I Knew It

Tommy Lawlor:

Regular reader Jyot heard former Eagles scout Daniel Jeremiah on the radio out in Seattle. Jeremiah said that the Eagles wanted to draft QB Russell Wilson in the 3rd round if he was available. The Seahawks took him ahead of us and the Eagles then went for Nick Foles.

Andy Reid basically spilled the beans on this during a press conference right after the draft. I was surprised he was so candid about how much the team liked Russell Wilson.

The most interesting dynamic is that you couldn’t find 2 QBs less alike. Wilson is short, but athletic. Foles is tall, but unathletic. Wilson struggles in the pocket. Foles is a pocket passer. Both guys did transfer, one from the Big Ten, the other out of the Big Ten.

I definitely called this right after the draft. #NotSoHumbleBrag

Anticipating the Impact of Todd Bowles

Todd Bowles is 6’2”, 203 lbs. Well, at least he was that big when he played in the NFL as a free safety for eight years.

Normally, the height and weight of a coach wouldn’t matter much. But in the case of Bowles, we can draw a clear line between his frame and his personnel preferences as a secondary coach.

As you can see at right, teams where Bowles has been the secondary coach consistently draft tall defensive backs (the same way Jim Washburn only picked tall defensive ends). In fact, he’s only drafted one defensive back under six feet since 2003, and that was in the seventh round. Clearly, Bowles’s preference is for bigger, more physical players. He probably would not, for example, have endorsed the selections of Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard, two 5’10” corners.

More relevant: Asante Samuel is not the type of cornerback Bowles had in mind as his prototypical starter. As I’ve mentioned before, the Samuel trade was about ego, a broken locker room, and justifying the 2011 personnel decisions — not on-the-field performance or the salary cap. But I doubt Bowles was campaigning for Samuel to stick around.

Instead, he’s probably quite content with his starters at cornerback for 2012. Nnamdi Asomugha is 6’2”, 210 lbs and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is 6’2”, 182 lbs. Hopefully Bowles can help mold a solid defensive backfield around the two of them. Curtis Marsh also stands to gain quite a lot from the Bowles hire, since his athletic 6’1”, 197 lbs frame would be perfect for his new coach’s system.

On the other hand, Kurt Coleman probably shouldn’t get too comfortable as a starter. I’ve discussed his athletic limitations before, but Bowles may be particularly keen to find someone with a higher ceiling. The counter-example of course, is 5’9” Brandon Boykin, whose selection Bowles must have approved. But perhaps he is willing to make an exception for the physical slot corner, regardless of his size, given the value he presented in the fourth round.

Alright, you’re probably saying, this is fun roster speculation and all, but what does it really mean? I’ll admit, not much right now. We already knew who the likely starters were and presumably Bowles will play whomever is the best in practice, not go simply by their official measurements. The more important question remains: is Bowles really a great coach? Every reporter hailed the addition as brilliant, but I’m less impressed by the fossil record:

Photo from Getty.

Eagles Draft More Linemen Than Anyone Else

Great numbers by Jimmy Kempski over at Blogging the bEast. Turns out, the Eagles have drafted more total offensive and defensive lineman in the last five years than any other team. Alright, so they’re not actually first by percent of total picks, but still, Andy Reid values numbers in the trenches.

Note that the Eagles have taken 18 linemen in the last five drafts. That’s the same as the Redskins and Cowboys combined.

Post-Draft Position Breakdown: Linebacker

Linebackers Eagles

What the Eagles did: I’m not sure I’ve seen a worse group of NFL linebackers than the ones the Eagles employed last year. The position was an incompetent game of musical chairs. If the defense has any hope of rebounding from that, they’ll have to get a major upgrade from their two newcomers.

DeMeco Ryans comes to the middle of the defense with lots of hype. He was a two-time Pro Bowler in a 4-3 defense in Houston, and will certainly be a huge upgrade. Simply having an experienced veteran leader and sure tackler in the middle will boost the Eagles defense significantly. The question of whether he can return to his elite pre-injury self does remain, though.

