A few hours ago, I was ready to rip Howie Roseman for an inept draft strategy. Then I decided to wait, think and analyze the draft on the whole.
The first bit of credit needs to go to the organization for consistently owning a tremendous bundle of draft picks. But such draft flexibility does not excuse the squandering of an opportunity.
There are a myriad of vantage points when inspecting the draft. I am just going to break-it-down pick-by-pick for all thirteen picks with subtext about the projected positioning (ugh).
1. Brandon Graham from Michigan is a great football player. I will never claim that this was anything less than a fantastic acquisition, but the price paid to bring this beast to Philadelphia was quite costly (24th overall and both third-round picks).
Critics can call him undersized, but Trent Cole and Brandon Graham smell like an even better version of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. If you want to compare them to a similar tandem--there is the best-case scenario.
2. Nate Allen from USF was the easiest selection for the Eagles to make. He was the best scheme-fit safety on the board, the best safety on the board at that time and the position of greatest need.
Simple home-run with Allen.
3. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim from Washington was a curious selection in the third round. This pick is definitely a bit of a reach, but Te'o is a beast of a player. He is a quick, explosive and high-motor player. I couldn't imagine a better fourth round selection for a team that had no depth at defensive end.
But the Eagles already spent a first-round pick, two third-round picks and a fourth round pick to acquire Brandon Graham and Darryl Tapp who are very similar players.
Is it the old adage that a team can never have enough pass rushers. The Eagles now have four legitimate sack-masters to come off of the edge and that's pretty exciting.
4. Trevard Lindley from Kentucky is the beginning of the worst part of this draft as I see it. The Titans traded ahead of the Eagles and stole what I believe was the Eagles' targeted cornerback in Alterraun Verner. I also believe the Eagles went into scramble mode evidenced by their draft-clock having run through when they finally settled for Lindley.
The Eagles definitely needed a prospect at cornerback. I would have considered the position the top-priority, but the Eagles clearly felt edge-pressure from the front-four was the vastly more important component to a successful defensive backfield.
I would agree.
The part that stings the most is that last years draft was low in cornerback talent. This draft was absolutely loaded in the first three rounds and we basically came out of the draft empty-handed.
5. Keenan Clayton from Oklahoma was the biggest reach of this draft. He's an extremely athletic linebacker (with cornerback-type speed and explosion). He's a quality football player, but I have to believe he would have been available in the seventh-round if not in free agency.
The Eagles passed on a lot of quality prospects including cornerback Akwasi Owusu Ansah and linebacker Dekoda Watson to select Clayton. I find this selection curious since the Eagles already made a significant move for a similar player in Ernie Sims and they have an incumbent starter in Akeem Jordan.
I love the player, not the strategy.
6. Mike Kafka from Northwestern is a good looking quarterback for the seventh round. The Eagles drafted him in the fourth. He looks like Kevin Kolb's evil twin brother and I don't like this pick at all when players like John Skelton, Dan Lefevour and Levi Brown require a lesser valued pick and are equal quality quarterback prospects.
This was my least favorite pick of the Eagles' draft.
7. Clay Harbor from Missouri State was a great pick. At the moment he was selected, I was fuming from the three previous selections and I was just plain stunned that the Eagles were passing on Ansah.
Now that I've calmed down and stepped back, Harbor gives the tight-end group a lot of depth in the case that Cornelius Ingram cannot bounce back from his ACL surgery and/or Martin Rucker fails to impress. Harbor is a fast and athletic receiving tight end and he has the potential to be an NFL fullback as well.
8. Ricky Sapp from Clemson was a first round prospect at one point and the Eagles really liked him. He kept falling and eventually the Eagles had no choice but to select him. He seems to be more of a 3-4 rush linebacker, but he is much more athletic than our former SAM project Chris Gocong.
We could expect him to be better adept in coverage.
This guy was a steal and a half in the fifth-round, but I don't absolutely love the pick because he is a tweener project. Still, the only true 4-3 SAM had been ripped away from the Eagles earlier in the draft and there was no way the Eagles would let Sapp pass.
I can't blame them.
The SAM role is up for grabs and Sapp could be the new front-runner for the job.
9. Riley Cooper from Florida is a solid prospect at receiver and he was clearly graded well above the fifth round, but I think he was a completely frivolous selection. A lot of fans will disagree because he gives the Eagles a big red-zone target and another quality possession receiver.
I just don't think we needed another receiver at all.
I have to believe that in the pick prior, the Saints stole the Eagles' preferential selection in the talented center from Boston College, Matt Tenant.
10. Charles Scott from LSU is the most interesting pick in the Eagles draft. I cannot believe that an Andy Reid offense will carry two running backs over 230-pounds, not to mention Mike Bell (but it would appear that way). I thought the Eagles would go for another speed back like Deji Karim from Southern Illinois and they may have if the Jaguars hadn't taken him a few picks earlier.
But what's really interesting is that the Eagles backfield will likely consist of Lesean McCoy as the only real speed back. Leonard Weaver, Charles Scott and Mike Bell all figure to make this team and they are all big backs.
What in the world is going on? Power running? hmmm...
11. Jamar Chaney from Mississippi State turned the draft around in my mind. This kid is fast, athletic, aggressive and has great instincts. The Eagles traded their 2011 sixth round pick to cut-off the Giants and acquire Chaney in the seventh round.
