Ten Thoughts On the Eagles Draft
The NFL draft kicked off with a wild 30 minutes of anticipation, but after that (from an Eagles perspective, at least), felt a bit uneventful.
In the end, the Birds added six new players – five on the defensive side of the ball and three in the secondary.
Below are 10 thoughts on the Eagles selections.
1. We talk a lot around these parts about measurables, but I think we need to retire the idea that Chip Kelly is only interested in big wide receivers. Nelson Agholor (6-0/198) ranks in the 30th percentile in height and the 43rd percentile in weight. Last year, the Eagles drafted 5-11 Josh Huff and were reportedly interested in 5-10 Brandin Cooks. Kelly has said repeatedly that he thought Odell Beckham Jr. (5-11) was the top player in the 2014 draft. He wants guys who can beat press coverage, and versatility is a plus.
Blocking matters, but sometimes people get carried away with that aspect. It’s not as if wide receivers are going to shove defensive backs 10 yards out of bounds. Kelly just wants guys who are willing to get physical and help in the run game.
On the other side of the ball, height absolutely is a factor at cornerback. I think the cutoff is probably 5-11. That’s how tall Kansas CB JaCorey Shepherd (sixth-round pick) is. Last year, the Eagles signed 5-11 Nolan Carroll II and drafted 5-11 Jaylen Watkins.
2. Next February, when people tell you that combine testing doesn’t matter much (specifically as it pertains to the Eagles), be sure to laugh at them.
Asked about what second-round pick Eric Rowe brings to the table from a physical standpoint, Kelly said without hesitation: “He went 4.45 in the 40. He was a 3.94 in the short shuttle, and he had one of the best three-cones at the combine. Thirty-nine inches in the vertical jump and I think 20 reps in the bench press. When you look at him from a height, weight, speed factor, he was in the top 25 percent of all the defensive backs that were out there, and I think in most cases in the top 10 percent.”
Kelly was not looking at a paper when he reeled off those numbers. But he does this routinely. Granted, with Rowe, Kelly was slightly off – Rowe ran a 3.97 in the short shuttle and had 19 reps on the bench – but Kelly clearly plays a lot of attention to the combine testing.
3. The same goes for official visits. The Eagles are allowed to bring 30 prospects to the NovaCare Complex before the draft. They can’t work them out in Philadelphia, but they can interview them, do film work, etc.
This year, five of the team’s six picks came in for official visits. The only exception was Kansas St. CB Randall Evans.
“I think they are really valuable,” Kelly said. “Any time you get an exposure, you get a better idea of what they are all about. And I know some people, Ed [Marynowitz] mentioned, use them as smokescreens or things like that. We’re not into that. I want to find out as much as we possibly can about each individual prospect so that when we are really involved and kind of looking at them we are making accurate decisions.
“Our mantra is we don’t care who we don’t get. We care very much who we do get. So everybody is, ‘Oh, we should have had that guy.’ We’d better really know about that guy we get. That’s where we are trying to dig deeper and work even harder at knowing everything about those guys and trying to get out as many times as we can. If we don’t bring them in here, we are certainly going to see them at their place and just visiting with them. The scouts really did a good job in terms of getting all the background information because the tape is the tape. I think anybody can look at the tape, but then you have to dig and figure out how do they really fit in terms of what we are trying to build here.”
In other words, the official visits help with the #culture rating.
4. The idea that the Marcus Mariota possibility was a media creation is hilarious to me. I get the Mariota fatigue. It was four months of non-stop speculation. But the fact of the matter is that Kelly tried to move up for his quarterback. He talked to both the Titans and the Bucs. By all accounts, the Eagles were the most serious suitor.
Kelly saying the team didn’t “offer” any players seems like semantics. Would he have been willing to part with certain players to land Mariota? Of course.
In the end, what I underestimated was that the Titans really did want to draft Mariota. My sense at the time was that they were trying to leverage the best offer. But in reality, they had no interest in doing a deal. Kelly clearly had interest and explored making a move. He has admitted as much. But because the Titans wanted Mariota, there wasn’t anything he realistically could have done.
5. My initial reaction when the Eagles used the 20th pick on Agholor was: I thought they would wait to take a wide receiver. Once again, this class of pass-catchers was said to be loaded. Why not address another need and then take a receiver in the second?
But looking back, I have no issue with what they did, given how the board fell. Had they drafted another position in the first round (say UConn CB Byron Jones), here are some of the receivers who would have been available to them in the second: Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, Georgia’s Chris Conley and Auburn’s Sammie Coates. Those are talented players, but none is as polished or as versatile as Agholor.
Of course, you can make the argument that they wouldn’t have had to trade up in the second to land Rowe and could have held on to those fifth-round picks. That’s totally fair. But from a strictly “who they got” perspective, I like the Agholor/Rowe combination better than the Jones/[Strong, Conley, Coates] combination.
