More on the 1st Round and Danny Watkins

Posted: April 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , , , | 20 Comments »

The Eagles headed into the 2011 Draft needing a CB and RG. The Eagles had spent the offseason doing a lot of work on CB Jimmy Smith. I’ve been told by multiple sources that he was the team’s #1 target heading into the draft. I was told yesterday that the team pulled Smith off the board. Why? What happened?

Smith was a scary prospect. There is no question about that. He’s got elite talent, but has some serious character issues that made multiple teams pull him off the draft board. I’m guessing the Eagles stuck with him because he was such a player of need. After all, you are willing to take risks when you are desperate. After the recent rulings from Judge Susan Nelson it has become likely that there will be an offseason, and sooner rather than later. This had to have changed the dynamics of the Eagles plans.

For them to change their mind on Smith means the team has targeted some veteran CBs through trade or free agency that they feel can be acquired. Teams aren’t allowed to talk deals right now, but maybe there were some discussions at the Combine or owners meetings. The Eagles wouldn’t change their mind on Smith if they didn’t feel confident about landing a good RCB.

Smith was a player that I coveted for the Eagles, but not without reservations. My attitude was always that I’m okay with him if they’re willing to spend the pick on him. I’m okay with passing on him if that’s what they do. The Eagles did a lot of research.  They are as thorough as any organization out there.  I trust them when it comes to who they take and pass on because of character.  I might disagree with who they pick, but it won’t be for character reasons.  The Eagles knew Smith was a major risk. They felt he was worth it for a while, but obviously changed their minds. As long as they land a quality veteran CB, I’m fine with that.
The one thing to keep in mind about Smith is that rookie CBs struggled a lot last year. That was a concern for me as well. Kareem Jackson started for 3 years at Alabama. He faced elite competition. He played for a tough coach in an NFL system. Jackson was one of the worst starting CBs in the entire NFL last year. Kyle Wilson was also a talented, veteran college corner who struggled mightily. He lost his job as the #3 CB. Rookies don’t always handle the first year so well.

* * * * *

I heard the Eagles did discuss taking Da’Quan Bowers at 23. I’m glad they passed. It was probably wise to have the discussion because of how talented Bowers is, but we’ve had terrible luck with guys with bad knees. I’m not willing to gamble pick 23 on an iffy knee. Plus, I didn’t think Bowers was a great fit for Jim Washburn’s scheme. You also throw in the fact Bowers only had 1 great year at Clemson. Too many question marks to make him a smart pick.

* * * * *

Back to Danny Boy. We knew the Eagles liked him. They spent a lot of time with Danny at the Senior Bowl and showed a lot of interest. This is a player that I’m sure Howard Mudd was in love with. I never projected Danny to the Eagles because I didn’t think they would take him at 23 (due to the age) and I saw no way for him to last long in the 2nd round.

The age issue is a major downer. No 2 ways about that. Him being 26 going on 27 is something that will keep me from being in love with the pick. That said, we do have to understand something about the age. The fact he’s 26 right now is actually a good thing for the 2011 Eagles. Watkins is a man. He’s mature. He’s focused. He won’t go to Training Camp worried about his X-box or what kind of car he’s going to buy. Watkins will be all about business.

The age factor really only becomes a negative when we get to his second contract. Most players are ascending or just hitting their prime when it is time to negotiate. Danny will either be at the tail end of the prime of his career or will be descending. That doesn’t mean he can’t play and still be a solid starter, but those will be some odd negotiations.

The guy we’re getting right now is a “heckuva” player and he’s ready to roll. He will come in and compete for the starting RG spot right away. I say compete because he does have to earn the job. Nothing is given to a rookie. DeSean Jackson began as a backup. Almost immediately people could see that label wouldn’t last long. He was so good that he moved to the top of the depth chart quickly. He’s been there ever since.

The battle for RG will be between Mike McGlynn and Watkins. They are basically the same size. Mike played more in college. Mike has starting NFL experience. The difference is really talent. Danny is just more gifted. He’s very coachable so I expect him to adjust quickly to playing RG and in our system. Danny was a LT at Baylor, but played G at the Senior Bowl. He got better each day and then played well in the game. You could see him learning every day. He didn’t repeat mistakes. He listened when the coaches talked to him.

Here is my write-up on Watkins from the Senior Bowl practices:

Danny Watkins — The Ancient Mariner. He’s almost 26 1/2. Cut him open and count the rings. Still, he showed that he can play. Had to make the transition from LT to OG. Looked good, whether at RG or LG. Showed good hand punch. Moved well laterally. Still finished his blocks and had the nasty edge that he blocked with at Baylor. Can you take a guy this old in the 2nd round?

 

You can see where my mind was at with the last comment.  I really liked Watkins, but how do you factor in age?  The scout who helped me out years ago had been brought up in the system where 24 was the cutoff and only special guys could be that old and a decent pick.  Players didn’t use to take as much care of their bodies so they really broke down around 30.  Different times, different rules.  Nutrition and fitness are huge for most players these days and it gives them a chance to last longer.

