Let’s take a look at what the Eagles have done so far.
1st round – OLB Marcus Smith – Louisville – 6-3 , 251
2nd round – WR Jordan Matthews – Vanderbilt – 6-3, 212
3rd round – WR Josh Huff – Oregon – 5-11, 205
I like all 3 players quite a bit. But let’s set aside feelings and focus on what the picks tell us. All of the players are versatile. Smith is a former QB that played DE and LB for Louisville. Matthews played inside and outside for Vandy. Huff played some RB, but spent most of his career at WR. He played in the slot and outside. He also was a KOR.
The players have good size. Smith is almost 6-3 1/2. He was 258 pounds at the Combine. He dropped down to 251 for his workouts, but I anticipate he’ll play at closer to 260 pounds. He has long arms and big hands. Matthews has good size for a WR. The note I wrote about him at the Senior Bowl weigh-in was “muscular”. Some of you may think that’s dumb. Shouldn’t all players be muscular? My note tells me that he stood out as muscular compared to the other players. Matthews also has long arms and big hands. Huff might be short at 5-11, but if you compare Combine weigh-ins between him and DeSean, Huff weighed 36 pounds more. And he’s not fat. My note on him from the Senior Bowl weigh-in…”cut”.
Numbers aside, put on the game tape and you see physical play from all 3 of the draft picks. They were able to physically beat the guy across from them. Many fans assumed Kelly’s teams at Oregon were finesse units built on elite speed. Not so, as people are starting to find out. Oregon players were as tough as they were fast. They blocked. They tackled. They played STs. The glamour came after the dirty work.
Kelly wants players who can play through contact. That gave Nnamdi and DRC no chance to stay. It meant that DeSean faced an uphill battle to be a long term fit. Jeremy Maclin has to prove that he will do that. Speed and skill are critical, but football is a brutal, physical game. There are times when you have to be able to deal with contact and still get the job done.
All of the picks are Seniors. 2 of them have graduated from college and the other will do that soon. The point of this has nothing to do with academics, but rather accomplishment. The players went to class on a regular basis. They did their work. They balanced a schedule and took care of their business. Mature players like that are more likely to work to fit into the football culture that Chip is developing. He wants a commitment on and off the field.
None of these players is a project. Smith is a LB that will play LB. He has good size, skill and athleticism. A guy like Dee Ford (who I don’t think the Eagles actually had interest in) would have been a project. That’s also true for Scott Crichton. Both Matthews and Huff have played in spread attacks. Both guys have the skills and experience to fit in right away.
All of the players were highly productive. Smith had 14.5 sacks in 2013. Matthews is the leading receiver in SEC history. He finished his career with 24 TD catches. Huff had 12 TD catches in 2013 and 24 for his career.
These players have NFL size and athleticism. They fit the Eagles schemes. And they fit Kelly’s culture. I’d call that a good trio of selections.
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Some people wondered about the WR moves. Why go up for Matthews? The Eagles could have stayed put and gotten another talented WR. That’s missing the point entirely. You don’t draft positions. You draft players. Martavis Bryant was a one-year wonder at Clemson. Jordan Matthews carried the Vandy offense for several years. Bryant was taller, faster and probably more athletic overall, but Matthews is a guy the Eagles clearly valued. Don’t make the mistake of thinking players are interchangeable.
Did Huff go early? I didn’t have him as a 3rd rounder, but that doesn’t mean the Eagles didn’t. I love the player. He was on my list of “Players I Want the Eagles to Get”. I didn’t get a chance to write much about Huff this spring, but I watched him in action and was really impressed.
Both Matthews and Huff can play in the slot. They will provide more athleticism than Jason Avant.
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Why pass on Louis Nix? Obviously NFL teams had concerns or Nix wouldn’t have slid to the late 3rd. I don’t know if the concerns are character or medical.
Another issue is that he’s more of a 2-down player. Those guys just aren’t as valuable in today’s NFL. And Nix didn’t post good numbers in his workouts. That may have led teams to think his weight would be an ongoing issue.
I didn’t want Nix. More than a few of you on Twitter thought I was nuts for not wanting Nix to replace Bennie Logan. There is a lot of talk about the Saints game and what Logan did. I’ll write about that game in the coming weeks. Things didn’t happen quite as people remember. The Saints ran to the outside more than the inside. Logan wasn’t great of course, but he was hardly the Eagles biggest problem in that game.
And you have to understand that Logan has a chance to improve. He’s bulking up to the 320 range, which is plenty of size for a NT. The Eagles do need depth there, but that’s why Jerry Azzinaro went to some smaller schools to work out late round/UDFA types.
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What’s up with Brandon Graham? I sure hope the Eagles are talking to teams tonight about him. If Graham isn’t part of the long term plans, move him for something.
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Some of you tell me you hate a pick. That’s fine. We’re all entitled to an opinion.
More important than liking or hating a pick is trying to understand it. What were the Eagles thinking? Why did they make that move? That’s what I do with the Eagles picks.
The Eagles have more information than we do. They’ve spent hundreds of hours studying each prospect. They have done tons of personal research on the kids. The Eagles aren’t always right, but they are making a very informed decision.
I can’t answer each one of you that is unhappy with a pick. I see the comments. I’ll answer a question if I can, but I don’t have the time to react to every “Worst pick ever. Kelly better be on the hot seat” comment.
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I’ll put up a preview for Day 3 on Saturday morning.