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

Throwing Cold Water on Dubious Roster Battles

Reuben Frank put out a list of the top ten roster battles heading into training camp. He hits on some of the biggest ones: Atogwe vs. Coleman, Rolle vs. Chaney, Hanson vs. Boykin. But he also lists a bunch of questionable ones:

  • Dion Lewis vs. Bryce Brown? I’m excited to see if Brown can make the transition to the NFL. He clearly has 5x the physical potential of Lewis. But I’m not really seeing the competition for backup running back. There’s just no way Brown is going to come in after sitting out nearly all of college and immediately pick up the complexity of the Eagles offense and the intricacies of pass blocking, other essential bits. Then again, don’t read this as an endorsement of Lewis, who seems like a poor backup to one of the best players on the roster.
  • Riley Cooper vs. Damaris Johnson? It’s unclear whether the Eagles will keep five or six wide receivers, but I don’t really see the big receivers competing against the smaller ones. Cooper and Marvin McNutt would serve similar roles on the roster, as would Johnson and Chad Hall. Those are the real one-on-one battles. Winners of each competition will be guaranteed a spot on the roster. After that, all they can do is hope the Eagles keep six guys.
  • Clay Harbor vs. Brett Brackett? With the Eagles using more two tight end sets, the question is really whether Brackett can play his way onto the roster — not whether he can beat out Harbor, a more experienced player and much better blocker.
  • Mike Kafka vs. Nick Foles? As with Lewis/Brown, this isn’t a ringing endorsement of Kafka. But Frank is the first person to suggest that Foles even has a shot to replace him in his rookie year.

Ahead of all of the above, I’d rate these battles: Demetress Bell vs. King Dunlap, Jaiquawn Jarrett vs. the Chopping Block, Derek Landri vs. Antonio Dixon vs. Cedric Thornton.

Could the Eagles Be Interested in Colt McCoy?

Jason Brewer speculates as to whether the Eagles might be looking at acquiring Colt McCoy on the cheap:

McCoy was a third round pick in 2010 and has started 25 games over his first two seasons in the league. He hasn’t been particularly good, but he is still young, he didn’t have a lot of help in Cleveland and he might benefit from a little Reid/Mornhinweg attention. And if it is true that he could be had for next to nothing, might he better extra QB than Trent Edwards?

Truth be told, that’s what I wanted the Eagles to do instead of drafting another mid-round QB like Nick Foles. McCoy is a poor man’s Kevin Kolb, but at least he has significant starting experience in a similar offense. The problem is that, barring injury, there’s no room for another McCoy on the roster.

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.

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.

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

Notes on the Rest of the 2012 Eagles Draft

Vinny Curry Marshall Philadelphia Eagles

The NFL draft is now in the books, and by almost all accounts the Eagles did little to complain about. Here are my miscellaneous thoughts on what happened on days two and three:

  • Watch the Vinny Curry interviews, then watch them again and again. His Eagles fandom is clearly as raw as yours and mine, and it’s awesome to see the excitement one of us would undoubtedly have, had we the talent to end up playing for our hometown team.

  • Nick Foles, the big reach. There has been serious quarterback inflation in the last two drafts, something which will be the focus of my post tomorrow. Until then, just consider that Nick Foles was the seventh quarterback selected, at pick 88 overall. Mike Kafka was the fifth off the board in 2010, at pick 122. A round and a half earlier, for a worse quarterback? Maybe. (Also, I’m 95 percent convinced that Russell Wilson was the real target.)

  • The Eagles have drafted defensive players with 9 of their last 11 first, second, and third round picks. So far, the results have been atrocious. Let’s hope this last batch can turn things around.

  • After complaining in recent years that the Eagles had become too safe in the late rounds and undrafted free agency, I certainly can’t complain about the wave of longshot, troubled players the Eagles snagged this time around. I actually like the strategy, especially at running back, where the team took a major athlete with limited production and questionable work ethic (Bryce Brown) and a productive talent who was taken off seemingly everyone’s draft board due to injuries (Chris Polk). Especially at running back, which other than pass protection is relatively easy to pick up, one of these longshots could pay off. A veteran back up would still be nice, though.

  • There are some other interesting names on the UDFA list. Kentucky punter Ryan Tydlacka should give Chas Henry some much needed competition. Another long snapper is a shot across reliable Jon Dorenbos’s bow. And not one but two fullbacks means we’ll have a healthy fight for one of the most marginalized positions on the team.

  • Please direct all your “steal” or “reach” designations here.

  • Two things granted: Brandon Boykin had great college production and the slot corner role is becoming more and more important. That said, I’m a little hesitant about drafting a guy whose size has made every draft expert who has looked at him say, “what a great nickel back.” In some ways, this pick was the opposite of the Curtis Marsh selection last year, when the Eagles went for physicality over refined performance. It will be interesting to watch which pick turns out better for the Birds going forward.

  • There’s a lot riding on Mychal Kendricks being Andy Reid’s first successful second round linebacker — and the results need to show right away. Under no circumstance should more than one of last year’s linebackers start in 2012. Right now Brian Rolle has the inside track on keeping his weakside job, but Casey Matthews could push him there, after ending last season on a relative high note.

  • My draft predictions weren’t half bad, if I do say so myself.

Photo from Getty.