Will Chip Kelly Take a Quarterback with His 1st Draft Pick?

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIIApril 22, 2013

Philadelphia Eagles new head coach Chip Kelly, general manager Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie have a big decision to make with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Not only will this draft pick represent the first pick of the Chip Kelly era, it will also signify the type of player or athlete that Kelly wants to bring to Philadelphia.

More specifically, will Kelly opt to draft a quarterback with this pick, as the player that will be asked to run his high-octane offense in the 2013 season and beyond? That is the question that has generated quite a bit of speculation and will serve as the main topic of this presentation.

Lance Zierlein of the Houston Chronicle came out with his 2.0 version of the 2013 Mock Draft last week. According to his entry for the Eagles pick at No. 4, he wrote the following:

4. Philadelphia - Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia:  I was told to “plug Geno in here” by a league source and I usually listen when this guy speaks.  Kelly’s offense probably won’t ask the QB to run as much as people would like to believe, but I do think his offense will try to stretch the field and play up-tempo which is something that Geno Smith is used to.

We need to realize that it will take some time, (as in several years) before the entire Philadelphia roster is customized to Coach Kelly's satisfaction. The roster he assumed from 2012 was designed for Andy Reid, but that doesn't necessarily lend itself to the offense that Kelly wants to run in Philadelphia.


What makes Chip Kelly's offense so special? 

So, what kind of offense does Kelly want to run this year? To put this into proper context, understand that the Oregon offense averaged 84 snaps per game under Kelly. Under Coach Reid in 2012, the Eagles offense averaged only 67 snaps per game. Finding a way to crank out 17 more snaps per game will not be easy to do. 

The Eagles recently concluded their first minicamp under Coach Kelly. According to the reactions of the players, this offense will be something that the NFL hasn't witnessed before.

The first reaction is from LeSean McCoy, courtesy of Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com.

“You’re going to need another back in this offense,” said McCoy. “This is an offense where it’s not a debate, ‘I can do it myself.’ For one, you are going to do more plays than any other offense. Two, the amount of hits. You’re running so much. If you’re faking it, or running it, pass or not, you’re constantly going. I think any back, no matter how great of shape he’s in, is going to need some extra help.

“You’re running so much, it’s like a freaking track meet. It’s like a relay. You need extra guys.

"Where in a normal offense you might come out here and  get 30, 40 reps, we’re out here getting 100-and-something plays off,” said McCoy. “We’re doubling the reps, we’re getting it fast-paced so it’s kind of beaten into your head, going over and over again. It’s one of those things you kind of learn on the run. Just in three days I feel like I have the majority of the offense down.”

Now we have a better idea of what is going on. Think about the up-tempo, breakneck speed of an NBA team, and then translate that to the NFL. The Eagles will need plenty of depth across the board on offense, which means that every opponent they play will require the same depth on defense.

Let's highlight another reaction to Kelly's offense, this time from Brent Celek, courtesy of Sheil Kapadia of PhillyMag.com.

"From a communications standpoint, it’s going to change the league,” Celek said. “I’m not going to tell you guys how, but it will. Just the way that they can communicate plays in and get us the stuff, it’s pretty cool. It’s something that I never even thought was possible in the NFL. Seeing the stuff he’s doing, he has a reason why he does everything that he does, and a reason why each play is called what it is. And it all makes sense.

“I can’t say that we’re going to be super successful, but from a communications standpoint, it’s insane. I think it’s awesome.”

The players are obviously impressed with what Kelly wants to do. Now the big question is to find out who the best quarterback is that can lead this offense and keep everybody in sync when the bullets start flying for real.


Coming back to our main topic, another question that needs to be asked, is who exactly is the best quarterback in this draft class that is capable of running Kelly's offense?

While the answer for the past few months would arguably be Geno Smith, that might not be the case any longer. Momentum has been building up for Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib. Depending on how much stock you place in the opinion of ex-NFL head coach Jon Gruden, he concluded his QB Camp with the assessment that Nassib is his No. 1 quarterback from the 2013 draft class.

Gruden isn't alone in singing the praises of Nassib. NFL analyst Greg Cosell of NFL Films also calls Nassib as the No. 1 quarterback in this class. Cosell was a guest on The John Murphy Show at BuffaloBills.com, where he shared his views on Nassib. 

"He is like a young Drew Brees. And when I say a young Drew Brees, I mean with San Diego, when he was sort of developing his career.  I think Nassib has some of those same physical traits with his ball location, his anticipation.  And we’ll see where that goes.”

” To me, he’s the top guy in a draft where there are no guaranteed quarterbacks.”

Nassib does have plenty of experience running the hurry-up offense at Syracuse under head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who both moved over in tandem to the Buffalo Bills. The Bills would prefer to draft Nassib with the pick at No. 41, but Philadelphia could easily take him with their pick at No. 35 in the second round.

