Yes, yes, I know... Draft grades are pointless until we've actually seen the players on the field for 2 or 3 years. Nevertheless, they're fun, and we read them anyway. My scientific grading process, however, employs a more sophisticated smiley face system as opposed to the more common letter grade system. Therefore, mine should be taken more seriously than others. Let's get right to it.
With the 22nd overall pick, the Eagles select Louisville OLB Marcus Smith, Florida CB/S Jaylen Watkins, and Oregon DE Taylor Hart
When they were on the clock at 22, the Eagles traded back to 26th overall with the Browns, and picked up one of Cleveland's 3rd round picks (83rd overall) in the process. When they were on the clock at the 83rd overall pick, they traded back once more with Houston. The Texans gave the Eagles their 4th round pick (101st overall) and 5th round pick (141st overall) to move up. In other words, the Eagles parlayed their 22nd overall pick into the 26th, 101st, and 141st overall picks. With those picks, they selected:
• Marcus Smith, OLB, Louisville: Smith was likely not the top overall player on the board when the Eagles selected him, however, he was in the same 'tier' of the top players, as described by Howie Roseman. Smith is a very athletic OLB who can set the edge in the run game and cover well in the passing game. He was second in the nation with 14.5 sacks, but he is not thought to be an elite QB killer, although he does have some upside as a pass rusher. He fits the Eagles biggest need both in terms of immediate depth, and eventually replacing an aging starter in Trent Cole.
• Jaylen Watkins, CB/S, Florida: The Gators were absolutely loaded with CB talent in 2013, with Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Vernon Hargreaves, so they moved Watkins to safety, and he played well. He wound up being the first Florida defensive back drafted. Watkins excels in press coverage, and he was excellent in that regard at the Senior Bowl. In fact, Fresno State QB Derek Carr singled out Watkins as the most difficult CB to throw against at the week of Senior Bowl practices. The Eagles' need to upgrade their secondary was obvious, and now they have a versatile player in Watkins to add to the mix.
• Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon: The Eagles really didn't have much in the way of depth along their defensive line heading into the draft. At DE, they really only have Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry as locks to make the team. Furthermore, Curry is more of a situational player at this point, as opposed to a 3-down guy. And so, in the 5th round, Chip Kelly and Jerry Azzinaro got one of their old Oregon players with whom they were comfortable (We'll get to the Oregon stuff momentarily). Hart is a solid but not-so-flashy player who could contribute quickly in the Eagles' DL rotation.
Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman both said there were six players they coveted in the first round. They did not get any of the six. That is somewhat bothersome, as is the notion that they may not have gotten the best player on their board at 26. However, when you view it terms of the three picks they made generating from the 22nd overall pick, they ultimately got very good value at three positions of need.
With the 54th and 122nd overall picks, the Eagles select Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews
In the 2nd round, the Eagles traded up to 42nd overall with the Tennessee Titans. They had to give up their 2nd round pick (54th overall) and 4th round pick (122nd overall) to do so. They then selected Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews with the pick.
Of the 32 receivers that were drafted over the weekend, Matthews had the highest percentage of his team's receiving yards, at a whopping 49.93%. He basically was Vanderbilt's passing offense. Opposing defenses knew it, and they still couldn't stop him, as Matthews was 4th in the country in both receptions and receiving yards.
Matthews has great size (6'3, 211) and speed (4.46 40), and he is thought to have incredible work ethic. Here's a more complete breakdown of Matthews' talents.
With the 86th overall pick, the Eagles select Oregon WR Josh Huff
Huff is a 5'11, 206 pound WR who averaged 18.4 yards per catch in 2013, and is a physical blocker. While he's not a speedster like DeSean Jackson, Huff makes a lot of big plays. Typically, he does so by breaking tackles once he has the ball in his hands. Huff had at least one reception of 20+ in every single one of his 13 games in 2013. That's impressive explosiveness and consistency. Here's a more complete breakdown of Huff.
So I do like the player, and I like the pick. However...
As noted above, the Eagles selected former Oregon Duck Taylor Hart in the 5th round. That's alarming. Are the Eagles taking the best players, or the players with whom Chip Kelly is most comfortable?
Maybe it's just a coincidence, as the Eagles have implied, but if indeed Kelly is wielding his influence over the draft to select players he knows well, does that narrow the field some? Bringing in former Oregon guys who you know will buy into your system and work hard during practice is fine for the practice squad or training camp filler, but when you're using extremely valuable draft resources for your former guys, they better be the best players available.
If his former Ducks turn out to be good players, then great, but it's fair to question if the Eagles are placing too much value in known quantities over other players who are a little more of a mystery, but might be more talented. This is not a preferable pattern, in my opinion. Hopefully it really is just a coincidence that these two players happen to be from from Oregon.
With the 162nd overall pick, the Eagles select Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
As a disclaimer, I should note that this was the first pick the Eagles made in which I hadn't really watched the player at all, and am still playing catch-up. With that said, Reynolds is thought to be an average player in terms of size, athleticism, cover skills and run support. In 2012, Reynolds had 6 INTs, 3 of which he returned for TDs on 301 return yards, so he does have some ball skills.
In any 'normal' year, I would view Reynolds as a perfectly fine 5th round pick. However, there were a lot of players drafted who were still on the board that I thought would be great fits for the Eagles. For the purpose of posterity (you can make fun of me when none of these players make anything of themselves and Reynolds is in the Hall of Fame), I'll list them: Florida OLB/ILB Ronald Powell, Montana ILB Jordan Tripp, Vanderbilt C Wesley Johnson, USC OLB Devon Kennard, Wyoming WR Robert Herron, and UCLA ILB Jordan Zumwalt.
Of course, the Eagles are better talent evaluators than me, soooooo... grain of salt, and whatnot.
With the 224th overall pick, the Eagles select Wisconsin DT Beau Allen
For those of you who wanted a big boy for the middle of the defense to clog up the run game, Allen is a 6'2, 333 pound plugger from the Midwest. As noted above, the Eagles lacked depth along their defensive line, and Allen with give them a little more beef up front for short yardage situations.
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