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How Does Draft Class Fit Here?

Posted May 3, 2011

Not all of them are going to be Pro Bowl players. Nor will they all become starters. Heck, not each of the 11 2011 Eagles draft picks will make the 53-man roster ...

But the Eagles scored big over the weekend, adding what general manager Howie Roseman described as a "meat-and-potatoes" class of players heavy on offensive linemen (3) and linebackers (3) and flavored with a cornerback, a safety, a halfback, a fullback and a kicker. With so much more to go in the offseason as the Eagles look to shape the roster into the best it can be, it is very difficult to project how these rookies factor into the equation.

Let's give it a shot. In these post-draft days, there isn't a whole lot else to do ...

DANNY WATKINS, OG  Round 1

The Eagles stayed put at No. 23 and went with Danny Watkins, a left tackle at Baylor who projects to guard here. Look for Watkins to line up immediately as the team's first-string right guard when the team opens its post-draft mini-camp, whenever that will be. He brings toughness and a physical style of play to the offensive line and right guard happens to be a huge position of need for this team. Watkins has real-life maturity, something that impressed the Eagles very much.

So they expect to get immediate impact from their first-round draft choice. That's a good thing. He has a lot to learn, so the faster he can get onto the practice field, the better. New line coach Howard Mudd has a talented new toy for his offensive line.

JAIQUAWN JARRETT, S Round 2

There certainly is a chance that Jaiquawn Jarrett becomes a starter very quickly at strong safety. There is also a chance that he spends much of his rookie season in a development phase, learning from an older veteran (Quintin Mikell, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent?) or a young veteran (Kurt Coleman?). So much depends on how quickly Jarrett learns the defense and grows into the role.

The Eagles like how physical he is and they like his intangibles. They love the way he plays. Clearly, the Eagles are expecting a lot from the young man who graduated early from Temple University. How quickly does he make an impact here? Could be right away, or it could be down the line. There are a lot of variables at the position, so Jarrett's immediate role is not easy to define.

CURTIS MARSH, CB Round 3

March is a prospect, so don't expect him to walk into a starting role. It's going to take him some time, perhaps, but the Eagles have a lot of confidence in his skills. Marsh has long arms and good speed, and his frame -- he is 6 feet 1 -- make him a player worth watching.

The Eagles' situation at cornerback has been scrutinized throughout the offseason. They must improve at the right cornerback position. Whether that means they look toward a veteran to acquire or improving from within -- Trevard Lindley is expected to take a major step forward in the offseason -- is the question here.

CASEY MATTHEWS, LB Round 4

While it is his name that attracts most fans, Casey Matthews' game is what the Eagles like. Matthews is an effort player and a versatile one at that. He has great desire and intensity and he was always around the football at Oregon. To transition to the NFL, Matthews has to get stronger and he has to find the right fit in the Eagles' defense. It's probably not fair to anticipate that Matthews is an immediate starter, but who knows? The Eagles have uncertainty within the group with Stewart Bradley potentially becoming an unrestricted free agent and with Ernie Sims likely headed to free agency, the Eagles may have some starting spots to fill.

Coverage is the key to Matthews' success, and if he can come in and play the WILL spot and show he can cover backs, he will find a job here.

At the very least, Matthews has a chance to come here and learn all three positions and also help on special teams. At the very most, well, who would ever count a Matthews out?

ALEX HENERY, K Round 4

There is so much intrigue with Alex Henery, the most accurate kicker in the history of the NCAA and blessed with a huge leg and enormous talent. Henery did his work at windy, lousy-weather Nebraska, and to excel in Philadelphia he will have to best the windy conditions at Lincoln Financial Field. Of course, Henery's presence is one part of the equation here and David Akers' situation is the other part.

What does the selection of Henery mean for Akers? Or for punter Sav Rocca, for that matter? Akers was given the transition tag by the Eagles prior to the work stoppage, so when all of this labor mess is straightened out the Eagles will find out if that tag remains valid. Rocca could be an unrestricted free agent, depending upon the new rules put in place.

The Eagles made sure to get their guy, Henery, even though some thought the fourth round was too early.

