Coming into the 2013 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles were a team looking to move on from the Andy Reid era and transition to life under Chip Kelly, the highly touted but unproven head coach from Oregon. The defense moved from the 4-3 defense that employed the wide-9 alignment under Jim Washburn and Juan Castillo at various points to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Billy Davis. And while it might not be a wholesale change going from Reid to Kelly as Kelly seems to be incorporating west coast concepts with the hiring of offensive coordinator and former Cleveland Browns head coach, Pat Shurmur (who worked under Reid) but it will have some new wrinkles and a higher tempo. The end of the Reid era resulted largely from a meltdown along the offensive that was caused by a rash of injuries which they could not recover including both starting offensive tackles and their center. While the line could certainly benefit from an influx of talent, it also just needs to find a way to stay healthy. And with the move to the 3-4, suddenly the defensive line is a huge question mark with Fletcher Cox the only player that seems to have a defined role for the long term. On top of everything else, Kelly has to decide what he wants at the quarterback position with Michael Vick and Nick Foles, assuming he likes either one for anything beyond a stopgap measure. Overall, the Eagles draft addressed the major areas of concern, but with some moves that many may not have expected.
With the fourth overall pick in the draft, the Eagles picked up Lane Johnson, offensive tackle from Oklahoma. This is an extremely interesting pick both because of what he can do for the Eagles and what he can be in the future. Lane Johnson is a former quarterback that eventually made the move to offensive tackle, has experience on both the left and right side, and brings incredible physical tools. Johnson had as good a performance as any prospect at the Scouting Combine after really firming up his first round stock at the Senior Bowl. While he still needs more experience and should only get better with time, he immediately upgrades an offensive line that needed it and at more than one position.
The question that lingers in Philadelphia is the health of Jason Peters. Healthy, he has been an excellent left tackle and a franchise player since he arrived there in a trade with the Bills. Unfortunately, he has had injuries and this latest, an Achilles’ tear, is not an easy one from which to recover. If he can get back to playing at a high level, it gives protection to whoever is under center but also makes it so Johnson can start out his career at right tackle. This is an easier transition for him, but an extremely important position if Michael Vick ends up as the starting quarterback because he is left handed which means that Johnson is protecting his blind side. If Johnson is at right tackle, that means Todd Herremans can kick inside to right guard where he is more comfortable and effective. Unfortunately, this would also mean that Danny Watkins would be relegated to being depth and all but confirming that pick as a disaster, but if he is going to show the talent that had the Eagles take him in the first round, he can compete and take a spot in camp.
The other beneficial aspect, albeit one that is slightly overblown is the fact that Johnson would be a good fit in a high paced offense. He is a good athlete at the tackle position and should be a good fit with the tempo, but they took him because of his ability to block. The fact he can work in a hurry up offense is a bonus. It is extremely unlikely the Eagles would have passed on Johnson if he was a great blocker but not as impressive as an athlete. Down the road or if Peters runs into problems coming back in his rehab or suffers another injury, Johnson can slide over to the left tackle position, but if they can get a year or few out of Peters and Johnson as their bookends, they are certainly going to do it. The only other potential stumbling block is the money owed Peters against the salary cap, but they should be a manageable issue. No matter the situation, the disasters they have faced in recent years along the offensive line are eased by this pick and they will hopefully avoid the injuries this season and beyond, but if not, they are far better equipped to deal with them and not have their offense implode.
In the second round, the Eagles selected Zach Ertz, tight end from Stanford. This pick was not a need as the Eagles still have Brent Celek and drafted Clay Harbor last year, though he was another injury issue and spent the year on injured reserve. Celek has been effective, but Ertz gives them more options in how they want to line up in different situations. They can line up in double tight end sets and play Ertz inline or in the slot as a joker. Ertz has potential to improve and be an effective all around tight end in the NFL, but he is inconsistent and this pick was somewhat puzzling due to that fact. This seemed more like picking a guy who had success against Chip Kelly in college rather than picking the best man for the job.
