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Fan-Demonium: Five Takeaways From Draft

Posted May 12, 2014

I like what the Eagles did in the draft. My primary goal was to add an athletic edge rusher. They did that when they took Marcus Smith with the 26th overall pick. I also wanted more weapons for the offense. The Eagles spent picks on a couple of very talented receivers. They used the rest of the picks to address depth on the defense. This is very much the kind of draft I was hoping for.

Rather than just throw out scouting reports, let's take a look at the draft in a few other ways ...

1. Eagles Went For A Senior-Laden Class

The 2014 draft set a record for the most underclassmen, but the Eagles used six of their seven picks on seniors. This wasn't specifically by design. If Jadeveon Clowney had fallen to the 22nd overall pick, I feel confident in saying the Eagles would have gladly taken him. Chip Kelly mentioned several times in his press conferences that the Eagles do place a value in players who have graduated or are about to graduate.

I don't think this has anything to do with academics, but it is more about the dedication it shows. Getting a college degree takes more work than brain power. If you study hard enough and complete your assignments on time, you will pass. Being a college athlete is time consuming. In order to thrive on the field and to graduate, a player needs focus, determination and discipline. Those are the kind of players whom Kelly wants to coach. You don't have to motivate them. You don't have to constantly remind them to work hard. Players like this "get it" and will do the little things it takes to succeed.

These players showed up on the field as well as in the classroom. Linebacker Marcus Smith led the NCAA in sacks per game (since teams play different amounts of games they keep track of this stat). Wide receiver Jordan Matthews finished his career as the leading receiver in SEC history. Wide receiver Josh Huff had 12 touchdown catches as a senior. This wasn't a bunch of bookworms. These guys were star players first and foremost.

2. There Are No Projects

The Eagles took players who should be able to contribute immediately. I didn't say start because the team's lineup is pretty good already. Kelly and the coaching staff will give the rookies a chance to win jobs, but it just isn't likely that any of them become full-time starters this year. They can be crucial role players and backups. Matthews and Huff will see a lot of time in three and four-receiver sets. That could make one of them somewhat like a starter.

None of the players selected has any major hurdles to overcome. The Eagles did their homework on cornerback Aaron Colvin and offensive lineman Brandon Thomas, but didn't take either guy. Both players are rehabbing torn ACLs. I don't know if the Eagles would have gone for them or not, but they instead focused on healthy players.

The players are all good scheme fits. Smith played 3-4 linebacker as a senior. Reynolds played behind a 3-4 front for his whole career. Hart played in almost the same system at Oregon. Nose tackle Beau Allen played in the 4-3 in the past, but was a 3-4 nose tackle as a senior. Jaylen Watkins is a cornerback, so the defensive scheme isn't all that pertinent to him.

Huff is a perfect fit for the offense since he played for Kelly at Oregon. Matthews is a good fit as well. He played in the slot some of the time at Vandy, a role which Kelly wants him for here. Matthews caught a lot of quick screens at Vandy. The Eagles love throwing the quick screen. Matthews should fit in right away.

The players all fit their roles. They have the appropriate size, athleticism and skill. The only real learning curve is adjusting to the pro game, which all rookies have to do. The Eagles also went for big-school guys once again. There won't be the shock factor that some small-school players have to deal with as they see the game played at its highest level.

Lawlor

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.

3. The Pass Defense Improved

Some fans remember the Saints game and the Eagles’ inability to stop the run and think that was what needed help. Not so. The pass defense is what needed help. The Eagles could have stopped the run more effectively in that game if they had better pass defenders and could have loaded the box more.

Some fans begged the Eagles to go get Louis Nix or another big nose tackle early. The Eagles are high on Bennie Logan. They think he can be a very good nose tackle. Go back and watch the Saints game. The biggest problem the run defense had was on off-tackle runs. Logan played better in that game than people realize.

Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis added players who should improve the pass defense. This started with the signings of safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Nolan Carroll in free agency. Now the Eagles add an athletic edge rusher in Smith. Hart had 11.5 sacks over the last two years. He also batted down eight passes in that time. Kelly likes big, tall linemen in part because they can get in the passing lanes and deflect passes. Allen can push the pocket.

Safety Ed Reynolds and Watkins can both help on the back end. Watkins has the tools to be a starting cornerback in the NFL. He really stood out to me at the Senior Bowl. The Eagles needed youth and depth at corner. Adding Watkins and Carroll helped a lot. Reynolds provides depth at safety. The Eagles didn't have good options last year when Earl Wolff was injured and Patrick Chung was banged up. Colt Anderson and Kurt Coleman were "try-hard" guys, but that's about it. Reynolds is bigger, faster and stronger than them. He could push for a starting job in the future, but for now Reynolds is a good insurance policy. He is a terrific tackler and that should also help on special teams.

4. The Eagles Got Bigger

Kelly likes big players. The Eagles continued getting bigger with this draft class. Smith is just under 6-foot-4 and he's got long arms. That is the kind of frame Kelly wants in his outside linebackers. Matthews is a big receiver. Huff is 5-foot-11, but he has a thick build. Huff weighed 205 pounds when he went to the Combine. That isn't fat, either. I saw Huff at the Senior Bowl weigh-in and he was cut.

Watkins and Reynolds both have good size for defensive backs. Hart adds length to the defensive line. Allen adds bulk.

5. Visits Mattered

Kelly mentioned in his press conferences how impress he and the staff were with the players in the meetings they had with the guys prior to the draft. All but Huff reportedly came to Philly for a visit. Some will tell you that visits don't matter, but clearly that wasn't the case this year. I think that ties in to the earlier point about these being smart, dedicated players. They were impressive on tape, but maybe more so in person. Kelly went on and on about how Matthews blew them away in his visit. Kelly also mentioned Watkins and Reynolds as being guys who were very impressive.

The Eagles use the visits to talk football with the prospects. They want to watch tape of the player and have him explain what is going on and why he did what he did. They are trying to determine the football IQ of the players. Kelly is a huge believer in having smart guys. They are easier to coach and allow you to do more complex things if you want to.

The Eagles also present information to the prospects early in the meeting and then later quiz them on it. They are trying to see how well the player listens and pays attention, as well as how well the player retains what he is taught.

The visits angle also ties in to the point that Kelly is trying to create a certain culture with the Eagles. He needs the right kind of players on the field and the right kind of guys off it. It sure looks like the 2014 draft class will be an excellent fit in both areas.

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