The second newcomer upon whom much relies is second round pick Mychal Kendricks. The former Cal star has already been slotted in at the strongside linebacker spot, and so far in minicamps the reports have been nothing but positive. There’s a definite danger in projecting Kendricks to start as a rookie, as Eagles fans know all too well. Still, his pedigree is significantly higher than Casey Matthews — and any other current linebacker on the squad not named Ryans.

After that, all we have is a host of unreliable youngsters — the same players who played so poorly last season. As long as the two newcomers work out, this won’t be too much of a problem. Surely one of the bunch can be adequate enough in the weakside job.

The frontrunner for that spot seems to be Jamar Chaney, a player the Eagles coaches must love, because he’s shown next to nothing on the field. Chaney has the athleticism to be a great linebacker, but he’s a poor tackler and worse at finding the ball-carrier in the first place. A strong coach might be able to get something out of him, but Mike Caldwell and Juan Castillo probably aren’t the men for that job.

Brian Rolle is the opposite of Chaney, smaller but smarter and a better tackler to boot. He held the weakside job last year and was the most consistent of any of the young players. Still, I don’t know that many people would hold Rolle’s overall performance in particularly high esteem. He didn’t embarrass himself, as some of the others did, but judging from his frame and rookie play, Rolle’s ceiling is not particularly high. In the long run, he would be best suited for a backup and special teams role.

Next comes Casey Matthews, who was unfairly thrown into the fire at middle linebacker last year. To my eyes, though, his play improved when he returned later in the season, and reports this year say he put on significant weight, from 230 lb. up to the 250 lb. range. That raises questions about whether he has become too big to compete on the weakside, although getting the best three linebackers on the field should always be the priority. Matthews, despite his disastrous rookie season, seems to have the most upside between him, Rolle, and Chaney.

Finally, there’s Keenan Clayton, Moise Fokou, and Akeem Jordan. Clayton, the LB-safety tweener, has shown nothing in two years that justifies keeping him around (plus he just had sports hernia surgery). Fokou played so poorly last year that he took only seven defensive snaps after week nine and none after week twelve. Jordan filled in at strongside linebacker in his place, proving that he could at least be an adequate stopgap. His best play comes out on special teams, though, as the latest Football Outsiders report details.

What I would have done: On paper, if everything goes right, this linebacker corps can be solid. The problem is, everything doesn’t always go as planned. With some luck, Kendricks will grab hold of the strongside job and prove his worth. But it’s just as likely the rookie will need time to adjust to the faster professional game. And while Ryans has all the talent, he’ll need to prove he can rebound from last season’s down year with the Texans. If anything goes wrong with either or both of the Eagles newcomers, you’re immediately back to where you were in 2011.

With that in mind, I would have been more aggressive in trying to add one or two more potential veterans and backups. Someone like Dan Connor would have made a nice Plan B, or even a lesser free agent. Chaney, Matthews, and Rolle should have to fight to make ther roster, let alone the starting 11.

Way-too-early prediction: I think Clayton gets cut, barring some miraculous display of talent we have so far missed. The fact that he barely found the field last year was not a good sign. Fokou’s fall from grace doesn’t bode well for him either. Greg Lloyd, the middle linebacker prospect drafted in the seventh round last year, and the other camp bodies are at best practice squad fodder. Unless one of the other guys can show their worth there, Jordan could retain his roster spot based solely on his special team play.

As to the rest, I’m optimistic but realistic about both newcomers. I don’t expect either to set the world on fire, just hopefully be above average. The trio of Rolle, Chaney, and Matthews will be where the competition lies during training camp. I’m anxious to see which, if any, can prove their worth.

Photo from Getty.

Post-Draft Position Breakdown: Defensive Tackle

Mike Patterson

What the Eagles did: Around the end of January, I started to get the feeling that, other than linebacker, defensive line made the most sense for the Eagles in the first round. Then, as Derek Landri lingered in free agency longer than we expected and the team held a private workout with Fletcher Cox (in tandem with the Dontari Poe parade), the hints were getting stronger and stronger.

