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

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

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.

Eagles Stay or Go Part 6: Taylor Hart to Donnie Jones

Eagles Stay or Go Part 6: Taylor Hart to Donnie Jones

In the sixth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 6 is Hart to Jones.

Taylor Hart

Roob: No matter how hard the Eagles try, they just can't get rid of Taylor Hart. Chip Kelly drafted Hart in the fifth round in 2014 and then Hart began last season with Kelly in San Francisco before reappearing here later in the season. Hart is going into his fourth NFL season and has 15 games, 12 tackles and no sacks to show for it. He turns 26 next month and has never shown any signs of being a guy who can contribute in a 4-3 defense. I’m going to say he goes, but don't be surprised if he finds his way back onto the roster at some point. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Hart was with the Eagles last training camp but cut him on Sept. 4 and he was claimed by the 49ers and Chip Kelly. Then when the Niners cut him, the Eagles claimed him back and he spent the rest of the season watching the Eagles play football. He was inactive in all but the last game and in that one he didn’t play. Hart is a former fifth-round pick who just fits better in a 3-4. The Eagles already played undrafted rookie Destiny Vaeao over him, so it’s time to set him free. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Hicks
Cap hit: $796K

Roob: Whenever you blast Chip for getting rid of Shady, DeSean and Jeremy Maclin, you have to mention that he did draft Jordan Hicks in the third round. Hicks, in just 24 games, has become one of the most productive playmaking linebackers in Eagles history. With seven interceptions, he already has the 11th-most interceptions in franchise history by a linebacker, and he led all NFL linebackers with five INTs this past season. Only four linebackers in NFL history have had more interceptions in their first two seasons – Hall of Famer Jack Ham is one of them. But Hicks is more than a ballhawk. He’s a smart, heady linebacker who is stout at the point of attack and is already developing into a terrific locker room leader as well. The future is certainly bright for Hicks.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: He just finished his second year in the NFL, but Hicks is quickly becoming one of the biggest playmaking linebackers in the league. Through the first 24 games of his career, he has seven interceptions. In his first two years, he has 7 INTs, 4 FRs, 1 FF. He’s the fifth player in NFL history to do that in his first two seasons and he’s the only linebacker. That said, Hicks needs to get better against the run and he knows it. Now that he won’t have an injury to heal from this offseason, he plans on hitting the weight room to get stronger and better at stopping the run. He looks like a cornerstone of the franchise. 

Verdict: STAYS

Malcolm Jenkins
Cap hit: $7.5M

Roob: Jenkins had another good year in his third season with the Eagles, although not quite up to his Pro Bowl level of 2015. Jenkins, who turns 30 late next season, is on the books for another four years with some pretty high cap figures — $7.5 million in 2017, then $10 million, $9.75 million and $9.25 million. But as long as Jenkins continues to play at a high level, I don’t see him going anywhere until after the 2018 season at the earliest, when he would count just $3 million in dead money if he’s released. But Jenkins is a guy you'd like to see finish his career in Philly. Hope that happens. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s hard to quantify just how much Jenkins means to the Eagles or how much he’s worth. But it’s a lot. The last two seasons have been the best of his career and he’s shown no signs of slowing down. The best Jenkins stat is this: He’s missed just eight defensive snaps since arriving in 2013. Unreal. If the Eagles chose to play him at cornerback last year, he would have probably been their best one. 

Verdict: STAYS

Lane Johnson
Cap hit: $10M

Roob: If he goes, it’ll be because of a third positive drug test. Johnson’s play in the six games he was available to the Eagles was at an All-Pro level. But after two positive tests for banned substances and suspensions of four games in 2014 and 10 games in 2016, he’s now one positive test away from a two-year ban that would essentially end his Eagles career. My gut feeling is Johnson has learned his lesson and won’t take any more chances. That he understands what’s at stake here and isn’t going to risk his career by taking a supplement that hasn’t been pre-tested and cleared. Obviously there are other reasons the Eagles were 5-1 when Johnson played. Those five wins included games against the hapless Browns and Bears and a win against a Cowboys team that wasn’t trying to win. But that said, Johnson’s value is clear. He's a beast. It’s up to Johnson whether he becomes a Pro Bowl offensive tackle or a casualty of the NFL’s substance abuse regulations. I can’t imagine he’ll make the same mistake again.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: A lot was made about Johnson’s suspension voiding the guaranteed portion of his contract. And for a week or so, a bunch of fans were calling into talk radio saying the Eagles should cut him. That was laughable. Johnson is still the Eagles’ best offensive player and as long as he stays on the field and plays the way he did in 2016, he’s going to make most of the money in his contract. He obviously deserves plenty of blame for the way last season went, but he’s a big piece of the future. One more suspension and his career is basically over, so the Eagles just have to hope he doesn’t ruin everything.  

Verdict: STAYS

Marcus Johnson

Roob: Johnson is an interesting guy. Ran a 4.37 so he has wheels, but he didn’t have much of a career at Texas. Then again, Texas didn’t have a legit quarterback while he was there so maybe there’s a lot of untapped potential. The Eagles are so desperate for help at wide receiver they’ll take a good long look at everybody on the roster, even a guy who bounced off and on the practice squad last year. This Longhorn is a longshot to make the roster, but then again, if he catches the football consistently in training camp he’ll give himself a fighting chance.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The receiver was with the Eagles during training camp and flashed some before getting hurt. He joined the practice squad during the season and was there at season’s end. He’ll be brought to camp but is a longshot to make the roster. 

Verdict: GOES

Donnie Jones
Cap hit: $1.25M

Roob: At 36 years old, the greatest punter in Eagles history (sorry Mat McBriar) showed no signs of slowing down. In his 13th NFL season, Jones averaged 45.8 yards per punt with a 40.7 net – both above his career highs. The most amazing thing about Jones is his knack for dropping punts inside the 20 without hitting very many touchbacks. He had 21 inside the 20 this year with just six touchbacks, and in four seasons with the Eagles he has 117 inside the 20 with just 26 touchbacks. When you don’t have an explosive offense, field position is critical, and Jones is a human field position flipping machine. The Eagles signed him to a three-year extension this year, and he’s now under contract through 2019.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: At times during the last two seasons, Jones has looked like the offense’s best weapon. That’s not a good sign for the offense, but it is for Jones. He’s already the best punter in team history. He’ll be 37 by the time the 2017 season starts, but he just signed a contract and will be the team’s punter for at least a couple more years if everything goes to plan. 

Verdict: STAYS