Philadelphia Eagles: Grading Chip Kelly's Lean Green Drafting Machine
The Philadelphia Eagles fan base has gained a place in professional sports as being one of the most fickle in the National Football League. But I would dare say that even they are at least privately pleased with the direction the Chip Kelly regime has gone from a draft perspective. The Eagles, for better or worse, are looked upon as being notoriously bad drafters. But the 2013 NFL draft may go a long way towards dispelling that idea.
I can't recall if there was ever a time when I squealed with glee over offensive tackle being selected as my team's first pick in the first round, but my inner Philadelphia Eagles fandom vehemently applauded this selection. Lance Johnson was rated as the third best OT in the draft.
At 6'6", 303 lbs, Johnson is as imposing a physical specimen as there has ever been at the position. But that is belied by his speed (4.65 best time in the 40 yard dash) and athleticism (34 inch vertical jump). The former high school quarterback, defensive end, and tight end has only been playing offensive tackle for three years, according to nfldraftscout.com.
Johnson is described as being able to play tackle or guard. Though his toughness is without question, prior rumors of him wrestling black bears growing up in Texas have been greatly exaggerated. Okay, those rumors were straight up fibs fashioned by Johnson himself. But just because he didn't wrestle bears in Texas doesn't mean he couldn't wrestle bears. (Seriously, have you seen this guy?) But for now the Philadelphia Eagles would be glad to see him pancake pass rushers and help blast holes in the opposing D-line for LeSean McCoy and the rest of the Philly running back core.
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Deemed worthy of receiving a 82.2 prospect grade by NFL.com, the surprisingly athletic Zach Ertz was selected with the 35th pick overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. A minority of Eagles fans gave the traditional South St. cheer to yet another in a long line of draft picks. But I feel like it might have been a knee-jerk reaction. I am fairly certain that many of those who booed him never even saw him play.
I am hopeful that this pick is the one that will help push the Philadelphia Eagles back into the limelight as an elite team in the National Football League. A dearth of playmakers was a major concern for the Eagles last season because of injuries at key offensive positions.
Described as having the athleticism and hands of a past catching tight end and the toughness of a full back, Ertz's represented at the combine with a 40 time of 4.57. Zach displayed speed that is largely uncommon for a man of his stature (6'5" and 249 lbs). Prior injuries and blocking mechanics are cause for concern. Despite those concerns many compare him favorably to Jason Witten.
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The Philadelphia Eagles selected former Louisiana State University defensive tackle Bennie Logan in the third round with the 67th overall pick. Logan is a powerful defensive tackle who many analysts feel will fit well in Chip Kelly's 3-4 scheme. Ranked 10th among the 175 defensive tackles, Logan did not run at the combine because of a pulled hamstring but his physical strength was apparent as he benched 225 lbs 30 times.
Scouts are saying Logan has a high motor and displays good lateral quickness in pursuit. His explosiveness off the ball is equally apparent though his inconsistent technique has been described as an area Logan will need to polish up in the NFL.The Second Team All-SEC selection is also said to posses uncommon foot speed as well despite registering atrocious numbers in the 40 yard dash at his pro day workout.
Bennie Logan wore No. 18 while at LSU, the number given to the player who best exemplifies being a Tiger on and off the field. That should bode well for the Philadelphia Eagles and the league. More good guys, fewer knuckle heads, is great for the league. Hopefully, that type of positive behavior and work ethic translates well in the NFL. Some analyst believe this pick was a reach to fit a need, but some things are worth reaching for.
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With the 98th pick overall the Philadelphia Eagles selected Matt Barkley out of USC at the top of the fourth round. Let me state that again, at the top of the fourth freaking round! What a difference a year makes. Last year Matt Barkley was projected to be a top 5 pick with some analysts ranking him higher than eventual NFL Rookie of the Year, Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins prior to the start of the 2011-12 college football season. But after a subpar junior season Barkley decided to return to USC for his senior year with hopes of winning a national championship. After a calamitous season that saw him suffer a shoulder injury last November the former surefire first rounder plummeted to the fourth round, much to his chagrin.
According to nfldraftscout.com, Barkley was ranked second behind Geno Smith of West Virginia. So, how does the second ranked quarterback fall to the fourth round? Well, there have been grumblings regarding his ability to throw the deep ball, but intelligence and accuracy are listed among his strengths. In addition, many NFL teams have their quarterback situations pretty much sewed up. For all those Michael Vick haters out there who applaud this pick as heralding the eventual departure of the embattled starter, I advise you to pump your breaks.
Despite what you may believe, Vick's prior turnover woes can be partially attributed to an offensive line that possessed all the fortitude of a wet ginger bread cookie. Just ask Nick Foles, who had to have been shell shocked after suffering several multiple sack games during his own starts. If the additions to the Eagles offensive and defensive line don't pan out, quarterback will be a bigger concern than ever for the Philadelphia Eagles. Supposing, for some strange reason, Matt Barkley starts the first game of the season behind an offensive line whose effectiveness is equal to or less than that of the 2012 version? We will most certainly see Barkley struggling to lift himself off the turf time and painful time again. Just like Vick did last season. With no foot speed or elusiveness to speak of, a stout offensive line is essential to Matt Barkley's success in any scenario.
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Selected in the fifth round with the 136th pick over all, safety Earl Wolff out of North Carolina State had a scintillating 40 time of 4.40. That makes him one of the top 5 fastest guys drafted this year. While speed isn't everything, it sure does help. Especially if you're playing safety in the National Football League. With that type of speed Wolff can expect to contribute on special teams immediately. If it weren't for the recent addition of Patrick Chung in the secondary he might have started. Heck, if Chung stinks it up early in the season Wolff may start sooner rather than later. A physical, down-hill hitter with an appetite for destruction, he may be just the type of player the Philly fanbase can respect and eventually come to love. A knock on Wolff is that he tends to launch himself at the ball carrier when tackling. That habit can become very expensive in the modern "flags first, questions later" version of the NFL.
Joe Kruger may eventually be looked upon as a steal in the seventh round with the 212th pick. Standing 6'6" and weighing in at 269 lbs, Kruger is the younger brother of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger. Here's to hoping that Kruger will turn out to be every bit as vicious and effective on the field as his physical dimensions would lead one to believe. Analyst project him as being an above average pass rusher off the edge and a decent run stopper as well.
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Cornerback Jordan Poyer was drafted in the seventh round with a compensatory pick from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is said to have been the best corner remaining on the board when the Eagles selected him and could immediately help out in the defensive secondary. Naysayers say he likely fell so low in the draft because of speed concerns.
Defensive end David King was drafted in the seventh round with the 212th overall pick. King is said to have be a versatile player who can play the 3-4 or 4-3 scheme and may battle Kruger for big time minutes. Massive, incredibly strong and described as having a nose for the ball, King is another pick that is certain to pay off sooner rather than later.
Overall, the Philadelphia Eagles had a very successful draft under new head coach Chip Kelly. They addressed a gaping weakness along their offensive line by drafting Lance Johnson with the fourth pick overall. Kelly also added athleticism, toughness, speed and potential big time play making ability with Zach Ertz. Kelly even hedged his quarterback bet by drafting Matt Barkley, a surefire first round pick last year, in the fourth round. Defensive concerns in the secondary and down in the trenches were addressed as well. Grade B-