Philadelphia Eagles: What to Expect from the Rookie Draft Picks in 2013
No one knew what to expect from Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly in his first NFL draft. The initial selection—offensive tackle Lane Johnson—seems like an ideal player to fit in the offense. The next two picks, Zach Ertz and Bennie Logan, were either top players or filled a big need.
Kelly took everyone by surprise, though, when he grabbed USC quarterback Matt Barkley with the top selection in the fourth round. Barkley probably would have been one of the top overall picks had he declared after 2011, but he went back for his senior season and saw his stock drop. Barkley missed two games due to injuries, threw 15 interceptions and subsequently fell to the middle of the draft.
The later picks for the Eagles are players who could surprise—notably Joe Kruger and Jordan Poyer. Kelly’s Eagles were just 4-12 last season, and they’re a work in progress. But if the rookies impress, Philadelphia could contend for a wild-card spot.
Round 1: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
First-round picks don’t sit on the bench, and Lane Johnson is no exception. Arguably the most athletic offensive lineman in the draft, Johnson will start immediately at right tackle. That will allow Todd Herremans to move inside to right guard, replacing first-round bust Danny Watkins. It essentially upgrades two positions with one draft pick.
Johnson will have the responsibility of protecting Michael Vick’s blind side initially, although that will change if and when Vick gets injured. Johnson is still raw as an offensive tackle, so he will undoubtedly experience growing pains.
He also has the sheer athleticism to make an impact. Johnson has the speed (4.72 in the 40-yard dash) to get downfield and block for LeSean McCoy on screen passes. He’s a reincarnation of Jason Peters, and Johnson will ideally be just as good of a player in a few years.
Round 2: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
It will be fun to see Chip Kelly use Zach Ertz in his offense. It wasn’t a position of need, seeing as the Philadelphia Eagles already had Brent Celek and James Casey on the roster.
But Kelly has said he will carry four tight ends on the roster, and he enjoys using three-tight end sets. Ertz was a mismatch nightmare against Kelly’s Oregon Ducks in 2012, catching 11 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. Ertz lined up as tight end, slot receiver, wide receiver, and H-back.
Ertz is a big target at 6’5” and close to 250 pounds, and he will be a big red-zone threat. Ertz timed in the 4.6s at his pro day, and he has tremendous leaping ability. Expect Ertz to see his snaps increase as the season goes on, and he will likely catch 40 to 50 passes.
Round 3: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU
The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Bennie Logan to be a 3-4 end in the new defense, filling a huge position of need. Fletcher Cox will start on one side, but the other was expected to be a rotation between Cedric Thornton or Vinny Curry.
Logan is probably a better fit in a 4-3, so he may play the 4-3 under at a 3-technique tackle position. Logan is a better run-stopper than pass-rusher, and he was frequently substituted at LSU. That means Logan may see a heavy dose of rotational snaps in Philadelphia.
Then again, there are enough ends competing for playing time that it will happen naturally. Logan won’t overwhelm with his numbers in 2013, but the ideal situation is that he grows increasingly more comfortable with his position.
Round 4: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
This was the surprise of the draft. Matt Barkley was expected to be a first- or second-round prospect, which is why it was so stunning that he fell to Day 3.
Barkley doesn’t seem to run the traditional Chip Kelly offense, which is why it took everyone by surprise when Kelly picked him in the fourth round. Barkley was a four-year starter at USC and he’s extremely intelligent, although his physical skills are lacking.
Barkley trailed off in 2012 after a stellar junior season. He was injured for several games, threw a career-worst 15 interceptions, and was picked three rounds lower than he would have been had he declared a year earlier. But he inherits a team in Philadelphia with plenty of talent around him.
Barkley will likely be third-string when the season starts behind Michael Vick and Nick Foles, or second-string if Foles is traded. Barkley will probably see time when Vick is injured, although Kelly may opt to go with his former Oregon quarterback in Dennis Dixon. Either way, don’t expect Barkley to make a huge impact in ’13, but the real test will come in the seasons beyond.
Round 5: Earl Wolff, S, NC State
The Philadelphia Eagles need safety help, and Earl Wolff will get every opportunity to compete for a starting spot in 2013.
He’s probably going to be listed as a backup behind Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung, but Wolff will certainly see his time. Nate Allen has had his opportunities to impress the coaching staff, and his performance has really trailed off after a solid rookie campaign. Kurt Coleman may be a long shot to make the team. All that could make Wolff the top backup next year.
Wolff is extremely fast, running a 4.44 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. He is aggressive, although undersized. Wolff is a hard-hitter, which has been lacking in recent Eagles safeties. Considering the injury history of both Phillips and Chung, there’s a very good chance Wolff starts some games next year.
Round 7: Joe Kruger, DE/OLB, Utah
With terrific size (6’7”, 280 pounds), Joe Kruger can play several different positions on the defensive line. He’s a natural fit as a 3-4 defensive end or a pass-rushing outside linebacker, a role his brother plays in Cleveland. Kruger may even line up as a 3-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 under defense.
That is, assuming Kruger can find his way onto the roster. He was a seventh-round pick, which doesn’t bode extremely well. But he was a middle-round talent, and the Philadelphia Eagles aren’t exactly swamped with All-Pros on the line.
Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton are locks to make the roster, but Kruger should be able to find a spot and fill a situational role.
Round 7: Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
The Philadelphia Eagles got an absolute steal with cornerback Jordan Poyer in the seventh round. Poyer was seen by many scouts as a second- or third-round prospect, but he likely fell due to speed concerns.
Poyer will definitely see some snaps as a rookie. The Eagles will have a completely different secondary in 2013 than they did last year. Gone are Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and in their places are Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. Brandon Boykin will retain his position from last year as the nickel back, unless Poyer can beat him out.
But Poyer should be a lock to at least win the fourth corner spot, considering his competition will be Curtis Marsh, Trevard Lindley and Brandon Hughes.
Round 7: David King, DE, Oklahoma
David King has by far the best chance of any draft pick to not make the roster. He was a seventh-round pick and at best will provide depth on the defensive line.
King was a teammate of Lane Johnson’s at Oklahoma. If King does play, it will be in limited snaps at an assortment of defensive positions, mainly 3-4 defensive end. But King has a good chance of making the practice squad, and could fight for a spot in 2014 if he doesn’t get claimed.