And My Grade for the Eagles Draft Is…

Three things we learned about the Birds in the last five days

The grades are in on the Eagles’ 2010 draft class, and they range from A/B to (WT)F.

Some applaud the team’s aggressive move to jump 11 spots in the first round to select Michigan backfield pillager Brandon Graham. Others wondered why the team would give up so much (three picks) and not take Texas safety Earl Thomas, a ballhawk who fills a yawning need. There were complaints about favoring “undersized” defensive ends. Some griped that Donovan McNabb was essentially traded for South Florida safety Nate Allen, whom the Eagles chose with the Redskins’ second-round pick, number 37 overall. The O-line wasn’t addressed. They didn’t pick a corner until the fourth round. And what about that shirt Andy Reid wore on Saturday? [SIGNUP]

The great thing about the NFL Draft is the instant analysis from any number of sources. We heard how teams “reached” for players. How teams grabbed “value.” And how teams “stole” picks. And all of it, no matter how educated, researched and sourced, is meaningless.

We won’t know about the 2010 NFL Draft for years. Hell, we still don’t know if the 2007 lot will pan out, since QB Kevin Kolb has yet to play a full season as a starter, and middle linebacker Stewart Bradley is coming off a torn knee ligament. It may be fun to critique the Birds’ swap-meet mentality and look for clues about shifts in the team’s front office power structure, but coming up with a definitive assessment of the relative success or failure is almost pointless. None of these players has been on an NFL field for a single snap, so how can anybody know whether the Eagles did a great job or failed miserably?

They can’t. That doesn’t mean they won’t try. Columnists will focus on whom the Eagles didn’t pick and why they would trade with the (gasp!) Cowboys. Radio hosts are already questioning the Graham-instead-of-Thomas move. TV types wonder why the Eagles didn’t make better use of the five picks they had in the top 87. And so on.

While we wait for the ultimate verdict, down the road, there are some things that the Eagles made quite evident during the three-day draft.

In A Rush: Last season, a record number (nine) of NFL quarterbacks threw for at least 4,000 yards. Ten attempted at least 500 passes, tying a record. And five had QB ratings of 100 or better, another new mark. More than ever before, the league is about the forward pass. And the best way to combat that is to hit the quarterback. That’s why the Eagles took three pass-rushing defensive ends. And that’s why they chose Graham over Thomas.

No matter how good a player is in coverage, he can be beaten if a QB has too much time. “A million [quarterbacks] can execute well if they’re not getting hit,” Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron says. Look at how the Saints battered Brett Favre in the NFL title game. Think he wasn’t worrying about his banged-up ankle when he threw that crushing fourth-quarter interception, instead of trying to run for a first down? Defenses want to hit (and hurt) opposing quarterbacks, the better to limit their effectiveness. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub – a West Chester East product – says defensive coaches want QBs “seeing ghosts.”

The quicker teams put pressure on the quarterback, the faster the QBs must release the ball. That makes it easier on the secondary. We won’t know if Graham, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Ricky Sapp will be productive NFL players, but it’s hard to argue with the Eagles’ logic.

Andy the Builder: The Gold Standard bearers would never admit it, but any team that drafts 13 players is rebuilding. The Eagles have multiple needs to address, and their actions in free agency, the trade game and the draft indicate a complete personality shift.  The Eagles are younger and unproven. The folks at the Nova Care complex have denied it. They have spun it. But that’s almost the definition of rebuilding.

Power Play: Kremlinologists used to spend hours analyzing subtle messages and symbols in the day-to-day Soviet operations, trying to figure out whether certain leaders were losing influence. Was Kosygin standing to Brezhnev’s right at the May Day parade? Or was he replaced by Podgorny? We don’t have to go to that extreme, but it’s clear GM Howie Roseman has more authority than his predecessor, Tom Heckert. Does that mean Joe Banner has wrested control of the franchise’s day-to-day operations from Reid? It sure looks that way.

After enduring weeks of breathless build-up to the draft, we finally learned the identities of the new Eagles. In the coming years, we’ll learn whether they can play professional football well. Until then, there is only one grade we can give the team’s picks:



  • The Sixers want to solve their miseries of the past several years by bringing back Larry Brown, do they? Big mistake. Giving LB complete control? Bigger mistake
  • No pressure, Roy Halladay. Since the rest of the starting rotation is either hurt or ineffective – or both – you just have to win every start. I’m not kidding. Every Start.
  • The Flyers are getting some much-needed rest before the next round of the playoffs. They’ll need it, because Alex Ovechkin and the Caps won’t embarrass themselves the way Jersey did.