Philadelphia Eagles: Analyzing Their 2011 Draft Class
The draft is and always will be the cornerstone building block for teams hoping to achieve glory in the NFL. Look no further than this year's Super Bowl winners the Green Bay Packers. Key contributors such as Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews were all home-grown players taken in the draft.
The Eagles did it, well, the Eagle way stockpiling 11 picks in this April's draft where they hope to throw it all up against the wall and see what sticks come opening week on September 11th (Hopefully!)
No reason to shield your eyes or dust up on your LSAT knowledge. This is an "Eighth Circuit Court", "Descertification", "Lockout" free writeup so you don't need to be Richard Gere from "Primal Fear" or Tom Cruise from "The Firm" to understand this one.
Let's get into the 2011 draft class of the Philadelphia Eagles and see how or if they can have any immediate contributions to the team's success.
Round 1 Pick 23: Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor
It has seemed to be standard protocol throughout the past several years for the Eagles to send shockwaves through their fanbase with their first round pick selection. Whether it’s trading out of the first round in 2007 to draft quarterback Kevin Kolb in the second round, trading out of the first round in 2008 to take Trevor Laws with their first pick (and then eventually DeSean Jackson), or trading up in 2009 to select Jeremy Maclin.
They did just that back in April when they decided to draft offensive guard Danny Watkins out of Baylor with players such as Jimmy Smith and Gabe Carimi still on the board (both positions of need).
You can either look at Watkins being the oldest first-round draft pick (at age 26) in 30 years as a positive or negative. A positive being that he is more developed than your typical 21-22 year old rookie, however, the negative being how much of a shelf life does he really have? I mean let’s be honest here: when NFL Network and ESPN are showing more highlights of you being a volunteer fireman rather than your on-the-field play, that might raise a couple of red flags.
For all that we know, the Eagles will get a good 4-5 seasons out of him before he peaks at 30 and that's assuming that he doesn't bust. However, the dreaded 30-year-old plateau seems to affect offensive lineman much less than other skill positions such as wide receiver, cornerback, or running back.
Watkins has the opportunity to be a starter right off the bat for the Birds and have an immediate impact. There really hasn’t been any consistency at the right guard spot since Shawn Andrews went off the deep end mentally and physically. This offensive line was at its peak in 2006, and it’s not a coincidence that was when Andrews was in his prime health-wise. Watkins has the opportunity to snag the job from stop-gaps such as Nick Cole and Max-Jean Gilles who have shared the position throughout the past couple of seasons.
Perhaps the best thing about Watkins as a player is his versatility. He spent time at offensive tackle while attending Baylor filling in for St. Louis Rams 2009 second overall pick Jason Smith.
Round 2 Pick 54: Jaiquawn Jarrett, S, Temple
Local boy out of Temple Jaiquawn Jarrett served as new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo’s first defensive draft pick of his tenure. Keep in mind that Castillo was the team’s offensive line coach last season, so his transition to the defensive side of the ball makes about as much sense as Dan Klecko switching from defensive tackle to fullback. Oh wait, that actually happened.
Anyway, Jarrett hopes to break out onto the scene at one of the two safety spots, most likely strong safety. Veteran Quintin Mikell had a shaky season in 2010, so that would most likely be the best opportunity for him. It’s hard to believe that Mikell is the second most seasoned member on the team (behind kicker David Akers). He’s been with the Eagles since Norah Jones was still relevant in the music world, so that should give you a good idea of how much inventory turnover this team has had throughout the past couple of years.
Jarrett will most likely find himself as a backup next season. Second year player Nate Allen will be occupying the Free Safety slot, however, there is still a chance that he won’t be fully recovered from his knee injury which occurred last season in Week 15 against the Giants . This is where Jarrett can become extremely valuable for this team if his services are called upon.
Round 3 Pick 90: Curtis Marsh, CB, Utah State
The team waited to address their dire need for a cornerback by passing up aforementioned Jimmy Smith in the first round for Utah State’s Curtis Marsh in the third round. With the team desperately searching for a counterpart to Pro Bowl corner Asante Samuel, Marsh joins the likes of Joselio Hanson, Dmitri Patterson, and last year’s fourth round pick Trevard Lindley in the battle for supremacy at the right cornerback spot.
Marsh actually reminds me a little bit of Sheldon Brown coming out of South Carolina back in 2002. Not necessarily a guy who lit up the stat sheet in college, but has very consistent measurables whether it be speed, physicality, or tackling ability. I personally believe that it will be a contest between Marsh vs. Lindley to see who wins the position, as it should be. I’m sure Dmitri Patterson still has nightmares of Mario Manningham lighting him up for two scores last season in week 15.
Round 4 Pick 116: Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon
Part of me wonders if they made this pick hoping that Casey has one ounce of the same athletic ability that his brother Clay has. You know, the guy who was single-handedly responsible for Michael Vick starting last season after he buried Kevin Kolb headfirst into the turf back in Week 1.
Matthews is certainly undersized, but I’m sure his big time forced fumble on Cam Newton in the National Championship game only helped his stock grow.
Casey’s best route to success with the Eagles may be at the weak side linebacker spot, currently inhabited by Ernie Sims who had a lackluster 2010 campaign. If Casey is able to show off his athleticism that helped him thrive at Oregon, Mr. Sims may have some competition.
