No more torture.
No more talk of pipe dream picks, zany draft day trades or luxuries the Eagles can’t quite afford. It was fun to talk, good for conversation.
But not entirely practical.
An inside linebacker.
Lucky for Eagles fans, parched for a backbone to their oft-flimsy defense, the 2012 draft has two of note. They couldn’t be more different, each an opposite end on the skill set spectrum.
The Freak, Vontaze Burflict of Arizona State.
And the Footballer, Luke Kuechly of Boston College.
Burflict has the body for the position, a specimen worth selecting when the Eagles envelope is due at No. 15 overall. Assuming he lasts that long; as dainty as a cement mixer, Burflict is ESPN Scouts Inc's No. 18 best-available player, and could easily come off the board sooner to a team looking for otherworldly physicality like his.
Kuechly, on the other hand, has the brains. Touted as bar-none the most instinctual defensive player in the draft, Kuechly screams "Philly" the way Barrett Rudd did this past off-season.
Should the Eagles draft an inside linebacker in the first round, even if it means trading up from No. 15 overall?
He's reflexive, aggressive, driven. He's a football player, first and foremost and last, and could be gone well before No. 13, his ESPN Scouts Inc. rank.
But each player has his limits.
For all the girth in his biceps, Burflict's temper seems oversized too. According to his player page on Scouts Inc, he "plays with great intensity however, emotions can get the best of him on the field which has led to personal foul calls and costing his team in key situations," a pitfall that would bury him in a no-nonsense town like Philadelphia.
It's not a deal-breaker; Scouts Inc goes on to write note Burflict's clean off-field record and oozing passion for the game.
But it's a knock, a concern, a crinkle in what has to be a flat-out success for the Eagles in the first round.
Same goes for Kuechly, who, for all he has in intangibles, lacks the measurables. At 6'2" and 235 lbs., Kuechly doesn't have the frame of a top-shelf interior man, and comes in at an inch shorter, 15 pounds lighter than Burflict.
Sure: Kuechly, the 2011 Butkus Award winner, is a technique geek.
But for a fan base parched for pass coverage on running backs and tight ends, that Kuechly "lacks great speed and change-of-direction skills, so range is a bit limited" doesn't bode well. That he "lacks ideal burst and lateral agility, shows stiffness in hips and has range limitations in coverage" can't sit well.
Which inside linebacker should the Eagles target?
Either pick would refresh the fan base, for bringing both the position and submission they've clamored for from stubbornly linebacker-averse Andy Reid. With a 2012 free agent crop lacking linebackers (name one outside of Stephen Tulloch) and a draft class light on the back end (one safety in Scouts Inc's top 25, Mark Barron of Alabama, whose got injury and character issues you can't gloss over), Burflict and Kuechly should be hottest on the Eagles' radar.
Especially if a sudden change of heart has them for once thinking defense first, Michael Vick for a second year, and RG3 as something they can afford.
Then? They might look to square away their second level.
The question is, which player fits the round hole best?
Much of the Eagles' decision doesn't rest on the defensive clipboard, but the man who's holding it. However you feel about his chops as defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo can't be trusted to coach up the holes in Burflict's game. Should the Castillo Experiment be left on its legs, the Eagles would have to go Kuechly.
(Then again, Burflict’s the ideal piece to bail out Washburn’s wide nine.)
But should Steve Spagnuolo, rumored to be all at once mulling retirement and on the precipice of a Philadelphia reunion, take over, Burflict becomes an option again. Given how his size aligns with Spagnuolo's scheme, Burflict might even be the answer.
Seems Eagles fans are once again hung up on the whims of Reid and Spagnuolo, and on the fate of Castillo.