If you told Andy Reid he tabbed both his draft selections last night higher than they'd figured to go, Reid probably wouldn't disagree.
But the Eagles' coach contended that the nature of this draft, after the first round, led to teams targeting players and grabbing them, even if they might be taking them above their strict grades.
The Eagles went for Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett with the 54th selection in the second round. Then the Birds completed their night with unheralded Utah State corner Curtis Marsh in the third round. Corner might have been the team's most pressing need heading into the draft, but it is hard to imagine Marsh, a converted running back with 2 years under his belt at corner, starting this coming season across from Asante Samuel.
It also is hard to imagine that the defensive line, supposedly rich with talent near the top of this draft, goes unaddressed by the Birds heading into the final four rounds, in which the Eagles hold eight picks. But as Reid noted last night, the draft is just "part of the whole" this year more than ever, with free agency still pending.
The Marsh selection came after a trade, the Eagles giving the Ravens their 85th pick overall for Baltimore's 90th slot, plus pick No. 191, in today's sixth round. The draft concludes today.
"We didn't feel that the second round was necessarily as strong as it's been in the past, so what you saw people doing, they either moved around a little bit, or they targeted a guy that they liked for their system, they went and got him," Reid said. "Good, solid, hardnosed football players. And that's what we think we got here. Who knows if they would have fallen any further?"
Reid then noted that UCLA safety Rahim Moore went 45th overall to Denver, and that Jarrett was probably the next safety on most boards, in a weak safety year.
"It really came down to who needed a safety, was he going to fit? Is he very worthy of that position? Absolutely."
Reid said the same rubric applied to Marsh.
"We just think that he fits into our system; I know [new defensive coordinator] Juan Castillo and Johnny [Lynn, secondary coach] really like him," Reid said.
Jarrett said he spoke extensively with Eagles coaches leading up to the draft, but was "very surprised right now," perhaps because most projections had him going in the third or fourth round.
The Eagles have not given 8-year vet Quintin Mikell any indication of whether they intend to bring him back. Mikell, an unrestricted free agent, tweeted last night: "Phone blowing up right now. Guess a safety was taken. How is anyone surprised by this? They've taken a safety almost every year I've been here."
Reid said he and general manager Howie Roseman haven't discussed whether they might still sign Mikell yet.
The Eagles also took a safety in the second round last year, Nate Allen, who started and played well before rupturing his right patellar tendon Dec. 19 against the Giants. Allen, a free safety, is expected to be ready to go whenever the league completely emerges from the lockout. Seventh-round rookie Kurt Coleman played well after Allen went down. Among other safeties expected to return is veteran Marlin Jackson, who missed the 2010 season after Achilles' surgery.
Jarrett said he thinks he can play either spot.
"At Temple, I did a lot of both. I showed up in run support coming out of the Cover 2, so I was playing the half-field a majority of the time," he said.
"This right here is one of the greatest situations ever, staying close to home," said Jarrett, the highest Eagles local college pick since Villanova QB Jim Grazione (39th overall, 1959) and the first significant Eagles local selection since Brian Westbrook, from Villanova, in 2002's third round.
Jarrett, 6-0, 196, said he met with Castillo and d-backs coach Mike Zordich going into the draft. "They showed me how they use their safeties in their secondary, and they were telling me that I'd be a great fit."
Reid effusively praised Jarrett, emphasizing the coach's familiarity with a player he was able to watch regularly without leaving town. "Talk about somebody who'll come up and smack you, he'll come up and smack you," Reid said. He compared Jarrett to all-time Eagles great Brian Dawkins in speed and stature, if not personality.
"I don't think you want to run over the middle on either one of them; they'll blow you up," Reid said.
Marsh, 6-0, 197, is the son of a former NFL receiver of the same name. He came to Utah State as a running back and volunteered to switch to defense after a coaching change, he said. Marsh said he thought that the team needed corners more and that he might have a better chance of playing in the NFL as a corner.
"What you're getting with Curtis is a big, strong, physical, fast and very, very intelligent cornerback, who doesn't have quite as much experience as some of the guys in the draft," Reid said. "With our coaching here and his athletic ability, we feel he will develop into a fine football player and a starter eventually here."
Marsh said he "had a good feeling" after his predraft visit with the Eagles.
"I feel really comfortable at corner," said Marsh, who said he thinks he has completed his transition and is no less polished than anyone else coming out of college.
Reid said Jarrett and Marsh "are quality guys and they're tough guys." *