Here are five thoughts on the Eagles' decision to go with Baylor offensive lineman Danny Watkins with the 23rd pick in the first round of the NFL draft:
1. My initial reaction was the same as everyone else's: Why spend a first-round pick on a guy who is going to turn 27 during his rookie season? Part of the reasoning came down to who was available at No. 23. Cal's Cameron Jordan was ranked as Mke Mayock's 11th-best prospect in the entire draft, but with many projecting him as a 3-4 defensive end, it's not surprising that the Eagles passed.
Wisconsin offensive lineman Gabe Carimi also looked like he'd be an option. But the Eagles obviously had Watkins ahead of Carimi on their board. I doubt any of us have really broken down the film on the two guys. And it says something that Carimi fell all the way to the Bears at 29.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith? We all wondered what the Eagles' opinion was of Smith's character concerns, and now we know.
Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson looked like an option, but I doubt anyone would argue that defensive tackle is more of a need than offensive line. And again, many projected Wilkerson more as a 3-4 defensive end.
Da'Quan Bowers? Concerns over his knee were serious enough to make all 32 teams pass on him in the first round.
The point here is that there were questions with all the guys available at No. 23. A fair argument against the pick is that the Eagles should have moved up to snag Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, who had dropped well into the teens. If the Eagles go into next season with Trevard Lindley and Dimitri Patterson battling for the right cornerback spot, we'll absolutely revisit this argument. But if they fill that need in another way, it probably becomes moot.
2. Twitter is great for being reactionary, and I was just that following the pick, saying:
Watkins could be good, but for a franchise that likes to dump guys after 30, tough to explain picking a 26 year old.
Taking a closer look, I'm not sure my initial statement was completely fair. Sure, the Eagles like to let go of veterans before they go downhill, but that's looked like a smart move in almost every case.
And when you look at the offensive line, the numbers are a little different. Jon Runyan was 32 back in 2006 when the Eagles signed him to a three-year deal. Jason Peters was 27 when the Birds gave him a six-year, $60M deal that will keep him here until he's 32.
The key is that Runyan and Peters were known commodities when the Eagles made those decisions. Watkins, of course, has not played a down of football until he was 22 and obviously has not proven himself in the NFL yet. So it's completely fair to mention his age in all discussions.
If Watkins comes in right away and becomes the Eagles' starter at guard for the next six or seven years, though, this pick will be recalled as a good one.
3. This is the third straight season I've done these draft chats, and I know the one thing that drives fans the craziest is when the Eagles take someone described as a project or a tweener.
The best thing that you can say about the Watkins pick is that he should be a plug and play player, as Mike Mayock would say. According to DraftMetrics.com, 90 percent of the guards taken in the first round between 1991-2010 started as rookies. They also note that between 1991-2004, 67 percent of the offensive linemen taken between picks 14 and 28 went on to start for five years or more. The only position that was more likely to produce a five-year starter was linebacker (74 percent).
This all goes back to my Urgency theme. Back in February, I wondered whether the Eagles were built to win now. And offensively, the answer is yes. The only "core" offensive players not signed through 2012 are DeSean Jackson and Michael Vick. And it's possible both those guys get long-term deals once the labor situation is resolved.
Then there's Andy Reid. Let's not forget that he is signed for three more years. It's unlikely that the Eagles would let him go into the final year of his contract in 2013 as a lame duck. In other words, the next two years are huge. I'm not saying Reid is gone after 2012 if he doesn't win a Super Bowl, but at that point, it will have been 14 years in one place. Who's to say that he might not want to take a year off and then coach elsewhere? That is, if the Eagles don't make that decision for him.
Two of the Eagles' biggest offseason moves so far were the additions of Jim Washburn and Howard Mudd. Mudd is 69, and Washburn is 61. Now the Eagles have drafted a 26-year-old lineman in the first round.
It seems clear that Reid and company feel they are ready to make a run at the Lombardi Trophy now, not in the future. It'll be interesting to see if the rest of the offseason moves indicate the same thing.
4. Perhaps the most telling comment Reid made yesterday was in response to whether Watkins will play guard or tackle.
"Right now I’m looking at guard," Reid said. "I don’t know what side though. I can’t sit here and tell you, but I’m looking at him as a guard. But like I said, he can really play any position you need him to play."
The part about not knowing which side caught my attention. Does that mean it's possible that Watkins could play left guard and Todd Herremans could switch back to right tackle? Sure seems that way.
Looking at the offensive line as a whole, Jason Peters is the starter at left tackle, but beyond that, we have no clue who's going to play where. Herremans could play left guard or right tackle. Mike McGlynn could play center or right guard. Watkins could play anywhwere, although it seems like right guard and left guard are most likely.
As I've written before, everything is based on two questions: How healthy is Jamaal Jackson? How much confidence do the Eagles have in Winston Justice?
If the Eagles are allowed to start mini-camps and have a full training camp, the guess here is that they'll let Mudd take a look at what he's working with and let the best men win.
But if the lockout goes back into effect, the Eagles will likely have to make decisions with less evidence and less competition.
One more note on the offensive line: If guys stay healthy, this unit should be able to grow together. Peters is signed through 2014; and Herremans, Jackson and Justice are signed through 2013. Watkins will obviously be here too. The only player that could potentially leave is McGlynn, whose contract runs out after 2011.
5. So where do the Eagles go from here? They have the 22nd pick in the second round and the 21st pick in the third round. It's reasonable to expect that if they don't pick a cornerback by the close of business Friday, they're expecting to make a big splash via free agency or a trade. Even if they do pick a cornerback tonight, they might be willing to go that route.
However, I would caution people from making the argument that they know they are going to sign Nnamdi Asomugha. He's going to be the most sought-after free agent in the league, and what team couldn't use a shutdown corner? In other words, there's going to be a huge market. The Eagles might plan on making a run at him, but I'm sure they have a backup plan if it doesn't work out.
Overall, it was a fun, entertaining first round. Let's do it again tonight, shall we? I'll be back chatting at 6 p.m. for rounds 2 and 3.
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