During his post-draft review session with members of the Philadelphia media, general manager Howie Roseman shed some light on many of the players added to the Eagles on the NFL Draft's third day - both those selected by the team during the draft itself and those the Eagles pursued as "priority free agents."
The first player the Eagles added on Saturday was Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin, whom the Eagles never expected to be available by the time the 123rd pick came around. Once again, the Eagles survived some nervous moments.
"We were sweating that one out," said Roseman. "That was one of the ones where you turn around to everyone in the room with a couple picks (to go) and you decide that you're not going to move up because it gets too close, and you just say, 'Think of something positive, let's hope this guy gets to us.' Because obviously (Boykin) hits on a lot of things right there. He's got a lot of experience playing inside and outside, kickoff, punts, he was a wildcat quarterback, he can play some receiver, just a really fun guy to have on your team. Great character, captain of their team, and I've spent a lot of time down in Georgia and when he was an underclassmen, he was the guy everyone was saying he's the next big-time player at the University of Georgia."
When their fifth-round pick came around, the Eagles had a tough decision to make. Go with the projectable offensive tackle or the productive wide receiver? It was a tough call that, eventually, turned out to be a win-win.
"In the fifth round when we took (Purdue offensive tackle) Dennis Kelly, we were deciding between (Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt) and Kelly," Roseman said. "So, to get (McNutt) in the sixth, that was another one we were sweating out. This is a big, physical receiver with big hands, ball skills, who's made a lot of big plays for Iowa. And he's still raw. This was a college quarterback, came into Iowa as a quarterback, was a McDonald's All-American candidate as a basketball player, incredible high-school athlete and fits our offense."
Six picks later, the Eagles added Miami guard Brandon Washington, another player who Roseman said was "much higher-rated on our board."
"I think what happened with him was, in our opinion, he's a much better guard than he is a tackle," said Roseman. "And when you go back and watch (the 2010) tape, you go, 'Wow this is a really good player.' And then he was a little bit out of position at tackle, that's not his best spot. Because he doesn't have the explosive feet that you'd look for in a prototype tackle out on an island, he would overset to wide speed and then sometimes get beat back inside, so it didn't look as good. We were really excited to get him. We have some connections down on the Miami staff and all of them were just praising him and couldn't believe he was still available in the sixth round."
The seventh round brought the Eagles' final, and perhaps their most interesting, pick. Running back Bryce Brown, the top-rated high school running back in the same class as Trent Richardson by some, who contributed as a true freshman at Tennessee before transferring to Kansas State, where he incurred a high ankle sprain, played limited and ultimately decided to leave the program. Brown, Roseman said, was just worth taking a chance on.
"I think that sometimes you go through this process and you get into a moment where this is who we're going to draft in the seventh round," said Roseman. "You just want to take a shot on a guy. We did that a couple of years ago in with King Dunlap, we just said we're going to draft King Dunlap in the seventh round because just an incredible amount of upside. I spoke to a couple of other teams yesterday who said, 'Why did you have to draft him?' I kind of probed a little bit and it was because they thought they could get him as a free agent.
"I think for a guy like that, if he was going to go somewhere else and be really successful after we had spent all the time with him, and the amount of talent that he has, and that doesn't give you any guarantee that he's going to do any of those things, we would have regretted it. So we just wanted to have him here and work with him and see what he does. It's not very often that you get a 220-pound kid who runs a 4.4, played as a true freshman at the University of Tennessee, and when you speak to (Brown's head coach at Tennessee) Lane Kiffin, I mean he just says this guy was going to be a star. We spent enough time with him to get his full story and to feel comfortable with that."
Roseman added that Brown's participation in the Kansas State Pro Day was an important consideration.
"That was a very important factor for us, because everything that we know about (Kansas State head coach) Bill Snyder is that he's an incredible person and a man of ethics," said Roseman. "For him to feel comfortable enough to have Bryce come back, meant that he felt that Bryce was very sorry for the way that he handled things. If he was comfortable with (Brown), that meant a lot to all of us."
Brown isn't the only new running back to the roster though, as the team was aggressive in adding Washington's Chris Polk once the draft concluded. Polk, who had back-to-back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons at Washington, had a fourth-round grade on the team's board according to head coach Andy Reid. He likely went undrafted because of a shoulder injury, but the Eagles were very happy to bring the ultra-productive Polk on board.
"He played through all those (injuries) as well," Roseman said. "This is a very talented guy. He can run, he can catch, a super productive. You talk to the people at Washington, (head coach) Steve Sarkisian will tell you what kind of player he is and what kind of kid he is. I think it would be an understatement to tell you that we were surprised he was undrafted and to be able to get him was very exciting for us after the draft."
A few other undrafted free agents signed by the Eagles stood out for Roseman, including those who went through some personal troubles in college but are now being afforded a second chance, starting with Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris, an All-American in 2010 who eventually was dismissed from the Oregon team.
"Cliff Harris, you're talking about not only a dynamic punt returner, but a 5-11 corner who was a first-team All-American (in 2010)," said Roseman. "He's incredibly talented, there's no doubt about that, and if you take away and kind of boil down to what he did, which was wrong, both the things he did were wrong, and you meet him, you feel like he's got an understanding with that. He's got mentors. I think Marlin (Jackson) and Tony Dungy he's talked to. And so, he's 21 years old, he certainly deserves another chance and we felt comfortable giving him that."
Similarly, former Tulsa wide receiver Damaris Johnson, the NCAA's all-time leader in All-Purpose yards, was dismissed from the Tulsa team after being charged with felony embezzlement.
"Another guy who, if he played this year, would have been certainly a middle-round pick," said Roseman. "Really talented guy and another person who did something wrong and we went in and worked him out and spent the day with him and we felt like he had learned his lesson. Obviously it's different when you're drafting someone in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, even seventh round, with the risk you put into it as opposed to if you sign him as a free agent. We balanced risk and reward and we thought, at this time, it was a risk worth taking for us.
"We spent a lot of time with these guys and another whole group of guys to make sure that we were going through the process to make sure that - we've talked a lot about character here in this offseason, and judging it and making not kind of blanket statements about people or offenses. So when you really boil down to it with these guys, they did things that weren't right and they made mistakes that other college-aged kids make and no one got really hurt and it wasn't anything where we couldn't look at our ownership and say that we thought they'd come in here and do something that would really harm the organization. We thought they deserved a second chance, and of course they get a second chance because they're incredibly talented and that's part of it. These are guys that, if they didn't have these issues, we think they would have been drafted pretty high."
Roseman also singled out Syracuse safety Phillip Thomas as "a guy that we had ranked a lot higher than where we got him ... If you watched the tape, you wouldn't think he would be a free agent."
Finally, Roseman addressed the addition of Kentucky punter Ryan Tydlacka. The Eagles' 2011 punter Chas Henry was originally signed last summer as an undrafted free agent as well.
Tydlacka "was a guy that we had rated as the second best punter in the draft," said Roseman. Special teams coordinator "Bobby (April) had gone and worked him out and he was there after the draft. We're going to try to bring competition to every spot, apparently except kicker, because we don't have one right now. That was just a guy that we thought was a good player and we brought him in to add competition."
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