6. For the second year in a row, a run on offensive linemen doomed the Eagles. They were hoping to address that need in the third round with the 84th overall pick. But in between the Rowe selection and the eventual Jordan Hicks selection, 10 offensive linemen went off the board. Among that group, there were several who might have fit: Oregon’s Jake Fisher, Hobart’s Ali Marpet, Utah’s Jeremiah Poutasi and Oregon’s Hroniss Grasu. Others like South Carolina’s A.J. Cann, Colorado State’s Ty Sambrallo and Missouri’s Mitch Morse very well could have been on the Eagles’ board as well.
In the end, the Eagles failed to draft an offensive lineman for the second straight year. They haven’t taken one since Lane Johnson back in 2013. Others have tried to downplay the concern, but I’m not in that camp.
Allen Barbre is a 30-year-old journeyman who has started eight games in seven seasons. Matt Tobin (granted, he was dealing with an injury) struggled last year to the point that he was eventually replaced by Andrew Gardner. This team is very thin up front.
Last year, Kelly was pretty direct in pointing out he wasn’t able to call some things offensively because of the injuries and personnel on the offensive line. Jason Peters and Evan Mathis (assuming he’s on the team) will each be another year older. And right guard is a gaping hole. It’s possible that the Eagles catch lightning in a bottle and find an unknown who can get the job done, but the O-Line is what makes everything go on offense. And it’s absolutely a concern heading into OTAs.
7. I think we have enough proof to suggest Kelly doesn’t believe he can plug just anyone in at wide receiver. The team has spent a first-, second- and third-round pick on the position in the past two drafts (as reader John pointed out, they also used a fourth-round pick to move up for Jordan Matthews). And the Eagles tried to bring Jeremy Maclin back. Kelly knows he needs talent at that spot.
I also think that the Agholor selection means Riley Cooper could be in trouble. It’s entirely possible that the team’s best three wide receivers end up being Matthews, Agholor and Josh Huff. That would put Cooper in the No. 4 hole, assuming he’s better than Miles Austin.
Then again, I could also see a situation where Kelly stays loyal to Cooper, and we’re all wondering in Week 3 why one of the younger guys has not replaced him yet.
8. T-Mac and I were talking about many of the Eagles’ moves and came to the conclusion that the issues from the previous season seem to be the driving factor in Kelly’s decisions. For example, the secondary was a disaster down the stretch, so he signed Byron Maxwell, tried to add Devin McCourty and drafted Rowe. Inside linebacker depth hurt the Eagles because of injuries to DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks and Najee Goode, so the team traded for Kiko Alonso and drafted Hicks. The previous year, it was all about beating man coverage, so Kelly added Darren Sproles and brought Maclin back.
That theory also applies to the above point on Cooper. I just don’t see how Kelly and the coaches could have self-scouted and come to the conclusion that Cooper as a starter gives the Eagles the best chance to win. The theory applies to the offensive line as well. I don’t think it’s about Kelly devaluing offensive linemen. He wanted to add one early in the draft, but just couldn’t get it done given how the board fell.
9. Neither Kelly nor Marynowitz had ever run a draft before, so one of the concerns going in was how they would assess value/compensation. I asked Kelly if the team uses a draft value trade chart.
“We have a trade chart, but I think it’s changed a little bit with the new CBA,” he said. “There’s a formula, and there’s math involved in it. We had a computer doing it. I was told there would be no math, so we have a computer that actually computes that for us. You just say, ‘What is two fives and this?’ and hit a button and it comes up. Is it a negative number or a positive number? If it’s a positive number, we would agree to it. When it’s a negative number, no. But if you’re buying, you may have to give a couple points. If you’re selling, you obviously want to get a couple back.”
In other words, they use a chart, but it’s not the Jimmy Johnson chart that is available online and pre-dates the most recent CBA.
10. As friend of the blog Sam Lynch has pointed out, if we’re going to grade the draft, now is the time to do it. Evaluations should be made given what we know at the time of the selections. In five years, anyone can look back and judge how the players ended up performing, but that’s not the point. It’s about whether the teams made the best use of their resources at the time of the draft.
Having said that, I’m going to go B-. Regular readers know Agholor was one of my favorite wide receivers in this draft. And the Eagles bolstered the secondary with the Rowe selection in the second. I was a fan of both those picks.
So why not a higher grade? Not finding a single offensive lineman is a big blow. And assuming Rowe is going to start out at cornerback, the safety issue is still, well, an issue. Meanwhile, for the second straight year, the Eagles failed to come out of the draft with a developmental quarterback. It’s hard to find a franchise guy, but since the Matt Barkley pick, they seem to prefer trying to strike gold with veterans (Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford) over developmental guys.
I’m not saying there’s a mid-round QB they absolutely should have taken, but at some point, it’d be nice to get a young guy on the roster who has a shot down the road.
Overall, I think they got quality players (the first two specifically) and addressed a couple needs. That gets them to a B-.