The grading of NFL draft classes immediately following the event truly is a subjective enterprise. We won't know for years how Eagles coach Andy Reid, general manager Howie Roseman and company fared with this year's group. In fact, Reid may not even be coaching in Philadelphia by the time a final grade can be assigned.
The delay of free agency makes the task even more difficult. The Eagles will surely add another cornerback once they are permitted to do so. I'm not sure if it will be Nnamdi Asomugha -- age and contract demands could thwart that -- but there will be someone.
But you can evaluate a class based on need and whether the Eagles effectively filled some glaring holes on their roster. Just because there will eventually be free agency and trades, it doesn't mean the Eagles will get their man/men. So they had to be protective and get a starting-caliber cornerback, another pass rusher and a big run stopper. And they just didn't. They did a fine job addressing some of their lesser needs in the final day of the draft, but they failed to get a slam dunk in the first three rounds and that's disconcerting.
Danny Watkins, G, Baylor (1st round, 23d overall): Watkins upped the "C" to a "plus." Really, the only knock against the kid is his age. He's 26, the same age as Mike McGlynn, the Eagles offensive lineman he could be competing with for the right guard spot. I spoke to a number of Watkins' coaches at Baylor and they stressed that he doesn't have the normal wear and tear of a 26-year-old offensive lineman. While that may be true, he still has an extra four years of walking this earth. I think the fact that Reid overlooked Watkins' advanced age tells you something about his desire to win sooner rather than later (read: three years left on his contract). All that being said, Watkins really is a mauler and fills a need inside if the Eagles really plan on moving Herremans to right tackle, which I think will happen. The one thing that Baylor coach Art Briles said to me that really resonated was when he spoke about the way Watkins walks. He struts with confidence and his chest barrelling out. It's really in stark contrast to, say, a Winston Justice, who doesn't always seem comfortable in his frame.
Jaiquawn Jarrett, S, Temple (2d, 54th): I would have rather seen the Eagles get a cornerback or defensive lineman at this point, but Roseman said most of the top guys at that position were gone by the latter of half of the second round. Kind of makes you wonder why they didn't get one in the first round. The Eagles needed a big hitting safety. Jarrett, from what I've been told, can really bring it. Quintin Mikell was a solid run-stopping safety for several seasons, but he wasn't an assassin. Kurt Coleman plays with reckless abandon but his size keeps him from being an intimidator. Jarrett will get every opportunity to start immediately, but he has serious cover deficiencies, as one coach who watched extension tape of him told me. That means a great deal of responsibility will rest on Nate Allen's shoulders in centerfield. Can the second-year safety handle it?
Curtis Marsh, CB, Utah State (3d, 90th): Most elite starting cornerbacks in the NFL are drafted in the first round. Asante Samuel was a fourth round guy and it's a snub he used to motivate him. Marsh, though, wasn't expected to be drafted until the third day. A converted running back, he's only played cornerback for two seasons. And yet, Reid said Marsh wasn't a project. If Marsh is the starting cornerback at the start of the season I'll eat my pencil. Trevard Lindley came into the NFL last year having played cornerback for years and by the end of the season still didn't have a grasp on the finer points of the position. Marsh, who was second team all-WAC as a senior, didn't appear on the scene for many until he performed well at the combine in February. Sounds like a reach.
Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon (4th, 116th): In many ways, Matthews isn't like his brother, Clay. He's nowhere near as big, is more of an inside linebacker rather than an outside one and he's simply doesn't have Clay's talent. Reminds me of when the Phillies signed pitcher Mike Maddux. Eagles fans seemed to like the Matthews pick because they knew the name. Bloodlines can help. But I had Matthews pegged to play inside linebacker in a 3-4 rather than outside in a 4-3, where the Eagles envision him playing. They do need help at linebacker and a fourth round pick on a legacy prospect isn't the worst idea.
Alex Henery, K/P, Nebraska (4th rd, 120th): I really liked this pick. If Henery is anywhere near as good as he showed in college the Eagles will have their placekicker for the next decade. That's 12,000 more points than they'll probably ever get from, say, Riley Cooper. So a fourth rounder sounds about right, although some feel it's a stretch for a kicker. Henery has some big shoes to fill if you're talking about David Akers' regular season success. He shouldn't have a hard time matching Akers in the postseason, though. We'll see if the kid has the moxie to make big kicks at big moments. But with Akers' age and contract situation it was the right move to make.
Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh (5th, 149th): Getting LeSean McCoy's "little brother" in the fifth round was a sound pick. Ten years ago, a barely 5-foot-7, 190-pound running back doesn't get drafted at all. But with today's offenses more spread out, the little guys have room to roam. And Lewis is the type of scatback that can be a nice changeup to McCoy's fastball. I like Jerome Harrison as the second tailback, but his free agent status -- he could be unrestricted -- made it necessary that the Eagles draft a running back.
Julian Vandervelde, G, Iowa, (5th, 161st): My exposure to draft prospects is usually limited to the Senior Bowl and the combine, but I do get to watch a number of Big Ten players because of my interest in Penn State. Vandervelde is one of those players. I can recall the Hawkeyes often running behind Vandervelde on the right side and through gaping holes, although that might have had as much to do with the Lions' defensive line. Vandervelde is another of Roseman's valedictorian selections. He's small, which would seem to fit in with Howard Mudd's preference for nimble linemen, but isn't especially athletic. This pick is kind of a head-scratcher to me.
Jason Kelce, C, Cincinnati (6th, 191st): Kelce is more in the mold of a Mudd guy. He's nearly the same size as Jeff Saturday -- 6-1, 282 -- Mudd's center for many years with the Colts. That doesn't mean Kelce will be the next Saturday, but he's a development-type center that could replace Jamaal Jackson in a few seasons. I thought maybe A.Q. Shipley was that center. I do know that Shipley has shed some pounds this off-season to perhaps be more appealing to Mudd.
Brian Rolle, LB, Ohio State, (6th, 193d): Rolle could be the steal of the Eagles' draft. He's a shade under 5-10, and barely 225 pounds, but he made plays at the highest level in college football and that should account for something. Some see him as a possible in-the-box safety, but I still think he's a weak-side linebacker. The Eagles have to hit on a linebacker at some point, right? Right?
Greg Lloyd, LB, Connecticut (7th, 237d): At this point in the draft, you're just shooting darts blindfolded. Lloyd's father, Greg, was an outstanding pass-rushing linebacker for many years, so bloodlines had to play some part in this pick. Lloyd was also there this late because of a 2009 knee injury (cue the-Eagles-only-draft-players-with-knee-problems chorus).
Stanley Havili, FB, Southern Cal (7th, 240th): Havili fits the Eagles' needs: A fullback that really isn't a traditional fullback but more of a specialty running back. In Havili's case, he's a pretty good pass-catcher out of the backfield which would suit the Eagles' offense. Leonard Weaver isn't expected to be back next season (or ever, for that matter) and Owen Schmitt could use some competition.