Why the Philadelphia Eagles Are the Biggest Winners of the Draft
Well, all the anticipation has come and gone. Over the course of three days, we watched picks No. 1 to 253 come and go. With the 2012 NFL draft now over, we can now look forward to the preseason and then to the regular season.
But for the next few weeks, everyone from ESPN to the NFL Network will talk about the draft. Topics will include the winners, losers, the biggest steals, the biggest potential busts and so on.
There were numerous teams that did exponentially well, and there were teams that made very puzzling decisions. The Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles all made some noise over the three-day span. Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars seemed to falter a little bit.
As we all know, the Colts selected Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick. They then attempted to make the offense better by tabbing Luck's teammate, Coby Fleener, in the second round, and Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen and Florida International wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in the third round.
The Bengals had a great draft by selecting Dre Kirkpatrick, Kevin Zeitler, Devon Still, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Thompson and Orson Charles.
The Bills satisfied a multitude of their needs by selecting Stephon Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, T.J. Graham, Nigel Bradham, Tank Carder and Zebrie Sanders.
The Steelers, like they seem to do every year, had a phenomenal draft after getting offensive linemen David DeCastro and Mike Adams in the first two rounds. They then traded up to acquire linebacker Sean Spence in the third round and nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu in the fourth, who will likely be Casey Hampton's replacement once he decides to call it a career.
But the Steelers did not have the best draft of the 32 teams. That title belongs to their in-state competition, the Philadelphia Eagles.
We all know what the Eagles did last offseason when they acquired Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and Evan Mathis. The Eagles also signed Vince Young, Ronnie Brown and "the other" Steve Smith, but none are currently on the team.
After having one of the best offseasons by a single team in recent memory, many people considered the Eagles to be one of the best teams in the league and a lock to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
However, that wasn't the case, as the "Dream Team," as Vince Young infamously called them, faltered at the beginning of the season and were 4-8 through 12 games. Luckily, they somewhat salvaged their season by winning their last four games, but an 8-8 record just wouldn't do it.
The Eagles' defense struggled mightily last season, even with the arrivals of four premier free agents. The defensive line played well throughout the season, and the secondary held their own at some points. The weakness was in the middle at the linebacker slots, as they really didn't have a veteran that could hold down the fort or a playmaker that could get to the quarterback.
Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Brian Rolle, Akeem Jordan and Keenan Clayton all saw a decent amount of playing time, but none stood out.
What grade would you give the Eagles for their draft?
In March, it was announced that the Eagles had sent a fourth-round draft pick to the Houston Texans in exchange for DeMeco Ryans, a two-time Pro Bowler and a former Defensive Rookie of the Year. Over his first four seasons, Ryans compiled at least 110 total tackles in each season, maximizing at 156 during his rookie season.
The addition of Ryans substantially benefits the Eagles, as they now have one of the best inside linebackers in the league and also satisfied their biggest need at the same time.
This left the Eagles to do what they wanted during the draft, without having a great need to fulfill. Even though it seemed like they were just going to ease themselves through the draft, they didn't do that. The Eagles had an amazing draft, beginning in the first round.
Originally holding the 15th overall pick, the Eagles traded up to the 12th overall pick to select Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
Cox had been rising up many team's draft boards over the last couple of weeks, and the Eagles felt he was the best player available. At 6'4" and 298 pounds, Cox is like a hybrid, as he can play in the middle and on the outside. He's a rare athlete that can get the job done, and the Eagles' front office is salivating over the addition of the lineman.
For a player of his size, Cox is actually genuinely fast. It seems he can get to the quarterback just as quick as players like Dwight Freeney or Julius Peppers. The former Bulldog also has an excellent motor, as it seems he never runs out of gas and gives it his all throughout the entire game. He's very disruptive, is excellent at shedding blocks and is very strong, as evidenced by his 30 reps at the combine.
The Eagles definitely got a great player in the first round, as Cox has the potential to become a great player for the Eagles. It is also entirely plausible that Cox could battle Dallas' Morris Claiborne, Carolina's Luke Kuechly, Tampa Bay's Mark Barron and others for the Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
In the second round, the Eagles managed to snag California inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks with the 46th overall selection. Before the draft started, I had Kendricks as the best inside linebacker in the draft not named Luke Kuechly, whom the Panthers selected with the ninth overall pick. I didn't even think he'd be available at No. 46, but he was, and the Eagles got him before anyone else could.
Kendricks, who played collegiately at California, is a great linebacker. He's also so good that he can play on the outside if the team needs him to.
