The first draft of the Chip Kelly era is over, and the Philadelphia Eagles find themselves now with eight new young players to add to the roster. While rookies can often be expected to need a season or two to develop, many of the players whom Kelly selected seem capable of making an immediate impact.
The Eagles may be rebuilding, but if many of their young players can step up, they may find themselves back in contention sooner than anticipated. And if these eight players live up to their potential, don't be surprised to find the Eagles back in the postseason within one or two seasons.
Every player the Eagles selected in the draft is talented and has a good amount of upside. Here is a projection of how each of them will likely perform in 2013.
Part of the reason the Eagles selected Lane Johnson in the first round was to acquire a long-term replacement for Jason Peters at left tackle. But the Eagles are also expecting Johnson to make an immediate contribution to an O-line that was among the NFL's worst in 2012.
Johnson is a rare athlete and has an impressive combination of strength, speed and quickness. His talent alone should allow him to start at right tackle, especially as that would allow Todd Herremans to play right guard, a position where he would be more comfortable.
If there are any complications with Jason Peters returning from his injury, Johnson would be a much more capable backup then King Dunlap or Demetress Bell. It's possible that Johnson will need a season to develop, as he is still a bit raw, but he will most likely be at least an average lineman. And that alone would greatly improve the play of the entire Eagles offense.
The selection of Zach Ertz surprised many Eagles fans, as the Eagles already have a talented and veteran tight end in Brent Celek, but Kelly is an offensive mind and is looking to add as many mismatches on offense as possible.
He may very well have gotten that in Ertz. Ertz is a freakish athlete who also has great hands. He is able to make some very spectacular catches at times.
Unfortunately, Ertz is a poor blocker. While many pass-catching tight ends share that weakness, expect Celek to win the battle at the starting tight end spot and to play the majority of the snaps.
In 2013, Ertz will most likely be used largely in the red zone, where his size and athleticism can create mismatches in the end zone. Also, keep your eyes open for a few big plays during the regular season, as Kelly will likely line him up in the slot or even in the backfield to take advantage of his versatility and athleticism.
Bennie Logan is a player with a great deal of upside, and as a rookie he will likely be a contributor to the Eagles. If Logan can continue to develop, the Eagles may eventually find themselves with a franchise player at nose tackle. But if not, Logan will surely be at least an excellent rotational player.
Due to his size and playing style, Logan will most likely compete with Isaac Sopoaga for the starting nose tackle position. But regardless of whoever wins the training camp battle, whether it's Logan due to his higher energy and youth or Sopoaga due to his experience, the two will likely split time at the position.
Expect Logan to be used primarily in a run-stopping role, as he plays with a great deal of strength but also has the quickness to shed blocks and get to the running back. It will be difficult for Logan to make an impact in his rookie season as a pass-rusher, however, as he relies heavily on the bull rush and opposing NFL O-linemen will be stronger than his collegiate opponents.
Due to that style of play, Logan will tire more quickly and see limited snaps in 2013.
Matt Barkley may have slid to the fourth round, but he was once regarded as one of the top quarterback prospects in the entire draft. Barkley is tough, accurate and has experience playing in a pro-style offense.
However, expect Barkley to be the third-string quarterback in 2013 behind Michael Vick and Nick Foles (in whichever order). Both Vick and Foles have a significant advantage over Barkley: experience.
Kelly would not have retained both Vick and Foles if he did not think both could be integral pieces of the team next season. This is not to say that Kelly does not think highly of Barkley, but Vick and Foles will likely get the nod over him in 2013, so Barkley will see limited action this coming season.
Due to the weakness of the safety corps, even after the signing of Kenny Philips and Patrick Chung, Earl Wolff should get an opportunity to win the starting job right away.
Most likely, however, Philips will win the job at free safety, and although Wolff may be an improvement in coverage, Chung will likely win the starting strong safety spot due to his experience.
Expect Wolff to get playing time, though, if any of them should miss any time due to injury. And even if they do not, Wolff looks to be a very valuable player on special teams. He plays with a great deal of toughness downhill, and his explosiveness should help the Eagles' kickoff coverage.
As the Eagles make their transition to the 3-4 defense, the selection of Joe Kruger comes as little surprise. Kruger has the ability to play both outside linebacker and defensive end, so that versatility will likely allow him to make it through training camp and onto the roster.
Kruger will most likely need a few years to develop, however, and figures to be also primarily a rotation player. Kruger plays with a great deal of effort and heart, but he struggles too consistently with leverage to see any significant playing time in his rookie season.
Jordan Poyer was expected to go much sooner in the draft, as early as the third round, and the Eagles seemingly got a steal in the seventh round. Poyer is excellent in coverage and has great ball skills. He is also a physical player and capable of devastating hits.
Poyer can potentially compete for one of the outside cornerback spots, or even nickel corner. Brandon Boykin, however, will likely win the nickel spot due to his size. Poyer therefore will likely contribute mostly in 2013 on special teams, unless he is somehow able to beat out Bradley Fletcher in training camp.
The selection of David King was likely to increase depth and competition as the Eagles transition to 3-4, but King will struggle to make it onto the roster at the end of training camp.
King has a good amount of strength and instincts, but struggles to disengage blockers and seems to lack elite agility. He made his bread and butter in college as a high-effort player, rather than a player with high talent.
If King can make the team for the 2013 season, expect him to see very limited playing time, mostly in garbage minutes when the Eagles are holding or facing a very large lead at the end of games.