If a quarterback is taken 36th overall in this week’s draft, and by 2014 he has only seven starts to his name, would you consider that a successful pick?
Almost definitely not. But evaluating the Eagles’ decision to draft Kevin Kolb – taken 36th in 2007 and with just seven career starts – is more complicated than that simple math.
I ran into this issue last week as Jeff and I prepared our series on the draft (round one on Thursday). We’re also looking back at the Eagles last five draft classes, and I drew the 2007 group, which is tough to evaluate when you consider that the top pick was Kolb.
How do you judge a pick on a player who, four years into his career, has hardly played – but who still has a chance to be an NFL starter at the game’s most important position? The question is not about how good Kolb will turn out to be, but about this: even if he IS good, was he the right guy for the Eagles to pick?
I spent a lot of time thinking about it before concluding that, sitting here today, you can still believe that Kolb has a future in the league, while also arguing that the Eagles would have been better off with immediate help.
First the positive: you can’t exactly say the Eagles missed when they picked Kolb. After all, he pretty much followed the path you would have wanted: spent a few years learning and developed well enough that the team felt comfortable handing him the keys when they parted ways with Donovan McNabb. That’s about what you ask of a second round QB.
While we still don’t know if Kolb can lead a team to the playoffs, he has shown enough potential that there are franchises that would be willing to give him a shot.
But ultimately, anyone drafted this weekend is going to be evaluated based on what they contribute on the field. And through a series of tough circumstances (Kolb began his career behind a franchise quarterback, and got stuck behind Michael Vick in 2011), Kolb has relatively little game action on his resume.
At a position as important as quarterback, it's smart for teams to plan ahead. The Eagles would deserve far more criticism if they had gone to the end of the McNabb era without a transition plan. But the NFL is unpredictable, and in this case it seems the Eagles were counting on things unfolding in an orderly fashion, when we know they often don't.
No one could have guessed that Vick would have landed in Philly or played as well as he did last year. Nor could anyone have known that a lockout would hurt the Eagles' ability to cash in on Kolb in a trade this offseason. But after the team got credit for taking a gamble on Vick that paid off better than anyone could foresee, it’s fair to ding them for drafting a quarterback who has hardly played, even if that is also due to circumstances no one could have predicted.
The evaluation could change, of course, if the Eagles pull off a Kolb trade that gets them a nice draft pick or a starting-caliber player from another team. Then you could make the argument that an investment paid off over time. (If Cincy doesn’t draft a QB, how about Kolb for the rights to Johnathan Joseph, the CB who was tendered? Just a suggestion ... )
Looking back on the pick, and the end of the McNabb era, you can see the Eagles' logic when they took Kolb. But the final evaluation has to be based on how things actually worked out, not the theory.
For now, while I don't think you can kill the team for drafting Kolb, it's fair to rap them for not getting tangible production from a pretty high pick. Even if it Kolb turns out to be a strong starter, it will almost certainly be elsewhere. Whoever picks at 36 on Friday will be hoping for a better return.