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.
Check out this chart, numbers courtesy of Pro Football Focus. It shows the breakdown in Michael Vick’s performance when he dropped back to pass against the blitz, in 2010 and then 2011. The chart is stacked so that you see how all the individual slivers add up to 100 percent:
What do we see? Sacks, down slightly. Touchdowns, down slightly. Other completions, up from 35 percent to 44 percent. Regular incompletions, down 3 percent. All good — except for the touchdowns.
Then there’s Vick’s runs and his interceptions. Granted, juxtaposing these two stats isn’t necessarily fair play. But there’s an interesting correlation, whereby Vick cut his scrambling in half from 14 percent to 7 percent of plays against the blitz while his interception rate on those plays jumped from 1.6 percent to 5.6 percent.
On one hand, calming down in the pocket and passing under pressure is an important skill to be an elite quarterback. On the other hand, maybe Vick would get himself into less trouble if he allowed himself to run a little bit more and forced his throws a little bit less.
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.
“Some if it was, ‘What was I thinking?’ ” Pederson said, describing Vick’s reaction to last year’s game tapes. Some turnovers were out of his hands. A few interceptions came from wild tips. But “for the most part it’s just ‘Why? … Why did I do that?’ And that’s the kind of thing that we missed a year ago in that offseason.”
Sometimes your greatest strength can be your greatest weakness. For Michael Vick, his athleticism allows him to skate by on improvisation alone. It’s good to see him questioning that mentality.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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Last year at this time I made eight predictions about what the Eagles would do in the draft. Some of them were more conservative than others, and I missed on one of my biggest guesses — saying that the team wouldn’t draft at their assigned first round spot. Still, I managed to get six of eight correct, and predicted the general thrust of the draft rather well (linebacker and offensive line, not defensive line).
So I’m back again for another round of likely folly. Here are my predictions for what we will see over the next few days.
Carpet-bombing the defense: early and often. Big picture: all the talented young players are on offense. You can quibble with this if you want, since there’s no reason to give up already on guys like Brandon Graham or Nate Allen. Still, the defense needs more playmakers going forward, and the only way to do that is to spend at least three out of the Eagles first four picks on defensive players. I expect the team to come out of the draft with as many as half their picks going toward the front seven.
No rookie running back, no safety. Unless the Eagles fall in love with one prospect, I just don’t see much benefit in adding another young running back or safety. Both positions have a single open back up job and that spot really needs to be filled with a veteran whose only responsibility is to fill in this year if something goes wrong. Instead, watch out for an Ellis Hobbs-type trade for a marginalized veteran player.
One offensive lineman, maximum. Last year the Eagles snatched up three interior linemen to build out Howard Mudd’s new blocking scheme. If not for Jason Peters’s injury, I’m not sure they would have bothered drafting even one this year, but a long term project at tackle now makes sense.
Chad Hall 2.0. Andy Reid loves the multidimensional ability that Hall brings to the offense so much that he’s willing to overlook his complete lack of NFL-caliber skills. I think the Eagles will draft someone like Florida’s Chris Rainey to return kicks and serve as a speedier x-factor on offense. Best case scenario, the team also gets its long-term replacement for Jason Avant with this guy.
Choir boys. Howie Roseman made some comments to reporters recently in which he seemed to flirt with the idea of taking more character risks. His actions over the last two drafts say otherwise. I expect the Eagles’ fascination with captains, seniors, and consistent, big-school performers to continue (e.g. no Vontaze Burfict).
Michael Vick is still safe. With few good quarterback options in this draft and the whole organization focused on getting Vick back on track in 2012, there’s no good case to reach for a quarterback of the future. Trent Edwards is tremendously uninspiring, but his competition is likely to be either a late round flier (Russell Wilson, Kellen Moore) or a veteran to be pursued later.
Surprise neglect of cornerback early on. With Asante Samuel gone, there’s plenty of room to go after Dre Kirkpartrick or another cover guy in the first round. But of the Eagles defensive spots, cornerback still has the most options. The team is heavily committed to Nnamdi Asomugha over the next few years and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a likely candidate for a contract extension. Curtis Marsh is the wildcard. He made no impact in 2011, but was always considered a project with all the skills. Todd Bowles may not need another youngster.
At least ten rookies. Last year one of my failed predictions was that the Eagles wouldn’t use all of their picks. But of course, they love drafting players and will probably end up trading back to add picks at least once.
