When grading the NFL Draft, it is important to ask yourself two things- what were the team needs going in, and how much could they realistically improve themselves?
In all reality, this Eagles draft will remembered by their inability to trade Kevin Kolb. By trading Kolb, they could have really added a top of the draft, playmaker to this team. But when that was not an option, the front office had to be realistic about what they could accomplish, and what needs they could fill.
Going into the draft, it is clear that other than the offensive line, the defense was a priority for a team that was historically bad in the red zone. However, by not being able to move up and grab a legitimate, game-changing cornerback like Patrick Peterson, it is unrealistic to think the Eagles would sure up the whole defense through the draft.
A defense that bad in the red zone can only be fixed through veteran help and scheme change. Prince Amukamara could be the best rookie in the draft, but it won’t matter if he is told to play off his receiver in the red zone, and there is no pressure on the cornerback. There are too many holes to think any one player taken with the 23rd pick was going to fill them.
So when the Eagles went on the clock, they took in many people’s eyes, the most sure fire prospect in the draft, Danny Watkins. Watkins was considered the bestoffensive guard in the draft by Ray Didinger, and Rick Gosselin (who many view as the best NFL Draftanalyst). He called Watkins a sure fire 2012 Pro-Bowler.
The addition of Watkins to the line allows the Eagles to do a lot of things. If they decide to start Watkins at guard, they can move Todd Herremans out to right tackle. The fact that Andy Reid said that King Dunlap will compete for that job shows the immediate need at that position. The return of Jamaal Jackson from injury could allow the Eagles to slide Mike McGlynn over to guard, giving the Eagles a solid starting line. If Watkins is the consistent, solid player everyone says he is, he will help this line is many ways.
All of the negatives you read about Watkins revolve around his age and late start to the game. You hardly read that Watkins is a risk, which is a tag that was applied to a lot of players on this draft, especially on defense.
After securing the offensive line, the Eagles next picks all point to one thing: the front offices plan to go after a big time free agent cornerback. There is no way the Eagles will not make a run at a cornerback once free agency eventually opens. David Akers has a better chance of starting again for the Eagles than Dmitri Patterson does, and the cornerback’s replacement will be selected from the group of free agents.
The Eagles selection of Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round surprised many, and there is no question it is a reach. Jarrett is a big time hitter, who will make more of an impact in the box than he will deep down the field. He likes to attack a running back coming around the corner and make him pay.
Despite running a slow 40-yard dash time, Jarrett is said to be a quick study. Hearing him talk to reporters at the NovaCare Complex, it is clear that Al Golden instilled in him the importance of watching tape. Jarrett might be slower than other safeties in the draft, but that won’t matter if he is making the reads quicker.
It is like the old episodes of Survivor, where the team had to complete the puzzle before they could start the race. The fastest guy on your team couldn’t start running if he was stuck putting together the pieces. The same is true for safeties- you can run as fast as you want, but if it’s in the wrong direction, it won’t matter.
The Eagles selection of Utah State cornerback Curtis Marsh only further lays out the blue print for a free agent signing, as there is little chance Marsh makes an impact this season. He’s a project the Eagles want to work on.
The Eagles added two playmakers in the 4th and 5th rounds when they drafted linebacker Casey Matthews and running back Dion Lewis. Matthews has great instincts, which is something that could not be said for the rest of the Eagles linebackers. In his 4 seasons at Oregon, Matthews had more sacks, tackles and interceptions than his brother Clay did during his time at USC.
Dion Lewis is a speed back that gets in and out of his cuts quickly, and will benefit from having his old teammate LeSean McCoy being around. He is a player that if the Eagles can get into open space, which they do better then almost any team in the league, he will be a lot of trouble for defenses. Andy Reid must drool when thinking about the speed the Eagles will have in the backfield in a double back set with Vick at quarterback.
Like many drafts, the real letter grade on it with only a few days lapsed afterward is “I” for “Incomplete”. No one knows what will happen with the players who the Eagles selected, and what their impact will be. But on paper, the one thing all the players have in common which were taken by the Eagles is consistency. Watkins, Matthews and Jarett all started for 4 seasons in college. They were proven players at the college level, who are just as capable of making the jump to the NFL as any other players taken.
There’s no question this Eagles team still has holes, but no combination of draft picks would have fixed all of them. The Eagles still have free agency to complete their off season, but I think they got off to a good start, this past weekend by adding consistent, solid, playmakers to their roster.