Let’s forget for a minute about value and about draft grades and take a really simplistic look at things. Did the Eagles get better over the weekend? Yes. Did they draft good players? Yes.
There are no Jon Harris’s or Jaiqawn Jarretts or Bryan Smiths.
I wrote about the class for PE.com and one of the key points I made in there is that there are no projects.
The Eagles took players who should be able to contribute immediately. I didn’t say start because the team’s lineup is pretty good already. Kelly and the coaching staff will give the rookies a chance to win jobs, but it just isn’t likely that any of them become full-time starters this year. They can be crucial role players and backups.
Think about it.
None of the players is undersized. Jarrett and Smith had to get bigger and stronger to be NFL ready.
There are no tweeners. We all thought Keenan Clayton could be a good NFL player…if he could just find a position. That never happened. Versatility is good, but you must have one position where you are a natural fit. Jaylen Watkins is a CB. He can play in the slot or at S, but he’s meant to be a CB.
None of the players is from a small school. These guys faced college stars and future NFL players in their college careers.
None of the players is an athletic project / workout warrior. All of the draft picks had very good college careers. Jon Harris never was a star player at Virginia. He had a really good workout for an Eagles scout that helped Ray Rhodes fall in love with him as the next Too Tall Jones.
None of the players is coming off a major injury. There are no Cornelius Ingrams or Jack Ikegwuonus.
You might not like certain things about this class, but the players are smart, productive, athletic, big, strong and ready to contribute. There are a lot worse things to say about a draft class.
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The writer and physician Michael Crichton delivered an important speech in 2003 about the Eagles and the NFL draft.
OK, so it wasn’t about the Eagles, really, or the NFL draft at all. It was about science and intellectual integrity and independent thinking and the tyranny of a word that, honest to goodness, is relevant to the Eagles’ selection of Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith in the first round of this year’s draft.
That word is consensus.
“Consensus is the business of politics,” Crichton said. “Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science, consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant [are] reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus.”
To make an incomplete if functional analogy, “consensus” is the noise that has come to envelop the draft: the speculation and the debate and the mock drafts and the coverage and Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock and the idea that Johnny Manziel “fell” to the 22d overall pick from some arbitrary, invisible pedestal that no one with any actual influence on the process had placed him on.
“Consensus” is a lot of fun, and it gives employment opportunities to people who otherwise would be standing on various Times Square street corners, wearing sandwich boards, shrieking at passersby, and it projected Marcus Smith – who finished second in the nation last season with 141/2 sacks – as a second- or third-round pick. “Consensus” is why the Eagles’ decision to draft Smith when they did, with the 26th overall pick, stunned and angered so many people around here. This wasn’t supposed to happen, after all, and why wasn’t it supposed to happen? Because “consensus” said so.
But the NFL draft itself – not the hype and hubbub, but the actual selection of talent – isn’t about “consensus.” It’s about science, or as close to science as pro-football player-evaluation gets, and the questions about whether the Eagles “reached” to take Smith or should have selected another player or attached too much value to acquiring an additional draft pick when they moved down on the board through their trade with the Cleveland Browns don’t matter.
The only thing that’s relevant now is the result of the selection, whether the wisdom of drafting Smith can be verified over time in the real world of the NFL. What matters is whether he can play.
It really is an interesting column. If you study the draft, this ties more in to the way Bill Polian drafted for the Colts than any other team/GM/coach. The Colts were all over the board with their picks, but those players worked for them.
One nitpick with this column is that Sielski talks about the draft and Chip Kelly. Kelly did not make these picks. He did not set up the Eagles draft board. That was all Howie and the scouts.
Kelly and his staff told the scouts what kinds of players they wanted. Howie and the scouts then did a terrific job of going out and finding those players.
You may not like some of the players that the Eagles picked, but the key is that they are the kind of guys Kelly wants and they fit the schemes that the Eagles run. This is where draft analysis is so errant.
I’m sure someone could point out that the Eagles passed on WR Martavis Bryant for Josh Huff. Bryant is 6-4. He can run and jump like an elite prospect. He makes spectacular catches at times. Why not draft that guy?
Huff is 5 inches shorter, but only a few pounds lighter. Huff is strong, tough receiver. He is the better blocker between the two. Huff is the better STs player. Bryant had 13 career TD catches. Huff had 12 TD receptions in 2013. Bryant is more of an outside receiver. Huff can play the slot or outside.
To someone doing generic grading, Bryant can easily have the higher grade. Based on Kelly’s criteria, you can see where Huff had the higher grade.
That doesn’t make Kelly’s system better than other teams. There is no right system. Bill Walsh, Bill Polian and Ron Wolf all made draft mistakes. The Bengals and their minimal scouting staff have made some very good picks. The point is for the coach and GM to get on the same page. Come up with a system. Find specific kinds of players and build the team accordingly.
The Eagles are doing just that.
We know the system is good enough to win the NFC East. Is it good enough to make the Eagles a Super Bowl contender?