Still, I’m not sure any Eagles fan, even the most optimistic Cox supporter, necessarily expected the Eagles to snag a player who was instantly hailed as a perfect fit in Jim Washburn’s system. There aren’t many defensive tackles with Cox’s combination of size, speed, and production. With any luck Washburn can make him into a dominating force like Albert Haynesworth was. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

As to the rest of the group, let me once again put up the pass rushing stats from last year:

2011 Eagles Defensive Tackles

Unsurprisingly, Trevor Laws was let go. Although he had his moments last year, overall the former second round pick was a major disappointment. I suppose he has the excuse of having played for three different defensive coordinators and three other defensive line coaches during his four year tenure, if you want to throw him that bone.

Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins will be the starters. Both are solid veteran players, even if no one is likely to gameplan specifically for them. Jenkins’s 17 sacks over the least three seasons are near the top for all defensive tackles and while Patterson has generally been more of a run stuffer, you see above that Washburn made him the 17th most effective pass rusher in the league from that spot last year. Again, Cox’s ceiling is much higher, but until he’s ready these two are fine in the middle.

Just like with the defensive ends, the other backup spots at tackle are up in the air. Antonio Dixon probably has the inside track to the nose tackle job. He missed nearly all of last year, but signed a restricted free agent tender at the second round level. Derek Landri will certainly continue to make the most of his talents. He was tremendously productive in 2011, but got little interest in free agency. Then there’s Cedric Thornton, who spent most of last season on the team’s practice squad.

What I would have done: Howie Roseman on a roll. This position looks great.

Way-too-early prediction: Is it too optimistic to predict that Cox will start at least six games? Some combination of injury and ridiculous physical potential seem likely to make that happen. If not, he should at least make an immediate contribution in the rotation. As to the fourth spot, it must be Dixon’s to lose, given his youth and talent. Will be interesting to see if he can (a) show the spark he had in 2010, (b) adjust to Washburn’s scheme, and (c) be consistent — but I bet he’ll get every opportunity to do so. Landri’s probably fighting for the Eagles to keep five tackles as much as any specific other player.

Photo from Getty.

Post-Draft Position Breakdown: Defensive End

Darryl Tapp Juqua Parker

What the Eagles did: Back in February, I ran the numbers on the pass rush from the Eagles defensive line. The results were telling:

2011 Eagles Defensive Ends

While production was way up across the entire group (thanks Wash), there was a clear separation. Trent Cole and Jason Babin were spectacular, and with any luck we can get similar production from that duo going forward. They are Pro Bowl-caliber players going into their 30 and 32-year-old seasons, respectively. That places them on the tail end of their prime, most likely, but certainly still in it. No worries there for 2012.

The next pairing I would group are Philip Hunt and Brandon Graham — the question marks. I’m not so sure about his run defense, but Hunt’s pass rushing in limited snaps showed tremendous potential. I’m very interested to see if he can increase his role this season. Graham basically experienced a lost year in 2012. This is his make-or-break campaign. He has the raw talent to push for serious playing time, or he could fall away completely.

The final two were Juqua Parker and Darryl Tapp. As situational pass rushers, neither player was bad, per se. But compared to the rest of the group? The Eagles let Parker walk in free agency, and Tapp now has serious competition to remain on the roster.

Meanwhile, the team added Vinny Curry in the second round, making him the most talented football-playing Eagles fan anywhere. Curry slots right in with Hunt and Graham at this point. He’s young, ideally-suited to Jim Washburn’s schemes, and could contribute right away.

What I would have done: I might have tried to trade Darryl Tapp away during the draft for an extra pick, but I can see the logic in keeping him around at this point. After Babin and Cole, Tapp is the only defensive end with starting experience. He’s a solid veteran insurance policy, even if he looks like the odd man out right now.

Other than that one nitpicky point, solid job by Howie Roseman.

