The fervent anticipation and even adrenaline rush many of us went through waiting for the Eagles picks in this year’s NFL Draft have come and gone. Many of us have read up on the young, drafted players the Eagles will be taking a gamble on in the coming months as they look to build on an already successful team. Here’s the list once again just for reference.
First pick (round 1): Marcus Smith, DE/OLB, Louisville
Second pick (round 2): Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Third pick (round 3): Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
Fourth pick (round 4): Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida
Fifth pick (round 5): Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon
Sixth pick (round 5): Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
Seventh pick (round 7): Beau Allen, DT, Wisconsin
We’ve seen grades all over the place. I’ve read “D” grades and even saw “B+” grades. In the end, do we really know what overall grade to give this draft class? No. Even Chip Kelly has been saying, in so many words, I hope we picked the right guys. When 50% of first-round picks don’t pan out in the NFL, it’s just about impossible to assign a letter grade just days and weeks after the draft.
After the 2012 draft, the Buffalo Bills received an “A” and the Dallas Cowboys received a “B” grade from Bleacher Report. These are two teams that have gone nowhere based on those draft picks as we move into the 2014 season. That same report gave the Green Bay Packers an “A+” grade. Their top five (out of eight) picks that year were: Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Casey Hayward, Mike Daniels, Jerron McMillian. There are some good players there; but “A+” material?
Bleacher Report gave the Eagles a “B” grade for the 2013 draft – Chip Kelly’s first – where we saw the likes of Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Bennie Logan, and Earl Wolff make a significant impact as rookies. Hindsight being 20/20, I think a better grade is deserved. However, also important to note, in their write-up last year they gave praise and high marks at “value” and “depth” for Matt Barkley and Jordan Poyer (who isn’t even on the roster anymore and was called a “steal”). No one should put a lot of stock in these grades. However, I fell into the grading trap. It was inevitable. I really wasn’t planning on writing this column or grading the 2014 Eagles draft picks. But I’m like Tommy Boy when he says, “I get all excited. I’m like Jojo the idiot circus boy with a pretty new pet!”
The day after the draft ended I posted on our Twitter account my grade for the 2014 Eagles Draft, which was (and continues to be) a strong “B+.” My grade has nothing to do with player bench reps, how fast they ran the 40 or anything statistically from their college days. It’s not as if I just didn’t feel like going through the stats to determine if “said” player was good or a bust. I’m not lazy – really…I’m not – despite what Len might say. As I said in the weeks leading up to the first-round, no complaints would be uttered by me. I like how this organization and Kelly target players based on how coachable they are, their attitudes and work-ethics. Frankly, if stats and speed was a top priority for Kelly and GM Howie Roseman, DeSean Jackson would still be on the team.
The draft didn’t go how I thought it would in terms of positions they’d target. My column from a few weeks ago outlined the rationale for taking an offensive lineman, tight end and kicker. Via undrafted free agency, these positions were addressed, but they weren’t a priority in rounds one through seven.
The significant weakness over the past two (arguably three) seasons has been the defense. Five of the seven picks were defensive targets, and rightfully so. Kelly didn’t stack up on offense like many had initially predicted and I think he should be commended for seeing a bigger picture in front of him. Len and I really thought while the Birds were on the clock, after trading down with the Browns, WR Marqise Lee was the sure pick. It didn’t happen. An offensive weapon wasn’t chosen. That’s one of the reasons I give them a “B+.”
I call the defensive driven philosophy of this draft class, responsible and a promotion of forward thinking. This isn’t something we, as fans, are used to seeing from year-to-year and it’s bizarre to think that a prospective 3rd rounder in Marcus Smith was taken in the first-round. So, let’s stop trying to wrap our heads around something we’re not completely used to witnessing. We knew, to a great extent, how Andy Reid liked to draft. It was very apparent after a short period of time – Chip Kelly ain’t Andy Reid. Yet another reason why I’m giving them a “B+.”
We still don’t know and can’t comprehend what the Kelly/Roseman Team are doing. (Do fans ever really know what these front offices are truly doing)? These seven players are thought to fit into this team’s offensive and defensive philosophy and scheme. Period. They’re pieces of a larger puzzle. That’s what we need to keep in mind and, overall, why I’m giving them a “B+” grade.