What the conclusion of the Super Bowl signifies is that it’s time to start focusing on the 2013 NFL season.
The NFL Scouting Combine will reveal more about the best collegiate players in the nation. Free agency will give each team an opportunity to upgrade its roster with other players from around the league. But the NFL draft is the real joy for general managers and coaches.
Chip Kelly, in particular, will have a tough decision to make with the fourth overall pick. The new Philadelphia Eagles coach has a difficult task ahead of him, as he takes over a team that finished just 4-12 in 2012. Andy Reid’s club lost 11 of its final 12 games, and there are numerous holes all over the roster.
One draft won’t fix that. The Eagles probably won’t make the playoffs next season, regardless of whether the Eagles have a terrific draft and equally as impressive free-agency period.
What Chip Kelly does with his first-ever draft pick really depends on Andy Reid. Reid has the first overall selection with the Kansas City Chiefs.
If Reid selects offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, the stud blindside blocker from Texas A&M, Kelly obviously can’t pick him. But if Reid looks elsewhere and passes over Joeckel, the Philadelphia Eagles would be extremely wise to snatch him up.
Neither of them needs a left tackle, though, as Eugene Monroe and Jared Veldheer are talented players. That means Kelly would have his pick of Joeckel, an extremely athletic offensive lineman similar to that of Jason Peters.
I envision Reid selecting Joeckel, though. That would allow Branden Albert to slide to left guard, and it would give the Chiefs a much-improved offensive line for Jamaal Charles and the new quarterback. Jacksonville and Oakland will likely look to improve the defensive side of the football, which means Kelly won’t be able to pass on Geno Smith.
If Kelly wants to run his collegiate offense at the NFL level, he’s going to need someone better than Nick Foles. Foles is one of the slowest quarterbacks in the game, and he could never command a spread option like Smith. Smith is a high-risk, high-reward player, but he’s going to be the guy Kelly gambles on.
Chip Kelly can’t ignore the cornerback position. He will have difficult decisions to make regarding both Nnamdi Asomugha (due to make $15 million in 2013) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (free agent).
Last year’s rookie Brandon Boykin played well in a slot role, although it may be asking a lot for him to step into a starting spot in year two. Kelly will likely retain either Asomugha or DRC, which means the team could use another starter.
Xavier Rhodes had a strong collegiate career at Florida State, and he should be a day-one starter for Philly. He’ll at least have the opportunity to battle it out in training camp with Boykin.
Safety is another position of necessity for the Philadelphia Eagles. T.J. McDonald would make three safeties selected in the top three rounds in a four-year span (Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett).
McDonald has a lot going for him. He’s huge for a safety at 6’3” and over 200 pounds, which will help him well against today’s unique brand of tight ends. McDonald runs a 4.48 40-yard dash and he plays an aggressive, center field style of football in which he can stop the run and the pass.
The Eagles will probably retain Allen and release Coleman, which means McDonald would step in as the starter from day one.
Travis Frederick would be a terrific addition to the offensive line. He probably wouldn’t beat out Danny Watkins for the starting right guard spot, although he would at least provide competition for the first-round bust.
Frederick can play both guard and center, and the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t have any depth on their line in 2012. He played guard in ’11 and center in ’12, paving the way for Montee Ball. He should be a good fallback plan should Jason Kelce get hurt again.
Kwame Geathers is an absolute mountain of a man who could serve as the Philadelphia Eagles nose tackle. The fifth round is low to draft a nose tackle, but it’s still unconfirmed as to whether or not Chip Kelly will actually switch to the 3-4 defense.
Geathers struggled at times this season, and he got outplayed by the better offensive linemen.
What he does, though, is take up space, and that’s essential for a 3-4 nose tackle. Geathers is 6’6” and he clocks in at well over 350 pounds. That’s going to make life easier for pass-rushers like Brandon Graham, Trent Cole and Fletcher Cox.
Quinn Sharp spent some time at both kicker and punter in 2012, excelling more as a punter. He has a strong leg, finishing as a third-team All-American selection in ’11.
The Philadelphia Eagles have lacked a quality punter in recent years. Mat McBriar isn’t the long-term answer. Chas Henry was ineffective. If Sharp could hold down the fort, that would be a nice pickup.
Corey Broomfield may or may not make the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles, but what he would do is provide competition at the cornerback position.
Brandon Boykin is a lock to make the team, but Curtis Marsh could use some competition. He’s underachieved since the team selected him in the draft two seasons ago. Ideally, Broomfield would at least see time in dime situations.
Jaz Reynolds had some serious off-the-field issues in college, and that’s why his draft stock would drop as it did. But he’s worth a gamble in the seventh round.
Reynolds is a speedy, although undersized, receiver who gets separation from defensive backs. He may be a solid fit in Chip Kelly’s explosive offense. If he bombs out, he won’t be the first seventh-rounder not to make the team.