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Draft Wrap: Depth In Numbers

I know that everyone wants to project how Danny Watkins will fit in along the offensive line, and how quickly Jaiquawn Jarrett can make an impact at safety and, of course, what Alex Henery's selection means to the future of David Akers at kicker. I know that the immediate reaction is to have an immediate opinion.

Can't do it here. It isn't going to work that way with this draft. I can't even answer how much of an impact this player or that player will have, in large part because the picture is going to change when the NFL is open for business and free agency begins.

On the surface, hey, what the Eagles did in 2011 was really interesting. They stayed true to their board with the first three picks and took Watkins, Jarrett and cornerback Curtis Marsh, and then they moved around and had some fun on Saturday with a handful of trades that hatched a ton of speculation.

Why a kicker? Where does linebacker Casey Matthews, the most recognizable name of the draft bunch, fit into Juan Castillo's defense? A young roster averaging a shade over 26 years of age entering the draft, the Eagles became a whole lot younger and more vital after three days of picking players.

The theme of the selections, at least one of them to me, is that the Eagles wanted to continue to add physical players and toughness and intelligence. Would you say there was a "speed" theme here? I wouldn't. The Eagles have their speed, certainly on offense, and they wanted to supplement that with hard-nosed football players who are going to come in and challenge for roster spots and playing time.

It was as conventional a draft as Andy Reid has had in some time. Usually a mover and shaker with general manager Howie Roseman as the running mate, Reid kept his moves relatively quiet. The team picked up a fourth-round draft pick in 2012 along the way, but for the most part the Eagles concentrating on picking the best players where they were in the draft.

The toughest part here is that this is only part of the puzzle. There are still needs -- can the Eagles improve their defensive line and their pass-rush punch? Do they need a space-eater inside at defensive tackle? Will the Eagles go after a big-time target at cornerback?

For the record, the Eagles selected three offensive linemen, three linebackers, one cornerback, one safety, one kicker, one fullback and one running back.

How many of them will play right away, in some way, shape or form? Watkins has the best shot, of course. He has every chance to start at right guard as a nasty, physical terrific upgrade over Max Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole. Jarrett's picture is more complicated. Does Quintin Mikell, a pending unrestricted free agent, return? And if he doesn't, will Kurt Coleman step up in his second season?

The most intriguing selection was Henery, the highest-rated placekicker in the draft, The Eagles used a fourth-round pick on Henery -- described as a "kicker/punter" by Reid -- and his selections raised immediate questions about the future of David Akers, who was tendered a transition tag by the Eagles prior to the work stoppage, and punter Sav Rocca, who could be a free agent when the labor situation is settled.

What to make of it all? Good stuff. Fun, interesting and -- most important -- only part of the equation here. Reid and Roseman continued their theme of adding players who "love to play the game" and of having brought in players who "like to mix it up."

It is far, far too premature to speculate on the roster, because the Eagles figure to be active in free agency. Reid insists that he "hasn't gone there" regarding Akers' future with the team. Because there is no new collective bargaining agreement, there is no knowing if the transition tag the Eagles assigned to Akers will be valid when the labor smoke clears.

The Eagles trusted their board and their scouts and they went with the players they felt will come in and attack the responsibility of playing in the NFL.

Why not a defensive lineman? Hey, the Eagles can still go out and add free agents and they can trade for players and they can give new line coach Jim Washburn some toys. What happens with Kolb? There is going to be a market, for sure. Whether the Eagles trade him, we don't know. But there are going to be teams who want to talk to the Eagles about Kolb, so that is going to be an important order of business when the NFL permits such business.

I'd love to tell you how this whole thing is going to work, but nobody knows. It is far more unpredictable than in the past, no question about it. Free agency is a huge factor here, and it had to play a factor in how some of the names came off the board around the league.

This is Phase 1 of the player-personnel portion of the offseason. The Eagles signed 11 players, and on the surface the draft class has great ability and you can see how some of the names might fit in here moving forward.

"We've got a pretty good plan for free agency when it happens," said Reid. "We'll go back and evaluate these players again at that time and see how they factor in."

The Eagles have their plan and they have more evaluations to do. Reid said the Eagles would "plug holes" when free agency begins. He dodges the question of whether he expects the Eagles to be "major players" in free agency, and that's the right way to approach the question of the moment.

Why make any promises now when he doesn't know how the landscape is going to look in free agency? Are players going to be free agents after four years in the league or after six seasons? What is the salary cap?

We have a long way to go in this offseason. The Eagles are off to a fine start after three days of the NFL draft. The puzzle is coming together, but it remains a fragmented work in progress right now.

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