From the outside looking in the Philadelphia Eagles are the model for anyone who puts a priority on working the draft, selecting value throughout its’ seven and choosing college prospects that ultimately have careers at the next level. From our vantage point no team works the draft better than the Eagles. They constantly stockpile picks moving down draft boards and acquire enough ammunition to make an upward move if necessary to grab a desired player. They are successful every April, yet this year’s effort could go down as one of the best in recent history.
In round one when Philadelphia moved up almost a dozen slots in order to select Brandon Graham. The Michigan defensive end is a perfect fit for the organization both on the field and off it. His physical build (shorter and smaller) and playing style (explosive, fast and deceptively strong) is a perfect fit for the Eagles system. His work ethic, attitude and approach to the game are a great match for the organization’s philosophy. We always thought Graham was a better fit as a one-gap defensive end versus the outside linebacker position many projected him to and we think he’ll be productive right out of the gate in Philadelphia.
Safety was of real need and they hope the selection of Nate Allen with the fifth pick of round two fills the void. Allen is a well rounded safety with nice size and starting potential in the NFL. Initially we thought the early part of round two was early for Allen, especially when one considered he never completed a full workout prior to the draft. Yet when the safety’s quickly came off the board in round two, the Eagles grabbed their guy before he was gone. The recent injury to Marlin Jackson makes this choice look even better.
Round three brought another high motor, non-stop defender in Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. A lesser version of Brandon Graham, Te’o-Nesheim is a defender who plays over his head and gets the most from his physical skills. Te’o-Nesheim is a terrific fit for the organization, both on and off the field, like Graham. On draft weekend we were told this selection was a favorite of coach Andy Reid, for good reason.
If there is one pick we would criticize if would be fourth rounder Trevard Lindley. The Kentucky senior showed tremendous skill early in his college career before his game leveled off. He was hampered with injury last season but Lindley still possesses below average playing speed. He has the skills to develop into a nickel back if he gets his game back on track then begins to progress.
Many questioned the choice of Keenan Clayton in round four, but we disagree. The Oklahoma senior is incredibly athletic and explosive. He’ll be a great fit on the weak side and upgrades a linebacker core in need of talent.
Mike Kafka was an interesting selection one pick later. His playing style is perfectly suited for the Eagles offense and Kafka is a calm, controlled, timing passer with pinpoint accuracy. He lacks the great deep arm but makes up for it with savvy play. Kafka will be groomed to back up Kevin Kolb and we’re sure the organization hopes to develop his skills then dangle him as trade bait down the road.
The team’s final pick in round four, Clay Harbor, could end up as one of the draft’s biggest bargains. Harbor’s a tremendous pass catching tight end with top end athleticism and underrated strength. He must take his blocking to another level but as with most of the players Philadelphia selected in this draft, is a terrific fit for their system.
More value was found with the selection of Ricky Sapp in round five. We had reported on draft day both the Jets and Patriots were looking at Sapp in round one. Once he started to slide it became a free fall for Sapp, who had character and injury red flags. The fact still remains he’s an incredible athlete that gets a great amount of force up the field. Defensive ends will crowd the Eagles roster but they’ve had success taking this type of player late in the draft in recent years.
Receiver Riley Cooper was another solid selection in the fifth frame. He’s a sure handed, intelligent and tough receiver who understands the game. Cooper lacks the top end speed but his size and reliability could greatly compliment DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, besides making Kevin Kolb more comfortable throwing the ball over the middle.
Charles Scott was the sole pick in round six and a good one. The big, interior back was considered a top 45 pick entering the season but a broken collarbone suffered late in the year scared teams away. If he remains healthy he could end up as the inside pounder the offense needs in short yardage situations.
The Eagles finished the draft with a trio of brilliant choices in round seven.
Jamar Chaney figured in the draft to the Oakland Raiders as early as round two but after they took Rolando McClain with the eighth pick of the draft, his value plummeted. Regardless, Chaney is an athletic, instinctive and tough defender that can line-up at a variety of linebacker spots. He has a special teams mentality and we would be shocked if he’s not on the roster come opening day.
Defensive tackle Jeff Owens is another we thought would be drafted earlier. Owens is a slug it out interior lineman with terrific strength. In many ways he reminds us of former Georgia Bulldog Jason Ferguson and if the light goes on for Owens, as it did Ferguson, he’ll have a long career in the NFL.
Final choice Kurt Coleman was one of our favorite players in this draft. He’s not overly big, strong or fast yet just a terrific football player. Coleman looked sensational as a sophomore and junior yet his play slid in 2009 and uninspired performances at the Senior Bowl and combine led to his fall. We have always looked at Coleman as a poor man’s Ed Reed, and we still do.
Grade (A): The Eagles hit on all counts in this draft; they got quality, quantity and filled team needs. While most will focus on the transition at quarterback, this draft will have a lasting impression on the franchise and possibly other teams in the league. There may not be enough room on Philadelphia’s roster to find space for all these players but in the end we strongly feel each one of these 13 picks will end up on either an active roster or practice squad somewhere in the league.