Eagles Draft: Trade, Kevin Kolb Leave Philly Fans Perplexed

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Eagles Draft: Trade, Kevin Kolb Leave Philly Fans Perplexed
Icon"Ooookaaaaaaaaay."
 
That's what every Eagles fan said when Philadelphia made a trade with Dallas on Saturday, giving a first round pick back to the Cowgirls after they had traded their own.

In case you aren't an Eagles fan, or haven't listened to a single word of NFL Draft coverage, Eagles fans are completely confused by the moves their team made on the first day.  The Eagles are in a position to compete for an NFC Championship this year...but decided to build for the future.

That is, the future without franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb
 
In spite of the fact that they need to win now, the Birds passed on several defensive players and wide receivers who could have made immediate impacts.  Face it—the Eagles could use a young guy at pretty much any defensive position.  Alan Branch, Paul Posluszny, Chris Houston, and Eric Weddle were all available when the Eagles traded first-round their pick. 

Also, if you don't mind me making an understatement, the Eagles could use a wide receiver.  Three wideouts were taken between the 26th pick (where the Eagles started) and the 36th (where they ended up).  That isn't even counting Dwayne Jarrett, Sidney Rice, or Steve Smith—who all went later in the second round. 
 
To be blunt: The Eagles simply didn't have the luxury of drafting a quarterback so early in the draft...nor so early in McNabb's career.
 
Okay, now that I got that off my chest, I'll actually look at who the Eagles did draft.
 
As much as I didn't like the Kevin Kolb pick (2nd Round, No. 36), Andy Reid does have a good history with quarterbacks on draft day.  McNabb worked out pretty well in a draft with several QB busts, and A.J. Feeley turned out to be a solid fifth-round pick. 
 
Kolb is a big guy with decent mobility who could fit well into Reid's West Coast offense.  The Eagles are getting criticism for drafting him too early, but two QBs were taken before the Eagles' next selection.  Maybe Reid knew something we didn't. 
 
Plus, as much as I would like to ignore it, Donovan will turn 31 this year—and has missed 13 games in the last two seasons.  Even if he does return to his MVP form, he's worthless if he gets injured again.  And take a look at McNabb's salary numbers for the rest of his contract: $5.5 million in '07, $6.3 million in '08, $9.2 million in '09, and $10 million in 2010.  That's a huge jump in salary heading into 2009—and Joe Banner won't want to pay up if he doesn't have to. 

Maybe Kolb was a reach, and he's definitely not what the Eagles need to win this season, but Big Andy has kept his team competitive for a number years now.  If Kolb keeps the Eagles in the hunt for another seven or eight seasons, it will be hard to criticize the pick. 

Furthermore, the Eagles have a bad history with first-round busts, but usually get great value later in the weekend. Maybe Reid decided that trading down was the best way to optimize his draft haul.

I know Victor Abiamiri (2nd Round, No. 57) wasn't a big-name pick, but I like him.  He looks like the Eagles' other defensive ends—a little on the small side with a nose for the quarterback.  He has good closing speed and the potential to develop some nice pass-rushing moves, as exemplified by his solid 10-yard dash times. Though DE isn't the defense's biggest need, Abiamiri should at least help bolster the Eagles' front seven.

I also have high expectations for Stewart Bradley (3rd Round, No. 87).  He's a big guy who plays with a lot of heart, and could be a great replacement for the aging Takeo Spikes at the "Sam" linebacker position.  Linebacker is the easiest position for a college player to step into in his first year—and barring any setbacks (he has some durability issues), Bradley could see some time on the field this fall. 

Tony Hunt, the other third-round pick (No. 90), is a Nittany Lion and a fan favorite.  He has good size, runs with a low center of gravity, and can block in pass protection.  He could have the biggest immediate impact of any Eagles rookie, working as the power back complementing Brian Westbrook. Correll Buckhalter is a decent back, but he hasn't been able to stay on the field long enough to prove it.  Hunt could make Buckhalter expendable, and add a new dimension to the Eagles' run game.  The play that sticks out in my mind is when the Eagles had a 2nd-and-1 in New Orleans in the playoffs and couldn't get a first down.  Hopefully Hunt can make the difference.

C.J. Gaddis (5th Round, No. 155) was a solid day-two pick.  He has good size and speed, and he gives the Eagles some versatility, playing both corner and safety. His biggest knock is that he's raw, but the Eagles coaching staff can definitely turn him into a solid dime back to complement William James in the nickel spot.

Brent Celek (5th Round, No. 162) will probably make the team, especially with L.J. Smith entering the final year of his contract.  He isn't too big, and he isn't too fast, but he has good hands and could contribute as a short-yardage tight end.  That said, my hope is that the Eagles re-sign Smith or manage to pick up a better TE in free agency.  The West Coast offense relies too heavily on the TE to settle for a marginal fix.  Still, Celek's ability to play special teams should guarantee him a roster spot. 

The rest of the second-day players seem like decent prospects, but Rashad Barksdale (6th Round, No. 201) and Nate Ilaoa (7th Round, No. 236) will struggle to make the opening day roster.

After ignoring their immediate needs this weekend, look for the Eagles to make some cap-casualty acquisitions before training camp opens.  As much as I hate Keyshawn Johnson, for instance, he'd be a very good addition.  I'll give the benefit of the doubt to the Eagles coaching staff—but this is only the second time in Reid's tenure that the team hasn't drafted an offensive lineman. Hopefully McNabb can last the whole season with the line he has now...because I don't think any Eagles fan wants to see their first-round pick step on the field anytime soon. 
 

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