Let’s take a look at some things that we learned from the Eagles 2013 draft.
The Eagles were interested in players, not positions. Chip Kelly made it clear the Eagles had serious interest in Dion Jordan. Peter King mentioned today in a casual blurb the Eagles weren’t going to pick him, but it is impossible to know if that’s true or exactly what King was told. Since Chip went on the record as saying the Eagles liked Jordan, I’m assuming the interest was legit. When the Eagles didn’t get the dynamic edge rushing LB, you would think they would feel the need to find another one somewhere else. Never happened. They didn’t even add a UDFA LB.
The Eagles have LBs in Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, and Trent Cole. What they were interested in was a player with big time ability and athleticism. When they didn’t get Jordan, they passed on LBs altogether.
Versatility is a crucial trait. Lane Johnson can play RT or LT. Zach Ertz can line up all over the place. Bennie Logan too. Earl Wolff can play FS or SS. David King can move around. Joe Kruger lined up all over at Utah. Kelly isn’t looking for static players that will sit in one spot and do the same thing over and over. He wants to be multiple on offense and defense. That means he needs players who can line up in multiple spots and fill a variety of roles.
The Eagles will run the 4-3 Under. I don’t think you draft Bennie Logan in the early 3rd round if you want to run a 3-4 with guys playing 2-gap. That’s just not an ideal fit for a high pick. Logan is ideal for NT in the 4-3 Under. That role requires a player that can anchor against the run at times and shoot gaps on other plays. Logan is that kind of a player. The Eagles have already talked to him about playing in the 315 to 320 pound range. Logan does have 34-inch arms and could slide out to DE if needed, but he’s a limited athlete that is meant to be a 1-tech NT. Over time he’ll develop the ability to be a 3-4 NT, but he’s not a guy that is meant to be a block-eater.
Joe Kruger can play in any scheme. David King is best suited for the 4-3 Under. He lacks the size to be a 2-gap player, but could be a solid 5-tech in the 4-3 U. Heck, it would not shock me if he bulked up enough that he could even be a backup NT, playing the 1-gap technique. King is in the 6-4, 280 range. Bill Davis’ NT in Arizona was Bryan Robinson, who was about 6-4, 305. Damion Square is another player that is best suited for the 4-3 U. He could be a backup DE or NT.
Character mattered. Kelly said that the two most impressive interviews the Eagles had at the Combine were Matt Barkley and Bennie Logan. Those were players that those of us on the outside didn’t expect the team to take, but clearly the Eagles liked what they saw on tape, but also felt were the kind of guys they wanted on the team.
Earl Wolff, Jordan Poyer, and David King were also considered major team leaders.
Chip Kelly likes Cajun food. Kelly went to Georgia’s Pro Day. No Dawgs ended up being drafted or signed. Kelly went to LSU’s Pro Day. The team drafted Bennie Logan and then signed UDFAs Brad Wing and Russell Shepard all from LSU.
Plans can change. For a long time, I thought the Eagles wanted a QB in the draft. My hope was for a mid-round pick, but there was lots of chatter about Geno Smith at #4 and EJ Manuel in the 2nd round. The day before and the day of the draft Dave Spadaro and Adam Caplan started laying hints that the Eagles might not take a QB at all.
My guess…and it is strictly a guess…is that the Eagles were going to take a QB late or not at all. The Eagles passed on Geno at 4 and 35. They passed on Manuel at 4. Think about the other QBs that the Eagles showed the most interest in. Matt Scott was a UDFA. Zac Dysert went in the 7th round. Ryan Griffin and Jeff Tuel were UDFAs.
So what happened? Matt Barkley happened. He was simply too good to pass up. The Eagles had him rated as a Top 50 player. They probably figured he would go in the 3rd round. When Barkley was sitting there on the board to open the 4th round, the was just too good not to go get. Barkley can be a starting QB in the NFL. Worst case scenario he’s a backup. Think about this…Matt Barkley was a 4th round pick. So was Mike Kafka. Which guy would you rather have?
I don’t want to get into a “what does this mean” discussion in this post. Let’s save that for strictly a Barkley discussion. The point is that good QBs are too important to pass on. Barkley has the potential to be a good QB. There is no guarantee that Barkley will pan out, but he was absolutely worth the risk of a 4th round pick.
The Eagles can stay put. Over the years, the Eagles did a lot of wheeling and dealing in the draft. This year the team stayed put, with the exception of moving up a couple of spots for Barkley. Can we take any lesson from this? Not really. We need to see at least one more draft before we can start to see if there is going to be a change in terms of moving up/down in the draft.
I know many people think that all the moving in previous years was not a good sign. The Eagles were trying to be too smart. Or too cute. Or something else.
I am a believer that sitting still in the draft is every bit as crazy as moving too much. I think you identify the players you want and you go get them. That can mean moving around. There is no absolute way of doing things that is better than the other. The Eagles traded up for Fletcher Cox, Shawn Andrews, and Todd Herremans. Good moves. Trading up for Jerome McDougle was a major failure. Brandon Graham remains a mystery.
The Eagles have made some mistakes in the past when they didn’t appreciate the impact of a key player. Having extra picks is nice, but don’t get caught up in the numbers game. Value isn’t as important as good players.
That said, there are times when you need a lot of picks. When Jimmy Johnson rebuilt the Cowboys, he loaded up on picks. The draft was 12 rounds back then.
1989 – 15 picks
1991 – 18 picks
1992 – 15 picks
48 picks in 3 years…that is like 4 drafts. Obviously the Herschel Walker trade is where a lot of the extra picks came from, but trust me…Johnson moved up and down quite a bit. He wanted volume.
Johnson did the same thing in Miami in 1996 and 1997 and the volume drafting delivered strong results. It needed to be done since Johnson was trying to re-make the roster.
If Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly hadn’t been so active in free agency, the Eagles would have needed to do something similar in the draft. Since the Eagles did bring in a lot of new bodies, they were free to sit tight in the draft and take the players they wanted.
The real key to drafting…identify good players, draft them and have a good coaching staff that can develop them. It doesn’t really matter whether you move up, sit tight, or move back. Choose wisely.