Eagles' safety dance ends with Earl Wolff

The Eagles selected North Carolina State safety Earl Wolff in the fifth round. (AP Photo)

Analysts called this the best safety draft in a decade. The Eagles' safety play was atrocious last season. Yes, the Birds signed Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung in free agency, but neither Phillips (injury) nor Chung (just wasn't very good last season) came without question marks.

So, many Eagles fans settled themselves in front of the NFL draft in a safetyish kind of mood. They weren't expecting to get one fourth overall, but second round, third round, certainly fourth round, would be a great time to reap something from the plentiful safety harvest.

But the last time the Eagles took a safety mainly because they needed a safety, they ended up with Jaiquawn Jarrett. Howie Roseman vowed not to do that anymore, even in the deepest safety draft in a decade. So the second round came, and the guy the Eagles had rated above all the safeties available was Stanford tight end Zach Ertz. Not terribly shocking, lotsa folks thought Ertz was a first-rounder.

Third round came, and 67th overall, the Eagles took DT Bennie Logan, from LSU. This was more surprising. Interior DL was a need, maybe not as much as the secondary. But the Eagles ranked Logan ahead of the safeties.

Fourth round came, and the Eagles traded up to the first pick of the day Saturday. For a safety? Nooooo. For a quarterback, USC's Matt Barkley. OK, easy to see how Barkley was considered value there, but surely, soon, a safety. Right?

Yes, finally. In the fifth round, 136th overall, the Eagles took North Carolina State's Earl Wolff, who probably has no idea how eagerly the news of his drafting was greeted up here. Or maybe he does; Wolff was watching the draft at his home in Hoke County, N.C., with a bunch of relatives who are big Eagles fans and were wearing their Eagles gear, he told reporters on a conference call. His mom, Sharon, is from Northeast Philly, he said, and went to Girls High.

Wolff, 5-11, 209, said he was wearing an Eagles cap when the call came, courtesy of a bleeding-green uncle.

"I knew they had a couple problems at safety," Wolff said, when a reporter asked. "I feel like I can come in and help immediately, basically help where I can. If it's special teams type of things, if it's coming in and playing the role of safety, I feel like I can do that also."

"He was their leading tackler" with 145 last season, new Eagles coach Chip Kelly told reporters. "He's very explosive, can run, can jump, a hard-nosed, physical player. Talking to their coaches, just before we picked him, they just couldn't say enough good things about him."

Kelly said Wollf seemed to be able to play both safety positions equally well on tape. In draft previews, he was listed as a strong safety.

"I feel like I'm pretty versatile," Wolff said. "I can play deep middle, I can play deep pass, I can play in the box ... my senior year I played more in the box because we had some young, inexperienced linebackers."