In his 13 previous drafts as Eagles head coach, Andy Reid has never selected a linebacker in the first round. As a matter of fact, as a franchise, the Eagles haven't drafted a linebacker in the opening stanza since Jerry Robinson in 1979. Just for reference, that was two George Bush's ago.
If there was ever a time to buck this weird—and in Reid's case—stubborn trend, it's right now, when the Eagles linebackers are about as weak as Jeffrey Lurie's fighting words.
Last offseason, with a boatload of cash and some quality, young free agent 'backers like Stephen Tulloch and David Harris ripe for the free agent picking, the Eagles instead elected to break the bank for such 2011 offensive stalwarts like Ronnie Brown (42 carries) and Steve Smith (11 catches).
Considering how long he's been in the business, Andy Reid should know better than to insert an undersized rookie third-round draft choice in Casey Mathews as his middle linebacker.
Naturally, the Eagles paid a steep and rightful price on the field for their ignorance in the first half of the season. A heartless defense blew five fourth quarter leads on its way to their most disappointing 8-8 season in NFL history.
The defense did play much better in the second half of the season when Jamar Chaney, a player with middle linebacker experience from the season before, was inserted to replace Mathews.
But the speedy Chaney is still more useful at his natural position on the outside. In order to allow him to make the switch, the Eagles need to invest heavily in linebacking depth in this year's draft to create some healthy training camp competition.
The wildly undersized trio of Chaney, Mathews and Brian Rolle would look better on a practice squad than a starting lineup card.
The Eagles have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL.
Their offense is faster than the US Olympic team and their defense has multiple perennial Pro Bowlers on the outside positions like cornerback and defensive end.
The heart of the defense is truly the team's only glaring need. But that still probably won't stop Andy Reid from taking an offensive lineman in the first round. Here's how the Eagles 2012 draft will shake out.
If there was ever a linebacker more perfectly suited to buck Reid's trend, it's Kuechly.
A two-time consensus All-American and the 2011 Bronko Nagurski Award winner as the nation's best defensive player, Kuechly racked up an incredible 191 tackles, 102 of which were solo in 12 games during his junior season with the Eagles.
BC went just 4-8 in 2011. It's almost always a positive gauge of future success when a player puts up this kind of production and gets this kind of national recognition on a conference bottom feeder.
For instance, Patrick Willis led the SEC in tackles in 2005 and 2006 and won the Butkus Award in '06. However, his 'Ole Miss teams went just 7-16 during those two seasons.
At 6'2", 240 pounds, Kuechly also has the bulky size the Eagles have lacked at middle linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter's heyday in the early to mid 2000's.
Considering he's projected by most reports as the 15th or 16th best prospect in the field, this pick at this position is a slam dunk. Hopefully, Andy won't opt for the ill-advised three.
Two defensive players in their first two selections would be very un-Eagle-like in the Andy Reid era.
But you draft to fill needs, especially when one of those needs can be filled by the best player left on the board. If Barron lasts this long, as he's projected to by many reports, he could be a slam dunk steal.
A ball-hawking (12 INT's in three seasons as a starter) playmaker at Alabama, Barron starred on two of the best collegiate defenses in recent memory for the Crimson Tide's 2009 and 2011 National Championship teams. After four seasons of playing against NFL-caliber speedsters in the SEC, he may just be the most pro-ready defensive back in this draft.
Kurt Coleman has one of the Eagles' safety slots on lock after a strong finish to the 2011 regular season. But the selection of Barron will create a healthy competition between him, 2011 incumbent starter Nate Allen and 2011 second rounder Jaiqwaun Jarrett.
Andy Reid has done this before—snag a raw and speedy receiver in the second round who didn't quite stay in college long enough to reach his full potential.
That was DeSean Jackson in 2008 and it turned into one of the best draft steals in recent memory. Now in what would truly be a full circle development, Jackson's uncertain future may just inspire Reid to try and repeat recent history.