Way-too-early prediction: Especially with the flexibility to slide Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox outside, I can’t imagine the Eagles would keep more than five players at defensive end. Barring injuries, Cole, Babin, Graham, and Curry are all locked in. As I discussed above, there’s reason to be fairly bullish about Hunt’s chances as well. That puts Tapp (and whichever free agent replaces the now-injured Maurice Favorite) out on the street.

Other than that general roster prognostication, I don’t really have any idea who will emerge as the first guy off the bench. It should be one of the more interesting positions to watch from a playing-time competition standpoint.

Photo from Getty.

Post-Draft Position Breakdown: Offensive Line

Eagles Offensive Line

What the Eagles did: In Howard Mudd we trust.

That sentence basically sums up where the Eagles stand in relation to their offensive line right now, in the post-Jason Peters 2012 continuity. (I like to think that somewhere out there is an alternate timeline where Julian Vandervelde, not Peters, tore his Achillies. Asante Samuel fetched a first round draft pick, too.)

Peters had one of the best seasons for an offensive lineman that I’ve ever seen. He was dominant in every phase of the game. It will not be possible to replicate his performance, and the Eagles offense will undoubtedly suffer significantly from his absence. Either King Dunlap or Demetress Bell, most likely the latter, will try to step into Peters’s shoes, but we shouldn’t hope for anything more than average play.

On top of that 6’4”, 340 lb. hole, Mudd also has to turn Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins into good offensive linemen. I’m not sure that any topic inspired more argument among fans last year than the Eagles rookie linemen. There are lots of people who insist that Kelce and Watkins were above average, even worthy of Pro Bowl considerations. That’s just not true, as far as my eyes and stats could tell.

Finally, there are the two starters I’m not worried about: Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis. Neither player is particularly dominant, but continued solid performance will be of paramount necessity with the rest of the line questionable.

What I would have done: Despite my reservations about the Eagles line, I don’t think I would have done anything differently. After Peters’ injury, Howie Roseman pounced on Bell and made sure to retain Dunlap. Neither is a sure thing, but at least there are two reasonable options in the wake of that shocking development. Long term, assuming Peters recovers, the line is locked up, so a high draft pick wasn’t strictly necessary.

Way-too-early prediction: Do I trust Howard Mudd? At the end of the day, the answer is yes, so I’m willing to be optimistic about Kelce, Watkins, and even Bell. I wouldn’t be surpised, however, if Mathis falls back to earth a little bit without a dominant tackle at his side.

Photo from Getty.

Post-Draft Position Breakdown: Wide Receiver

What the Eagles did: The Eagles love to load up on wide receivers in the offseason, mainly (I assume) to take up all the tiring practice repetitions running up and down the field, working on routes with the quarterbacks. Right now they have 14 wideouts on the roster, most of whom we probably don’t need to worry about learning their names.

There are really only six receivers who, barring injury, are competing for regular season jobs, and the top three are already set. Dave Spadaro reports that DeSean Jackson is acting Iike a totally different man at the NovaCare complex now that he has a new contract. Prorated over the three games he missed due to injury, Jeremy Maclin would have had 78 receptions for 1,057 yards and 6 TDs last year. Hopefully a healthy offseason will allow him to top those numbers. Meanwhile, Jason Avant posted his best numbers at age 28 last season, so you can pencil him in the slot once more.

However, this great core group of wide receivers still has a major weakness: red zone production. All three are at their worst in that area of the field — which is why, not for the first time, we’re looking to some bigger wideouts to step up in that area.

First up is the holdover Riley Cooper. Due to injuries, the Eagles actually gave Cooper a lot of snaps last year, 330 according to Pro Football Focus. Yet ‘Sunshine’ did little to justify those extra looks. So in the draft this year, Howie Roseman added some competition for that big receiver job we’ll affectionately call the honorary Hank Baskett role. Marvin McNutt, the Eagles sixth round pick out of Iowa, has a similar build and athleticism as Cooper. It will be interesting to see if he can displace the other big man.

