Five Years Later, Revisiting the 2007 NFL Draft

Five Years Later, Revisiting the 2007 NFL Draft

It's fitting the Eagles would make an unexpected move with a certain fourth-round draft pick they acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

You see, there's a lot of history with that fourth-round pick, the same fourth-round pick that was swapped for new middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans last month. The Bucs sent that pick to Philadelphia last year as part of a draft-day deal to move up 12 spots to select Luke Stocker 104th overall. Of course, the 104th pick in 2011 originally belonged to the Washington Redskins, but had been exchanged in the original Donovan McNabb trade. Though as shocking as the day was when the Eagles sent their franchise quarterback to a division rival, it never could have happened without the biggest draft day surprise of the Andy Reid era.

When the Eagles traded out of the first round in 2007, the move was met with groans. When the trade was completed with the selection of a little-known quarterback from the University of Houston hours later, the reactions ranged from head scratching to rage. To this day, some still can't understand how the front office could pass on a talent like Anthony Spencer -- and let the Dallas Cowboys have him no less -- to take some small-school QB nobody ever heard of.

Yet, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that move eventually became the catalyst for the management completely altering the face of this organization. After all, how could the Eagles have moved on from McNabb were it not for Kevin Kolb? In franchise lore, the two will be forever connected.

We get the sense there are still a lot of folks who to this day think Kolb was a terrible move. It was the first of back-to-back trades out of the first round for Philadelphia, giving the front office a reputation for dropping down when they're really twice as likely to trade up. They dealt the 26th selection to the Cowboys, allowing a division rival to jump ahead of them and select Spencer, a double-digit sack artist going to Honolulu every January in the minds of most Birds fans. They passed on boat loads of other great players to take Kolb, who sat the bench for three years, flamed out as the franchise quarterback in one week, and now plays for Arizona -- so obviously it was all a waste.

Except it wasn't. You can grade the Kolb selection using two methods: what they got, and what they didn't get.

What they didn't get is easy. They didn't get Spencer, a would-be defensive end in the Eagles 4-3 who has never had more than six sacks in an NFL season. They didn't get any of the non-descript players who went between picks 26 and 36, out of which the only Pro Bowl-caliber players to emerge were a pair of O-linemen -- which at the time was not a position of need. They didn't get any of the quality players who were off the board the next time the Birds were up after choosing Kolb either, though obviously the team thought a quarterback was the best player available.

What they got is a little more abstract. Kolb only started seven games in an Eagles uniform, yet that doesn't begin to define his legacy here. By 2010, the team was comfortable enough with Kolb as their starting quarterback (and Michael Vick his backup) that they were able to trade McNabb, who suddenly looked old and ineffective in consecutive losses to Dallas to end their '09 campaign. Without the replacement Andy Reid and the coaching staff had been grooming to take over for three seasons, can the club ever seriously consider dumping Donovan?

When you look at it like that, the Kevin Kolb pick nets all of this:

#26 overall (Spencer) in '07 for
a 2nd (Kolb), 3rd (Stewart Bradley) and a 5th (C.J. Gaddis) in '07

Donovan McNabb for
a 2nd (Nate Allen) in 2010 and a 4th (traded to TB) in '11

A 4th to Tampa Bay (Stocker) in '11 for
a 4th (Casey Matthews) in '11 and a 4th (DeMeco Ryans) in '12

Kevin Kolb for
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd (#51) in '12

Not a bad haul. Three of the above players could be starting on the Eagles defense this season -- Ryans, Allen, and Rodgers-Cromartie. Matthews may become a serviceable backup, and they have Arizona's second-round pick left, which could be another player, possibly even currency to either trade up or acquire more picks later/in the future. Maybe this isn't exactly what the front office intended when they chose Kolb, but one way or the other, he became an asset to the team.

Most of all, more than a collection of players, what it meant was a fresh start for the franchise. The Eagles dumped a ton of veterans along with McNabb, making 2010 something akin to a rebuilding year. It didn't take Mike Vick long to usurp the starting job from Kolb, but that never could have happened if he had spent another season buried third on the depth chart, used only as an occasional Wildcat option.

