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April: The Value In Versatility

No matter what these rookies do on either side of the ball in that first year, it's almost certain that if they make any impact at all it will be on special teams. The Eagles drafted a league-high 13 players last year and nine of them lined up and produced for Bobby April's special teams unit. Two of the most productive special teams players - safety Kurt Coleman and linebacker Jamar Chaney - were seventh-round picks who started on defense by season's end.

For April, the pre-draft scouting process begins immediately at the end of the season when general manager Howie Roseman provides a list of free agents to grade. After that, April receives a list of college specialists to grade. Lastly, April gets a list of "core players," ones who will play in all phases of special teams, and he grades those players. In all, April will write a report on nearly 70 players. On draft day, though, April watches the draft on TV from his office and is only brought into the draft room when there is a question about a prospect. If the Eagles draft someone that April has not watched, he will review the college tape after the pick has been made.

"If they gave me every guy, I would just be a scout," April said.

One factor that can't be gleaned from tape that will determine whether a player succeeds in the NFL is the mental game. April can tell from a player's attitude towards special teams whether he will be someone that makes the most of his physical talent.

"If you get a guy in here, and he's thinking about special teams, and he says, 'Geez, I gotta do this,' or you get a guy in here who goes, 'I get to do this!' (It makes) a significant difference in how they play," April said. "I don't care what their talent level is."

The Eagles have 10 draft picks, second-most in the NFL. With the wheeling-and-dealing that the Eagles are known for, who knows how many picks the Eagles will end up with. But no matter who is brought in, April will be responsible for helping those players make a quick first impression on the team through the special teams unit.

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