Philadelphia Eagles 2014 Draft: Aggregating Report Card Grades from the Web
The much-anticipated wait for the NFL draft is finally over, with the Philadelphia Eagles adding seven players to their roster, plus a handful more as undrafted rookie free agents. General manager Howie Roseman entered the event with just six draft picks, but predictably traded down from the first-round spot and was able to secure seven selections.
The Eagles also traded away young running back Bryce Brown, a talented runner who has shown flashes of absolute brilliance but frustrating inconsistencies during his two years. This brought back a fourth-round pick (and maybe even a third-rounder) for a player who was taken in the seventh round in 2012.
It’s difficult to grade a team’s draft before the players have actually stepped on the field. After all, Russell Wilson was seen as a brutal pick by the Seattle Seahawks two years ago, and he’s since turned into a Super Bowl-winning franchise quarterback. Factoring in available players, team needs and scheme fits, this breaks down the grades the Eagles were assigned by football experts.
Mel Kiper, ESPN.com
The nation’s top draft guru, Mel Kiper, was a big fan of the Eagles’ draft, assigning a B-plus grade for the haul of players Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman brought in (subscription required):
The Eagles did a solid job of adding talent and hitting needs, making up for one questionable decision early with a number of solid ones down the board. Philadelphia moved down and then selected Marcus Smith, the No. 85-ranked player on my board. But while I didn’t love the value, again, it came after the Eagles had moved down and accrued a little value. And he hits a need, because they’re too reliant on Trent Cole as a pass-rusher and Smith can turn the corner and provide some pressure. The only receivers Philly has under contract past next season are Riley Cooper, Jeff Maehl and Jeremy Maclin (who is coming back from an ACL injury). The Eagles don’t just need receivers, they need projectable players that can help soon. I thought Jordan Matthews would have made sense at No. 22, much less 42. I love that pick. Josh Huff offers underrated after-the-catch explosiveness -- he had 24 catches of 20-plus yards in 2013 -- has obvious familiarity with Kelly’s methods and he’s a guy who really competes and makes contested catches. Jaylen Watkins is a good value in Round 3, and was the first Florida CB off the board in a year where they have a few decent ones. Ed Reynolds is a player I thought could have been a second-round type had he stayed at Stanford another year, but he can give the Eagles a future potential starter and really anticipates well. Taylor Hart is another guy Kelly knows well, and could help the pass rush at some point. The Smith value was iffy, but I understand it, and they did a solid job thereafter.
Like many of the experts who will follow, Kiper was leery of the team having spent a first-round pick on Marcus Smith. Fortunately, Trent Cole and Connor Barwin have expensive contracts that will open up opportunities for Smith to prove his worth as a full-time starter as soon as 2015.
Per NFL.com, Eagles fans assigned the team a C grade for its selection of seven players in the 2014 draft.
Marcus Smith was seen as the questionable pick, as the Louisville pass-rushing outside linebacker likely could have been had in the second round, rather than at 26th overall. Still, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock was a huge fan of the selection, saying the following about Smith:
Marcus Smith is a pretty exciting edge player. The important thing ultimately is ’can this kid play?’ They have Connor Barwin on one side and Trent Cole, who will turn 32 years old, on the other. In that scheme he’s a perfect fit. The pick attacks an area of need for the Eagles, and they got some extra picks in the process.
Second-round wide receiver Jordan Matthews was a popular pick and will likely be a fan favorite. The Vanderbilt product is a bigger receiver with speed (4.46 40-yard dash) and strength (21 reps on the bench press). Matthews will be eased in slowly to replace DeSean Jackson, but ideally he can be a starter by the 2015 season.
Mayock was a huge fan of this selection, saying Matthews will improve an already-talented offense:
He’ll fit in beautifully in Philadelphia and in Chip Kelly’s offense. He makes tough catches. He has a big body. He ran faster than a lot of people anticipated (4.46-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine). The Eagles get Jeremy Maclin back. They have added Matthews and Darren Sproles. This team is going to be the first-, second- or third-leading scoring team in the league.
Mayock said Josh Huff and Jaylen Watkins were solid additions as a slot receiver and cornerback/safety, respectively. Meanwhile, Brian Baldinger particularly liked fifth-round Oregon defensive end Taylor Hart, saying he fits perfectly in the defense:
To me, if I had to make a comparison now, he looks like a young Brett Keisel without the beard. He’s got a promising future as a five-technique in any 3-4 defense. He broke his foot at the end of the (2013) season but he was a four-year starter. He’s 6-foot-6, 280, can run and he’s got violent hands.
