They did it their way, which means they moved all around the board, hop-scotching from one round to the next during three days of NFL draft dodging. In the end, the Eagles came away with a staggering 13 selections, adding a tremendous number of prospects to an already-young group of core players on this roster. Now, it feels, every team is at the starting line and equal and figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of what they have.
The draft is over, and what we know about the Eagles is that the offense looks pretty darn potent and if A) Kevin Kolb is as good as the Eagles think he is and, B) The offensive comes together and performs well, the Eagles could be as good as any group in the league. The defense? A new day has dawned. This was the off-season to re-shape the defense, and the Eagles started that process early in free agency and continued through the last of their 13 draft picks.
Right now, the roster is a collection of names and expectations. The Eagles went into the draft planning to do exactly as they ended up doing: They wanted impact at the top of the draft and they got it by trading into the 13th spot in Round 1 to get defensive end Brandon Graham. They stayed put with the 37th pick overall and selected safety Nate Allen. Then they moved up and down and all around with all of their trades, and they landed prospects throughout the draft.
I can't tell you how good the players are who became Eagles since Thursday. I don't know. We live in a world of instant analysis and the reality is that it is going to take two years to fully and properly evaluate these 13 picks. Hey, I love Pete Prisco from CBSSports.com, who gave the Eagles an A-plus in the draft, but isn't it premature to evaluate the picks?
I'll applaud the plan and the execution. The idea was to stockpile picks and then stay true to their ratings board and let it rip. They did that, and along the way they took players in later rounds (defensive end Ricky Sapp, fifth round) who had higher draft grades (second round). They loaded up in the fourth round (four picks) and selected players like cornerback Trevard Lindley, whom they think is an excellent cover corner who is going to have a chance to step right in and play after seeing the best of the best in the Southeastern Conference. In that very same round, they picked linebacker Keenan Clayton from Oklahoma because they just thought he was too good a player to pass on, and then they took quarterback Mike Kafka to fill the crucial role of No. 3 QB now and then No. 2 quarterback next year after Michael Vick leaves.
There was a method to the madness of six trades during the three days of the draft. It was an especially aggressive performance by a brain trust noted for working the draft as well as any team -- the 13 picks represented the most by the Eagles ever in the seven-round format, and the 13 picks were the most in the league this year -- and the Eagles clearly made the defense the first priority, with nine picks on that side of the ball.
The Eagles went in looking for players who love the game of football, who played harder than anyone else on tape, who would bring intensity to the post-draft mini-camp next week. Reid used the word "heart" to describe a characteristic of his draft class, and that is a very telling description. Clearly, the Eagles want to be tougher, more physical, more urgent, faster, stronger.
And, for whatever it means, here are some personal observations about the draft, and about the current state of the Eagles roster ...
- I love the physical dimensions of these running backs. Sixth-round draft pick Charles Scott is a big man with nimble feet and he and his 235 or so pounds fits in a backfield that includes LeSean McCoy (208 pounds), Mike Bell (225 pounds) and Eldra Buckley (207 pounds). Martell Mallet is listed at 200 pounds, but he is more of a straight-line power back than a "change-of-pace" runner. There are no "small" running backs here. The Eagles can play some smash-mouth football with the running game, and there are options in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Interesting.
- At the same time, the number of players who have been in the "spread" offense is really noticeable. Kolb is used to that from his days at Houston and from the time he has played here. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin has done it, along with DeSean Jackson. Cornelius Ingram, Martin Rucker and new tight end Clay Harbor come from that scheme at tight end. New wide receiver Riley Cooper knows how to play in space. The point is, the Eagles have the players to really, really spread it out and go on offense and that may suit Kolb perfectly. The offense has great, great flexibility.
- Of the 13 draft picks, five of them are from the SEC, and that makes me think the Eagles took a liking to the football in that conference. Three of the picks played at Big 10 schools, so maybe it isn't a big deal. Only Harbor, from Missouri State, played football at a smaller school.
- The team loaded up on defensive ends, and the competition there is going to be awesome. How long before Victor Abiamiri is healthy? Is he a candidate for Injured Reserve this year? I don't know. I just know that Sean McDermott has some real ability at the end spots now.
- The more I hear about Graham, the more I think he is going to have a chance to have a great career. I spent time with the Eagles scouts after the draft, and they were just thrilled to have gone up and gotten Graham.
- Allen can play safety and corner, the Eagles say, but I think he will get a chance to start at free safety. That is his natural position. It makes sense to start him there.
- Concerns about right cornerback? I understand, but let's see how it plays out. Lindley is a guy I am going to watch closely at the post-draft camp. I want to see his feet and his natural cover skills.
- Moise Fokou is the leading candidate to start at SAM linebacker. He is having an excellent off-season and certainly has inspired confidence among the coaches. Alex Hall is a big -- and I mean 6 feet 5 tall -- rangy and long-armed kid. Interested to see what the Eagles try with him.
- Why no offensive linemen? The Eagles will sign some in the post-draft period, and they just didn't think there were any difference makers after the early part of the draft. They truly think Stacy Andrews is going to blossom in 2010 and that Nick Cole and -- here is a surprise name -- Mike McGlynn are going to have a very good battle for the starting center job. Jamaal Jackson continues his rehab from the knee injury.
- The selection of defensive tackle Jeff Owens in the seventh round was significant, and the message is clear to Trevor Laws: It's now or never. Reid said after the draft that Laws has been "living in the weight room," in the off-season, and so Laws understands the big picture here.
- Linebacker is suddenly a very crowded position. Where does Omar Gaither fit here? How about Joe Mays? The idea is to push everybody, and by trading for Hall and Ernie Sims and then adding Clayton and Jamar Chaney in the draft, the Eagles have done that. Chaney was not a seventh-round talent. Not even close. But the Eagles did something that I thought was smart: They took some players who had some injury problems in 2008 and who maybe weren't all the way back in 2009. The season-after performances, in some cases, hurt players' draft standing, but not the grades the Eagles assigned to the players. So they really got good value -- according to their board -- in the later rounds.
- Finally, where does undersized safety Kurt Coleman fit in here? Well, he's a smart guy, a leader, a ferocious competitor and someone who is going to compete and add depth in the secondary. I like the pick a lot.