Ertz is inconsistent across the board from blocking to route running to catching the football; even his effort is not consistent. He was not nearly the most polished player at his position and there were other prospects with more potential so he was somewhat caught in no man’s land. Still, among most draftniks, Ertz was an extremely high ranking player and the Eagles agreed. He has significant work to do on his technique and becoming a better player, but with the situation he was drafted into with Celek and Harbor, he may not be pressured to step in and be a great player immediately. If he can look good in camp, he may earn the second tight end spot but it would not be too surprising if he takes a year to really find his stride in the NFL.
In the third round, the Eagles addressed their defensive line by adding Bennie Logan, defensive tackle from LSU. This pick is going to be interesting to see how they want to use him. Logan played as a 3-tech defensive tackle for the Tigers and showed the ability to play against the run with some explosiveness to get after the quarterback. He is slightly shorter than teams would prefer as a 5-tech end but that may be where they hope he ends up with the ability to kick inside as a rush tackle on obvious passing downs. First and foremost, Logan is a good run stopper who can clog up the middle, but he appears to have the potential to be a decent pass rusher. It is possible that he could be looked at for the nose tackle spot but that seems unlikely.
Coming into the draft, it was expected the Eagles would address their defensive line, but the question was when. When the Eagles made the most to the 3-4, the only guy that had an obvious fit up front was Fletcher Cox who moved to one of the end spots in their base defense, but could move inside on passing downs, which is where he played last season. This could ultimately be the hope they have for Logan for the other end spot with both of them moving inside to rush the passer. The Eagles signed Isaac Sopoaga to be a stopgap for the nose tackle position until a longer term solution is found, but with the possible exception of Antonio Dixon, no one else on the roster looks like they are a fit for the position, which is how it ends up being possible that Logan could end up getting a look there.
In the fourth round, the Eagles gave the Jaguars a seventh round pick to move up a couple spots and made a move that many expected in taking a quarterback, but surprised most by taking Matt Barkley from USC. Despite the fact that he had been telling anyone who would listen that he would fit his scheme around the talent rather than forcing players into a scheme, most experts refused to listen to Chip Kelly and went right on assuming that he would insist on taking a mobile quarterback. As a result, they were stunned that he would select Barkley. The fact is that Barkley fits well in what Kelly wants to do with the quarterback position. Barkley is smart, accurate, and has a ton of experience at the position.
Before becoming the head coach at Oregon, Kelly was the head coach at New Hampshire where they threw the ball all over the place, adding up to as many as 50 attempts in some games. The mobility has never been that big of a deal, but Kelly could take advantage of the threat of mobility to open up options for running backs and wide receivers. More than anything, Kelly wanted someone who could read defenses, make good reads, and be able to make quick decisions with the football and be accurate in getting it there. Matt Barkley can do those things and that has been when the Ducks offense has been its most effective. And while it may not happen his rookie year, it should not be a shock if Barkley eventually becomes the starter because of the assets he brings to the position and their scheme. He should at least be a quality backup in the Eagles system, which is an important role if Vick is the starter because he will get hurt at some point and need someone who can come in and play a few games.
In the fifth round, the Eagles took N.C. State safety Earl Wolff. The Eagles have had an ugly run picking safeties the past few years and are hoping that Wolff can help end it. Nate Allen has not lived up to the early returns he displayed as a rookie after being a second round pick and missed last year with a knee injury that landed him on injured reserve. Jaiquawn Jarrett was a disaster after being a huge reach that some in the front office later admitted was a reach in an attempt to fill a need; he was waived after just one year with the Eagles after he was picked in the second round. Their most successful pick at the safety position in recent years was a seventh round pick in Kurt Coleman, who has been a gritty, tough player despite being undersized for the position. The Eagles opted to bring in free agents in Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips but took Wolff to be depth initially, to potentially develop into a starter, and to help contribute on special teams.
Wolff offers them a hybrid safety that can help with the run or the pass and could be able to contribute at strong or free safety if needed. Wolff has a ton of playing experience, having been a major contributor for the Wolfpack for four years and a starter for three. He also worked out extremely well, so he comes into the Eagles rotation with a good amount of upside and could end up taking a starting job sooner than people might expect. If not for the free agents they brought in, he might have had a shot to start this year and he still might be a guy who gets a lot of buzz in training camp.
The Eagles made a deal with Cleveland to acquire safety David Sims that had them give the Browns a sixth round pick for Sims and a seventh. With that pick in the seventh round and the first of three in the round, the Eagles selected Joe Kruger, defensive end from Utah. Kruger stands out as a guy they would like to develop to play on the defensive line as an end. He has a huge frame and plenty of room to add weight to make him fit the mold of what they want for that position. Kruger is still raw and needs to work on his technique and leverage, but he has the physical tools to develop into a contributor that had some believing he could go earlier in the draft.
As the Eagles transition their roster to fit the 3-4 defense, they need to continue adding players that fit the scheme either now or can fit in it with work; Kruger fits the latter and has significant potential there. He has extremely long arms and is able to use them to keep offensive linemen away from his body which makes him a great fit as a defensive end in the 3-4. It should not take too much effort for Kruger to get up in the 280lb range and he will probably be aiming to get closer to the 295lb area ultimately.
Kruger will likely be competing for a roster spot against guys like Clifton Geathers, Isaac Remington and another player that was drafted later in the round, Dave King. While Kruger is likely to make the roster and potentially play this year, it is not out of the realm of possibility that he could spend the year on the practice squad.
With a pick that was part acquired as part of the deal for Arrelious Benn with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Eagles picked Jordan Poyer, cornerback from Oregon State. In an unlikely fall, Poyer gives the Eagles a guy who is an effective cover corner who should be able to come in and compete for the job of their nickel corner who has the potential to be start on the outside down the road. The big gripe with Poyer is that he is not effective and not all that interested in playing against the run or being a physical player as a tackler. He has been good in coverage and has the ball skills to force turnovers and cover well, but he was tied for the lightest of any defensive back at the Senior Bowl along with Will Davis, who was a non-existent run defender and poor tackler in his own right.
Poyer possesses good height and the potential to fill out his body with the quickness to contribute in the slot, so despite his draft position, he could make an instant impact for the Eagles and potentially be a bigger contributor down the line. The Eagles brought in Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher to start on the outside, so Poyer will be competing with Brandon Boykin and Curtis Marsh for the nickel and dime spots. Poyer is another guy who could end up on the practice squad, but he seems like a guy who will scratch out a roster spot and find a way to get on the field this year. If he can help on special teams, it would go a long way in helping him as Boykin has with returning kicks and coverage.
With their last pick of the draft and their only compensatory selection, the Eagles picked the aforementioned Dave King, defensive linemen from Oklahoma. King was a tweener for the Sooners, but has a more natural fit in the 3-4 as an end who can potentially fight for a spot as a rotational rusher inside as well, which was where he looked the best in Norman. In terms of his body and build, he is more ready to contribute than fellow draftee Joe Kruger, but Kruger appears to have more potential for the future.
King needs to play lower more consistently and show more hustle in how he plays; simply that this is what he really wants to do and fight for it. He has quickness and the ability to rush the passer with some natural strength, but he needs to put it all together with more consistently and regularity. He never really found his stride at Oklahoma, but the system he has been drafted into could be a much better situation for him and he might end up a better player if he can scratch and claw his way onto the final roster. Like Kruger, he could end up on the practice squad.
My Thoughts: In the end, the Eagles addressed the offensive line with the guy that was linked to them most of the process if they were going to go that route, but the way they addressed the defensive line might not be what people expected as well as how they attacked the quarterback position. They added a number of talented players, but it will certainly worth watching how they have these guys fit together for the upcoming season and going forward.
I love the pick of Johnson, but as mentioned earlier it is not because of the athletic fit with the Eagles system. It is because he is a terrific line talent that has incredible upside and is being put into a good situation to develop him in addition to helping stabilize an offensive line situation that was desperate to get another stalwart that could be counted on to contribute for the next decade. Johnson’s upside make it so he has the potential to be the top offensive tackle when all is said and done, even though that will not be easy with the guys that went ahead of him.