So while Kevin Kolb didn't work out in the conventional sense of a successful draft pick who contributes to the same team over multiple years -- and to be fair, who knows if he would have or not given more than one half of football to prove himself -- it was still as important a pick as the Eagles have made since taking Donovan McNabb in 1999.

Drafting Kevin Kolb changed the landscape in Philadelphia like no other NFL player in a long time. From that standpoint, you have to admit the 2007 Draft worked out quite well.

Notable Hits: Brent Celek (5th)
Notable Misses: Victor Abiamiri (2nd), Tony Hunt (3rd)

Final Grade: B

Challenges await Darryl Reynolds, Villanova in run to repeat as national champs

Challenges await Darryl Reynolds, Villanova in run to repeat as national champs

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Darryl Reynolds said it hurt. And he wasn’t alone. 

A month ago, Reynolds and the rest of the Villanova Wildcats found out five-star freshman big man Omari Spellman would not be eligible to play in 2016-17.

And despite Spellman — at 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds — being the biggest competition cutting into Reynolds’ playing time for his senior year, Reynolds understood the ramifications from losing what was expected to be a key cog in Villanova’s next run for glory.

“We lost a — no pun intended — big piece to the puzzle,” Reynolds said Tuesday at Villanova’s media day. “He went down, but everybody else has realized that we need that much more from everybody else.

“Me and Omari are close, in more ways than on the court. It would’ve been exciting to play with him. But it also provided that much more motivation.”

Motivation because Reynolds, a Lower Merion grad, also understands what the ramifications mean for him, too. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior may arguably be the most important player on the 2016-17 Wildcats. 

For three years, Reynolds has largely taken a backseat, hidden by the shadow of Daniel Ochefu. Now he’s front and center.

“He battled through that,” fellow senior Josh Hart said. “Never complained. Never had any down moments. Brought it every single day. We know he can play at this level.”

Reynolds heads a position in which Villanova was supposed to have depth. Now it has question marks. Reynolds and Spellman were going to be a 1-2 punch inside and a perfect supplement to a bevy of offensive talent around them. The question marks up front include sophomore Tim Delaney and freshman Dylan Painter. How quickly the two of them get going will be big. And so, too, will be figuring out where Fordham transfer forward Eric Paschall fits in the rotation.

Coach Jay Wright, who said Reynolds would be a starter, talked more about the other pieces behind Reynolds when asked what he’d be expecting from the senior big man.

“I think part of our challenge is Tim Delaney and Dylan Painter,” Wright said. “Which one of them, if not both of them, can step up and give us the depth that Darryl gave us last year up front when we needed size? Down the stretch in big games against big-time teams, you need that size. We’ve got to develop Tim and Dylan and see how they do with that, see how Eric Paschall can do. Can he play bigger? We definitely have our challenges.”

Those challenges also include replacing leadership roles vacated by Ryan Arcidiacono, Ochefu and a trio of walk-ons.

Insert Reynolds there, too. The Wildcats will start three seniors this year. Hart and Kris Jenkins may do most of the scoring, but they’re pretty reserved off the court and when talking to the media.

“Obviously Ryan (Arcidiacono) was a great leader for us. He was our rock,” Hart said. “When you look at this team, a lot of times we look at [Reynolds]. He calms everybody down. He vocally tries to make sure everybody’s on one accord. Basketball-wise, he’s always been good. You saw the Providence game last year when we needed him to step up and he had, what, like 19 and 11?”

Hart remembers the numbers well, even if he added an extra rebound to the ledger. Reynolds was 9 for 10 from the floor and had two blocks in 36 minutes of action to help the Wildcats earn revenge with a road win after the Friars beat them in Philadelphia two weeks prior.

That game was the last of a three-game stretch in late January into early February when Ochefu was sidelined with a concussion. Reynolds’ minutes over that stretch: 29, 31 and 36, respectively.

That experience, Reynolds says, coupled with the rest of 2015-16 — when he saw an uptick in minutes from his sophomore season’s 5.4 per game to 17.1 per game — will be easy to draw from in 2016-17.