"I think it's hard to find guys that, when you're looking on your draft board in the fourth round, and go, 'This guy may be in the Pro Bowl.' This guy has special talent when you're picking there," said Roseman. "There are some unknowns with what's going to happen with the rules, and when you an opportunity to protect yourself there, where right now you don't know who is going to be under contract, with a player with this talent level, it makes you feel secure."

DION LEWIS, RB Round 5

LeSean McCoy is the starter here and there is no debate about that. He is a Pro Bowl-level running back and a huge key to the offense. And behind McCoy is Jerome Harrison, who may or may not be an unrestricted free agent this year. The Eagles tendered him at a compensation level of a second-round draft pick. The third halfback here is Eldra Buckley, a hard-charging back who has excelled on special teams here.

The Eagles selected Dion Lewis in the fifth round because they simply couldn't pass on a player who was so productive at Pittsburgh. Lewis is a smallish back, but has terrific vision and instincts and he has enough burst to take the football to the house. His durability at Pittsburgh was beyond question, and his receiving skills were excellent.

There is going to be competition here, no question about it. Harrison was a productive back when handed the ball last season and Buckley plays a mean special teams. What can Lewis bring to the table to show that he belongs?

JULIAN VANDERVELDE, OG Round 5 

Tough, hard-nosed and versatile enough to play guard and center, Julian Vandervelde has a chance to make it here. The Eagles obviously wanted to get stronger up the middle. Todd Herremans has the job at left guard, but he also has to be healthy for the long haul. Jamaal Jackson and Mike McGlynn are going to challenge each other for the starting job at center. Watkins comes in as a leading candidate to play right guard.

The Eagles need depth, and Vandervelde is here to prove he can play at that level. I asked one Eagles' personnel person the other day who might be the Jamar Chaney of this draft, the guy who comes from late in the draft and who makes an impact when given the chance. He said Vandervelde.

We shall see. He started at Iowa and has strength and experience.

JASON KELCE, C Round 6

An illness sapped Jason Kelce of some of his weight and strength in the post-season workouts but the Eagles saw enough of him at Cincinnati to get him in the sixth round of the draft. He is going to play in the range of 285 pounds with good quickness and the ability to line up at center and at guard. Kelce has to beat out some experienced players to make it here, namely someone like McGlynn. The Eagles need a swing player for the guard/center role.

BRIAN ROLLE, LB Round 6

This is a really interesting guy, because his physical dimensions aren't prototypical in the NFL, but his production in college surely was. Brian Rolle gets to the football and is a disruptive player. He is likely to be given a good look at the weak side, which means he and Keenan Clayton, a fourth-round draft pick a year ago, could be in competition for a roster spot.

Rolle has overcome the size thing his entire football life. He played at a high level at Ohio State and is a good tackler and aggressive player. The Eagles have some good competition at all three linebacker spots.

GREG LLOYD, LB Round 7

At 6 feet 1, 246 pounds, Greg Lloyd is big enough to play inside or to line up at SAM linebacker. He recovered from a knee injury to shine at the East-West Shrine Game and the Eagles loved what they saw. The picture at SAM is this: Moise Fokou is the starter there, and veteran newcomer Rashad Jeanty hopes to resurrect his career here as a slammer on special teams and at SAM.

Lloyd is going to be given a look, of course. He is healthy and hungry for the opportunity as the Eagles potentially go with a very young group at linebacker. They wanted to make over the defense in a matter of two offseasons and they are part of the way there. Free agency remains.

STANLEY HAVILI, RB Round 7  

It's interesting that the Eagles listed Stanley Havili as a running back, rather than a fullback, after the draft. He has running back skills, but at 227 pounds he is sturdy enough to play fullback. The Eagles keep only one fullback on the roster, so to make it Havili will have to beat out Owen Schmitt for a job.

Havili caught 84 passes at USC and ran the ball fairly well. He has to show that he can block here, and he has to demonstrate that an injury to his shoulder, which required surgery and knocked him down in the draft rankings, will not be a problem.

If he is healthy and ready to go, Havili will challenge Schmitt, who did a fine job last year when Leonard Weaver was injured. Weaver, based on his injury and reports of where he is in his rehab, is a long ways away from returning to the fold here.

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