If Lane Johnson becomes an All-Pro and Matt Barkley becomes the Eagles’ starting quarterback for a decade, the 2013 NFL Draft will be viewed as one of the best in franchise history.
But there aren’t any guarantees in the NFL Draft, and this year’s draft is no exception. It’s also possible that Johnson never becomes a good pro and Barkley never establishes himself as a starting quarterback. In that case, 2013 will likely be remembered as a bad draft for the Eagles.
Despite the pressure to give instant grades to drafts, it truly takes a few years to make a proper judgment on a draft class. Nobody wants to wait years for an opinion in today’s world, so, with reservations, my grade for the Eagles draft is a B.
My positive impressions stem, in part, from the Eagles’ consistency during the draft. They didn’t trade up and down and back around, as they sometimes did in past drafts. They didn’t outsmart themselves.
They also seemed to stick to the philosophy of picking the best player available, at least in the first four rounds. That doesn’t mean it is the right philosophy. I think they picked players at positions at which they already have established veterans while ignoring positions of need. But the Eagles deserve credit for having a game plan and sticking to it.
Johnson and Barkley are the cornerstones of this draft. That may seem strange, considering Barkley is a fourth-round draft pick. But it’s true.
With Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel selected by the Chiefs and Jaguars, respectively, with the top two picks in the draft, Johnson was the next best offensive tackle. At 6-foot-6, 303 pounds, Johnson is an amazing athlete. He started his collegiate career as a quarterback before growing into a tight end, defensive end and, eventually, an offensive tackle, where he played the past two years for Oklahoma.
Johnson has already been penciled in at right tackle, allowing Todd Herremans to move back to guard. There are two concerns about Johnson. First, he hasn’t played tackle very long, so he could have a steep learning curve as a rookie. Second, if Michael Vick is the starting quarterback, Johnson will be protecting the left-handed Vick’s blind side.
Johnson might turn out to be a terrific player, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be good right away. Head coach Chip Kelly describes Johnson as “raw.”
The Eagles’ second pick was Stanford tight end Zach Ertz (6-5, 249), whom they selected third in the second round (35th overall). Ertz is a weapon who should stretch the field, but it’s legitimate to question why the Eagles selected a tight end so high when they have Brent Celek on the roster and brought in tight end James Casey from the Texans during the offseason.
Bennie Logan, a defensive tackle from LSU, was probably the Eagles’ least contentious pick. They took him with the 5th pick in the third round (67th overall).
The Eagles sent immediate shock waves through the draft on Saturday when they traded with the Jaguars to move up and select Barkley with the first pick in the fourth round. The Eagles, of course, already have quarterbacks Vick, Nick Foles and Dennis Dixon on the roster. Will Barkley be able to break through that log jam?
The scouting report on Barkley seems to indicate that he has all the intangibles you’d like in a quarterback, but he is lacking in some of the tangibles. His mobility isn’t better than average, and some scouts fell his arm isn’t strong enough to make all throws an NFL quarterback has to make, particularly deep downfield and to the sideline.
If Barkley becomes the Eagles’ starting quarterback, he will be viewed as a steal at the top of the fourth round. If Barkley doesn’t pan out, fans will be wondering why they didn’t use their fourth-round pick on a linebacker or safety, as the Chiefs and Steelers did in the fourth round.
The Eagles got defensive late in the draft, picking up North Carolina State safety Earl Wolff in the fifth round, and Utah defensive end Joe Kruger, Oregon State cornerback Jordan Poyer and Oklahoma defensive end David King in the 7th round.
I would have preferred the Eagles improve their defense with earlier picks, but time will tell if they made the right decisions on draft day.
UNANSWERED QUESTION I: When the Dolphins traded up to No. 3, acquiring the pick from the Raiders in order to select Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan, were they concerned that the Eagles would have taken Chip Kelly’s former player at No. 4? We might never know.
UNANSWERED QUESTION II: With Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Dion Jordan off the board, did the Eagles try to trade down before selecting Lane Johnson. With North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper and Alabama guard Chance Warmack still available, perhaps the Eagles would have been better off trading down to select one of those players while picking up an extra second-round pick. Once again, we might never know the answer.
CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK: Remember when Chip Kelly said he was just a coach and would leave the drafting and personnel matters largely to the front office? That seems contrary to the NFL Draft, when Kelly’s fingerprints were all over the draft picks.
The Eagles drafted several players who had tremendous games against Kelly’s Oregon Ducks. That isn’t a coincidence.
WINNERS: Nobody had a better draft than the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings ended up with three first-round picks, and they got value at all three picks.
First, the Vikings selected Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, the George Washington High School product who somehow fell to them at No. 23. Two picks later, they selected Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes. The Vikings then traded with the Patriots to get yet another firsr-round pick, which they used to select Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who could be a prime return man, if not an immediate starter at receiver.
The Vikings weren’t done, however. They picked Penn State linebackers Gerald Hodges and Mike Mauti in the fourth and seventh rounds, respectively. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hodges starts as a rookie. Mauti is a tremendous leader, playing special teams at Penn State as well as linebacker. If his knees are OK, Mauti may turn out to be a steal.
The Jaguars also had a terrific draft. In addition to getting Joeckel No. 2, they strengthened their secondary with Florida International safety Johnathan Cyprien at the top of the second round and Connecticut cornerback Dwayne Gratz with the second pick of the third round. They picked up speed and big-play potential with South Carolina’s Ace Sanders in the fourth round (with the pick obtained from the Eagles in the Matt Barkley trade) and Michigan’s Denard Robinson in the fifth round. If the Jaguars didn’t pick Robinson, it would have been interesting to see if the Eagles selected him with the next pick. The Jaguars also signed Arizona quarterback Matt Scott.
The third-best draft day belonged to St. Louis. The Rams traded up to get West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin with the eighth overall pick, then picked up Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree with the 30th pick after trading down and switching picks with the Falcons. With a third-round pick they received from the Falcons, the Rams selected Austin’s fellow West Virginia wide receiver, Stedman Bailey.
HONORABLE MENTION: If you want to know why the Packers and 49ers are near the top of the NFL, watch them on draft day. The 49ers traded up in the first round to snag LSU safety Eric Reid, then traded up again in the second round to get Florida State defensive end Cornellius Carradine. In the fifth round, the 49ers selected South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who is coming off a serious injury but won’t have to contribute right away.
The Packers didn’t have any high picks, but found UCLA defensive end Datone Jones waiting for them at No. 26, grabbed Alabama running back Eddie Lacy in the second round and UCLA running back Jonathan Franklin in the fifth round.
LOSERS: What in the world were the Cowboys doing? They traded down from No. 18 to No. 31 and then selected Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, who may have been available to them in the second round. Jerry Jones should have given up the general manager role long ago.
The Raiders traded too far down in the first round, passing up impact players and being content with taking Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden with the 12th pick. I did, however, like the Raiders’ selection of Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson in the fourth round.
Geno Smith also fits this category. The West Virginia quarterback appeared petulant when he wasn’t picked during the first round. It will be interesting to see if Smith, finally picked by the Jets in the second round, can withstand the New York media circus.
FOLLOW THE LEADER: Only three quarterbacks were drafted in the first round, then three were taken within six picks in the fourth round. The Giants selected Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib with the 13th pick of the fourth round. The Raiders picked Wilson two picks later, then the Steelers grabbed Oklahoma’s Landry Jones with the 18th pick of the fourth round.
The same thing happened with running backs. The first running back selected was North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard, who was taken by the Bengals with the fifth pick of the second round. The Steelers selected Michigan State’s Le’veon Bell with the 16th pick of the second round. Then the Broncos triggered a run of three running backs in five picks by selecting Wisconsin’s Montee Bell with the 26th pick of the second round.
STICKING TOGETHER: Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib and Shamarko Thomas were picked by the Giants and Steelers with the 13th and 14th picks, respectively, in the fourth round. Nassib, a quarterback, and Thomas, a safety, were also high school teammates at Malvern Prep.