Last season, Kendricks was arguably the best linebacker in college football, as he registered 106 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery for the Golden Bears. His stellar play over the season earned him Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Although he stands at just 5'11", Kendricks can get the job done. Personally, he reminds me a lot of Washington's London Fletcher, as both are considered to be "undersized" and are sure tacklers. Additionally, it seems as though Kendricks and Fletcher are always giving it their all and always seem to be where the ball is.
Kendricks is going to be a star in this league, and the Eagles struck gold with the acquisition of the linebacker, who could very well line up on the outside.
The Eagles made a second selection in the second round, as they traded up to Green Bay's spot to select Marshall's Vinny Curry, who, like Cox and Kendricks, is considered to be a hybrid. Curry is a phenomenal athlete who can play defensive end and can line up at an outside linebacker spot.
With the Eagles, Curry would likely see the most playing time at outside linebacker, as the team already has Jason Babin and Trent Cole on the defensive line.
Although he played mediocre competition in the C-USA, Curry was still a beast. Over the last two seasons, Curry registered 12 and 11 sacks, respectively. His momentous play last season for the Thundering Herd earned Curry the conference's Defensive Player of the Year Award, just like Mychal Kendricks in the Pac-12.
Selecting Curry didn't really fill a need for the Eagles, as it was more of selecting the best player available. The front office did a great job because simply put, Curry can get to the quarterback much like Trent Cole, who is now his teammate. Curry is very quick off the ball and has an outstanding technique that mesmerized opponents while at Marshall last season.
Curry definitely has the ability to become a perennial Pro Bowl nominee, so needless to say, the Eagles did a great job.
The Eagles finally went away from the defensive side of the ball in the third round, as they selected Arizona quarterback Nick Foles with the 88th overall pick. Prior to the draft, I had named Foles as my sleeper quarterback of the class and I stand by that nomination.
Philadelphia's front office decided after the season was over that it would not retain Vince Young and eventually signed Trent Edwards. Mike Kafka, the Eagles' fourth-round pick in 2010, is also on the roster.
I firmly believe that at this point, Foles is already better than both Edwards and Kafka. He should immediately become the primary backup, even though he's a backup and is not as polished as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
There's no doubt that it will take some time for Foles to learn the system, but I believe it won't take as long as some people think. Foles can become a very valuable weapon to the Eagles' offense, especially if Michael Vick somehow gets hurt at some point during this upcoming season.
With their lone fourth-round selection, the Eagles somehow managed to sneakily acquire Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin. The former Bulldog was one of the most premier athletes of this draft, as he has amazing speed and quickness. Although he stands at a shade under 5'10", Boykin also has outstanding leaping abilities, which will definitely come in handy when he is lining up the secondary.
While at Georgia, Boykin occasionally returned kickoffs and punts, which is something he can do with the Eagles. If so, it makes him an intriguing double threat.
In the sixth round, with a pick they acquired from Denver, the Eagles selected Iowa receiver Marvin McNutt with the 194th overall selection. A three-year starter for the Hawkeyes, McNutt's stats increased every season he was there, eventually catching 82 passes for 1,315 yards and 12 touchdowns during his senior season.
Once thought to be a third- or fourth-round selection, McNutt could see some playing time during his rookie campaign. Although he ran a 4.54 in the 40-yard dash, he was the combine's top performer in the 20-yard shuttle with a time of 4.07. It is very possible that McNutt could supplant Jason Avant at some point.
Six picks later, the Eagles selected Miami offensive lineman Brandon Washington, who was once considered to be a second- or third-round pick. Washington can play both guard and tackle on the offensive line, which is something that was rarely seen in prospects in this year's draft.
Washington definitely has the potential to become a starter at some point for the Eagles. Luckily for Washington, legendary coach Howard Mudd is the team's offensive line coach and Mudd has a brilliant history of developing unknown prospects into full-time starters. Washington will definitely be taught by one of the best in the game's history, and he could eventually flourish under Mudd.
The Eagles' other two picks, offensive tackle Dennis Kelly from Purdue and running back Bryce Brown from Kansas State (via Tennessee), could develop greatly if given the opportunity.
The Eagles selected nine times during this year's draft, and I fully believe that they did exceedingly well with seven of those picks. There is no doubt in my mind that the Eagles were the biggest winners in the draft, as they satisfied nearly every need that they had when the draft started a few days ago.
The squad could finally live up to the hype that they received last season, due in large part to their phenomenal 2012 draft. The front office receives an "A" from me for their class. Good job, Eagles.
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