Round 4 Pick 120: Alex Henery, K, Nebraska
Who would have thought that the most shocking pick of the draft would have come by way of kicker? The end may be finally near for the 11 year team veteran and longest tenured player currently on the roster David Akers. That will tend to happen to you when you miss two crucial field goals in a playoff game that was decided by five points, which was the case against Green Bay in this last season’s Wild Card game.
I really don’t see Henery sitting a year on the bench for two reasons: 1.) Teams rarely keep two kickers on the roster and 2.) You don’t take a kicker in the fourth round and not plan on having him start. All of us fantasy football players know that you do NOT draft kickers, and it’s essentially the same philosophy in the NFL unless if it’s a rare talent. If you're taking a kicker within the first four rounds of the draft, he's starting more times than not.
I believe the end has finally come for David Akers.
Round 5 Pick 149: Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh
I'm not going to lie here. This is my favorite pick in the draft for the Eagles strictly based off of potential and sleeper value.
The fifth round is where things start to get fun and helps separate the cream of the crop when it comes to team scouting departments. For the most part, there is an overall consensus for the first couple of rounds on talented players, but once you get outside of that top 100 list of players, it's a crapshoot. This is where you truly start to find your goldmines hidden beneath 30 pounds of dirt. Players like Trent Cole and Brent Celek were both players taken in the fifth round by the Eagles, and both have panned out tremendously even though Celek had a down year.
Eagles fans have been clamoring for a “big back” ever since Duce Staley took his talents to Pittsburgh and ended up putting on more pounds than touchdowns. Dion Lewis is anything but that coming in at a miniscule, Darren Sproles-esque 5’6” and under 200 pounds. For the better part of the new millennium, this is how Reid has preferred his running backs to be. Whether it’s Brian Westbrook, Ryan Moats, Lorenzo Booker, Correll Buckhalter, or LeSean McCoy, he’s always preferred the smaller, shiftier backs that can catch out of the backfield and pass protect.
With that said though, Lewis doesn’t necessarily play as small as his build. He finished fourth overall out of all the running backs at the combine in Bench Press throwing up 225 pounds 17 times. It’s even been reported that he can rack up 400 pounds. Man muscles!
With the future of incumbent backup Jerome Harrison up in the air, we could be looking at an all Pittsburgh backfield between LeSean McCoy and now Dion Lewis. Panthers represent! For what it’s worth, Lewis actually outperformed McCoy at Pittsburgh and McCoy seems to be on the right path to being a top running back in this league.
I'm hoping that Lewis can provide the lightning to LeSean McCoy's, well, lightning for years to come. We all know that lightning is what kills, not thunder.
Round 5 Pick 161: Julian Vandervelde, OL, Iowa
Andy Reid loves him his crop of offensive lineman. You can never have enough linemen in the school of Reid and he proved that with his next two selections. Vandervelde might find some trouble cracking the roster between his less than ideal size and short arms, but he did find himself in a zone blocking scheme that can transition to the NFL with Kirk Ferentz at Iowa.
If anything, Vandervelde will serve as a suitable backup behind Todd Herremans and hopefully first round pick Danny Watkins.
Round 6 Pick 191: Jason Kelce, C, Cincinnati
I liked the pick with Kelce in the sixth round, even though I’m not sure how much he’ll be able to contribute. We’re at the point now later in the draft where there is a good chance that these guys won’t be on the roster come September 11th.
Current center Jamaal Jackson has suffered a barrage of injuries the past several seasons, so we’re not quite sure how he will respond when he is tossed back into the starting lineup. Mike McGlynn seems to be the consensus backup center at this point, so Kelce most likely won’t factor into the team’s plans at all next season.
Round 6 Pick 193: Brian Rolle, LB, Ohio State
Rolle is extremely, extremely undersized for a linebacker. So much that his weight range falls more in line for that of a safety rather than linebacker. If Rolle is going to have any chance of making the team, he’s going to have to show off his speed (4.55 40-yard dash speed) which differentiates himself from the pack. Otherwise, I really don’t see him having a future with the team.
Practice squad material at best.
Linebackers that excel and are barely 230 pounds are rarer than an incorruptible football program in Ohio.
Round 7 Pick 237: Greg Lloyd, Jr., LB, Connecticut
I’m not sure if upper management’s plan was to tap into bloodlines in this year’s draft, but they certainly did so with the selections of Clay Matthews and Greg Lloyd, Jr. Greg’s father was the Steelers’ vaunted linebacker from back in the 90s.
Lloyd’s size certainly helps him considering he’s one of the bigger linebackers on the roster, however, a torn ACL and MCL back in 2009 are certainly concerns. Ideallly, Lloyd can emulate Jeremiah Trotter who provided the Birds with a consistent presence holding down the middle linebacker spot for so many years.
However, that position is currently Stewart Bradley’s to lose.
Round 7 Pick 240: Stanley Havili, FB, USC
Havili serves as nothing more than insurance for starting fullback Leonard Weaver, who suffered a gruesome knee injury (watch at your own risk) in the first game of the 2010 season against Green Bay. Between Weaver and Weaver’s 2010 replacement Owen Schmidt, there really isn’t a lot of room for Havili’s services.
If anything, Havili is a Leonard Weaver clone between his resourcefulness and ability to catch out of the backfield. Perhaps he can see some third down carries as a short yardage running back as well, spelling in for the smaller, more elusive LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis.