Draft experts, and even Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, believe it usually takes three years to figure out if a player taken in the NFL draft was the right guy at that spot, and equally long to determine if a team had a good overall draft.
That said, I don’t think any of us can really claim to know exactly how the three days in Dallas last week will ultimately benefit the Eagles. I do know a lot more about Australian rugby than before, though.
I know, for one thing, that a 6-foot-8, 347-pound man running into smaller people has a good deal of physics on his side. That was learned watching the YouTube highlights of Jordan Mailata, whom the Eagles drafted to play in the NFL with their seventh-round selection despite the small drawback that Mailata has never taken part in an organized game of football.
Mailata’s highlights, which are really something to see, looked like fifth-grade playground maul ball with all your friends and the one big kid who had been held back twice and was already shaving.
He was a pretty good rugby player but a bit big for the game, and he landed in an NFL international development program that informed him he was an offensive tackle and no longer needed to worry about carrying the ball. This is the way the East Germans used to develop young athletes, by the way — “You vill be zee pole vaulter” — and we’ll leave that comparison where it is.
In any case, Mailata is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and the last of five picks taken in a draft that was a remarkable display of confidence by an organization that now has a big trophy that does wonders for confidence. Mailata could turn out to be a genius pick, or a bust that will look laughable in retrospect. (For a deeper dive into the scouting and drafting of Mailata, colleague Paul Domowitch has all the information.)
The same uncertainty can be applied to some of the other selections as well, but the Eagles are in a sweet position at the moment. Winning the Super Bowl earns you the benefit of the doubt. In the past, most fans would wait three minutes, not three years, before deciding if a draft pick was a mistake. This year – and maybe it’s because people are fixating instead on the playoff run of the 76ers or Ron Hextall’s 20-year plan for the Flyers – the draft was met with shrugging acquiescence. OK, whatever.
Imagine if you will, that Andy Reid had not been fired after his disastrous 2012 season in which the Eagles finished 4-12. It’s difficult to imagine, but it could have happened. Then imagine if he stepped out of the war room in April to talk about a draft similar to the one that just concluded.
“All right, uh, here we go. Uh, we traded out of the first round, and traded down into the second round and then, uh, traded back up, just for variety, and then we got a tight end from South Dakota State who did a really good job against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Montana State. Then, in, uh, the fourth round, we got a cornerback who isn’t tall enough to get into most rides at Disney World, and a defensive end who would have been taken a lot earlier, but he’s got a knee that’s about as reliable as a Fiat transmission. Moving on, we took an offensive lineman in the sixth round that we never worked out and, finally, uh, we’re all excited about this one: In the seventh round, we got a big Australian rugby player who wasn’t good enough to play first-division Australian rugby.”
Now, seriously, how would that draft have been received, as delivered by Big Red? Maybe it’s not on the same level as using a first-round pick on a 26-year-old Canadian firefighter — of course, who would do that? — but there are some reaches and some wishful thinking here and there.
It was admittedly thin soup anyway for the Eagles as they slowly recover from the moves made to secure the Carson Wentz pick, and from the selections they expended to bolster the roster that did win the Super Bowl. If the tradeoff for getting players such as Ronald Darby and Jay Ajayi was a draft experience the following spring that can be described as somewhat boring, then that’s a pretty good deal.
And, as Howie Roseman correctly pointed out, they did secure a future second-round pick in the dealings, and also can count cornerback Sidney Jones as a delayed draft pick after his redshirt rookie season. All of that is true, and three years from now, the brilliance of this draft might well be revealed.
For the moment, however, it is a little odd that in the last week we have learned a lot more about the South Sydney Rabbitohs than about the Philadelphia Eagles.