Biggest Questions Philadelphia Eagles Must Answer over Draft Week
The NFL draft will answer a handful of questions regarding how head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman feel about the Philadelphia Eagles. With just six selections, Kelly and Roseman will need to be wise with the players they choose.
The offense has a glaring hole at wide receiver, following the release of DeSean Jackson. The defense could seemingly use upgrades at a handful of different positions, ranging from pass-rushing outside linebacker to a shutdown cornerback to a playmaking safety. Even the offensive linemen—all of whom are signed through 2016—may need to be upgraded, given that three of the five players are over 30 years old.
There’s even the quarterback position. Is Nick Foles really the long-term answer, or does Kelly want a more mobile passer to run his offense? While the NFL draft will ultimately reveal the Eagles’ plans, here are some guesses as to what the organization will do.
Will Howie Roseman Acquire More Draft Picks?
The Philadelphia Eagles hold just six picks in the upcoming NFL draft, which is unfortunate considering it's said to be arguably the deepest draft class ever. The organization hasn't had so few draft picks since 2003, and general manager Howie Roseman has to be looking to trade down from pick No. 22 and grab more selections.
After all, the Eagles have averaged over 10 picks per draft since '10. This year, Philadelphia has all of its picks but its sixth-round selection. The ideal scenario is that Roseman can trade back from 22nd overall, but still keep a first-round pick.
Players like Brandon Graham and Bryce Brown have been dangled as potential trade bait, and there’s been some talk of a swap involving the Miami Dolphins and their defensive end Dion Jordan (who would play 3-4 outside linebacker for the Eagles). Roseman won’t get much more than a mid-to-late round pick for the two aforementioned Eagle players, so his best bet is to move out of that spot at No. 22 overall.
Expect this to happen. Roseman is good at getting the most out of draft day, and he should be able to work out a deal that gives the Eagles two extra picks to move down.
Which Wide Receiver Will They Take?
The Philadelphia Eagles could go a handful of different directions with the wide receiver position.
They could target a first-rounder like Odell Beckham Jr., Marqise Lee, Brandin Cooks, Cody Latimer, Jordan Matthews or Allen Robinson. They could go for a second-round prospect like Davante Adams, Donte Moncrief or Kelvin Benjamin. And they could wait until the third round to try to get a player like Bruce Ellington, Paul Richardson, Jarvis Landry or Jared Abbrederis.
It’s likely Chip Kelly uses one of his first two picks on a receiver. He’s an offensive-minded football coach, and replacing a player of DeSean Jackson’s caliber will be no easy task. Jackson put up over 1,300 yards on 82 receptions, earning a Pro Bowl spot. Kelly’s system did bring out the best in Jackson and Riley Cooper last year, but neither of those two is assured of a roster spot beyond the 2015 season.
Simply put, Kelly needs a long-term receiver. Bet on him taking one in the first two rounds. Given Kelly’s Pac-12 ties, Lee or Cooks are logical choices, although the team has expressed a lot of interest in Latimer.
Are They Really Content with the Safeties?
During the Andy Reid era, safety was never a valued position. Brian Dawkins and Quintin Mikell were Pro Bowl players, with the former being one of the franchise’s all-time greats. But they were allowed to walk in free agency, following the 2008 and 2010 seasons.
Since then, the organization has tried a variety of options to solidify the position, aside from spending a first-round pick on a player. Veterans like Kenny Phillips, O.J. Atogwe, and Marlin Jackson haven’t been the solution. Patrick Chung was a failed free-agent acquisition. Second-rounders Jaiquawn Jarrett and Nate Allen didn’t live up to their potential.
For now, the Eagles are trying to make it work with Allen, last year’s fifth-round rookie Earl Wolff, free-agent signee Malcolm Jenkins, and Chris Maragos. In the draft, Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix won’t likely make it to pick No. 22 overall, and Calvin Pryor of Louisville may be deemed a poor fit in the defense. Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward is a fine player, but he’s a stretch at 22nd overall and won’t likely make it to pick No. 54.
The Eagles really may be content with their current safeties. Chip Kelly raved about Jenkins shortly after signing him, and Wolff played fairly well in limited snaps as a rookie. General manager Howie Roseman has suggested that it is not an ideal safety class.
If the team doesn’t draft a safety in the first three rounds, it shows the front office either isn't prioritizing the position or it's content with what the team has.
Does Chip Kelly Load Up on Oregon or Pac-12 Players?
Since taking over as Philadelphia Eagles’ head football coach, Chip Kelly’s love of his own Oregon players has been obvious. He added quarterback Dennis Dixon last offseason. He signed free-agent safety Patrick Chung. And he also brought in lesser-known players from Oregon like Will Murphy and Jeff Maehl.
In this year’s draft class, the top Oregon players are wide receiver Josh Huff, running back/wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas, defensive end Taylor Hart or cornerback Terrance Mitchell. None is expected to go in the first three rounds, but Kelly could be tempted to grab them in the later rounds. After all, he coached them in college, and most would fulfill a position of need on the Eagles.
Kelly has also shown a fondness for Pac-12 players. Two of his current quarterbacks, former USC signal-callers Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley, are from the conference. Last year, he drafted three from that conference—Zach Ertz, Barkley, and Jordan Poyer. Former Pac-12 players who may fit his team this year include Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee, Paul Richardson and Trent Murphy, to name a few.
Expect the trend of Pac-12 players to the Eagles to continue. After all, Kelly did get a good view of these prospects while he coached at Oregon, and he’s never hesitated to pick players that beat him at the collegiate level.
Does Chip Kelly Take a Quarterback to Groom?
It seems logical that Nick Foles locked up the quarterback job following a terrific 2013 campaign that saw the second-year signal-caller throw 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions. But Foles did seemingly come out of nowhere, and the Philadelphia Eagles will assuredly want him to repeat his magic before they lock him up to a long-term contract.
Foles doesn’t possess ideal speed or arm strength, and Kelly may be tempted to look for a quarterback to groom in this year’s draft class. Former Green Bay Packers’ general manager Ron Wolf frequently brought in quarterbacks via the draft, as has Bill Belichick in New England.
The Eagles have Mark Sanchez signed to a one-year deal at $2.25 million, and Matt Barkley was a fourth-round pick from a year ago. There doesn’t seem to be room for the team to select a quarterback this year, unless they pick a player like Georgia's Aaron Murray and stash him on injured reserve for 2014.