Chip Kelly loves athletes. He loves playmakers. He loves versatile players. He loves long/tall defensive players.
Mychal Kendricks rates highly until that final point. Kendricks is only 5-11. Kelly would prefer 6-2 or so for an ILB. So what is Chip Kelly going to think of him? This is one of those situations where it is really tough to know Kelly’s thinking.
The main argument for Kelly liking Kendricks is that height/length is the only area where he’s deficient. Kelly saw Kendricks as a starter for 3 years in the Oregon/Cal matchup. Kendricks had 10 tackles and a sack in 2010. Kelly will know that Kendricks had 8.5 sacks and was more of an edge player that year. Kelly saw him slide to ILB in 2011 and then lead Cal in tackles, while also putting up 14.5 TFLs and 2 INTs. Kendricks was voted Pac-12 Def POY in 2011. This isn’t a player Kelly has to study at great length. He knows Kendricks.
I think the Eagles scheme will be key in understanding Kendricks’ future. If the Eagles go to a pure 3-4, that could hurt Kendricks. You prefer 3-4 ILBs to have some size so they can take on blockers. Kendricks is 240 pounds and has some thickness, but he’s not great at shedding blocks. If the Eagles play the 4-3 Under, Kendricks would have a natural home at WILB. This player is protected by the NT and DT. They’ll keep him clean and let that LB run to the ball and make plays. Karlos Dansby had this role in Arizona and thrived.
Kendricks had a solid rookie year. He played both SAM and WLB. He played in the base and Nickel defenses. He showed the ability to cover in space. He showed good speed and athleticism. Kendricks needs to work on his open field tackling, but I think that will be helped by playing on a more stable defense. Kendricks showed excellent potential, but it is still just that for now…potential.
I am sure Howie Roseman will want to keep Kendricks around. My guess is that Kelly will be fine with him for now. He saw Kendricks at his best in the Pac-12. Kelly knows how good Kendricks can be. Kendricks has to play well in 2013 to be safe for the future. Depending on how well he plays, Kelly could learn to be comfortable with an ILB that size. Kelly did have some short LBs at Oregon, but he didn’t always have the option of finding his ideal guys while there.
The Eagles have looked at ILBs closely while preparing for the draft. I think they are focused on a successor for DeMeco Ryans. The team doesn’t see Casey Matthews or Jamar Chaney as players who can be trusted to start. There is a need for depth and competition.
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A few of you raised questions about some of the choices in the mock draft in the previous post. Why take a WR there? Why wait so late for a WR? Why not take a DE earlier? And so on.
These are all valid questions. But…
One thing you must remember is that you don’t draft positions…you draft players. That may sound silly or trite, but it is absolutely crucial to remember that as you think about team-building. You must think in terms of specific players.
We do need a DE. Right now we’d have Ced Thornton and Clifton Geathers fighting to start at the 5-tech DE. Or maybe Vinny Curry would be in that mix. Thornton is the only guy you’d be comfortable with as of now and he’s never started an NFL game. We need a DE.
But what happens if the Eagles go with LB or QB at #4, then grab an OT in the 2nd round, then grab a TE in the 3rd, and go with CB in the 4th? You haven’t added a DE. You might have 4 players you love, though. Those could be guys you think will be good starters. What good does forcing a pick at DE do?
And this type of thinking is true with the other positions. You can’t force a pick. I’ve said that we only truly have 2 absolute needs: DE, OT. Other than that, everything else is a want. We might want an upgrade. We might want depth. The DE pick can come late in the draft. We don’t have to find a starter. We do need someone to help with depth and to be able to challenge for a spot. We can always sign a FA after the draft or possibly make a trade.
It is critical that we find an OT who could play on the left side if Peters got hurt again. We cannot count on this guy coming as a FA or in a trade. We cannot count on this being a late pick. I think we must take an OT in the first 5 rounds. I’d prefer to take one with one of the first 3 picks.
The FA signings mean that we don’t have to get a CB or S. I want both, but “want” is the key word there. Would I pass on a stud WR or TE for a solid CB? That kind of thinking hurts a team in the long run.
The x-factor in all of this is Chip Kelly and how he sees positions. Maybe he thinks we don’t need a great 5-tech DE. If that is a spot where Kelly wants mostly a big body to stuff the run, we can find that guy late in the draft or as a veteran FA. If Kelly prefers an athletic pass rusher, then those guys are harder to find and that’s more of a premium pick.
Think about WRs. Kelly is looking for slot guys (smaller and quick/fast) and big guys. Those are opposites, but Kelly wants both. He will use them differently depending on who we pick, if we do go for a WR.
Think about TEs. We’ve been looking at 6-5, 255 guys and 6-3, 240 guys. Different types. Kelly is open to both. The smaller guy is an H-back. The bigger guy more of a true in-line TE. Kelly uses both in his offense.
What about DBs? Does Kelly value CB or S more? We’ve added a pair of big, physical CBs. Those guys are not hard to find. We can get a CB like that in the 4th round. Does Kelly see S as more of a premium position? Or would he prefer to focus on CBs to make life easier on his Safeties? I really don’t know what to think here.
I’ll keep doing mock drafts. I’ll keep trying to figure out how Kelly thinks and what we might do. For now, that is going to be a lot of guessing. We need to really see a couple of drafts before we start to get a feel for how Kelly operates.
Keep in mind as we talk about the upcoming draft that you can’t think in terms of right and wrong. We’re looking at options and scenarios. For instance, would you rather have the stud pass rusher or the stud pass protector? We’ve seen coaches and teams have success with different systems over the years. I think the key is to have clearly defined plans on what you want and to go build the team accordingly. Put simply…do what you do and do it well.
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