Redrafting the 2013 Draft for the Philadelphia Eagles
One of the biggest reasons for the Philadelphia Eagles' surprise division title during the 2013 season was the emergence of their rookie class.
Right tackle Lane Johnson, taken fourth overall, established himself as a future franchise tackle, opening holes for All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy. Tight end Zach Ertz looks like a Pro Bowler in the making, while defensive lineman Bennie Logan played well enough that the Eagles traded away veteran Isaac Sopoaga midway through the season.
Quarterback Matt Barkley struggled when he played but still has a bright future and will compete for the backup spot this offseason. And safety Earl Wolff took over the starting job from free-agent signing Patrick Chung.
In all, it's a very optimistic future for the Eagles draft class. But it's not perfect. There are still a few ways it could be better.
The following slides will re-draft the entire 2013 class for the Eagles, all eight players, starting with the fourth overall pick and ending with two picks in the seventh round.
1st Round (4): Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle
You know the Eagles had a successful first-round pick when they would choose the same player if they had the opportunity to do a re-draft.
It was athletic offensive tackle Lane Johnson who was selected with the fourth overall pick, the first draft choice in the Chip Kelly era. Johnson struggled during the first half of his rookie season, but he played very well over the season's final nine games.
He played a big role in helping All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy collect his first rushing title. In a year or two, the Eagles will undoubtedly move Johnson to left tackle to protect the blind side of franchise quarterback Nick Foles.
Other possibilities for the fourth overall pick include defensive ends Sheldon Richardson and Star Lotulelei and safety Eric Reid. All three probably played better than Johnson as a rookie, but without Johnson at right tackle, the Eagles offensive line would have been significantly worse in 2013.
With an offensive-minded head coach, the Eagles would still pick Johnson.
2nd Round (35): Kiko Alonso, Linebacker
The Eagles did a pretty good job with their second pick in the 2013 draft. Rookie tight end Zach Ertz caught 36 passes for 469 yards and four touchdowns, playing exceptionally well late in the season. He looks to be the tight end of the future, starting as early as 2014.
But defense was the weakness of the team in 2013, and since Kelly is a genius at getting the most out of his offensive talent, it makes sense to prioritize improving the other side of the ball.
That's where linebacker Kiko Alonso comes in. Taken by the Buffalo Bills with the 46th overall pick in the draft, Alonso collected 159 combined tackles, four interceptions, two sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries as a rookie.
He was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America.
If the Eagles had taken Alonso, he could have split reps with aging veteran DeMeco Ryans, who proved to be a major liability in pass coverage which is Alonso's strength. The combination of Alonso and Mychal Kendricks at inside linebacker would give the Eagles a solid duo in the middle of the field.
3rd Round (67): Tyrann Mathieu, Defensive Back/Returner
The Eagles selected defensive lineman Bennie Logan in the third round of the 2013 draft. Logan played well as a rookie, encouraging the Eagles to trade veteran nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga to the New England Patriots midway through the season.
Logan finished the year with 31 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. He is expected to be the team's starting nose tackle in 2014.
But while Logan has a bright future, the Eagles would have done even better if they had grabbed versatile defensive back Tyrann Mathieu with their third-round pick.
An absolute playmaker at LSU, Mathieu dropped to the third round as a rookie because of off-the-field issues. But he was all over the field as a rookie, collecting a pair of interceptions and nine passes defensed while recording 68 tackles. He finished the year as the third-best cornerback in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.
Mathieu can play cornerback or safety and would be a guaranteed starter at one of the four defensive backfield positions for the Eagles in 2014. He was also a dynamic return man in college, something he didn't get a chance to do as a rookie because of the presence there of former top-five pick and fellow ex-Tiger corner Patrick Peterson. He could split return duties with Darren Sproles or handle the responsibilities himself.
Another major option for the Eagles would be wide receiver Keenan Allen, who caught 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie, or guard Larry Warford, who rated as the fourth-best offensive guard in the NFL in 2013, per Pro Football Focus. Both players would fill a position of need for the Eagles, as Allen would compensate for the loss of DeSean Jackson and Warford could take over at right guard for veteran Todd Herremans.
But it's the defensive backfield that needs the most work on the Eagles and Mathieu's versatility in the defensive backfield (and ability to return punts and kicks) would make him the most dynamic player on the team's defense.
