Every team loves its draft now, as it should. Teams spent 11 months preparing a list and adding young, talented players to the roster. What happens over the next days and weeks is just as important, though, as head coaches and general managers look to add competition and put together the best 53-man team it can have.
With that said, the Eagles selected 11 players over the course of three days and raised the talent pool here substantially. They also increase the number of questions we ask of this group that still has a lot to accomplish before training camp begins. Let's get to the questions ...
Who Will Be Immediate Contributors From Rookie Class?
First-round draft pick Danny Watkins is likely to take reps as the starting right guard the instant the Eagles line up in their first 2011 practice. The Eagles love his entire presentation, from the way he approaches the game to his intensity, to his maturity and intelligence off the field. Watkins is exactly what the Eagles need up front: athletic and physical and flat-out nasty.
Second-round pick Jaiquawn Jarrett could also be an impact player depending upon the Eagles' picture at safety. Right now, that picture is far from complete. Veteran Quintin Mikell could be an unrestricted free agent. Nate Allen is recovering from patellar tendon surgery. Safe to say that Jarrett will see a high number of reps in practice, as the Eagles see how much he can absorb within the scheme.
The Eagles have a lot of work to do at safety, for sure. Do they bring Mikell back into the fold? Do they sign a veteran in free agency? Do they go into a season with a rookie strong safety (Jarrett) battling a second-year man (Kurt Coleman) for the starting job, a second-year free safety (Allen) and a special-teams ace (Colt Anderson) rounding out the group? Is having so much youth a good thing?
Should fourth-round draft pick Alex Henery perform as he did as a record-setter in college, the Eagles could have something special. He is going to get a look as a placekicker, a punter and a kickoff man. With both David Akers and Sav Rocca without a contract at this very point in time, the Eagles had to cover themselves in the draft and they did so with a kicker who was heads and shoulders above the rest in the country.
The book on seventh-round draft pick Stanley Havili is impressive. He has excellent hands and is an athletic fullback. Not necessarily a bruiser like Owen Schmitt, Havili is more of threat with the football in his hands. If he is healthy and can withstand the punishment, Havili could give Schmitt a real run for the fullback job.
The rest of the draft class will have its opportunity to contribute and early playing time, but it's hard to see any emerging as an immediate starter.
Do The Eagles Still Have Holes Here?
Of course they do. They understood that the draft was only part of the puzzle. They're going to be active in free agency and could be in the trade route. From this perspective, here is the list of Eagles' needs that remain after the draft ...
- Right cornerback. Third-round draft pick Curtis Marsh is a fine prospect, and second-year man Trevard Lindley has a bright future, but the Eagles really need a shut-down player here. They need someone who can press, who can tackle and who can make plays on the football. Where do they find him? The Eagles didn't make a move to trade up in the first round, an indicator that they have a plan in place to address this position.
- Defensive end. Once Jim Washburn joined the Eagles, the speculation was wild that Tennessee Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin would follow. That remains to be seen, as Babin figures to be a highly-touted free agent. It would be a coup to get someone of that caliber, because the Eagles could use some help here. I'm not sure whether the Eagles can count on Brandon Graham at all this year. Victor Abiamiri is a talent who has had so many injuries. Juqua Parker is best suited to fewer snaps. Trent Cole needs some down time. Darryl Tapp figures to be a key guy, but the Eagles need more, and we don't know if CFL star Phillip Hunt is the answer.
- Clarity at linebacker. Who plays where? Is Stewart Bradley returning? Where do the Eagles play Jamar Chaney? How does rookie Casey Matthews fit in, along with Brian Rolle and Greg Lloyd, Jr.? It is all very intriguing.
- Kevin Kolb and his future will be a daily story once the league opens for business. He is going to be in demand, for sure. What will the Eagles do with their talented young backup quarterback?
- Of course, the kicker is the kickers' stories. Henery's presence is one of the most riveting angles for the team's kicking picture in a long, long time. I will say this: It makes sense to have Henery here. Neither Akers nor Rocca have contracts. What if the transition tag the Eagles assigned to Akers is deemed not valid, and he becomes an unrestricted free agent? What if the Eagles know that Akers' desired numbers are far, far out of the neighborhood of what the Eagles think he is worth? Don't they have to have the best next-step plan possible? The Eagles invested a lot of time in Henery -- sending special teams coordinator Bobby April to work out Henery and put him through the paces. The Eagles were obviously impressed. They loved Henery enough to use a fourth-round pick on him.
What Else Is On The Agenda?
The work stoppage is the dark cloud in the sky that doesn't appear ready to go away any time soon. The work stoppage is currently in effect, so players can't report to the NovaCare Complex until the situation is resolved. After the weekend respite, where we could all focus on the fun of the draft, we're back to watching the court system.
At least we can talk about the draft and the fallout from that. There is much more work to be done in this offseason, as the Eagles well know. They like this draft very much for the collective work ethic, toughness and talent. The more the Eagles learn about their newest players, though, the more adjustments they will make.
For now, the Eagles go back to the planning phase of the offseason.