Doug Farrar, Sports Illustrated
Per Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated, the Eagles received a C for their 2014 draft selections. Farrar’s biggest problem with the picks was simply that Marcus Smith was too much of a reach at 26th overall:
You’d be hard-pressed to find any analyst who had that kind of grade on Smith — or anywhere close — so that’s one of those ‘wait and see’ picks. The selection of Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Mathews in the second round was right in line, and will help right away. Kelly went back to his Oregon days twice, picking up receiver Josh Huff in the third round and defensive lineman Taylor Hart in the fifth. This draft will hinge on Smith’s ability to provide elite edge rush.
Smith will likely be worked in slowly next year, given the presence of veterans Trent Cole and Connor Barwin. Brandon Graham will probably be a trade candidate or training-camp release, seeing as he’s said to be a poor fit in a 3-4 scheme.
Based on the fact that the Eagles seemed to have overdrafted Smith, Farrar’s analysis seemed fair.
Evan Silva, Rotoworld
Evan Silva’s grade for the Eagles’ draft was on par with that of Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar; Silva evaluated the draft as a C-plus.
Silva felt the same way about Marcus Smith as Farrar did, saying it seemed like a reach but did fulfill a position of need, and he will have an opportunity to prove his critics wrong. Silva did feel that third-round Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff was a stretch:
Huff was the one pick I didn’t like. I don’t think he’s skilled enough to be a consistent contributor at wide receiver, and I’m guessing Chip Kelly made that pick primarily because he is fond of Huff from Oregon. I expected Huff to be a late-rounder.
Arguably the most recognizable NFL draft website, Walter Football graded the Marcus Smith pick as a C, saying it came close to receiving a “dreaded Millen grade,” which is reserved for picks similar to ones made by former Detroit Lions general manager Matt Millen:
This is a reach, as Marcus Smith was a second-round prospect. However, there are two things that save the Eagles from receiving a dreaded Millen grade: First, Smith is a very good fit for Chip Kelly’s defense and happens to fill a big need as a pass-rushing linebacker. Second, Philadelphia obtained another selection while moving down for Smith, so they at least understood that they were overdrafting him.
Walter Football wasn’t thrilled by the Jordan Matthews pick, either, giving it a grade of just a B-minus. The website said the Eagles should have waited to pick Matthews rather than trading up:
This pick is interesting in that it’s the complete opposite of what the Eagles did in the first round. With Marcus Smith, they made a reach, but traded down while doing so. Here, they moved up and took a player who could have gone a bit earlier. I like Jordan Matthews - he has the size that Chip Kelly wants - but with all of the receiving talent available in the second round, why even move up? Philadelphia could have just sat there and still obtained a solid wideout.
Realistically though, Matthews was a borderline first-round talent who wouldn’t have lasted too many more picks. The Eagles did their due diligence in trading up to secure a talented receiver for young quarterback Nick Foles.
In all, the Eagles got a grade of just a C for their seven draft picks:
It’s hard to like the Eagles’ draft because they reached on multiple occasions, failed to take advantage of an opportunity and squandered some resources. I don’t hate their haul, but they could have done much better.
Dane Brugler, CBS Sports
Of all the experts, perhaps NFLDraftScout.com’s Dane Brugler was most fond of the Eagles’ draft. Brugler assigned a grade of a B-plus to the team. He said he thinks Kelly and Roseman will gain more respect as talent evaluators after this draft class:
I did not expect Marcus Smith to get drafted in the first round. I do, however, like the pick. The former quarterback was one of my favorite players in this draft because of his athleticism, instincts and hustle and he’s a good schematic fit for the Eagles. Though neither offers the elusiveness of Desean Jackson [sic], I also like the additions of Jordan Matthews and former Oregon Duck Josh Huff as pro-ready receivers well equipped to be effective in Chip Kelly’s offense. Jaylen Watkins flashed talent throughout his career at Florida and was highly impressive at the Senior Bowl. He and former Stanford safety Ed [Reynolds] could fill significant needs. I also like the additions of Taylor Hart and Beau Allen on Day Three, a couple of players who are more athletic than they look and also could surprise.
In retrospect, drafting consecutive receivers in Matthews and Huff seemed a little illogical, considering the pressing need at many of the defensive positions. Watkins was a fine addition in the fourth round, though, as was Reynolds in the fifth round.