s familiarity with him from their days together in Eugene, Ore. But Philadelphia has already invested in free agent linebacker Connor Barwin and has some intriguing candidates to start opposite him in the team’s new 3-4 defense. But they really need help on the D-line, and Lotulelei can play anywhere along the three-man front.

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com goes with Lotulelei also:

Big, fast, strong and tough. He would be a great fit in the middle.

ESPN.com’s Todd McShay has Lotulelei as well:

Of all the teams in the top five overall, the Eagles did the best job in free agency and are most free to take the best available player for their schemes. The D-line isn’t a pressing need, but Lotulelei is a top-five talent and would give the Eagles another solid 3-4 end and some flexibility in their new 3-4 hybrid scheme.

Russ Lande of the National Football Post has Lotulelei:

For the Eagles new 34 defense to be successful they will need to find a strong and powerful nose tackle to anchor the middle of it and Lotulelei fits the bill perfectly. He can be the man in the middle of their 34 defense and brings the versatility to also line up at DT when they align in four man fronts.

Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com thinks it’ll be Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan:

Chip Kelly coached him and needs a guy like Jordan for the new 3-4 defense. Mike Vick is a short-term answer at QB and Nick Foles should be in a different offense. The Eagles could miss on Geno Smith, but could come back later for EJ Manuel.

Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com goes with Jordan too:

The Eagles’ defensive backfield has undergone an extreme makeover. Four new defensive backs — Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips — should be in the starting lineup. With those additions, I don’t see the Eagles going with Dee Milliner, the cornerback out of Alabama. Dion Jordan, a fantastic athlete who played for Chip Kelly at Oregon, could be the guy here. Jordan is most favorably compared to Aldon Smith, the electric outside linebacker in San Francisco.

Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting thinks the Birds will take Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd:

While I prefer Sheldon Richardson over Sharrif Floyd as a prospect, Floyd seems to be more highly viewed by NFL teams, and can step in and play the 5-technique spot on day one opposite Fletcher Cox.

Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports also goes with Floyd:

The thought of Chip Kelly taking former Oregon endbacker Dion Jordan is obvious and appealing in some schematic senses, but when a team moves from 4-3 to 3-4 principles, versatility is the order of the day, and nobody plays more roles on the line with more impact than Floyd.

SI.com’s Don Banks thinks Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel will still be available:

I still can’t pull the trigger on the Eagles taking West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, because my sense is Chip Kelly views Florida State’s E.J. Manuel a more viable option early in the second round. In Joeckel, the Eagles get one of the draft’s elite offensive tackles and give themselves alternatives as both starters at the position, Jason Peters and Todd Herremans, return from injury-marred 2012 seasons.

Charles Davis of NFL.com has the Birds going with Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner:

Some recent buzz had Geno Smith being a bit of a surprise pick here. Here’s my surprise choice, after previously penciling OT Lane Johnson into this spot.

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Roseman Doesn’t Sound Ready To Reach For A QB

Howie Roseman described this as a “meat and potatoes draft,” heavy on quality offensive and defensive linemen, especially early. The Eagles are picking early, of course – No. 4 to be exact — and the general manager emphasized time and again during his hour-long session with reporters Monday that the organization has learned its lessons from previous drafts-gone-awry and will stay true to the board.

While smokescreens are being deployed by all 32 teams this time of year, Roseman’s opinion on the strength of this class is in line with what independent analysts have been saying for weeks.  The best bet is to add a hearty ingredient to the Philly stew.

Quarterback is a much more complex cuisine, and has the ability to drastically enhance or completely destroy the overall product.

Roseman was asked about the damaging effects of spending a high pick on a quarterback – to tying your team to the wrong guy.

“I’ll take it one step forward,” said Roseman. “You’re passing on a player that you think will be a really good player at a different position. Like anything in this draft, you want to be sure. You don’t want to take someone because you think.

“We’re not going to force anything. Our draft board may not be the same as people in this room or people outside of this room, but we feel very comfortable with the process and where we’re at.”

If you read between the lines and trust what is being written there, Geno Smith is not the pick. The quarterback has been tied to the Eagles quite a bit. But the West Virginia product is generally described more as the best in an underwhelming  QB class, and less as a sure thing.

“When you are picking four, taking a chance [Roseman laughs]…anyone we’re picking we’re confident in what kind of player they are going to be,” he said.

It is possible the Eagles have that kind of full confidence in Smith, but  it is more likely that they still have a doubt or two.

Roseman was asked to describe the quarterback class as a whole.

“You look at last year, and I think the expectations are out of whack on groups going forward because last year was a unique group,” he said. “When we look back at that group, I think it’s going to be one where people look at and say it was a rare opportunity in the NFL, certainly at the top when you talk about those guys. If you take out last year and compare it to other years, it falls more in line.”

Beyond Smith, the Eagles have been tied to Florida State’s EJ Manuel and Arizona’s Matt Scott. Both of those signal-callers seemed to enjoy a bump in stock this offseason. Interstingly, Roseman allowed that the team’s QB rankings did not change at all from 1-3 from the end of the season to now, and believes the same is true for the entire top 5. They have not been heavily swayed by Senior Bowl performances, Combine results or personal visits, by the sounds of it.

Have they been impressed enough to pull the trigger on one of these quarterbacks?  Perhaps, but likely not at No. 4.

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