Does Nassib have the proper ball-handling skills to execute Kelly's offense? That isn't a given right now. 

Is Smith that much of a better quarterback than Nassib, or is Nassib actually the better choice to run this offense? In head-to-head meetings during their career, Nassib won all three times he faced Smith. That has to account for something. So, the Eagles could draft one of the top tackles at No. 4 and then take their quarterback at No. 35, right?

On paper that makes sense, but the reality is that there has been plenty of speculation that a number of quarterback-needy teams will be prepared to trade back into the bottom of the first round and grab their quarterback then.

There is a third quarterback who deserves consideration, and that would be E.J. Manuel from Florida State. Manuel offers great size at 6'4" tall and weighs 214 pounds. He is athletic and mobile for his size, which he demonstrated when he won the MVP award at the Senior Bowl. The other quality about Manuel that doesn't get mentioned enough is that he is a winner. He won four bowl games in college, which is no small feat.

If the rookie quarterback the Eagles like is off the board when they are on the clock at No. 35, is that really a terrible thing?

Worst-case scenario is that they have the 2013 season to introduce the Kelly offensive scheme at the NFL level and find out what works and what doesn't. They can do some fine-tuning of the scheme in the offseason and then look at the quarterbacks coming out in the 2014 draft class, which is already thought to be a better caliber than the current draft class.

2014 quarterback options include Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech), Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), Aaron Murray (Georgia) and Tajh Boyd (Clemson). It is too soon to know when Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will be ready to declare for the NFL.

That is one of the interesting topics that is probably being debated this week inside the Eagles' war room with Kelly, Lurie and Roseman. Do they draft a quarterback now or go instead with the veteran in-house options they already have?

Looking at the future, Michael Vick's contract is up after the 2013 season. It is arguable that Nick Foles doesn't have the necessary skills to run Kelly's offense, so what is best long-term answer? They also have to determine if they need to draft a quarterback in the first round or in the second. Can they truly afford to wait until the No. 35 pick or is that taking on too much of a gamble? 


What other players will the Eagles consider besides QB with the No. 4 Pick? 

Quarterback isn't the only position, of course, that the Eagles are considering with the No. 4 selection.

Just last week, Kelly, Lurie and other Eagles brass met with Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson, who also went through a private workout with the team. Johnson makes sense for Kelly, because he is by far the most athletic tackle in this draft class. If you are going to run Kelly's offense, you will need athletic types that can keep up with the tempo and high number of snaps.

Johnson talked about his impressions of the Philadelphia offense with Jeff McLane of Philly.com. Johnson stated:

"The Eagles own the No. 4 overall pick, but the freakishly-athletic Johnson could still be Kelly's target."It's a good possibility," Johnson said on Wednesday during a phone interview. "What they're going to do offensively really fits what I excel at -- up-tempo, zone offense. But you never know what's going to happen come draft day.

"Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland traveled down to Groveton, Tex. on April 5 to work out Johnson at his former high school. "Coach Stoutland came down and had me do some basic combine drills and just different blocks that the Eagles would do," Johnson said. "They had me work out for about an hour. It went well."

The Eagles have worked out Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher as well, as they need to conduct their due diligence. As highly regarded as Johnson is, the Eagles have to be prepared to know who else they would take if the Oklahoma tackle is already gone when their turn comes up. 

All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters is healthy again as he has made a full recovery from the Achilles injury he suffered last year. So, with Peters back you would assume that he is going back to his natural left tackle spot. That means if the Eagles draft any of the top-three tackle prospects, they would play right tackle.

Since Vick is a left-handed quarterback, the right tackle is responsible for Vick's blind side, which is an important distinction. The current right tackle is Todd Herremans, who would then be a candidate to slide over to play guard.

As for players that have personal experience from playing under Coach Kelly, we can't forget about the possibilities that Philadelphia would consider athletic linebacker Dion Jordan with that pick at No. 4. Jordan is viewed as another Aldon Smith due to his size and athleticism, and if he could perform like Smith, that would be a welcome addition for the Eagles defense.

Another player that played under Coach Kelly at Oregon is quarterback Dennis Dixon. When the Eagles signed free agent Dixon back in February, Dixon was under the impression that Philadelphia would hold an open quarterback competition at training camp. Dixon will be the only option that has actually run Kelly's offense, which gives him a leg up. However, between Vick and Foles, he doesn't have all of their skills. If he did, he wouldn't have been a free agent. 

We have discussed the Eagles options with the pick at No. 4 and looked at the appropriate time to draft a quarterback. This is an exciting time to be a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and you will have some answers to the questions we raised within the next week. Stay patient, as we will all find out the results soon enough.


Thanks for checking out the presentation. Follow me on Twitter: @DanVanWie


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