4th Round (98): Zac Stacy, Running Back
The Eagles selected quarterback Matt Barkley with their fourth-round pick, but the former USC star turned in two disappointing outings (a combined zero touchdowns, four interceptions) that led many to question his future in the NFL.
Even though Barkley is expected to compete for the backup quarterback spot in 2014, there are other players the Eagles could have taken in the fourth round.
Zac Stacy, a running back chosen by the St. Louis Rams in the fifth round, comes to mind. The rookie emerged as the go-to guy in the Ram backfield, finishing the year with 250 carries for 973 yards and seven touchdowns. He's a power back, meaning he would be a perfect complement to LeSean McCoy.
McCoy carried 314 times in 2013, adding 52 catches out of the backfield. That's 366 touches. If he continues to receive that type of workload, his career won't last much longer.
The combination of McCoy and Stacy would have given the Eagles the most dangerous running duo in the National Football League. McCoy would still receive about twice as many carries as Stacy, but fewer touches would help extend McCoy's career.
5th Round (136): Kenny Stills, Wide Receiver
The Eagles took safety Earl Wolff in the fifth round in 2013 and the rookie played quite well, taking the starting job away from a disappointing Patrick Chung halfway through the season. He has a promising future, but he wouldn't be my player in a re-draft.
With the loss of DeSean Jackson and a declining Brent Celek at tight end (remember, Zach Ertz was not selected in the re-draft), the Eagles desperately need another downfield weapon for Nick Foles to target.
Wide receiver Kenny Stills would be a perfect player for Chip Kelly's offense. A major threat with his speed, Stills caught 32 passes for 641 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie. He led the NFL with 20.0 yards per reception.
Going from Sean Payton and Drew Brees to Chip Kelly and Nick Foles probably wouldn't hurt his production at all. Foles isn't as good of a quarterback as Brees, but Kelly might be the best offensive mind in the NFL.
Put Stills on the 2014 Eagles and he'd probably be the team's number two receiver with a legitimate chance at topping 1,000 yards for the season.
7th Round (212): Joseph Fauria, Tight End
The Eagles took Joe Kruger in the seventh round, but the defensive end missed the entire season with an injury.
A perfect option for the team would have been massive tight end Joseph Fauria, a 6'7'', 259-pound behemoth who would be an unbelievable red-zone weapon for Nick Foles.
Fauria caught 18 passes as a rookie. Seven went for touchdowns. That's insane.
Without Zach Ertz, the Eagles have need for a playmaker at tight end. Fauria isn't quite as good, but they could have gotten great value by selecting him in the seventh round. Still, Ertz is probably the future at tight end for Philadelphia.
7th Round (218): Marcus Cooper, Cornerback
The Eagles took cornerback Jordan Poyer with their second seventh-round pick, but Poyer played in just one game before he was released. He's currently on the Cleveland Browns.
A better option for the Eagles would have been cornerback Marcus Cooper, taken in the seventh round by the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners actually released Cooper before the start of the season but Cooper turned into a solid player with the Kansas City Chiefs.
He started all 16 games, collecting three interceptions and knocking down 21 passes. With the Eagles, Cooper's emergence as a rookie would allow the team to save money and part ways with either one of two veterans, Cary Williams or Bradley Fletcher (likely Fletcher).
7th Round (239): Kenbrell Thompkins, Wide Receiver
The Eagles selected defensive tackle David King with their third seventh-round draft pick but he didn't make the team.
Instead they could have taken wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, an undrafted wide receiver who caught on with the New England Patriots. Thompkins finished the year with 32 catches for 466 yards and four scores. He likely would have had the same production with the Eagles, but with Stills and Thompkins on their roster, the Eagles wouldn't have to focus on drafting a receiver early in the 2014 draft, if at all.
2013 Draft Overview
Heading into the 2014 season, the Eagles would have Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Kenny Stills and Kenbrell Thompkins as their receivers, with Brent Celek and Joseph Fauria at tight end. They'd also still have Lane Johnson at right tackle with Zac Stacy providing the second punch in a dominant duo at running back.
And they've be a heck of a lot better on defense, having added linebacker Kiko Alonso, cornerback/safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Marcus Cooper.
The incredible 2013 draft would allow the Eagles to focus on a fewer number of needs heading into the 2014 draft, though getting an impact pass-rusher and, yes, another safety would still be paramount.