Here is my write-up on him after the Senior Bowl game:

WATKINS — LG. Had a great block of Ballard on early inside run. Doubled him at first, but then stuck with the block by himself until the whistle blew. Drove Ballard away from the scrum. Paved way for Ponder to get couple of yards on QB sneak on opening drive. Got a holding call when he was beaten to the inside by McClain. Moved to RG on next drive. Had a real good block of McClain in pass pro. Gave ground initially, but then re-set. Used his hands to keep McClain off his body. Had a good block of DT on draw play to give RB a clear running lane. The guy tried to go low and Danny put him on the ground and pushed him inside. Has excellent lateral agility. Works hard to mirror DTs when they try going hard inside or outside on him. Good block of Williams on pass play. Stuck with him until the QB scrambled. Good combo block on run to his side. Helped OT turn the DT, then got on the LB. Terrific block on GL run. Fired off the ball and got to Homan quickly. Gets off the ball well, but erratic on the 2nd level. Jordan split attempted double team by Watkins and RT and got RB on a play to his side. Good block on 4th Qtr run to his side. Got on the DT initially, then got on Homan and gave the runner space to get almost 5 yds.

We had a major hole at RG. Remember watching Nick Cole vs JAX and DET? I thought maybe he was trying to get revenge on Mike Vick for the dogfighting. Nick was a speed bump in those games. Max Jean-Gilles was better, but hardly a player you could count on to consistently block at a high level. McGlynn projects to being a solid RG. Danny Watkins has the potential to be outstanding. He is a natural pass blocker, which is critical in our offense. One of the biggest problems we had at RG was reading blitzes and stunts and then handling them. Danny is a bright guy so he should see things well. He has excellent lateral agility, which is crucial when sliding in or out to pick off a blitzer or DE looping inside.

If Jamaal Jackson hadn’t missed a game in 4 years, the Eagles might have felt good enough about McGlynn to let him be the RG. Unfortunately, JamJax has had injury issues in 2 straight years. McGlynn may have to play C at some point. If so, you don’t want to rely on MJG sliding in there. Add a top shelf RG like Watkins and improve the overall group.

Also, I’ve said this all offseason, but it bears repeating…Winston Justice will greatly benefit from having a good RG next to him. By adding Watkins, I truly believe you have upgraded RG and RT, which is critical for a pass happy team with a lefty QB.

This isn’t a slam dunk pick that can’t be questioned, but there is a lot of logic to it and it does make the Eagles a better football team instantly. Our goal is to win the Super Bowl in 2011 and Watkins helps put us on that path. We need Vick healthy. He is the key to this football team. Vick has all the weapons he needs. Protection was a different story. Watkins shores up the O-line and gives us a talented blocker for Vick and also helps our depth. Keep Vick healthy and give him more of a clean pocket and the offense will do their part in competing for a championship.

The defense will get their help on Day 2, Day 3, and with pro personnel moves.


  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00283968416092444778 T_S_O_P

    Good Morning Tommy,

    One stat that got my attention was the 125+ knockdown blocks in 2010. Isn’t that an ish load? I take a lot of interest in OL, but I never pay attention to the guy the Eagles draft before the draft. That knowdown number looks insane.

    Today is Eagle day! Free agency, trades and the 2nd round of the draft.

    Nnamdi
    Ayers
    Paea

  • http://Website Snoopy

    I’m OK with Watkins. Heck, if he starts for five years that gives him a better career than half of the first round picks in general.

    I do have a sneaky suspicion that once the draft is over, Heckert may use some or all of the next year’s picks he got from the Atlanta trade (2012 1st and 4th) to pry away Kolb. I’m sure Andy would be happy seeing Kevin in the AFC over the NFC. They say they like Colt McCoy but you never know…

  • http://Website iskar36

    The one thing I hate about the new(ish) format of the NFL Draft is that with only the first round down, we all overreact to a single selection. Most of us before the draft went in thinking we need a CB and a OG out of the first two rounds. That can very easily still happen, and with a more complete story of what we do with our early picks in the draft, there might be a lot more comfort with Watkins. Don’t get me wrong, the age will remain an issue, regardless of what happens, but I think a lot of the negative overreaction is simply due to the fact that we still don’t have a CB to go opposite Asante.

  • http://Website mattwill

    Like Tommy I was very high on Jimmy Smith. However, we as fans are far removed from the realities, and like Tommy I had full confidence in the FO’s ability to weigh the risks that Smith presented. They clearly never got comfortable that Smith’s issues were/are behind him. Now they are Ray Lewis’ responsibilities.

    RCB and RG were the glaring holes going into this offseason. Watkins clearly addresses one of those two . . . and I agree with Tommy that a solid RG will make Winston Justice a better RT, and probably at the same time make Brent Celek a better receiving TE, since he won’t be staying in to help the RT quite so often.

  • http://Website Matt

    As with many eagles moves, this one is growing on me quick…

  • http://Website Eric

    Give me Dowling in the 2nd and House in the 3rd and I don’t care what they do with the rest of the roster.

