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Fan-Demonium: The Mystery Of Chip Kelly

Posted Apr 5, 2015

Time really does fly. It seems like the 2014 season just ended and now we're only a few weeks away from the NFL Draft. For a variety of reasons, I am as excited about this draft as any in recent memory.

The most obvious angle of interest with the upcoming draft is that we get to see how things go with Chip Kelly running the show. The draft board will be put together by Kelly, Ed Marynowitz and the Eagles’ scouting department, but there is no question about who the decision-maker is. Good, bad or otherwise, this is Kelly's show.

I think it would be fair to say that Kelly caught people off-guard with his free agency moves and trades. I don't recall anyone who predicted that Sam Bradford would be handing the ball to DeMarco Murray in midnight green. With that in mind, the draft should be pretty darn interesting. There is conventional wisdom and then there is the reality of Chip Kelly.

Just about everyone in the football world is dying for Kelly to move up and draft Marcus Mariota. Kelly has dismissed the idea of a blockbuster trade, but we have to acknowledge that we don't really know what to expect. Can you imagine the Eagles moving up in the draft and taking someone other than Mariota? I think we have to acknowledge that is possible. Expect the unexpected, right?

For whatever reason, I don't anticipate the Eagles moving up. I expect Mariota to go off the board early and there isn't another prospect who I think Kelly will covet and want to use multiple resources on. Of course, I could be way off with my thinking. As we are learning right now, Kelly sees the world very differently from us.

Trying to figure out who Kelly might covet is tough. He's said multiple times that he thought Odell Beckham, Jr. was the best player in last year's draft. Beckham went 12th overall so Kelly's extreme praise for him means something. Eleven teams had a chance to draft him and went in another direction. Beckham wasn't the biggest, fastest or most productive receiver. Still, there was something about him that Kelly saw and loved. If the right player falls, Mariota or someone else, maybe Kelly will turn aggressive and go get his man.

Kelly preaches the importance of character, but there are some prospects who are tough to judge. Cornerback Marcus Peters was kicked off the Washington football team during the 2014 season. Still, the coaches went out of their way to be fair to him in the media and he was allowed to take part in their Pro Day. Kelly once had to discipline a star at Oregon, LeGarrette Blount, but didn't turn his back on the young man. That worked out well for the both of them. Is Peters someone whom Kelly would rule out or might he be willing to take a chance on him?

I could see Kelly being open to a young man like Peters. Dorial Green-Beckham seems like more of a long shot. He was kicked out of Missouri after a very serious legal incident. Green-Beckham transferred to Oklahoma. He never played for them before turning pro, but the coaching staff went out of their way to praise him for how he fit in there. That means something, but it doesn't erase the incident at Missouri, where Green-Beckham allegedly pushed a young woman down some stairs. There were also multiple drug incidents involving the police. Green-Beckham has rare size and ability so you can't just dismiss him without giving him some consideration. I just think there is too much risk with him and Kelly will pass. If there were no character issues, the Eagles likely would fantasize about getting him with the 20th pick.


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

We think we know Kelly, but there is still a lot to learn. This draft will help us to get an even better idea of what Kelly wants in players. Depending on what situations arise, we'll see how he handles some interesting choices.

Beyond the Kelly side of things, this is an exciting draft because the team can go in so many different directions. This is a talented class of receivers. After losing Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles could easily go for someone like Jaelen Strong from Arizona State. We see young receivers step in and contribute on a regular basis these days (Jordan Matthews) so that could be an instant impact pick.

There are several offensive linemen who could be of interest. Brandon Scherff (Iowa), La'el Collins (LSU) and T.J. Clemmings (Pitt) are all offensive tackles the Eagles could draft and try at right guard. All three are very physical blockers who can be dominant in the run game. At least one of them should still be on the board when the Eagles pick.

I don't think anyone who watched the 2014 defense would object to the team going for a stud cornerback at pick 20. Trae Waynes (Michigan State) and Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest) are the top two corners. They might be gone by 20. The Eagles could still go for Byron Jones (Connecticut), Eric Rowe (Utah) or Peters, the player I mentioned above. All five of those players have the size and skill set to be good starters in the Eagles’ scheme.

What about quarterback? Mariota is the headliner when it comes to the Eagles. It's possible that they stay at 20 and go for Brett Hundley from UCLA. He has terrific size and athleticism. Hundley has big-time potential. He would be an interesting fit in Kelly's offense. What if Kelly has some other quarterback whom he loves? He would shock the world if he went for Bryce Petty of Baylor in the first round.

The only real hole in the Eagles’ lineup right now is at safety. The team lost Nate Allen in free agency. There are several in-house candidates, but no one stands out as a definitive front runner. This is a spot where a rookie will have a shot to play right away. The problem is that there aren't many top safeties in this class. Alabama star Landon Collins is the big name, but he doesn't have the skills to fit what the Eagles like to do so I don't think he'll be in consideration.

The Eagles could get creative. Byron Jones and Eric Rowe spent time at both safety and corner in their college careers. Those guys could play either spot in the NFL. The Eagles could try them at safety. If that doesn't work, move them back to corner. There is also a player named Shaq Thompson. He played mostly linebacker at Washington, but also saw time at running back and safety. Thompson is a gifted athlete with football skills and good instincts. He was a big-time playmaker for the Huskies. He's not ideal for the Eagles’ defense, but if Kelly ever wanted to take a chance on a unique talent, Thompson could be it.

I don't have a good feel for what the Eagles are going to do right now. That's a big part of what makes this so much fun. There is the mystery of Chip Kelly. The Eagles also gave themselves options with all of the signings and trades they made. This isn't a team that “must draft X.” They can go in a variety of directions. All options are on the table.

I can't wait to see what they do.

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