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Instant Impact: Look At 2011 Draft

Posted Jan 5, 2012

With the once bustling locker room at NovaCare Complex now vacant, the offseason is upon us. In the coming months, the team will look to restock and reload through free agency and the draft in preparation for the 2012 season. With 2011 in the books, we can now take a look back at how last year’s acquisitions were able to contribute on the football field starting with the draft.

Even with the Eagles’ flurry of free agent activity in 2011, the draft, orchestrated by general manager Howie Roseman, played an integral role last season.

The team was tied for first in the NFC and tied for third in the entire league for the most games started by 2011 draft picks. Each member of the draft class remains on the team's offseason roster.

The Eagles had three draft picks start at least 12 games; not including Alex Henery who served as the team’s only placekicker throughout the season. No team that is currently in the playoffs had more than two picks from last year’s draft start 12 contests. The Eagles’ draft selections also appeared in more games than rookies on any other NFC team (and second in the league overall), with the 11 players averaging 10 appearances each.

The following is a summary of the performances of each of the Eagles’ 2011 draft picks and how each will figure in the 2012 season.

G Danny Watkins, First Round (No. 23 overall)

Despite his high pre-draft rating, Watkins was not a traditional first-round pick. The 6-3 Canuck grew up playing hockey in his hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia and did not pick up football until 2007, when he was recruited to join his college (Butte) team as a 22-year-old freshman. After transferring to Baylor for his final two years, Watkins was drafted as a 26-year-old and was penciled in to start at right guard for the Eagles.

Without the luxury of offseason minicamps, Watkins struggled to keep up early on, losing his starting spot to offensive line coach Howard Mudd-disciple Kyle DeVan prior to the regular season opener. However, by Week 5, he had worked his way back into the starting lineup. Ever since, he has been a tenacious run blocker and made tremendous strides in his pass protection for an offensive line that has developed into one of the best in the league. Next season, he will return as the Eagles’ right guard.

S Jaiquawn Jarrett, Second Round (No. 54 overall)

A hard-hitting safety who played his college ball at Lincoln Financial Field for the Temple Owls, Jaiquawn Jarrett was able to make an impact late in the season, when he stepped in for an injured Kurt Coleman. The rookie started two games in 2011 and recorded a season-best eight tackles in the regular season finale against Washington. With that performance carrying him into the offseason, Jarrett will look to win a full-time starting job in 2012.

CB Curtis Marsh, Third Round (No. 90 overall)

A player with great potential, Marsh spent much of 2011 on the team’s inactive list on gamedays, learning from the three Pro Bowl corners and veteran nickel cornerback who were positioned ahead of him on the depth chart. One of the more physically-gifted players on this Eagles team, the rangy corner will continue to master his craft in the hopes of working his way into the rotation at cornerback next season.

LB Casey Matthews, Fourth Round (No. 116 overall)

As was the story with most of the rookies in the league last season, Casey Matthews struggled early in the season due to the lack of preparation in the lockout-shortened offseason. Matthews began the year as the team’s starter at middle linebacker and was moved to the weak side before making a mark on special teams. However, the Oregon-alum worked his way back into a major role on the defense by year’s end and became a starter in the nickel package. In the final four weeks of the season, Matthews led all Eagles linebackers with 20 combined tackles.

K Alex Henery, Fourth Round (No. 120 overall)

Alex Henery has been one of the brightest young stars from this year’s NFL draft class. He set the NCAA record for accuracy, converting 89.5 percent of his field goals in college. The former Nebraska Cornhusker has continued to break records at the pro level. This season, he the mark for the highest field goal percentage by a rookie kicker in NFL history, hitting 89.9 percent of his field goal attempts, which is also a new franchise record. Henery ended the year connecting on his final 16 field goal attempts, which is the third-longest streak in team history. With 118 points in 2011, Henery also set the rookie franchise record for scoring.

RB Dion Lewis, Fifth Round (No. 149 overall)

Lewis had a tough time getting carries in 2011, because, frankly, the coaches did not want to take the ball out of Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy’s hands. Lewis, however, was able to impress in his 23 carries as a rookie, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and scoring a touchdown in Week 17. Lewis also was an integral part of the special teams unit as the kickoff return specialist. Lewis registered 669 kickoff return yards in 2011.

G Julian Vandervelde, Fifth Round (No. 161 overall)

Billed as a perfect fit for Mudd’s blocking scheme, Julian Vandervelde assumed a redshirt role with the team, learning under the offensive line mastermind while taking a back seat to veteran backups King Dunlap and Jamaal Jackson. The Iowa-alum is a versatile player who can play all three interior spots on the offensive line. A technically sound lineman, Vandervelde learned from one of the preeminent offensive line coaches in college in Kirk Ferentz. He will battle for an extended role in 2012.

C Jason Kelce, Sixth Round, (No. 191 overall)

Jason Kelce was one of the pleasant surprises of the 2011 draft class. Weighing in at 280 pounds at the Scouting Combine, the quick-footed center would be considered undersized for most team’s offensive lines. The Eagles were not one of those teams. Kelce caught the eye of coach Mudd, who was impressed with his athleticism and maturity. The Cincinnati-alum started every game in 2011, anchoring one of the best lines in the NFL. Kelce’s quickness and athleticism allowed him to get to the second and third lines of the defense in the run and pass game. He battled and held his own against some of the league’s elite nose tackles including Dallas’ Jay Ratliff. With an entire offseason to fine tune his game, Kelce could take his game to the level of the league’s best centers next season.

LB Brian Rolle, Sixth Round (No. 193 overall)

Brian Rolle, like Jason Kelce, had a productive college career, but was overlooked by NFL talent-evaluators because of his lack of prototypical size. Listed at 5-10 and 227 pounds, the Ohio State-alum quickly made a name for himself in Philadelphia, notching 2.5 sacks in the final two games of the preseason. In Week 4, Rolle overtook the weakside linebacker position for the remainder of the season.  Against Chicago, Rolle forced and recovered a fumble on the same play before returning the fumble for a touchdown. He finished with 63 tackles and a sack along with five pass knockdowns in coverage. Rolle will battle for a starting role in 2012.

LB Greg Lloyd, Seventh Round (No. 237 overall)

Lloyd spent much of the season on the practice squad before being promoted to the 53-man active roster in late November. While he did not participate in any of the Eagles’ 16 games this season, he hopes to earn a spot in the linebacker rotation moving forward.

FB Stanley Havili, Seventh Round (No. 240 overall)

Stanley Havili caught 116 passes for 1,290 yards and 12 touchdowns in his four years at USC. He spent all of 2011 on the practice squad and will fight for a spot on the 53-man roster next year. The Eagles believe that he could provide yet another target in an already dangerous passing offense and will look to get him involved next season especially with starting fullback Owen Schmitt set to become an unrestricted free agent in March.

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