Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Draft Wish List (Offense)

This years draft will set the tone for new head coach Chip Kelly as he beings to rebuild the Eagles and make his mart on the NFL. All eyes are on Kelly and the Eagles who own the #4 overall pick in the upcoming draft, and there has been a whirlwind of speculation as to what direction the team will go. As I sat down to analyze how I see the draft unfolding with the Eagles I decided to take a look at the roster as it is today and what the Eagles need going into this season.

Quarterback: Chip Kelly is looking for his future team leader. It's yet to be seen if that guy is in this draft or on the roster or what. New head coaches often look for their guy in the first year however, so I expect that he'll take a hard look at everyone in this class.
Geno Smith is someone obviously linked a lot to the Eagles as he's considered the top quarterback in this years class. He's got a first round grade but I don't like him at 4, I tend to think he's more of a late 1st round early 2nd value but given the drought of available guys at the position and passing league the NFL has turned into he'll most likely be pushed up. I'd rather take someone later or even next year if that's the case.
I see a lot of talent in the second round with a guy like EJ Manuel. Manuel is a guy with great size and a ton of talent. He can be inconsistent at times but I think he'd make a great fit in Kelly's system.
Matt Scott is another guy that intrigues me. Lacks the typical size you'd look for in a quarterback, but he's mobile and a very tough player. Could easily be available in the late 3rd early 4th, possibly even 5th round.
As a undrafted free agent I like Robert Marve. This guy has a lot of buzz early on in his career. Unfortunately he's had 3 ACL injuries so he'd be a developmental prospect for the Eagles, but with a guy who was that highly touted it's a pretty low risk.

Running Back: The Eagles are pretty set here. LeSean McCoy is clearly the guy no argument so there's no need to search for a starter. With Bryce Brown showing a lot of promise last year the biggest need for the Eagles here is to get Brown to hang onto the ball. However, there are some guys this year that I think could be nice additions.
Jonathan Franklin out of UCLA is a really quick guy who could fit Kelly's fast paced offense. Guys chase him all over the field. He'll probably go in the 3rd which is a little expensive for me given the teams other needs.
Another guy I see as a 3rd rounder is Andre Ellington. The reason I think the Eagles need to look at him is he's a guy that can line up all over the field and that's the type of player Chip Kelly loves.
The former Oregon Duck, Kenjon Barner is clear choice just given the fact that he used to play for Kelly. He's shifty, has got good hands, and has punt and kick return experience. Could see him in the 5th which would be a nice spot for the Eagles to get a guy like him.
Reggie Dixon is another guy I could see doing PR/KR for the Eagles. He's a smaller guy with a fast 40 time. Will most likely go undrafted which could equal to a big time steal.

Full Back: I don't see the Eagles NEEDING a fullback seeing as Kelly traded away the only one on the roster, and brought in the H Back/TE James Casey. It was that signing though that brought my eye to one guy in this draft.
Kyle Juszcyk has been listed as both a FB and a TE. He was also used as a WR at Harvard so he's another one of those players Chip looks for to create mismatches and confuse defenses. I see him going in the 4th or 5th. I like him better in the 5th.

Tight End: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor, and James Casey leave us pretty well rounded at this position, but there are two guys I think are worth a look.
Nick Kasa is a guy who used to play DE so he hasn't had that much experience at the TE position. However, he's an extremely aggressive blocker and has improved his receiving ability. He will only get better with increased time at the TE spot, so if he falls to the 6th round he could be worth it.
Levine Toilolo was overshadowed a lot at Stanford by Coby Fleener and Zach Ertz, because of that he's projected to go in the 6th or 7th round, might even go undrafted. He's got great size and athleticism, and again he's a Chip Kelly type player meaning he's able to cause match-up problems for defenses.

Wide Receiver: I see the Eagles pretty set here. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are clearly the starters for this team so going after a wideout early more then likely isn't happening. Mid to late rounds is a different story.
A guy I'd consider taking a bit earlier is Stedmen Bailey. He's probably going in the late 3rd to 4th round, but he's got good lateral quickness and deceptive speed. Might make a nice slot receiver.
Aaron Mellette is a big body guy, 6'3'' 217lbs, who moves very well and, here's the big plus, he goes up to get the ball. The Eagles have lacked that big body red zone threat for awhile. If Mellette is available late in the draft, 5th or 6th round, he'd be a nice addition.
Another versatile guy this year is Sam McGuffie. He's played both RB and WR for Rice. Good speed and quickness, but has had a few concussions. Because of this he'll most likely end up going undrafted.

Offensive Tackle: This is one of the areas that the draft shines. This class is packed with top talent and with the injuries the Eagles suffered last year along the offensive line I see them needing to grab one of the top guys.
My overall pick for the eagles is Eric Fisher, he's started to become the guy considered to be taken #1 overall by a lot of people, and with good reason. He seems to be neck and neck with Luke Joeckel, but Fisher has been said to have the higher upside.
Another guy with huge upside is Lane Johnson. If the Eagles are going to use their first round pick on an offensive player I'd like it to be him, Eric Fisher I most likely see being gone then. Johnson has a ton of natural athletic ability, and while some consider him to be a work in progress he's a day one starter. Due to his natural athletic ability however, he just might have the most potential out of any tackle in the draft.
Kyle Long is the last tackle I would target because I believe the Eagles should have already used their top pick on the offensive line. That being said, Long is another Oregon player so the familiarity could be great. Long is versatile however, playing both guard and tackle which could help the Eagles a lot. He's also an impressive athlete, and comes from a football family (Son of Howie Long and brother of Chris Long). He has light feet and is very mobile. No one will know better then Kelly if Long has peaked or not and thus if he'll be worth the 2nd or 3rd round pick he's projected to be taken around.

Offensive Guard: The right guard position is the biggest hole on the offense as of right now. It could be filled by taking a tackle and sliding Todd Herremans back inside, but that doesn't solve the problem of depth behind the starting offensive linemen.
Chance Warmack is the top guard in the draft and will go in the top 10. He's got long arms, and very few flaws. The main thing I like about this guy though is it is very hard for opposing players to move him. Should all three top tackles be gone Warmack could be a possibility for the Eagles.
Alvin Bailey is another guard I'd like to see the Eagles target because he could turn into a solid starter. He's a bit of a weak pass blocker but he is a very good run blocker. He has slow feet but despite that he is surprisingly quick. I don't love him in the 3rd where he's slated to go, I'd rather take him in the 4th. If the Eagles pass on an offensive linemen in the 1st and Long in the 2nd, Bailey might have to be taken in the 3rd.

Center: I like Jason Kelce I think he's a solid center, and a hard worker. I don't think the Eagles need an upgrade here but because of what happened last year to the offensive line they're going to be grabbing some linemen, although I don't necessarily see the Eagles taking a center.
Matt Stankiewitch is a guy I like however. He should be available in the late rounds, and is a gritty player. Also played guard while at Penn State, he seems like a tough guy who battles all the way through a play.

So, forgetting about the defense for now and speaking strictly offensively, here's how I'd like to see the Eagles draft:
1st - OT
2nd - QB/OT/OG
3rd - OT/OG/RB
4th - WR/RB
5th - TE/WR
6th - NO PICKS
7th - C/WR/KR&PR/TE

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda!

With the draft drawing every closer and everyone speculating who is going to be taken where?, Who's going to move up?, Who's going to be the biggest winner?, etc, etc, etc... I thought it would be fun to look at the recent 1st round draft history of the Eagles and see how things could have turned out for Philadelphia. I'll start back at where I think the Eagles started to slide with regard to how they drafted (2007) and move forward.

Each year will be broken down like this:
1. History: Who we actually took and how they seemingly panned out.
2. Coulda: Who I think the Eagles should have targeted that year (focusing on the players available where where they picked), and then ultimately who I think they should have taken.
3. Woulda: Who the break out player was closest to where the Eagles actually had the ability to choose (roughly ten or so picks behind where the Eagles pick).
4. Shoulda: Just for fun a look at a player who was a late round pick or even undrafted who the looking back I wish the Eagles took a shot on.

No before everyone bites my head off and starts talking about the butterfly effect and altering the time space continuum I'm going to lay out how it's going to be done. First, we're going to assume that the Eagles draft spots from year to year didn't change. I'm not going into how these picks would have impacted the team in the past I merely want to see how the roster might look entirely different today. Secondly, I have the right to reverse any trades for 1st round picks. I know that alters who the Eagles would choose later but i'll make explanations as to how it effects the team or doesn't. Lastly, I'm going to assume that the Eagles made the majority of off-season acquisitions, unless I think a pick would have made an acquisition obsolete. AGAIN this is just for fun so try not to take this post too seriously.

Starting at 2007
History: The Eagles entered the draft with the 26th overall pick but traded it to Dallas for a 2nd (Kevin Kolb), a 3rd (Stewart Bradley), and a 5th (C.J. Gaddis).
Coulda: I really wanted the team to target an offensive linemen in this draft. We had Tra Thomas, Todd Herremans, Jamaal Jackson, Shawn Andrews, and John Runyan starting the previous year and I thought it was time to prepare for the departure of our aging tackles and possibly upgrade our center. So I really thought the two guys they should have been focusing on when they were on the clock were OT Joe Staley and OG Ben Grubbs. Given the fact that Andrews was hadn't had his breakdown yet and Herremans was still young I pick Joe Staley.
Woulda: Looking at the guys selected around the 26th pick I think the woulda pick would also have to be Staley. He's a 2x Pro-Bowler, and a 2x All Pro.
Shoulda: Ahmad Bradshaw, selected 250th overall in the 7th round he has became a solid back for the NY Giants. I think he would have complemented Westbrook and ultimately McCoy nicely, and additionally we would have avoided having to do with that Earth, Wind, and Fire trio in NY.

History: Again the Eagles traded out of the 1st round for the second time in a year. This time it was the 19th overall pick going to Carolina for their 2nd (traded again), 4th (Mike McGlynn), and 2009 1st round pick (28th).
Coulda: I again had the Eagles targeting some offensive linemen in Jeff Otah, Duane Brown and Sam Baker after Joe Staley stepped up to fill as Tra Thomas departed, and it was clear the writing on the wall was there for John Runyan. After thinking about Curtis Lofton at LB and Brandon Flowers to take over for the unhappy Sheldon Brown I decided to go with Duane Brown.
Woulda: I go back and forth between Brown, Flowers, and Lofton. The defense was still in it's good years then so I'll stick with Brown. He's gone on to make the Pro-Bowl as well as earn both 1st and 2nd team All-Pro honors.
Shoulda: Peyton Hillis, taken in the 7th (227) overall by the Denver Broncos he broke out onto the scene as a physical fullback who could be utilized for more then just blocking. Remeber how nice it was when Reid had Leonard Weaver? We'll could have had Hillis a year earlier.

History: '09 was actually one of the better drafts for the Eagles. They traded up from 21 to 19 to select Jeremy Maclin. Maclin has been solid for the Eagles since being drafted and despite his health scare in 2011.    On a side note, the Eagles struck gold in the 2nd round when then grabbed LeSean McCoy who has broken out and took over for Westbrook nicely. Also, Jason Peters would not be joining the Eagles because in 2008 we would not have traded our 1st round pick which later turned to the 28th overall pick used to acquire Peters from Buffalo. No matter we already drafted our two bookend tackles.
Coulda: This was a year a lot of fans were clamoring for Reid to draft another WR for Donovan to target even though I was among them I was eyeing other guys as well. It was unclear if Shawn Andrews was going to bounce back from his injury/depression, but at the time I think most expected him to return to his Pro-Bowl form. Alex Mack I saw as a guy who would solidify our offensive line. I also was checking out Vontae Davis to beef up our secondary, but we also brought in Ellis Hobbs to do that. While I did like Maclin I liked Percy Harvin a lot better. I liked the way DeSean Jackson was used and thought Harvin played almost as fast and thought that he and DJ would be nightmarish for teams to cover. Not to mention he'd give us another outstanding return man. So my pick goes to Percy Harvin.
Woulda: Seeing how every on turned out Alex Mack would have been the clear choice. We'd have gotten our franchise center, he's made the Pro-Bowl, and when Shawn Andrews couldn't resolve his issues we wouldn't have taken as big of a hit as we did. Imagine what'd he'd look like next to Joe Staley, (a questionable) Shawn Andrews, Todd Herremans, and Duane Brown WOW!
Shoulda: The obvious choice here is Arian Foster. Now think about that McCoy starting, Westbrook still on the roster, AND Foster. Defense wouldn't get winded before the half trying to chase these guys all over the field. If only Andy Reid would run the ball.

