Philadelphia Eagles: One Bold Prediction for Each 2012 Draft Pick
With OTAs and the mandatory minicamp over, the Philadelphia Eagles are now looking ahead toward training camp—especially the rookies.
The 2012 draft was one of the best in recent memory, and it infused the team with a lot of talent at different positions. Andy Reid drafted for value and need—a mix that usually works wonders in the NFL.
Some selections are more "NFL-ready" than others, but I think there should be expectations involved for every single rookie. Whether it is first-round pick Fletcher Cox or seventh-round pick Bryce Brown, there needs to be a set group of expectations in place.
The following predictions are how I think the 2012 season will play out for all of Philadephia's draft picks; let's get started.
Comment below if you agree or disagree, and check out more of my work here.
Fletcher Cox (DT)
Prediction: Cox Wins Defensive Rookie of the Year
Cox may have been the sixth defensive player taken off the board, but I think he has more of an ability to make a difference in 2012 than any other such player in the entire draft.
I don't think anyone outside the first round—with the possible exceptions of teammate Mychal Kendricks, Janoris Jenkins and Bobby Wagner—will really make a case for Defensive ROTY.
None of the other first-round defensive line prospects are as NFL-ready as Cox in my mind, especially the guy taken right before him—Dontari Poe. Poe has "bust" written all over him, especially because of his poor college record.
At the defensive end position, I see a spattering of talent, but I don't think Michael Brockers, Quinton Coples or the others have the opportunity or the talent to make a run at the award.
Defensive backs Dre Kirkpatrick, Stephon Gilmore and Mark Barron all have bright futures, but none of them will excel in their current situations right away.
Then, of course, there are the linebackers. I don't think either of the SEC products—Dont'a Hightower and Melvin Ingram—will be good NFL outside linebackers right away and Nick Perry doesn't exactly blow my mind.
The only two players who will contest Cox for the award are CB Morris Claiborne and OLB Luke Kuechly. Claiborne is a natural playmaker and Kuechly is an NFL-ready outside linebacker, both of whom will be playing with Pro Bowl-caliber partners—Brandon Carr in Dallas and Jon Beason in Carolina.
Even so, Cox has always been an explosive, playmaking defensive tackle and I think he'll do more in his first year than either Kuechly or Claiborne.
Mychal Kendricks (LB)
Prediction: Kendricks Starts All 16 Games at Strong-Side Linebacker
I think Mychal Kendricks was the steal of the second round next to Dolphins' offensive tackle Jonathan Martin.
Kendricks' scouting report doesn't show many flaws, and he's done nothing to diminish any of his strengths since being named the starter at strong-side linebacker in OTAs.
The former California product is an excellent coverage man, a reliable tackler, a very good downhill run stuffer and an above-average blitzer. In his senior season at Cal, Kendricks recorded 105 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, and 2.5 sacks. He was great.
There is nothing stopping Kendricks from keeping his job throughout the season, save a big injury or sudden drop in performance—something that is highly unlikely.
Many people don't believe in a rookie starting every game at a position as important to a defense as strong-side is to the wide-nine, but Kendricks has the talent and love of the game to perform at a high level.
As such, I just don't see anyone—especially Moise Fokou or Keenan Clayton—coming close to taking over Kendricks' position anytime in 2012.
Vinny Curry (DE)
Prediction: Curry Has Least Tackles Among Eagles D-Linemen
A lot of people are high on Marshall product Vinny Curry, but I'm not one of them—at least not yet.
Curry was an excellent pass-rusher in college, possibly one of the top ten in the entire nation in 2011. He recorded 11 sacks, an incredible 22 tackles for loss and forced seven fumbles. He has a knack for getting to the quarterback using his agility and vast repertoire of moves.
Unfortunately for him, so do Trent Cole and Jason Babin.
I'd definitely say Cole and Babin are much better pass-rushers than Curry at the moment, and fellow reserves Brandon Graham and Phillip Hunt have shown vast improvements this offseason as well—not to mention that all four are better run-stoppers than Curry.
As much as I like Curry's potential as a DeMarcus Ware-type edge rusher, I don't think he has grown enough this offseason as a run stopper to merit a lot of playing time.
He might get a couple of sacks here and there, but I just don't think he'll be much of a force anywhere else in 2012.
Nick Foles (QB)
Prediction: Foles Throws At Least One Touchdown Pass
This may not sound like a bold prediction at all, but besides quarterbacks drafted in the first round—Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin Jr., Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill—none of the rookie quarterbacks are likely to see the field. Some of them might not even play second-string, including Foles.
Nevertheless, even while I do see a tight battle raging on during the preseason between current backup Mike Kafka and Foles for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, I think Andy Reid will see that Foles has more upside and should be developed as soon as possible.