With sub 4.5 speed and a 6'4" frame, Streeter has the size to make him just as potent in the red zone as he would be as a deep threat.
While adding additional wide receivers is far from a glaring need—even if Jackson leaves, something tells me Reid will have trouble shaking visions of Michael Vick chucking picture-perfect jump balls to the first big receiver he's ever played with.
Moore doesn't have the size (6'0", 190 pounds) or arm strength to be selected as a future franchise quarterback. However, he does have the accuracy and spur of the moment leadership qualities that all coaches look for in a backup quarterback.
A coachable player, the four year collegiate starter's biggest weakness outside of his natural limitations are his shaky nerves under pressure, which often propel him into forcing balls into double coverage.
That's an easily correctable weakness for wily quarterback coaching veterans like Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who have miraculously turned Michael Vick into a respectable drop-back passer.
The goal with Moore will be to tutor him to the point where he can keep the ball rolling once Vick sustains his annual three to four game injury. One thing is certain: Moore will be mentally ready to accept the challenge.
At 6'4", 315 pounds, Zeitler is a classic Wisconsin logger in the Joe Thomas mold.
A multi-year starter on the interior for the Badgers, he's notorious for a Jon Runyan-like tendency to play through the whistle with multiple self-applied liberties.
If he has a weakness, in typical Wisconsin fashion, it's that his speed off the line doesn't quite match his strength and tenacity. Luckily, in a pass-happy offense, speed off the ball isn't as pertinent.
The Eagles offensive line gelled at the end of last season with the emergence of rookie center Jason Kelce.
But 2011 first rounder Danny Watkins is still a question mark at the guard slot, and 30 year old Todd Herremans isn't getting any younger. Depth is also imperative at a position where injuries are common.
The Eagles haven't had a playmaking outside linebacker since Carlos Emmons skipped town in 2002.
From Dhani Jones to Mike Caldwell to Brian Rolle, the position has easily been the most consistent weakness of the Reid era, a simple reflection of the team's unwillingness to draft linebackers.
The Birds have a tendency to stay away from bigger, slower linebackers. But Lindsey trumps that mold with 4.6 speed and a 255-pound frame. The combo made him a force to be reckoned with in the Big East, where he led the conference in tackles for a loss (17.5) and was second in sacks (10).
You can never have too many offensive linemen and Andy Reid loves getting players from his alma mater.
Tough and slightly undersized for his height (6'6", 305 pounds), Matt Reynolds possesses the quality footwork that fellow tree and current Eagle King Dunlap so glaringly lacks.
Considering the fragile state of Eagles tackles in the aftermath of Tra Thomas (1998-2008) and Jon Runyan (1999-2008), this pick makes perfect sense in the late rounds for depth.
Especially if they select Streeter, the Eagles will not be in dire need of another wide receiver.
That's why this pick is all about the return game.
Dion Lewis struggled on kickoffs in 2011, averaging just over 22 yards per return. If Jackson walks, Philly will have no one outside of Lewis and the miniature Chad Hall with even remote returning experience on either punts or kickoffs.
If he develops as a receiver, this pick in the sixth round will be an absolute steal.
If Jamal Jackson doesn't return, the Eagles will need a backup center behind Jason Kelce.
Blocking for Robert Griffin III, Blake has lots of experience both as a stand up pass blocker and playing in front of a mobile quarterback.
Unlike former Baylor stalwart Danny Watkins, the 26-year-old Blake also has extensive collegiate experience to build off of. He played two years at Champlain Regional College and one year at Tyler Junior College before transferring to Baylor in 2009.
At this point, you have to take the best player available and Wade is exactly that if he drops. A cover corner with sub 4.5 speed, Wade could develop into a solid nickelback to replace Joselio Hansen.
If the Eagles get rid of Asante Samuel as expected and move Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie out wide, Wade could even see signifcant time during his rookie season if he outplays Hansen in training camp.