History: Still unknown here if this was a good 1st round pick of not. So far everything says no. Brandon Graham was selected 13th overall after the Eagles jumped up ahead in the draft again! This time from 24th when the traded with Denver.
Coulda: There were a TON of guys I liked in this years draft, and I got giddy after hearing that the Eagles had traded up. Jermaine Gresham, Mike Lupati, Sean Weatherspoon, Maurkice Pouncey, Dez Bryant, and dare I say it... the clear heir to the Eagles QB throne TIM TEBOW!!! (Just kidding back to reality). But the guy I really wanted, the apple of my eye in this draft Earl Thomas. With Dawkins gone, and with him the heart and soul of the defense, as the Eagles move on they move on with Earl Thomas.
Woulda: Maurkice Pouncey I think was the best player selected in the 10 pick limit after the Eagles drafted, butI think the obvious pick is still Earl Thomas. He's a defensive leader, a 2x Pro-Bowler, a 2x All-Pro, and the best replacement for Brian Dawkins. Nothing more to say.
Shoulda: It's clear that the shoulda pick for this year is Victor Cruz. He absolutely exploded onto the scene in New York and has since become an NFL sensation from his play to his touchdown dance. He would have been huge for the Eagles receiving corps.

History: This year's 1st round pick left me scratching my head. I know the Eagles have a hole at guard so I understood taking one. I just didn't get why Danny Watkins. So far he's been a bust, but there's still a chance he can turn it around. That wasn't my biggest concern, mine was that he was 27.
Coulda: For me this was a no brainier when I saw who was available at 23. QB Andy Dalton. With Kolb being traded to Arizona and Vick struggling last season made it clear we needed a plan for the future and we got it in Dalton.
Woulda: Jimmy Smith/Colin Kaepernick. CB Jimmy Smith would have provided the Eagles with depth at CB but with Samuel, Asomugha, and Rodgers-Cromartie on the roster it seems like a waste to use a first round pick on on. Kaepernick is obviously a woulda pick just based of what he did this past year in San Francisco. It's clear that he's very talented but we got Dalton instead.
Shoulda: I went all the way up to the 6th for my shoulda pick and there's two there DJ Smith (186th) and Jacquain Williams (202nd) both these LBs did really well for their teams in for 6th rounders. The Eagles linebackers have always been a point of weakness and taking a chance on one of these guys would have pay off.

History: It's too early to tell how well the Eagles did in this draft. Flectcher Cox (taken 12th overall) has shown quite a bit of promise in his rookie debut registering 5.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble.
Coulda: The offense is seemingly now set, the defense however has struggled. Dre Kirkpatrick was a guy I was high on because of the poor secondary play. Michael Brockers, Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram were all defensive linemen I was eyeing (along with Cox). I also considered David DeCastro at guard, but in the end I think I would have taken Fletcher Cox again he was the guy I was highest on last year when the Eagles we on the clock and I'm still just as high on him now.
Woulda: Could probably argue one way or another but I'm again sticking with Fletcher Cox.
Shoulda: This was EASY for me. It was a guy I was high on from the time the draft started being debated. Vontez Burficit. I liked the way he played from day one, he played mean and angry and I thought could be an immediate starter for the Eagles. His draft stock plummeted because of issues both on and off the field but I still thought a 5th round pick for a guy who was considered one of the best available linebackers in the draft  AND was originally projected as going as high as top 5!!! Turns out we could have got him for a 7th, and man oh man did he prove people wrong.

Having made smarter draft picks clearly would have left the Eagles in a much better position then what we are currently in. Heck it may have even saved Andy Reid's job. So what Coulda our team looked like today? (I know there's some questions as to what the defense will look like so don't beat me up for how I list players here). Just by going on the coulda picks let's see:

QB: Andy Dalton
HB: LeSean McCoy
Hback: James Casey
WRs: DeSean Jackson, Percy Harvin
OTs: Joe Staley, Duane Brown
OGs: Evan Mathis, Todd Herremans
C: Jason Kelce

DEs: Trent Cole, Brandon Graham
DTs, Fletcher Cox, Issac Sopoaga
LBs: Connor Barwin, DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks
CBs: Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher
SS: Patrick Chung
FS: Earl Thomas

Monday, April 8, 2013

Trading Back!!!

