Philadelphia Eagles: Reviewing Their 2012 NFL Draft
Following a number of high-profile free-agent signings—including cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive end Jason Babin and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins—the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to be the NFL’s “dream team,” at least in the words of backup quarterback Vince Young (who recently signed with the Buffalo Bills).
The Eagles’ dream never became reality. They lost eight of their first 12 games last season and missed the playoffs even though they ended the regular season on a four-game winning streak.
The Eagles will not enter the 2012 season with the same expectations as 2011, but the 2012 NFL draft was their opportunity to continue building a team that could make a run at the Super Bowl that many expected them to win last year.
Did the Eagles have a “dream draft”? Read through the following slides to find out.
Evaluating the Picks
Round 1, Pick 12: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 15
Cox has the potential to be the biggest difference-maker among all defensive linemen in this draft class. He has fantastic quickness and athletic ability for a 298-pound defensive tackle, and he uses his athleticism to be a tremendous interior penetrator.
With the “wide nine” scheme technique that the Eagles use on their defensive line, they needed to upgrade athletically at the defensive tackle position. Cox can be the athletic, disruptive player they need.
Round 2, Pick 46: Mychal Kendricks, LB, California
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 114
Kendricks is an undersized middle linebacker, but he is likely to play as a strongside linebacker in the Eagles’ defense. He is an outstanding all-around athletic specimen, and he was a productive tackler at California.
Kendricks’ size (5'11", 240 pounds) could present problems for him going up against bigger running backs in run defense, but he is a talented, instinctive linebacker with big upside.
Round 2, Pick 59: Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 46
Curry had terrific production as a defensive end at Marshall, and his game should translate to the next level. He is not a spectacular athlete, but he is a smooth technician with pass-rushing skills. Curry’s game needs development against the run, but he is solid in that area.
Round 3, Pick 88: Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 69
Foles was a productive passer in the offensively dominated Pac-12. He has very good physical attributes, including a strong arm.
That said, he struggles with decision-making and has poor mechanics. He can throw accurately downfield, but he is inconsistent in that area. Foles is a solid all-around pocket passer, but he is not an explosive athlete, which does not make him a great fit for an offense built around Michael Vick.
Round 4, Pick 123: Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 39
Boykin is a tremendous athlete who can be a difference-maker both in the defensive backfield and on special teams.
As a cornerback, he is smooth and fluid in coverage. He is undersized (5'10", 182 pounds), but has very good hips and ball skills, and he is a solid tackler. He is a perfect fit to play nickel cornerback.
Boykin is also a game-changer as a punt returner. Boykin has great speed and agility, and he should make an impact if the Eagles choose to use him in this capacity.
Round 5, Pick 153: Dennis Kelly, OT, Purdue
Overall Prospect Rank: Not in Top 400
Kelly is an intriguing developmental prospect as an offensive tackle. At 6’8’’ and 321 pounds, Kelly has tremendous size, but he needs to become better at utilizing his size. He tends to play too upright and does not get great leverage. He was a solid three-year starter at Purdue, but was not dominant. This was a selection made for projection and upside.
Round 6, Pick 194: Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 96
McNutt is a tall, reliable receiver who was productive at Iowa. He is a good route-runner with strong hands, but he was an inconsistent performer in college. He lacks top-end speed and struggles with downfield separation and sometimes looks on tape as though he is not going full-speed.
That said, he should make a solid fourth or fifth receiver for the Eagles.
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 71
Washington is a big offensive lineman who has a very good frame along with great athleticism for his size (6'2", 320 pounds). He played left tackle last season at Miami, but he should kick back inside to play guard for the Eagles. He is a strong run-blocker and solid pass-blocker who has starting potential.
Round 7, Pick 229: Bryce Brown, RB, Kansas State
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 386
Brown is a complete wild card as an NFL prospect. Brown was ranked the No. 1 overall recruit in the high school class of 2009, but his collegiate career quickly went up in flames; Brown showed flashes of brilliance in his freshman season at Tennessee, but then sat out the 2010 season after transferring to Kansas State, then quit the team last season having only run three times for 16 yards in three games.
While Brown’s character, loyalty and passion for football all come seriously into question, he does have huge upside. He is a raw talent who certainly qualifies as a project, but he has an explosive combination of size, speed, agility and power. If Brown can get himself back on track as a football player, he could end up being a diamond in the rough.
Evaluating the Trades
The Eagles traded Round 6, Pick 187 and offensive tackle Winston Justice to the Indianapolis Colts for Round 6, Pick 172. The Eagles then traded the No. 15, No. 114 and No. 172 overall selections to the Seattle Seahawks for Round 1, Pick 12.
In this scenario, trading up three spots at the price of fourth- and sixth-round draft picks was worth it. Fletcher Cox was the ideal target for the Eagles, and he would not have gotten past the St. Louis Rams, who held the No. 14 overall selection. Had the Eagles stayed put, they likely would have settled on drafting LSU’s Michael Brockers, a significant drop-off in talent at the defensive tackle position from Cox.
