THE EAGLES selected a total of eight players in the draft. But the responsibility for whether it will ultimately be considered a success or failure largely rests in the hands - or more accurately, the surgically-repaired left Achilles' tendon - of just one of those eight: second-round cornerback Sidney Jones.
Don't worry at all about first-round pick Derek Barnett. Despite that 4.88 40 he ran at the NFL Scouting Combine, he's going to be fine. Focus more on the school-record 33 sacks he had at Tennessee - 28 against SEC teams - and his quick get-off and impressive arsenal of pass-rush moves than his 40 time.
He's not Marcus Smith redux. He's a ready-for-the-NFL defensive end who should be able to step right in and give the Eagles' anemic pass rush an immediate shot in the arm.
Three years from now, you won't be sitting there and pulling your hair out and wondering how in the hell the Eagles could've taken this guy over Jonathan Allen or Marlon Humphrey or O.J. Howard.
Jones, though, is another story. The Eagles took a major second-round gamble when they selected the injured University of Washington corner with the 43rd pick.
If the kid recovers and becomes the elite player every one expected him to be before he blew out his Achilles' at his pro day last month, this draft will be remembered as a tremendous success and vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and vice president of of player personnel Joe Douglas will be hailed as freaking geniuses.
If he doesn't, if he either never makes a complete recovery or returns and suffers another Achilles' injury, it will be devastating.
"This whole draft pivots on the health of Sidney Jones,'' NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger said. "I don't have any doubt that Derek Barnett is going to be a good player. But nobody really knows what's going to happen with Sidney.
"Before he got hurt, he was an elite player with elite ball skills. He had that quick twitch. Started 39 games at Washington. If he comes back and becomes a top-flight NFL cornerback, then this will be a good draft.
"But so much depends on him being able to come back from that injury and what he can contribute when he comes back. Will he be the same guy? If he can't play at an elite level, then (drafting him) obviously was a poor gamble.
"If he comes back and is 95-100 percent, then it's a great pick. But I don't think anybody, including them, can answer that question right now.''
There is another important aspect to the Eagles' decision to take Jones at 43. And that's the fact that he wasn't even their first choice.
They were poised to take Florida State running back Dalvin Cook with the pick, but then the Minnesota Vikings, their trade partner in last year's Sam Bradford deal, traded up seven spots from 48 to 41 and grabbed Cook.
Roseman wouldn't confirm that the Eagles had plans to take Cook at 43. But when asked Friday night whether he thought the Vikings' trade up with Cincinnati was precipitated by the Vikings' belief that they were going to take Cook, he said, "maybe.''
The Vikings gave Cincinnati a fourth-round pick (No. 128) to move up to 41. Minnesota's interest in Cook wasn't a secret. With two fourth-round picks (Nos. 118 and 139) of their own, the Eagles had the wherewithal to get up to 37 or 38.
It probably would've cost them the first of those two fourth-round selections if they had been able to find a trade partner. But they ultimately stood pat and the Vikings grabbed Cook and the Eagles moved on to Plan B.
Before he tore his Achilles', Jones was considered a top-15 pick and the second best corner in the draft behind Marshon Lattimore, who went to New Orleans with the 11th pick. If he hadn't gotten hurt, Roseman admitted, he would've been a consideration for them at 14.
"I thought Lattimore was clearly the best corner at being able to get up in the grill of a wide receiver and be able to shadow him all over the field,'' Baldinger said. "But Sidney was right up there at No. 2.''
It's unusual, but not unheard of, for an athlete as young as Jones - he turns 21 in three weeks - to rupture his Achilles'. That may suggest a susceptibility to that particular injury. Or it might've just been a freak injury.
"It's typically an old man's injury,'' said Baldinger, who spent 11 seasons in the NFL. "It usually is something that happens to guys towards the end of their careers.
"A young guy like this who relies so much on his ability to stay on his feet and just be an elite athlete when the ball is in the air, I don't know (whether he can make a complete recovery). Elite guys just don't tear their Achilles' at this stage of their life very often.''
As for the Eagles' other six picks, time will tell. The influence of Pittsburgh-based assistant director of player personnel Andy Weidl was evident with the selections of third-round cornerback Raul Douglas and fifth-round wide receiver Shelton Gibson. Both are West Virginia products.
"I know that Andy just loves those West Virginia kids,'' Baldinger said. "He's seen a lot of games there. He has an appreciation for the kids that come through there. It's not a bias, but it doesn't surprise me that they drafted two kids from there.
"Production is huge for Andy and Joe (Douglas). They want guys that just love the game and have done it on a big stage throughout college. By and large, I think you can see that in every one of the players they drafted.
"Their whole thing is just get guys that, not just will buy in, but, whoever the coach is, whatever the situation, they just want to be over at NovaCare and they just want to grind and get after it. They don't have a lot of other agendas other than to play and get better. I think that's a big part of what they did.''
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