With the draft only a few weeks ahead of us everyone is speculating who the Eagles will select with the 4th overall pick this year. There seems to be a lot of buzz about Geno Smith being linked to the Eagles, and a lot of mock drafts have the them grabbing Smith to solidify their QB for the future. Yes it's true, when a new guy comes in and takes over a team he often looks for a guy who he can groom to be his on field general. However, I don't think Geno Smith is that guy. At least not at #4.

Everyone has been saying how this draft class is weak at the QB positions and it appears that every NFL team has taken notice as well. Recently more and more "QB needy" teams have been seen grabbing up players that have had past starting experience. The Bills signed Kevin Kolb, the Cardinals traded for Carson Palmer, and the Eagles even restructured Mike Vick's deal earlier this off season. What this tells me is that teams are gearing up NOT to rush and take a quarterback early on. In the case of the Eagles I hope it's true because there is SO MUCH talent at other positions in this draft class and Chip Kelly can afford to pass on it as he begins to rebuild this team.

So who does he take? I've come up with a short list of guys I think are "Chip Kelly Guys," players that fit what the mold of what he's come out and said he looks for in players. Guys who are:

1. Versatile. Kelly loves guys who cause match up nightmares. Who when they step on the field the other team doesn't know what to exactly expect. Kelly looks of multi-dimensional players  like James Casey who was brought in this off season already. But don't just think that only applies to the offense. Look for Kelly to target guys who can play all over the front 7 on defense.

2. Athletic. Coach Kelly has spoken out about how he wants guys that run. He's said that he likes to have his offense scoring with in two minutes of getting the ball. He runs a fast paced, up-tempo game and his players of going to have to be able to keep up in order for it to work and be successful.

3. BIG. "We want taller, longer, people because big people beat up little people." - Chip Kelly. That says it all AND MORE. Don't look for him to target guys who might need to add a few pounds or get stronger. He wants guys who right out of the gate are going to be ready to man handle opposing players. Also his quote gives me the suspicion that he's going to want guys who are BAD! I'm not talking about guys with off field problems or character issues. I'm talking about WARRIORS men that aren't to get dirty and battle it out. Guys who walk around the field with a little swagger because they know they are the toughest guy out there and they're going to prove it!

Ok, now who meets that criteria, AND deserves a the 4th over all pick? Well here's my list:

1. Eric Fisher - OT
2. Dee Milliner - CB
3. Lane Johnson - OT
4. Dion Jordan - OLB/DE
5. Star Lotulelei - DT *Star did have that medical issue at the combine but has since been cleared. He also may not be AS athletic as most would like, but his size, talent, and versatility should make up for that.

Why a title of Trading Back then? Well, with many other talented players going also available like Luke Joeckel, Chance Warmack, Ezekiel Ansah, Sharrif Floyd, etc... It's unlikely that every other team sees these 5 guys that Kelly would. Not to mention there are still teams that might be desperate enough to reach on Geno Smith in the top 5 or 10. I say we let the Draft work for us.

If you are Kelly and these are the five guys you are the most high on then you have to believe that they will all go in the top 10. I believe that if the Eagles we to drop back to the back half of the top 10 at either 7 or 8 they could still grab one of these five prospects. My guess is that Fisher would be gone at that point along with Jordan and Milliner. Meaning we'd have our pick between Lotulelei, and Johnson. Not bad!

It mean's getting Arizona or Buffalo to trade up. They both still have question marks at quarterback despite both teams acquiring a veteran this recently. Buffalo seems to have the bigger need there because Kolb has struggled in Arizona and hasn't played up to the hype he had around him when he was traded from Philadelphia. If the Bills can be enticed to trade up to #4 so they can get Geno Smith, then the Eagles could slide back to the 8th pick. This would not only allow Philly to grab a guy who fits their system but should also net them AT LEAST the Bills 2nd round pick in this years draft as well. However, after what we saw Washington give up in order to acquire RG3 last season I'm willing to be the Eagles could get get a little more then just the Bills 2nd.