Eagles are paying for mistakes in 2010 and '11 drafts
The Eagles are still cleaning up the debris from the 2011 draft, the latest move coming Sunday when they waived third-round pick Curtis Marsh. The top three picks from that class are now off the roster after only two seasons, a dreadful and revealing indication of just how the bad that draft was for the Eagles.
The 2010 draft was no prize, either. Those two drafts set the Eagles back, depleting the depth chart of young starters and forcing the team to make patchwork changes at positions that should have foundation players by this point.
In a league with a stringent salary cap, the best teams win by drafting and developing. The recent Super Bowl champions all adhered to this philosophy. The Baltimore Ravens started 13 homegrown players in last season's Super Bowl. The New York Giants started 16 in the previous Super Bowl and the Packers started 19 in the one before that.
The Eagles' 2011 draft debacle was cemented Saturday when first-round pick Danny Watkins was released; Marsh's dismissal only added insult. It came nearly one year after second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett was released. The only starters from that year's draft are kicker Alex Henery (a fourth-round pick) and center Jason Kelce (sixth round).
One year earlier, the Eagles traded up in the draft to select defensive end Brandon Graham. He is a contributor, but Graham is still a reserve entering a make-or-break season in Philadelphia. Second-round pick Nate Allen and fifth-round pick Riley Cooper are the only starters from that draft, and neither entered training camp with a firm grasp on the job.
The Eagles drafted 24 players in those two seasons. Only eight players remain.
Of course, a team cannot be expected to hit on every pick. The San Francisco 49ers, who might have the best roster in the NFL, have already traded away their 2012 first-round pick, receiver A.J. Jenkins. The New England Patriots have already waived their second-round picks from 2010 and 2011. Mistakes happen even with the finest teams.
But the teams among the elite in the NFL this season have valuable players from the 2010 and 2011 drafts. The 49ers have six starters from those two classes. The Ravens have four. The Patriots have five. The Atlanta Falcons have four. All four teams played in conference championships last season.
The errors of those two classes have forced the Eagles to try to fix the mistakes in free agency. That's a risky proposition, and not a particularly cost-efficient one.
It doesn't even take second-guessing to identify the mistakes in evaluation. Objections to taking a 26-year-old guard (Watkins) in the first round or an overdrafted safety from Temple (Jarrett) in the second round were voiced in April 2011.
Graham and Allen can still prove their worth, but this is going to be their fourth NFL season. The clock on untapped talent is near expiration. The Watkins and Jarrett picks are already lost causes, and the Eagles have at least identified as much.
Their hope should be that as much as the 2010 and 2011 drafts set back the franchise, the 2012 and 2013 drafts could set them forward. The 2012 class already appears to be promising. It's far too early to tell with this year's rookies. But the Eagles need them to be foundation drafts because the effects of poor classes are evident to anyone who studies the roster.
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