The Eagles selected offensive lineman Danny Watkins over picks like Gabe Carimi and Jimmy Smith, who were considered to be more likely to be taken in that slot.
Carimi is the prototypical right tackle, which makes him an odd player to pass on, while Smith is a corner with top-15 talent but character concerns. Andy Reid tends to give players with character concerns second chances, such as Michael Vick, which also made him a likely choice.
Serviceable guards are not terribly difficult to find through free agency and into the second and third rounds, and the Eagles selected a player that is predicted to need a move to guard from left tackle in the NFL.
Often times if a player is unsuccessful at tackle, he is moved to guard because it is considered an easier position to play, requiring less skill and more brute force. All of this makes Watkins a curious pick.
However, after reviewing film of Watkins, the pick becomes more interesting. He does some things very well, and some very poorly.
Watkins has solid size for a guard at 6’3 and 310 pounds. This is undersized at tackle, however, which would suggest a move to guard. His draft position—especially with the passing of Carimi—contradicts this, signifying an attempt to play him at tackle regardless of his lack of size.
He has excellent footwork; he does not make mistakes in that department. This allows him to effectively stay in front of crafty pass-rushers despite his lack of size and quickness. He is not a player that is painfully slow like Nick Cole, but does not have a first step or lateral quickness that jumps off the tape.
Watkins will be beaten by the speed-rush by some of the faster defensive ends in the league if he plays tackle. Again, much of this is compensated for through impeccable footwork.
As a pass-blocker, he tends to keep his hands on a defender instead of punching, but this is a minor drawback that is easily corrected. Also, in pass protection, he tends to wait for defensive linemen to come to him, which I believe is an effort to compensate for a lack of natural quickness. However, this makes him susceptible to the bull rush.
This problem is compounded by a tendency to drop his hands in pass protection, further exposing his chest. The fear of the speed-rush is a concern if he is to move to right tackle. The Giants, Cowboys and Redskins could utilize guys like D-Ware, Brian Orakpo and Justin Tuck with their quick first steps to victimize Watkins.
He tends to play high both in the run and the pass. Watkins does not keep the low base that you would want in an offensive lineman. He is able to counter this with good strength, driving large defenders 10 yards downfield regardless of not having a low base.
His only real problem in the run—and it is significant—is his inability to block linebackers. He is unable to “double to backer” effectively, as well as being unable to block a linebacker when that is his only assignment. He is unable to judge where the linebacker will be, and therefore ends up missing behind the linebacker.
Once getting a hold of a linebacker though, he is able to neutralize him. This is a concern if he has to play guard. Guys like London Fletcher will not have a problem avoiding Watkins because of their quick instincts.
I do believe that Watkins will be embraced by the city. His nasty attitude and work ethic will be loved by a fanbase that wants their players to come across as tough and has no use for the diva antics of many of the superstars of this league.
If any city is perfect for Danny Watkins attitude-wise, it's Philadelphia.
If Watkins is going to be an effective NFL offensive lineman, he has to either get quicker or learn to find the linebackers. He will not be able to play the run without getting the linebackers and will not be able to protect Michael Vick if he is being taken advantage of by the elite pass-rushers in the division.
Watkins has potential. If he can solve either of those problems, the work ethic and nasty attitude that he displays time and time again on tape give him the intangibles to be an elite lineman.
He is 26, however, so he does not have a ton of time to learn, but hopefully his body is in better condition than most 26-year-old NFL players because he did not start playing until college.
All in all, I really hope Andy got this one right.