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Eagles On Track In Draft

Posted May 10, 2014

Chip Kelly doesn't subscribe to the “instant-analysis” theory that follows the NFL draft. He knows it will take three or four seasons to truly know how successful the Eagles were during a weekend that saw them draft seven players and make four trades before diving into the rookie free-agent pool …

Months of preparation preceded the draft weekend, and the Eagles used that time well. They organized their draft board, worked the phones relentlessly and set up scenarios for anything that might come their way during the seven rounds of fury.

The verdict? To be determined, as Chip Kelly suggested when he met the media for the final time late on Saturday after the Eagles made Wisconsin defensive tackle Beau Allen their seventh draft pick. We can only judge by what we know, and what we know is that the Eagles moved around the draft deftly and targeted the players they wanted and that those who submitted personnel grades on the draft prospects emerged pleased with the performance.

All Kelly would say is that the Eagles are "closer" to the goal of having a great roster than they were a year ago. While the Eagles added some rookie pieces, they know that some of the players won't develop to the level they want and some will perhaps exceed previous expectations. A huge part of this process is, of course, the developmental phase, the coaching success and the willingness of the young men to put forth every bit of effort to become great football players.

That's all in the future, though. It's draft weekend, and the aftermath of the draft is a time for fans to dream of where the roster additions might fit, and for the coaches to anticipate their first in-person, touch-and-feel experiences with the rookies.

What do we know about the draft, 2014? We know that the Eagles moved early and added a third-round draft pick to step back four spots in the first round, and that with the 26th pick in the first round the Eagles selected Marcus Smith, an outside linebacker from Louisville who impressed the Eagles with his production (14. 5 sacks as a senior), athletic ability, football intelligence and, as the coaches say, “upside” potential. Smith will try to work his way into the defensive picture in 2014.

Two receivers were next off the board, Jordan Matthews in the second round and Josh Huff in Round 3. Both were extremely productive in college and they'll be asked to fit into the passing game here, and likely to do so in a hurry. Kelly said that Matthews would work first from the slot, and as a 6-foot-3 target he could be an inviting presence in the offense. Huff needs to show the coaching staff that he can contribute inside and outside, and perhaps the Eagles will move him around and get him the ball in a variety of ways, just as he was employed at Oregon.

Day 3, Saturday, was all about defense. The Eagles bolstered competition along the defensive line by adding Oregon's Taylor Hart and Wisconsin's Beau Allen. Florida's Jaylen Watkins is a fourth-round draft pick who played well in his  SEC career with and who has the requisite athletic ability to challenge the already-solid group the Eagles have at cornerback. Stanford safety Ed Reynolds adds to the completion at the made-over deep secondary, already addressed in free agency with the signings of Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Maragos.

Immediate takeaways? Kelly made sure to bring in what he thinks are good fits to add to a weapon-rich offense, and then the Eagles turned the rest of their draft attention to the defense. Along the way, the Eagles dealt running back Bryce Brown to Buffalo for a conditional draft pick in 2015, keeping an eye on the future.

Kelly listed characteristics like intelligence, football IQ, athletic ability, competitiveness and versatility when he spoke about each draft pick and those are all worthy trademarks for successful players at the highest level of the game.

It went as the Eagles anticipated. The players came off the board as they predicted, for the most part, and they were able to go up and down through the rounds to add a draft pick for 2014 and another for either 2015 or 2016 (from Buffalo in the Brown deal). How many of the rookies will contribute? How many will need time to find their footing in the NFL? Just how much impact will the Class of 2014 have for an Eagles team coming off an NFC East-winning season that has been aggressive and focused and daring in the offseason?

The rookies will be in Philadelphia on Monday and on the field over the weekend for their first camp. It's a crash course in the way the Eagles do things, and it will give the coaching staff their first reps to evaluate the kids.

For now, the Eagles are pleased. They addressed some needs and they stayed true to their draft evaluations and they added young talent to the roster. The team is moving in the right direction, and at the same time keeping eyes open to add pieces to improve the roster.

The work is really never done. A lot of time and effort was put into a busy draft weekend that went as the Eagles planned, and that's the best news of all.

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