What I would have done: Bringing on another big wide receiver was necessary, considering Michael Vick’s strengths and Cooper’s lack of production. But I would have also liked to see the Eagles draft a multidimensional threat to supplant the bland Chad Hall. Hall has value on this team as a trick play threat and backup kick returner, but the team could have found someone with more speed and explosiveness to fill that role. Brandon Boykin will have a lot on his plate at cornerback in his rookie year, but I wonder if he could fill in on offense as well, like he did in college.

Way-too-early prediction: The Eagles might be able to stretch their roster to accommodate six receivers, as they did last year due to injury. If not, I’m unsure which of the three backups could see the door. McNutt would certainly have trouble being worse than Cooper as a wide receiver, but he’ll have to replace him on special teams as well, which might be harder to do. Then there’s Chad Hall, whom Andy Reid just can’t seem to cut loose. My prediction would be that Cooper is let go, but that’s not one made with very much confidence.

Post-Draft Position Breakdown: Running Back

Dion Lewis Eagles

What the Eagles did: The Eagles now have five running backs and three fullbacks on the roster, yet 23-year-old LeSean McCoy is the veteran of the group. The other seven have exactly 42 regular season snaps between them — and all of them from second-year running back Dion Lewis.

Let me just reiterate: that is a staggering level of inexperience. As of this moment, the Eagles still have two open roster spots, so adding a veteran like Joseph Addai or Justin Forsett is still possible. But so far it the front office has intimated that it is comfortable with a youth movement.

There’s no player behind McCoy that you can look at with confidence. Dion Lewis is the only one with NFL experience, and barely so. His kickoffs were a disaster and in limited playing time he showed some burst, but no indication he can take over full time in an emergency. Instead of giving their 5’7”, 2011 fifth-round pick some much needed veteran competition, the Eagles shopped at the discount store, picking up two high-profile rookies with promise as well as major reservations.

Paul Domowitch has a story today about seventh-rounder Bryce Brown’s college meanderings, and it can be summed up with one word: immaturity. Brown never had any legal problems, but he managed to quit on not one, but two football teams in three years. The physical tools on the 5’11”, 225 lb., sub-4.4 40 back are incredible, but he’s nothing more an interesting athlete without his mind in the right place.

The other guy fans are high on is Chris Polk, undrafted free agent out of Washington. Unlike Brown, Polk was tremendously productive in college, rushing for over 4,000 yards. However, his has a huge injury question mark. Despite a draft grade as high as the second round according to some experts, Polk was clearly taken off of all 32 teams boards. That’s not good.

As to fullback, Stanley Havili is the frontrunner, having rode the practice squad all 2012. The Eagles brought in two undrafted free agents to compete with Havili, Stanford fullback Jeremy Stewart and Massachusetts fullback/tight end/linebacker Emil Igwenagu.

What I would have done: The fliers on talented running backs are never a problem, per se. However, those players are like lottery tickets, great if you win but much more likely to end up discarded in the trash. There aren’t many exciting veterans available in free agency, but I would still try to grab one for insurance — at least until Lewis or one of the other backs look ready to step in for McCoy in a pinch. If I could do it all over I might have tried to nab Peyton Hillis as McCoy’s back up back in March. After a disastrous season last year, the multi-dimensional Hillis went to the Chiefs on a cheap deal.

I also would have tried to upgrade at fullback, but that’s a losing argument with this front office.

Way-too-early prediction: I’m not convinced the Eagles are sold on Lewis enough to make him the primary backup. The Ronnie Brown signing never worked, but that doesn’t mean the logic behind that deal doesn’t still apply. Addai or another back could still be in the cards.

Of the rest, Polk’s injury concerns must be worse than we know. Don’t expect anything more than injured reserve for him. There’s probably not a better candidate on the roster right now for training camp darling than Brown. Graig Cooper, an undrafted pick up last offseason, will compete but no one’s given any indication he’s more than a camp body. Havili will probably be the starting fullback and the Eagles will stash one of the others on the practice squad.

Photo from Getty.

