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Fan-Demonium: Your Draft Questions Answered


I get a lot of questions from Eagles fans on all kinds of subjects. I thought I'd answer some of the more popular ones here …

The Eagles and TE Brandon Pettigrew

There is quite a bit of discussion on the Eagles message boards about whether the Eagles would take a player like Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew or whether they even should take him. Andy Reid has tended to go toward pass-catching tight ends (Chad Lewis, L.J. Smith and Brent Celek).

Going after Pettigrew would be somewhat of a first. There is good logic for the move. Pettigrew is 6-5 and 263 pounds. That is a big frame. He's an outstanding blocker. Very few tight ends enter the league with his kind of blocking ability. Pettigrew is also a gifted receiver. He has good hands. He can make tough catches. He's the kind of big, physical player that doesn't need to be open. You can get the ball to him with a defender all over him and Pettigrew can still make the catch.

Pettigrew would offer instant impact in the running and passing game. He's a good enough blocker that he would help on runs to his side, whether just off-tackle or all the way outside. He can take on defensive ends and hold his ground. He can get push when taking on linebackers. People argue that you can add a blocker later in the draft. There is a flaw in that thinking. If you put in a guy who is purely a blocker, the defense knows you are going to run. The beauty of having a guy like Pettigrew is that he can catch or block. Defenses don't know what to expect when he's on the field.

I think Pettigrew would help in the red zone because of his size. He could be very effective on play-action fakes. He can also shield away defenders almost the way a basketball player can box out an opponent. That would give Donovan McNabb someone to throw the ball to even when he's covered.

The main argument against Pettigrew is that he only runs in the 4.8 range and isn't a special athlete. My answer to that is that I don't think we need an athletic tight end to be successful. Pettigrew is big and strong. He can get away with not being fast. If he were smaller, I'd agree that the Eagles should pass on him. Some people also wonder why a guy with his size and ability didn't catch any touchdown passes last year. How could he help in the red zone if he didn't score as a senior? Oklahoma State is one of the few teams that uses the spread offense, but prefers to run out of it. They ran for 38 touchdowns. When they did throw, the majority of passes went to star wideout Dez Bryant. He caught 19 touchdown passes last year. We'll talk about him as a possible Eagles target next April. Pettigrew just wasn't a primary option based on the system they ran and the players around him. He absolutely has the ability to be a good red zone target.

I won't tell you that Pettigrew is a likely Eagles pick, but don't dismiss the idea. Reid can look back at the 2008 season and see a couple of games where the Eagles might have won if there was a better blocker on the field. That hasn't really been the case in the past. There is no guarantee Pettigrew will even last to the 21st pick. If he does, the Eagles need to at least seriously consider taking him.

Are The Eagles Wide Receivers Good Enough?

Obviously I get quite a few questions about the Eagles and receivers. Will they trade for a veteran? Will they take a receiver in the first round? Should they get a playmaker or a big guy?

Let's start with this idea.

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The Eagles like the current group. DeSean Jackson looks like a stud. He could become a special player if he keeps moving in the right direction. Kevin Curtis is an above-average starter on the other side. Jason Avant is a very good slot receiver. He lacks the speed to be a threat on the outside, but he is very good in the middle. Hank Baskett played well last year. I'm sure the coaches would like to see him take the next step and play at an even higher level. Can he be more than a role player? Don't forget about Reggie Brown. He didn't play much last year due to circumstances. Brown doesn't lack talent. He isn't a fan favorite, but Brown could be right back in the mix as a key receiver. The coaches know what they have in Jackson and Curtis. They can now figure out how best to use Brown in tandem with those guys. The other possibility is dealing him. There are plenty of teams that could use a solid starter.

The key point in all of that is that the Eagles like their receiving corps as it stands. That doesn't mean they won't upgrade it. The Eagles always keep an open mind when it comes to upgrading the roster. The problem is that the kind of receivers who would be an upgrade will be costly to acquire. If guys like Chad Johnson, Anquan Boldin and Braylon Edwards were available as free agents, I'm sure the Eagles would go after them or at least have serious talks with them. Unfortunately, those players are under contract and would require a trade. Is it worth it to use a first-round pick to trade for them with Curtis and Jackson already here? Some fans will say yes, but the Eagles will tell you no.

The Eagle way has been to draft and develop players if possible. The presence of Curtis allows the team to have the option of taking a receiver this year to develop for the future. Maybe the player has a great rookie year like Jackson and is a big surprise. The rookie could also spend time learning the offense and preparing to challenge Curtis for his job in a year or two. I really think drafting a receiver is the more likely approach.

I know some fans want a proven guy who has put up big numbers. I understand that logic. The thought of adding a star receiver to the offense is enticing. The problem is finding the right guy at the right price, as well as at the right time. Torry Holt and Marvin Harrison are available, but I don't have much interest in them. A couple of years ago I would have absolutely wanted them. As for the top guys I mentioned earlier, I just don't think the team will see receiver as a need area that requires spending a high pick and a major salary. Now, if there isn't a strong market for those guys and the asking price comes down, you could see the Eagles maybe get interested. The other key thing to remember in all of this is that none of those players is a lock to get moved. They all could stay with their current teams.

