Prepare for anything, and be ready to strike at a moment's notice. The Eagles were on que on Saturday, moving around in the first round, staying patient in the second round, and landed two premier offensive talents on the first day of the 2009 NFL draft. Consider left tackle Jason Peters, too, and the Eagles had maybe an unprecedented kind of first day in the draft for major, major appeal for the offense.
Day one of the draft continued a brilliant series of moves in this off-season for the Eagles, who have rebuilt and replenished the offense since their NFC Championship Game loss in Arizona. Amazing. Truly, truly amazing. The Eagles set themselves up to be in a position for this draft that gave them a chance to go with the "best player" theory. And they got two "best players" in wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, the standout from Missouri who was rated as high as No. 5 overall by some pre-draft "experts."
Maclin kept sliding, though, and once running back Knowshon Moreno went off the board, shockingly, to Denver at 11, the Eagles started to perk up their ears. Once Cleveland moved around to the 19th pick, and the Eagles knew head coach Eric Mangini wanted all the draft picks he could get, and when teams started calling the Eagles about moving up to get Maclin, Andy Reid and Co. knew they had to go up if they wanted to get the prime-time player at wide receiver. So they traded a sixth-round draft pick, No. 195 overall, and the 21st pick, to move to 19 to stun everyone and take Maclin.
"He has great hands and he is very, very fast," said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. "He has great skills. Terrific kid. Hard worker. He is going to come right in here and compete."
Maclin's addition gives the Eagles a deep and really, really talented group of receivers. It's expected that Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson are the starters right now, with Jason Avant manning the slot. After that, it's fuzzy. It's competitive. It's intriguing. Does Maclin have a chance to earn playing time as a fourth receiver? Is there room for Reggie Brown? How does Hank Baskett fit in right now after signing his one-year tender?
The competition will be great. The speed of this group is as good as any in the league, and Maclin's size (6 feet, 1/8 inches, 198 pounds) gives the Eagles a big, strong, fast player to use in many, many ways. It remains to be seen how Maclin picks up the system and how he adjusts to the speed of the game, but that's the same question every rookie has to answer.
Great pick. Great move for the Eagles, who added a hugely explosive piece to the offense with their first pick on Saturday.
Peters needs to be included here, as he was acquired at the cost of the 28th overall selection. Go back and look at the board at 28 and see if there was anyone there remotely close to Peters' skill level. Nobody was there. The Eagles added a Pro Bowl left tackle at that spot, and in concert with Maclin tremendously upgraded the offense.
But they weren't done. And in round two, they stood pat instead of using their cache of fifth-round picks to go higher in round two. At 53 overall, the Eagles took Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy, a highly-productive running back who immediately fits into the scheme here. He catches the ball well. He has terrific vision and instincts. There is work to be done -- McCoy had some fumbling issues in college and he needs to improve his blocking -- but that is the same mandate for every rookie.
Three picks, three immediate helps for the offense. The offense has been changed so much in the off-season, and there is more to come. The Eagles will draft a tight end at some point on Day 2 of the draft, likely in the third round when the run on tight ends comes.
Think about how much younger this team has become in the off-season. The Eagles have speed all over the formation on offense and they have options. Maclin is a super return man, or, at least, was in college. He isn't a Jackson clone, as many fans remarked after the pick was made. He is two inches taller and 25 pounds heavier. He is much closer in body type to, cough, Anquan Boldin, who was not traded (as predicted here) on Saturday.
It was just a superior day. Surprises? Yeah, of course. Reid went offense, offense, offense. He lit up the offense with speed and versatility and goes into day two with seven picks and only a few needs -- tight end, cornerback, depth around the roster -- and the Eagles again can deal from a position of strength on Sunday.
Wow! What a day! Totally unexpected. Why did Maclin fall from the top 10, where everybody thought he would go? The Eagles got a little bit lucky here as teams passed on receivers and the Raiders helped out with a crazy (once again) pick.
Now it's on to day two, and we can evaluate more at the end of the day when the 2009 draft class is complete. There is a long, long way to go, but the Eagles are off to a magnificent start, an A-plus start, to complement their super-strong off-season.