Post-Draft Position Breakdown: Quarterback

Mike Kafka Eagles

What the Eagles did: I’ve already written about the Nick Foles pick at some length here, although only from the perspective that I think he was overdrafted based on his talent. Foles is an odd selection because he seems so far outside the type of player Andy Reid usually goes for. Huge, with a cannon arm but limited athleticism doesn’t exactly echo through the years of Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and Michael Vick. It remains to be seen if Reid and Marty Mornhinweg can either fit him into their offense or adjust the offense to fit him.

Because of that, I have a sneaking suspicion that Russell Wilson was the real target. After the Foles pick, Reid denied any interest in Brock Osweiler, but admitted that he “honed in on those two guys,” Foles and Wilson:

"And with these quarterbacks very few of them come from the west coast offense. You saw the kid that went before him (Wisconsin QB Russell) Wilson. He had played in the west coast offense at North Carolina State. There are very few of those that have that opportunity to do that… I liked Wilson, yeah, I sure did. He’s a heck of a player too. We had our eye on those two players and I wish that kid all the best. He’s got a great personality. Not a lot of guys have his size, but he gives you the confidence he’s going to be able to do it."

Maybe I’m reading too much into his press conference, but my immediate thought after watching it was along the lines of, “that was a much stronger endorsement than Reid gave Foles.” And Wilson just makes so much sense as a player who wouldn’t challenge Vick’s current leadership but could learn a tremendous amount watching him.

Given Wilson was selected only 13 spots ahead of the Eagles by a Seattle team that no one expected to draft another quarterback, Reid and Howie Roseman may have been forced to settle for Foles instead.

What I would have done: Obviously, I wouldn’t have drafted Nick Foles. He doesn’t seem likely to have the talent or the fit to make him a potential starter down the road, nor will he help push Mike Kafka to be a better backup.

The Eagles definitely have a long term need for a franchise quarterback to replace Vick. We won’t know how long term that need is until after this coming make-or-break season for him. Therefore, barring the ability to go get a top talent like Robert Griffin III, drafting someone in the early-middle rounds probably wasn’t the best use of resources. My goal would have been to grab a veteran backup to compete with Kafka instead, perhaps buying low on either Colt McCoy or Seneca Wallace in Cleveland.

Way-too-early prediction: Don’t expect anything from Foles this year, but it will be interesting to see if the Eagles quarterback gurus can help Vick and Kafka rebound from a down year in 2011. As a rule of thumb, one shouldn’t discount the Eagles coaching ability in this area (Vince Young/Mike McMahon nonwithstanding), so I’m reasonably optimistic.

Still, I wonder if we’ve seen the the limits of Vick’s abilities. It’s tough for him to mature into a more responsible quarterback at his age. An improvement from last season is likely, but a return to 2010 may be too much to ask. As to Kafka, I don’t trust him right now but a third-year leap into AJ Feeley territory isn’t out of range.

Oh, and Trent Edwards is not making the team.

Photo from Getty.

Arguing for, um, Jerry Jones

Jimmy Kempski:

They’re a team with no shortage of star power (or at least perceived star power) at the top: Ware, Romo, Witten, Austin, Ratliff, Smith, Lee and if you want to throw in Bryant and Carr too, then OK, I suppose I’ll allow it.

Beyond the stars, there’s mediocrity up and down the starting lineup and typically no depth to speak of whatsoever. This has not been a winning formula, and probably never will be.

The Cowboys’ decision to trade up and utilize their top 2 picks on one player (albeit potentially a great one), especially at a position that didn’t need as much help as other areas, reflects that same pattern.

Jimmy’s point about the Cowboys is well taken, and I can’t find fault with his encyclopedic knowledge of Dallas’s woes up and down their lineup. Still, I actually think trading up for Morris Claiborne is a justifiable, and in fact, possibly great move for Jerry Jones.

My main disagreement is that the Cowboys’ greater need at multiple positions shouldn’t disqualify them from grabbing a player at the top of their draft board. I like the Eagles decision to move up for Fletcher Cox, but they undoubtedly have positions in worse straits as well (e.g. safety and linebacker). Drafting a player that you feel strongly can become a Pro Bowler should come ahead of almost all considerations of need. Sure, more picks are better, but taking one of the consensus top six players in the draft this year probably balances out whomever you could have gotten at pick 45.