The Eagles gave up Justice for virtually nothing, but he had fallen into a backup role with the Eagles.
The Eagles received Round 2, Pick 51 along with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from the Arizona Cardinals in July 2011 for quarterback Kevin Kolb. The Eagles later traded Round 2, Pick 51 to the Green Bay Packers for Round 2, Pick 59 and Round 4, Pick 123.
The Eagles received tremendous value when they initially dealt Kolb to the Cardinals. For a player who was their backup quarterback, the Eagles got a second-round draft selection along with a starting cornerback.
The Eagles’ trade of their acquired selection from the Cardinals was also a great move. By moving down spots, they added an additional fourth-round draft choice and still got very good value at No. 59 overall in Vinny Curry.
The Eagles received Round 4, Pick 99 along with the No. 116 overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the No. 104 selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Eagles later traded Round 3, Pick 76 and Round 4, Pick 99 to the Houston Texans for Round 3, Pick 88 and middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
The Eagles came away with grand theft on both of these trades. In the initial deal, the Eagles ended up with two fourth-round selections for the price of one, and this year’s draft pick was actually a higher pick than the one they traded to the Buccaneers last season.
In the second trade, the Eagles gave up that pick and swapped down in Round 3, and got one of the NFL’s top middle linebackers, DeMeco Ryans, in return. In whole, the Eagles lost nothing except 12 draft spots in the middle rounds of two consecutive drafts, while getting a star player at their weakest position area in return. Tremendous work by the Eagles’ front office.
The Eagles received Round 6, Pick 194 from the Denver Broncos for middle linebacker Joe Mays.
Mays is a solid inside linebacker who could provide solid depth behind DeMeco Ryans at middle linebacker, so the Eagles may not have gotten the best value out of this trade.
The Eagles traded Round 7, Pick 223 and linebacker Tracy White in September 2011 to the New England Patriots for Round 6, Pick 200.
White is a solid special teams player, but he was not going to make the Eagles’ final 53-man roster, so trading him and moving up a round in the draft was better than losing him for nothing.
The Eagles received Round 7, Pick 229 from the Atlanta Falcons for cornerback Asante Samuel.
The Eagles got the short end of the stick on this deal. They traded away a terrific starting cornerback and received only a seventh-round pick in return.
That said, Samuel was set to receive $9.9 million in 2012 and would have been released by the Eagles had he not been traded. The Eagles should have been able to acquire at least a fourth- or fifth-round pick for a player of Samuel’s caliber, but at least they received a draft pick in return.
From top to bottom, the Eagles got very good value throughout this draft.
The Eagles drafted six players ranked within the top 100 and were able to get three of them on Day 3. Boykin should immediately step in as the Eagles’ third cornerback and make an impact in the secondary and on special teams, while McNutt and Washington are quality talents who are sixth-round steals.
Cox’s value as the best defensive tackle in the draft class made him worth trading up for. Curry does not address a position of need, but he was very good value as the top remaining pass-rusher late in Round 2.
The only two major reaches of the Eagles’ draft were Kendricks and Kelly. Kendricks’ athletic upside propelled him into the second round, but he should not have been selected over a better trio of linebackers in Utah State’s Bobby Wagner, North Carolina’s Zach Brown and Nebraska’s Lavonte David. Kelly is a solid developmental tackle prospect, but better choices would have been Florida State’s Andrew Datko, Boise State’s Nate Potter or South Dakota’s Tom Compton.
Even with two reaches, the consistent quality of the Eagles’ selections throughout their draft displayed their clear ability to find value on the draft board.
More than anything, the Eagles needed to add playmakers to their defense, which is exactly what they did with four of their first five selections.
The Eagles needed an athletic upgrade at defensive tackle, which they filled with Cox. They needed to add a playmaker at outside linebacker, which they did with Kendricks. The Eagles also needed a nickel cornerback, and they got a terrific fit in Boykin.
The Eagles did not need another defensive end, but Curry should enhance their pass rush.
Offensively, the biggest need was for offensive line depth. The Eagles addressed that need on the third day with the selections of Kelly and Washington.
Overall, the Eagles did a tremendous job of filling their biggest needs while finding great value in doing so. The Eagles also did tremendous work both leading into and during the 2012 NFL draft, which took their draft to a whole new level.
The Eagles’ defense will be much better as a result of this draft class. Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry should be impact players on the defensive front, while Brandon Boykin gives them the cornerback fit to cover slot receivers that they need. The Eagles added a much-needed playmaker at linebacker in Mychal Kendricks, and their strategic use of draft picks also enabled them to acquire the middle linebacker they desperately needed, DeMeco Ryans, in a trade.
A very good draft haul for the Eagles puts them in much better position to make the run at the Super Bowl that they failed to make last season. Cox could develop into a star, while the Eagles added many other players who should end up being productive contributors for their team.