If—in the Eagles' case it's more like "when"—Michael Vick misses a game or two, Foles will be the one to go in. I have full confidence that his arm and natural instincts will allow him to develop confidence as he goes and throwing his first NFL touchdown will help him as he gets ready for a bright future.
Brandon Boykin (CB)
Prediction: Boykin Leads NFC in Kicks Returned for a TD
You must be thinking: "Is he crazy? What about Devin Hester, Ted Ginn, Randall Cobb and Percy Harvin?"
Just bear with me. All of those guys only returned one kickoff for a touchdown in 2011, which makes it quite possible for a rookie like Boykin—who has great kickoff returning ability—to exceed them in 2012.
In addition, with the exception of possibly Cobb and Hester, all of those guys will be playing more snaps on offense than Boykin will be playing on defense. Not only does Boykin play slot corner, but he'll also be splitting time with veteran Joselio Hanson, which will help him out in terms of staying fresh.
Boykin returned four kickoffs for touchdowns over his three-year college career and averaged 24.21 yards per return. Harvin, who only returned half as many kicks as Boykin did in 2011, was the only one to average over 30 yards per return (via ESPN).
Boykin will return more than 30 kicks in 2012 because of the Eagles deficiency in good returners, so leading the conference in touchdowns is something he is certainly capable of.
Dennis Kelly (OT)
Prediction: Kelly Spends 2012 on the Inactive List
The Eagles drafted Purdue tackle Dennis Kelly to be a project for legendary coach Howard Mudd, but unfortunately it seems he's a much larger project than anyone imagined.
He's slow, stiff and unable to recognize the patterns and moves of the defensive ends on his own team. Brandon Graham, Jason Babin and Trent Cole have all taken turns teeing off against the fifth-round pick, and it seems his strength and size are the only things keeping him on the team.
At his position, the Eagles have Demetress Bell starting at left tackle, Todd Herremans starting at right tackle, King Dunlap backing up Bell and D.J. Jones right behind Herremans.
That leaves Kelly as the fifth offensive tackle on the roster. The Eagles aren't going to keep five offensive tackles, which means Kelly might get the axe early in the season, or he will spend much of 2012 on the inactive list.
Since he has some potential, the Eagles won't release him right away, but he definitely won't see any game action unless he improves exponentially throughout training camp. Of all the Eagles' draft picks, I think Kelly is in for the worst season in 2012.
Marvin McNutt (WR)
Prediction: McNutt Scores 7-plus Touchdowns
McNutt caught 12 touchdowns in 2011 and is the red zone threat Philadelphia has been looking for. He doesn't have the speed to stretch the field like DeSean Jackson, but he has the frame, the ball skills and the catch radius to be a red zone lock in big situations.
Since the Eagles have begun to lose confidence in Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant down inside the 20, they might bring in McNutt in some situations here and there to try and finish off drives. I think McNutt will be brilliant in those scenarios and have one of the best seasons of any rookie wide receiver in 2012.
Seven touchdowns might even be low; that just shows how much confidence I have in McNutt going forward.
Brandon Washington (OG)
Prediction: Washington Starts at Both Guard Positions
Because he has made far more progress than Dennis Kelly, offensive guard Brandon Washington seems to be the first backup at both guard spots behind Danny Watkins and Evan Mathis.
Washington has shown a great work ethic, above-average football IQ and very good strength thus far. His biggest weakness is footwork, which he'll definitely work to improve on in the coming months.
I think both Watkins and Mathis will miss one or two games this season because that's simply how unlucky the Eagles are. In both cases, Washington will be the one stepping in to fill the void, which is why I think he'll get reps at both positions.
How he plays is another story, but if he continues to progress, he could really be a solid backup in his rookie season and possibly develop into a high-quality starter down the road. But for now experience is the most important thing, and I think Washington will get some in 2012.
Bryce Brown (RB)
Prediction: Brown Wins FedEx Ground Player of the Week Once
Bryce Brown's biggest problem in college wasn't his speed, agility, or power. It was his attitude—something that's going to change when an NFL paycheck is on the line.
The 21-year old never fully honored his commitments to either Kansas State or Tennessee, combining to rush 104 times for 476 yards in two seasons—one with each of those schools.
All reports from OTAs, however, indicate that Brown looks more like the back he was coming out of high school than a seventh-round pick. He has a rare blend of speed and power that is only possessed by a few rare backs including Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster.
LeSean McCoy was lucky last year in terms of injuries, but I expect he'll miss one or two games throughout the course of the season because of the nature of the running back position. In his absence Brown will take over, and I think he has the talent to go off for 120 yards and two touchdowns on any given day.
That's why I think he'll win the FedEx Ground Player of the Week award once in 2012.