I do not like the Ertz pick at all. The fact that he was so inconsistent had him ranked low for me from that end of the spectrum and there were better prospects from a potential aspect. In a different draft class, he may have ranked higher, but when all was said and done, he graded out as the eighth tight end for me. I am fully prepared to have him prove me wrong, but if they wanted to get a polished player that could contribute now, going with Nick Kasa or Gavin Escobar and if they wanted to go with upside and potential, they may have been better off taking Vance McDonald. Perhaps he is just a better fit for the Eagles wanted to do but I think they could have gone in a number of better directions with this pick.
Bennie Logan, the player, was a good pick at a nice value. Logan, the fit in a 3-4 scheme is going to be interesting to keep an eye on because on his ability, he is a better fit for the end position that can kick inside. On his size and the depth chart, he might get a look at the nose. Ultimately, Logan is a good football player and they will find a good place to put him, but he might not be ideally suited for this scheme. It could end up being a similar situation as Glenn Dorsey found himself in Kansas City when he came out of LSU to a 3-4 scheme, but obviously the risk here is significantly lower, but Logan could also flourish here.
Matt Barkley is another pick I liked because mobility is one of the most overrated aspects of playing the position. Having a quarterback able to create plays with their legs is great, but the biggest games always come down to making the big time throw and that is what Barkley can do. He does not have the big arm, but his ability to make quick reads and decisions with the football and get it to his playmakers quickly is what could make the pairing of Barkley with Kelly work. He needs someone who can be an extension of himself on the field and run the hurry up tempo and keep his guys organized and moving forward. When it comes to that stuff, Barkley has excelled, has a ton of experience and while it will be an adjustment, could thrive in this situation.
Wolff offers a great value and the ability to develop a player at the safety position. Because of the free agent moves they made, the Eagles could have a great training camp battle for roster spots in the secondary and Wolff could look good in that scenario. It is the same with corner and Poyer, who they got in the seventh round, which looks like a steal. The Eagles did not appear to need a corner at all and just opted to add a talented player in the mix. Both of these guys could end up as depth this year, but have the potential to start at some point.
The picks of Kruger and King make sense with their move to the 3-4 and needing guys to come into camp and compete to make the rotation along the defensive line. These guys may have a better opportunity to get a great look in Philadelphia than any other team because their roster is somewhat in a state of flux, so here like many other spots, they are letting competition bring out the best and brightest. Both of these guys could make the final roster or end up on the practice squad. Their play in camp and in preseason will ultimately determine that, as long as players stay healthy. They may not get anything out of either guy in the long term but both have potential for the end position and as pass rushers, so they were worthwhile flyers to take at the end of the draft.
The Eagles appear to have had an up and down draft. I love the picks of Johnson, Barkley, and Wolff. I am waiting and seeing on Logan and think he could be good there. As for Ertz, he certainly could prove me wrong, but I really struggle with that pick. As what seems to come with the hiring of former college coaches, the Eagles drafted three players from teams that Kelly had coached against while in college including Ertz, Logan and Barkley. While Utah had joined the PAC-12, they had not played Oregon yet. Kelly would not be the first college coach moving to the pros to pick up guys he coached against or tried to recruit and he will not be the last. The results have been somewhat mixed depending on who is doing the picking, but it is something that might be worth keeping an eye on as this draft class develops. The only player picked in this draft that played their college ball east of the Mississippi was Earl Wolff. The biggest value in this draft comes with all of the moves along the offensive line that could have that group back among the better groups in the league after injuries had them in the basement and as goes the line, so goes the offense. The bone I would pick with the Eagles is their lack of bringing in a legitimate nose tackle which could be a big need next year, but remains to be seen how they want to go with that position. Even if they got nothing else out of this draft, Johnson could really make a huge impact on the Eagles offense and reinvigorate their offense, but they have a number of players who could develop into worthwhile contributors.
Topics: 2013 Nfl Draft, Bennie Logan, Dave King, Earl Wolff, Joe Kruger, LSU Tigers Football, Matt Barkley, N.C. State Wolfpack Football, Oklahoma Sooners Football, Philadelphia Eagles, Stanford Cardinal Football, USC Trojans Football, Utah Utes Football, Zach Ertz