Building a roster is a long term game. You can’t solve (or ignore) all your problems in one draft or offseason. Dallas may fail at that in the long term, but in itself, picking Claiborne isn’t a poor decision.

Quarterback Draft Inflation: From Kafka to Foles

Nick Foles Arizona

I have a theory about the Eagles third round selection of quarterback Nick Foles. Despite the relatively early pick, it has nothing to do with replacing Michael Vick or even Mike Kafka. It’s about the NFL draft and the dramatic quarterback inflation that has occurred in the last two years.

Let’s take a quick journey back to 2010. Sam Bradford went first to the Rams and Denver jumped up to 25 overall to get Tim Tebow. The next quarterbacks off the board were Jimmy Clausen (#48), Colt McCoy (#85), and the Eagles’ Kafka (#122). That order of quarterbacks coming off the board — two in the opening round, another one in each of the following — is right in line with what had been going on ever since the draft was whittled down to seven rounds in 1994.

But that pattern, largely consistent for the previous 15 years, was thrown out the window over the last two. In 2011, four quarterbacks were drafted in the first round, and six in the top 40 picks. That rivaled two of the biggest quarterback-heavy drafts in recent memory, 1999 and 2004, despite talent that few considered equal. Then this most recent draft saw another four quarterbacks taken in the first, something that’s never happened in two straight years. Overall, the 2012 draft was slightly behind the 2011 pace, but it was still far ahead of nearly any prior draft.

Here, see for yourself, in table and graphical forms:

QB Draft Order Table

QB Draft Order Graph

What does this mean about Foles? It means that the Eagles likely drafted a worse quarterback in an earlier round than they ever would have before. For example, the team selected Kafka in the fourth round of 2010, presumably to be a long term backup they could groom. He was the fifth quarterback drafted overall.

Foles, taken a round and a half before Kafka, was only the seventh-best quarterback according to draft order. Perhaps this year’s crop of quarterbacks, and Foles in particular, is better than the group teams had to choose from in 2010 — and nearly every prior year. But my impression is that most experts considered this, pre-draft, to be at best an average class after the two stars.

Two years may be too soon to confirm a trend, but the evidence is there. Quarterbacks have never been more highly valued in the NFL. Desperate teams without a franchise signal-caller give big contracts to former backups and trade for anyone with promise. It only makes sense that such a frenzied demand would trickle down to the draft. As that happens, quarterbacks with starting potential rise from the second and third rounds into the top 30 picks, and those who might have been considered late round projects jump up to take their place.

Suddenly, this starts to look less like a fluke and more like a serious shift in how quarterback prospects are valued. We would be wise to view the Foles pick with that in mind.

Photo from Getty.

Vinny Curry, Best Player Available

Chris McPherson:

Roseman hinted that the team has previously made some reaches in order to fill a need. Roseman was certainly tested in his third draft as the Eagles’ general manager. No situation better highlighted Roseman’s mission than what was presented to them with the 59th overall pick when the Eagles selected Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry.

"He was the best player on our board," Roseman said. "He was standing out to us. We just felt like we were in a position where we had to take him. He’s a talented guy."

Since the first press conference after Curry was drafted, the Eagles front office and PR squad have aggressively hawked the fact that he was the best player available — something they haven’t found necessary to mention (let alone pound into the narrative) with any other draft pick. Methinks they dost protect someone’s feelings too much.

Grade the Eagles Draft Picks

Philly.com lets you rate each Eagles draft pick, from A to F. Here are the results so far, with A & B grades constituting “positive” ratings:

Fletcher Cox: 98.6% positive
Mychal Kendricks: 95.3% positive
Vinny Curry: 94.3% positive
Nick Foles: 38.6% positive
Brandon Boykin: 93.9% positive
Dennis Kelly: 46.5% positive
Marvin McNutt: 74.6% positive
Brandon Washington: 70.7% positive
Bryce Brown: 60.0% positive

Overall Draft: 94.9% positive