Bridling Short-Term Enthusiasm for the Eagles' 2012 Draft Class

Bridling Short-Term Enthusiasm for the Eagles' 2012 Draft Class
May 3, 2012, 8:10 am
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When was the last time Eagles fans were as united in favor of a first-round draft pick -- or any draft pick for that matter -- as they seem to be over Fletcher Cox?

In fact, the entire 2012 class is drawing rave reviews. A recent poll of CSN viewers revealed over 60% would grade the Birds an 'A' this year, with 'A' and 'B' combined grabbing about 85% of the vote. Meanwhile, the local and national media are holding the baton on this, eagerly patting Howie Roseman and Andy Reid on the back, and calling this a job well done.

Since when are Philly fans, along with local and national media, in accord over anything the football team does?

I suppose I should be grateful for the opportunity to play the role of the wet blanket for a change, not that I even disagree with the Eagles' selections. It's just that ordinarily I find myself defending the draft afterward, not necessarily because I have any strong opinion one way or the other, but the backlash is often unreasonable, ignorant of the bigger picture. People become strangely attached or opposed to kids they know little or nothing about.

It probably helps there isn't that one obvious reach this year. There isn't the player from the random school nobody ever heard of, the project who has to change positions at the next level, or the flier on somebody coming off of serious, multiple knee injuries. It's a draft loaded with name players out of name programs, many of whom looked like great values for where they were chosen.

At the end of the weekend though, all we have are a list of names and measurables. This draft is really no different from any other in the sense that some of the players will carve out respectable NFL careers, others will bust and wind up out of the league -- journeymen if they're lucky. Trying to predict which will be which is a senseless exercise, unless you've actually spent any significant amount of time watching them play. Even then, you probably have only marginally better odds of getting it right than Death From Above.

Otherwise, I am in agreement with everybody else: this looks like a very solid draft for the Eagles. I'm not offering the front office any congratulations though, not before these kids have played a single down in the NFL.

Good draft, bad draft -- let's cut through all of that, because nobody knows, and it doesn't matter today. What are the expectations from this draft? More specifically, what kind of short-term goals should be set for each new member for the Eagles?

No. 12 Fletcher Cox (DT - Mississippi St.)
Goal: Average 6.0 or more sacks per season over the next five years

Depending on your vantage point, that total may or may not sound like a lot, but if Cox gets in the 5.5-6.0 range over the course of his rookie deal, it means he likely had at least one breakout season. Interior linemen certainly are capable of posting monster sack totals, it's just most do not sustain those numbers on a year-to-year basis.

Anything less doesn't seem like enough of an impact from the twelfth overall pick. He's here to collapse the pocket and rush the quarterback.

No. 46 Mychal Kendricks (LB - Cal)
Goal: Become an every-down starter at linebacker

Likewise, this might appear to be setting the bar low for Kendricks. Outside linebackers in 4-3 systems rarely receive the accolades like their interior brethren though, and there are too many variables to set a statistical goal. Should Kendricks become the uncontested starter at any of the three spots, that has to be considered a good thing -- particularly if he's not strictly a situational player.

No. 59 Vinny Curry (DE - Marshall)
Goal: Earn a multi-year contract extension from the Eagles

Curry's is the goal I struggled with the most. Where he was taken suggests he should make a big impact in the NFL, but Curry is behind a pair of Pro Bowlers on the depth chart who don't appear to be going anywhere, not to mention faces competition from Brandon Graham and possibly Philip Hunt. What is the right number of sacks for a situational player? Earning a contract extension is admittedly vague, but it indicates he's probably made the most of his playing time, and that there is more to come.

No. 88 Nick Foles (QB - Arizona)
Goal: Compete for the starting quarterback job someday

Foles achieving his goal depends on several outside factors. It's not incredibly likely, but Vick could cement himself as the franchise quarterback with a great season or two. There's a better chance Reid won't even be here a year or two from now, and a new regime probably wouldn't be as high on Foles. However, if the Eagles are still stuck with the status quo in a couple of seasons (I'm sure you're all very excited by the prospect), we should start to hear this kid's name in the mix to be the Eagles' next full-time signal caller.

No. 123 Brandon Boykin (CB - Georgia)
Goal: Become the nickel corner by season two

Joselio Hanson turns 31, and will be a free agent next year. He's a serviceable slot cornerback, but the Eagles can upgrade. Enter Boykin. He doesn't need to contribute from the opening kickoff, but we should see more of Boykin as 2012 wears on, and maybe the team can finally move on from Hanson at season's end. Bonus if Boykin is reliable in the return game.

No. 153 Dennis Kelly (OT - Purdue)
Goal: Become the primary backup at offensive tackle by season two

The Eagles' movements suggest they are counting on Jason Peters to return to full health by next season, but they have the option to hold to Demetress Bell too. That means they shouldn't need a regular starter by next season, but the organization doesn't seem too enamored with King Dunlap as its key depth. If the 6-8, 321-lbs. Kelly can take over that role in 2013, the offensive line should be in good shape.

No. 194 Marvin McNutt (WR - Iowa)
Goal: Make Riley Cooper expendable

McNutt is one of the few Eagles draft picks I've seen quite a bit of, and I think his ceiling is very high. He was very productive at Iowa, especially last season when he caught 82 balls for 1,315 yards and 12 TDs. Because he's only a sixth-round selection, and he has a similar build (6-4, 215) to Cooper (6-3, 222) only with slightly more athleticism, we'll start out small and see if he can take snaps away from the third-year player out of Florida. If he reaches his full potential though, maybe he'll go on to replace Jason Avant in the slot, or even Jeremy Maclin outside.

No. 200 Brandon Washington (G - Miami)
Goal: Make the 53-man roster by season two

The Eagles have Julian Vandervelde from the fifth round of last year's draft, and Dunlap also demonstrated he can play guard, so Washington doesn't automatically need to make the team as a rookie. He should be up and ready to backup Evan Mathis and/or Danny Watkins by year two.

No. 229 Bryce Brown (RB - Kansas St.)
Goal: Make the 53-man roster at any point

I will be impressed if the 6-0, 223-lbs. Brown makes the roster at all, let alone in his rookie season. Roseman sounded very high on the seventh-round pick, and the fact that the Eagles brought in some high-profile undrafted competition at running back leads me to believe he has a shot, but with Dion Lewis currently
the club's second-most experienced back entering season two, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if a veteran was eventually brought in for this year.

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