“There’s nothing like getting out there and actually playing,” Reynolds said. “You see a lot from the sidelines. You learn a lot playing spot minutes. You get different things. But just being out there throughout entire games, playing 20-plus minutes, it teaches you things that you could never have learned from another perspective. I learned a lot from those experiences and I think it made me the player that I am in many ways. It’s the same thing with this year. I’m still going to learn a ton in a sense of being out there that much more and not having Daniel. 

“In many ways he taught me a lot. So not having him, not having that voice in my ear, not having that guy to go against in practice, it will make me grow up. 

“Nothing wrong with that,” he said with a smile.

Doug Pederson not afraid to get aggressive with play-calling

Doug Pederson not afraid to get aggressive with play-calling

Talk to Doug Pederson and he comes across … what’s a nice way to put it … dry?

Very nice guy. Very friendly. Very down to Earth. But not the most dynamic personality in public.

Which is why his personality on gameday has been so surprising.

Pederson is a risk taker as a playcaller. Aggressive and fearless.

Whether it’s going for it on fourth down with the lead, going for two after a successful PAT or throwing deep in a situation that doesn’t necessarily call for it, Pederson has proven to be the proverbial riverboat gambler that Chip Kelly was expected to be but never became.

“My personality is probably a little more conservative by nature, I think,” Pederson said Monday. “You'd probably agree with that.”

Pederson got a laugh with that comment because his public persona is exactly the opposite of his gameday demeanor.

It only took one day before we all got a taste of Pederson’s fearlessness.

In the season opener against the Browns, with the Eagles clinging to a 15-10 lead and a rookie quarterback making his first NFL appearance and a 4th-and-4 at the Browns’ 40--yard-line, he kept the offense on the field.

Carson Wentz responded by connecting with Zach Ertz on a five-yard gain to move the chains, and one play later, the Eagles took command on Wentz’s 35-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor.

Six weeks in, the Eagles are 5 for 5 on fourth down. Only the Falcons have converted more fourth downs in the NFL this year, and they’re 6 for 10.

In the win over the Bears, the Eagles were 3 for 3 on fourth down, their best fourth-down conversion day in nine years.

This is the first time in 14 years the Eagles have converted five or more fourth downs through six games.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Eagles are one of only seven teams in NFL history to attempt five or more fourth down plays through six games and still be at 100 percent. The Lions are also 5 for 5 this year.

Pederson said analytics are a big part of his decision-making process, but he also trusts his instincts.

“I think it's both,” Pederson said. “But I trust our guys and I trust our offensive line and I think it sends a great message to the rest of the team, to the defense and special teams, that, ‘Hey, if we can convert this and stay on the field,’ it sends a good message.

“And on the other side of that, if you do convert, (it’s about) the message you send to the other team and the fact that you're going to stay aggressive.”

The Eagles are 29th-best in the NFL on third down at just 34 percent. But they’re one of only three teams that’s at 100 percent on fourth down.

“It's kind of a crazy deal when you're not great on third down, but you can be 5 for 5 on fourth down and convert them,” Pederson said. “It's a weird deal. But credit to the guys for the execution.

“I'm going to continue to look at it. I don't ever want to be in a position that I'm going to jeopardize the team at the time (by being too aggressive). Looking at the five fourth-down decisions this year, I don’t think they put us in any harm at that time.”

Wentz is 3 for 3 for 21 yards on fourth down, with the four-yard completion to Ertz, a seven-yard first down to Jordan Matthews in the Bears game and a nine-yard to Dorial Green-Beckham, also in the win in Chicago.

He also rushed six yards for a first down on a 4th-and-2 Sunday in the win over the Vikings. The Eagles’ other fourth-down conversion this year was Ryan Mathews’ one-yard TD on a 4th-and-goal against Chicago.

Pederson said as an assistant coach under Andy Reid, he always found himself asking himself whether he would be conservative or aggressive in crucial situations.

We’re all learning the answer now.

“Yeah, you definitely put yourself in those situations, as a coordinator and a position coach,” he said. “Putting yourself in those spots, it's a lot easier when you're not making the decision obviously to go, ‘Oh, yeah, I would have not gone for it there or not gone for it there.’

“Now, being in this position, it's my tail on the line if we don't convert.”