If you think a seventh round pick is irrelevant in a 13-pick draft, Chaney will prove you wrong in time. He's not a big hitter, but he's a sure tackler. He's versatile enough to play any linebacker position and Chaney is the fastest linebacker in this draft class.
He is a full-sized player around 250-pounds and this guy is exciting.
12. Jeff Owens from Georgia continued my seventh-round draft resurrection. Owens is a quality defensive tackle that should not have been available as a seventh-round compensatory pick.
At over 300-pounds, Owens ran a sub five second 40-yard dash and pressed 225-pounds a whopping 44 times. That's a nice combination of speed and power.
13. Kurt Coleman from Ohio State is another player that adds quality depth to the strong safety position where Quintin Mikell is growing a bit long in the tooth--by current Eagles' standards at least.
You will be hard pressed to find an unfavorable review of this hard hitting and instinctive football player. He flies around the field, has good speed and and plays very well against both the pass and the run.
The Biggest Misses
For several reasons, the Eagles missed some great talent that I'm sure were hot and heavy on their target list. They clearly were willing to make sacrifices in acquiring a stable of pass rushing specialists, but watching some of this talent pass us by really hurt.
In the first round we passed on Earl Thomas, Derrick Morgan, Jason Pierre Paul, Mike Iupati, and Maurkice Pouncey. But that was for Brandon Graham who I believe will be fantastic.
What really hurt was watching the top cornerbacks in Kyle Wilson, Kareem Jackson, Devin McCourty and Patrick Robinson all fly off the draft board on or about our original draft choice at 24th overall.
Then, having traded our third round picks, the Eagles clearly wanted to accumulated more selections and they did so masterfully as they traded down with successive drafting opportunities.
I thought this was a great strategy as there were a handful a quality cornerbacks still on the board, but on our way down to draft the very nifty Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (a bit earl perhaps), we missed a tremendous opportunity to secure a top cornerback in Jerome Murphy, Amari Spievey, Brandon Ghee and Kevin Thomas among others.
We also setup the Cowboys to draft Penn State linebacker Sean Lee. Ouch!
Fourth Round Blues
The Eagles additionally made what I would consider a series of questionable reaches in the fourth round. Those "unnecessary" picks cost an opportunity to select a quality cornerback prospect in Akwasi Owusu Ansah and Dominque Franks.
Ansah was also selected by the Cowboys in the fourth-round. Ouch again!
I'm fairly certain that the Titans winded the Eagles' interest in acquiring Alterraun Verner at the top of the fourth round. They leap-frogged the Eagles and stole him away, leaving the Eagles in a bit of scramble mode grasping for a cornerback.
The Eagles scrambled to make a pick as their draft-clock expired and ended up with Trevard Lindly.
I think Kafka was the result of a dashed dream as well. The Eagles must have been eying AJ Edds from Iowa with that pick (the only true 4-3 SAM in this draft class). I would think Geno Atkins from Georgia was on top of their board at that point too.
So the Eagles end up with Kafka (again a bit early). On the other side of the coin, they did score Ricky Sapp in the fifth (good compensation for missing Edds).
In the fifth round, I believe we were snaked again. This time by the Saints and that vindictive Sean Payton (just kidding). We were one pick away from landing one of the best center prospect in the draft, but New Orleans stole Matt Tennant just one pick before our opportunity.
Riley Cooper was not a bad fall-back option. He was clearly great value, but a receiver was almost completely-off of my needs/wants list.
There were many more players that I would have loved to see in midnight green. As I see it, the cornerback group as a whole, Edds, Atkins and Tennant were the best of our misses.
The Eagles loaded up their defensive front-seven with pass-rushing talent. That should help out the secondary immensely and it will need to since the defensve backfield has not been well addressed to date.
They also added a tremendous amount of speed and athleticism across the linebacker positions. That should help out in defending the bubble screen disaster of 2009.
The overall theme of the draft was front-seven overkill.
I assume the expectation has to be that Dick Jauron can coach-up the secondary with just a new look safety in Nate Allen. There are plenty of intriguing cornerbacks on the Eagles roster, but questions and concerns abound most of them.
The season hasn't started yet, so we will have to wait and see if the Eagles can manage to secure a young veteran cornerback elsewhere.
The Eagles still have a way to go in accumulating an 80-man roster for training camp. By my count, their roster now totals close to 72 players.
At least eight to go and there are some very notable undrafted rookies that the Eagles may target.
AJ Jefferson is a freakishly athletic cornerback from Fresno State. He would be a great addition of youth and athleticism to the defensive backfield.
Donovan Warren from Michigan is another cornerback who was projected as a second or third round draft-pick prior to running a slow 40-yard dash at the combine. He completely slipped through the cracks and is now a free agent.The early word is that the Jets have made a move on him already, so we will see if he remains available.
Tony Washington from Abilene Christian is a tremendous offensive line prospect that the Eagles should move quickly on. He had one of the best combine workouts of all of the offensive lineman and he could project as a tackle or an interior lineman.
Jeff Byers from USC is a hard-nosed center prospect. He's considered a bit undersized, but he is no doubt a quality football player that could earn his way into the mix as a center.
Keep a close eye on the Eagles' rookie free agency moves.
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