Every year we try to rationalize or critique the NFL Draft in
the days that follow as if some of us had a crystal ball. Sure, the grades
sportswriters hand out almost always come with the disclaimer that we won’t
really know which picks will pan out for 3-5 years, but that doesn’t stop
anybody from guessing.
Having said that, it’s difficult not to feel good about what
the Eagles accomplished over the weekend – and I don’t necessarily mean
specific players. Don’t get me wrong, I liked their choices, from an incredibly
athletic offensive tackle at No. 4, to a fourth-round quarterback who might
have been taken in the top five had he entered the draft a year ago. Even the
guys in the seventh seemed to be good values.
There’s no need for a sales pitch though. The Eagles did
simple things in this draft that fans have been clamoring for, if not begging
for them do for years.
For starters, Howie Roseman didn’t do a lot of maneuvering
up and down the draft board, which has been a staple of theirs for years.
Coming into this year, the Eagles had either moved up in the first round or out
of it entirely in five of the past six drafts, and seven out of 10. Again, that’s
in the first round alone.
This year Howie made one swap, sending a lone seventh
rounder to Jacksonville to jump up three spots into the first pick on day three,
where they got USC quarterback Matt Barkley. Every other time, they stood pat
and made their selections with conviction.
That’s not to say trading in the draft is intrinsically bad,
but sometimes it’s best to do the easy thing. Just stay put and take the best player
available when it’s Lane Johnson, a left tackle who could anchor your offensive
line for the next decade
Maybe it’s a little more effortless to be patient when the
war room is picking at the top of every round, but here’s another aspect of the
draft that should delight. Every single player chosen went to a school in a
major conference. All of ‘em.
There was no Matt McCoy, linebacker from San Diego St. in
round two, nor a Bryan Smith, defensive end/linebacker out of McNeese St. in the
third. Not surprisingly, Clay Harbor’s alma mater of Southwest Missouri St. did
not produce a player taken in the fourth round this year, while the Eagles didn’t
“steal” any talent from Delaware, North Dakota St., or Wheaton in the later
That’s not to say good players never come from small
schools. Todd Herremans came from Saginaw Valley St., while one of the best
running backs in franchise history was Brian Westbrook out of Villanova. More
often than not though, they don’t.
In fact, we didn’t see a lot of weirdness in general. There
wasn’t that one terribly obvious reach like Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second.
They didn’t draft a defensive end and immediately announce they were going to
move him to linebacker as the Eagles once did with Chris Gocong. They didn’t go
after any players with career threatening injuries such as a Jack Ikegwuonu,
Every selection was a sound football player from a good
program, tremendous athletes without lengthy medical histories who already fit
their defined roles. Imagine that.
And here’s one more: most of these are kids Chip Kelly had first-hand
experience coaching against. He didn’t just scout these players from a draft standpoint.
Kelly actually had to figure out how to stop several of these players or
minimize their impact on a game as a head coach. In some cases, such as Stanford
tight end Zach Ertz, he couldn’t stop them.
It gave the Eagles a different perspective on players like
Ertz, Barkley, LSU defensive lineman Bennie Logan, and Oregon St. corner Jordan
Poyer. Somehow that little bit of extra knowledge just makes me more
comfortable about those picks.
Obviously how history ultimately views this group of players
will be based on what they do on football field, not day-after grades, what
schools they went to, or how many picks were dealt or stockpiled while making
the selections. Still you get the sense though that Roseman and Kelly were content to
allow the draft to come to them instead of looking for every angle. There’s no
doubt that was a welcome change.