  • http://Website Steag209

    Did the new league year begin today?

  • http://Website Adam S.

    First off I gotta say I’m so glad to re-discover a Tommy site!! I had absolutely no idea that you had started up another site, this makes me very pleased. I missed Eagles Blitz, and had missed any word (if there ever was any) of the new site over at BGN. My Eagles internet experience feels complete again.

    My initial reaction was anger, then confusion, then once I started to calm down and look at this rationally I really do like this pick. Like Iskar said, we can’t jump all over tham after just 1 round. Plus with the news of probable free agency in the near future, things are looking up. This year already feels no different than past years in that I question their logic and then soon realize they know more than me and usually do a very good job witht heir picks, so I trust them.

    If we could get Dowling in the 2nd and still get Nnamdi in FA I would be absolutely tickled pink.

  • http://Website Alohadelphia

    “I like putting people in the dirt and letting them know who did it” > “Get my Michael Phelps on, my Michael Phelps on…” I’m also in favor of any athlete who brings friends to the draft that would clearly be fun to get hammered with. If he can really step in and play, I think he’ll fit right in.

    http://aol.sportingnews.com/nfl/feed/2011-01/2011-nfl-draft/story/baylors-danny-watkins-transforms-from-goon-to-elite-guard

  • http://Website Norman

    You stated in your scouting report: “Can you take a guy this old in the 2nd round?”

    Answer: No, he’s already off the board.

  • http://www.reddit.com/r/nfl ChaosOnion

    He will be 27 when the regular season starts, but his body only has 4 years of football mileage. Everybody else has 7-8 counting HS and college. I can see him lasting as long as Tra.

  • http://Website MikeC

    With the interior of the OLine addressed here and seeing that AZ did the right thing and took value over need at the number 5 spot, leaving them with tons of depth in the D backfield, is there a shot in hell we might see a guy like Cromartie traded for Kolb. This gets around the rookie pool issue, gives us a pretty young, very solid corner and is likely much more cap friendly than Nnamdi Asomugha would be. Thoughts?

  • http://igglesblitz.com Tommy Lawlor

    @ MikeC…

    Real interesting theory. ARZ ain’t givin’ up Pat Peterson. We know that. DRC? That could be a name to watch. I’ll go back and review my notes and see if Eagles had visits with him and stuff like that.

  • http://Website nicolajNN

    From what I have read now and seen from his interviews and so, I think it will be very hard for people not to like Watkins both as a player and person.But still there is no way around the age thing. But even then if he’s a pro bowl like player for the next 5 years and maybe a solid starter for 2 or 3 more years people can’t really complain.

    It could also be interesting to see how many players, or just 1st rounder, actually stay with their team for more than 5 or 6 years.

    I also have a question, maybe more for Sam. I’m not sure what his contract will look like, but is Watkins more likely to seek a new contract when he can, as he isn’t likely to get a very good one when his rookie contract has expired?

    I trust that we will find a good starter at CB, it’s not very often that Reid allow the team to have the same hole at a position to years in a row

  • http://Website McG

    Tommy, just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your insight. Since PE.com changed to their new format, I’ve actually been here more than there…

    The more I have learned about Watkins the more I like the pick. It’s been 2 or 3 drafts now that we’ve need to draft a powerful o-lineman. I’m willing to bet Vick is almost as excited as Howard Mudd.

  • http://Website Tim

    My primary concern is that his age messes up the evaluation of his ability. In baseball, a 26-year-old who lights up AA is considered a fringe prospect, at best, because he’s more mature in just about every way compared to his competition. He SHOULD look great. This does not mean his ability will translate to the show.

    Watkins is more emotionally and physically mature than the college players he’s playing against. This won’t be the case in the NFL. Can the Eagles scouts (and Tommy), who are used to seeing college players that are the same age, be certain that what seems to be incredible ability is not just the affect of 5 additional years?

  • http://Website Danyo

    @ MikeC

    I was thinking about DRC as a trade target, too. Seems like Kolb is gonna have to get traded for a player this year and/or picks next year. I don’t think SF has any CBs worth targeting… maybe Nate Clements? A vet CB makes a lot more sense than a rookie if Reid & Co think our window is the next few years.

  • http://Website Eric

    Nate Clements is ready to retire.

  • http://Website Ant

    @Tommy
    I know you’re high on Winston but I just dont get it. He stinks. Any Chance Herrimans moves out to RT. MM and DW take ove guards and pick up another lineman in the 4th or 5th

  • http://Website PPK

    Took me until Draft Day to make a real effort to track down Tommy. Found you just in time to help me understand the Eagles thinking.

    I like the Watkins pick because it says that Vick’s *ss is worth protecting. Good call. I question, though, the continued emphasis on picking “character guys.” I understand the thinking, but I think this is often more about a coach wanting players who are easy to work with. I’ll like this pick a whole lot more after they figure a way to get a quality RCB.