If the Eagles decide to go receiver in the draft, they will have some interesting options. I've mentioned Hakeem Nicks as a guy that I like quite a bit. I think his size and style of play would be a perfect fit to our offense. Some people love the thought of going after Percy Harvin. He's smaller, but is also quicker and faster. He and DeSean Jackson could be a dynamic duo. While a guy like Harvin would be of interest, I prefer adding a bigger receiver. Kenny Britt is a big wideout who could be of interest in the late first round.

They can go for some big guys in the middle rounds. Patrick Turner and Ramses Barden are 6-5 and 6-6, respectively. The Eagles could add speedsters like Johnny Knox or Deon Butler. They both run in the 4.3 range. There will also be some very productive players still on the board late in the draft. Kevin Collie led the nation in receiving yards. Jarrett Dillard scored 60 career touchdowns.

No matter how things play out, I'm pretty sure the Eagles will be adding a quality receiver to the team. They'll explore possible deals for veterans, but won't make a move unless it is a good deal. Most likely a new receiver will come through the draft.

Is The Franchise Left Tackle Already On The Roster?

There are certain premium positions in Reid's mind. Left tackle is one of them. I believe Reid when he talks about Shawn Andrews or Todd Herremans moving out to man the left tackle spot. I also think Reid would love to find a talented player to bring in from the outside.

The first option is Jason Peters of Buffalo. When healthy, Peters is a very talented player who can pass protect and get push in the run game. This is the kind of guy that you trade a first-round pick for. He's still in his prime. He plays a critical position. Plus, there isn't someone already holding the spot. Peters wants a monster deal. He held out of training camp last year. The Eagles would have to decide whether it was worth it to pay him before making a trade. My guess is that they would give him a big contract. Buffalo isn't in a rush to get rid of him, but at some point they have to decide whether he is part of their future or not.

There are no real quality veterans available aside from Peters. That means you turn to the draft. There are two top-shelf left tackles available. Eugene Monroe and Jason Smith would both be good fits for the Eagles. The problem is that both guys could be off the board by the 6th pick. The Eagles have the resources to trade up into that area so they can get one of the players. Reid and the Eagles brain trust have to decide what price they are willing to pay to move up. There is no way they give up both first-round picks. I just can't see that happening realistically. I'm not sure how ""low"" a price a team will move out of the top five for. You can bet the Eagles will talk to all the teams with early picks to see who wants to move and what they will accept.

The only other player that I see with starting left tackle potential is Andre Smith. He looked like a lock for the top five several months ago, but now could go early or slide down into the 15-25 range. He is a terrific player, but has some maturity issues that make you nervous. Can he handle the business side of the NFL? Outside the first round there aren't many left tackle types to be found. Jamon Meredith could be one exception. He's not as big as the Eagles seem to prefer (only 304 pounds), but Meredith is a gifted pass blocker.

I think Reid will try to land a left tackle through trade or in the draft, but there is no guarantee he'll be able to pull off a deal. The Bills may decide to keep Peters. Teams with early picks may not want to move back as far as pick 21 in the draft. Even a guy like Andre Smith might go earlier than expected. If the Eagles don't land their left tackle early on, they move Herremans or Andrews outside and spend a pick to add an interior lineman in the middle rounds.

Will Jackson Be Challenged At Center?

Will the team draft a center to challenge Jamaal Jackson? This is a regular topic. Jackson didn't have a great year. No one would dispute that. He hasn't played as well the last two years as he did in 2006, his first full season as a starter. Jackson isn't a bad player. He simply needs to return to the level he showed back then.

There are some very talented players in the center class this year. The big names are Eric Wood, Alex Mack and Max Unger. None of them is worth either of our first-round picks. There is a chance all of them will be gone by the second-round pick. I don't know that the Eagles will value any of these guys so much that they'll move around to get them. There are other players like Antoine Caldwell, A.Q. Shipley and Dallas Reynolds who should be available late in the draft. Those guys would make better sense.

I know some fans would love to spend a high pick on one of the top three guys and plug them into the lineup immediately. I just don't see that as likely. You also have to remember that Nick Cole, Mike McGlynn and Mike Gibson are already on the roster and could challenge Jackson for his spot. Cole has been the main backup to Jackson for three years now. Cole played well at right guard last year. He could push for the center job this summer. McGlynn was the No. 3 center last summer. He played well there in the preseason games. I'm not sure if the team prefers him there or at guard, but he's got the talent to challenge someone for a job.

Winding Down

The Eagles have a basic plan in place at this point. They are meeting with some players to try and finalize thoughts on which guys they like the most or don't really want at all. They will have certain players that they target on draft day.

They'll be doing mock drafts to look at how different scenarios might play out. What happens if the quarterbacks don't go early? What if the quarterbacks all go in the top 20? Is it possible no running back goes in the top 20? Will there be a run on any positions? You work on this stuff now so that you're ready for whatever happens on draft weekend. Expect the unexpected and have contingency plans already set up.

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