I’m not making a prediction for the first round, although I already laid out what I think the Eagles are thinking (Peter King shoutout). Fletcher Cox is the potential trade-up candidate, Luke Kuechly the likely front-runner if they stay at 15 overall. Barring that I’m less sure, although a versatile pass rusher like Melvin Ingram makes the most sense of the remaining players.
Photo from Getty.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Except when it comes to the NFL draft, in which case the smoke may be planted ten miles away to distract everyone from the actual blaze.
If you ask me, that’s what’s going on with all these rumors about the Eagles moving high up in the draft. First there was the report saying the team was in the hunt to move up to the fourth overall pick. Then there’s this nugget, from National Football Post’s Dan Pompei:
A buzz is building in NFL front offices that the Eagles are going to take a quarterback fairly high. If they don’t make a move for Ryan Tannehill in round one, the Eagles could wait until the second round and go after Kirk Cousins or Brandon Weeden. Such a move could indicate the Eagles have concerns about Michael Vick’s ability to stay healthy and how he fits in Andy Reid’s offense.
First of all, there is ample evidence to suggest the Eagles aren’t finished at quarterback. Mike Kafka is no sure-thing backup, and Trent Edwards didn’t receive more than the most token endorsement from Andy Reid as the third-stringer. They might be looking to draft another quarterback to develop or pick up another veteran.
But why would the Eagles move up to get Tannehill? He’s way overvalued as a top ten pick, and there’s no reason for the team to mortgage most of their draft to reach for a guy like that. To get up to the Browns pick, for example, would require three-quarters of the cost the Redskins paid for the rights to RG3 and you probably wouldn’t get half as good of a player.
Moreover, if the team really was interested in moving up to get Tannehill or drafting one of the other quarterbacks a little bit later on, it would be in their interest to keep such thoughts to themselves.
The Eagles don’t want to trade up from 15 to anywhere between three and eight. It’d cost too much, and I sense their interest in Tannehill has been overstated. Philadelphia has sniffed around the quarterback position through the offseason, which could be a sign they’ve cooled on Michael Vick as their long-term solution at the position, and the Eagles have been linked to the Texas A&M quarterback because they sent quarterback coach Doug Pederson to the school to work out Tannehill two weeks ago. The Eagles might pay something to move up for Tannehill, but it won’t be much, and the move won’t be far.
I think it’s interesting that King pegged ninth overall as being the highest the Eagles would be likely to trade up. That probably has something to do with the Dolphins pick at eight being about as far as Tannehill is likely to drop, but more importantly, the Eagles can move up that high using just one of their second round picks.
If I were sitting at 15, I’d probably be content to see how the first eight picks shake out. Three quarterbacks are likely to go that high, which could leave one or more elite position players within striking distance. If not, Howie Roseman can still watch the board and jump ahead of any team he thinks might be targeting his top player (say, Fletcher Cox).
The rest is just smoke.
Photo from Getty.
There’s something odd about the run-up to the NFL draft that causes everyone to start shouting out possible players the Eagles could choose in the the first (and every) round. It makes for fun speculation, but ultimately each prediction is little more than a guess.
Perhaps a more fruitful topic for discussion isn’t trying to decide what the Eagles will do or who they should pick — but rather who they shouldn’t. Honestly, while I’m learning more every day about the various options at defensive line and elsewhere, even the early prospects are still mostly a mystery to me. But I have strong opinions on what the Eagles should not do in the first round.
Don’t Draft a Quarterback. I already talked about why the Eagles weren’t a good fit for Robert Griffin III, but now Ryan Tannehill’s name keeps popping up for a first round option. The same argument applies, but especially for a guy who isn’t of RG3’s caliber. Quarterbacks like Tannehill have shot up draft boards in recent years because of the importance of the position and scarcity of franchise players, which makes such a selection in the first round a huge reach.
Don’t Draft a Running Back. I like Trent Richardson as much as the next guy, but even if he fell to a place where the Eagles could grab him, I still wouldn’t be happy. The team already has an elite running back in a league that values them less with every passing day.
Don’t Draft a Wide Receiver. Third or fourth round, sure. I’d like some depth and competition, but they have their starters locked up through the next two seasons at least. Leave it alone.
Don’t Draft a Tight End. There is no clear-cut first round caliber guy here. Case closed.
Don’t Draft an Offensive Lineman. I’m not taking anything for granted at tackle, where Jason Peters will be out for the year, but Demetress Bell and King Dunlap will almost certainly be better in 2012 than what you could find at number 15 overall in this weak class. Unless you worry about Peters’ recovery beyond that, this isn’t a position of need. And please, nothing could be worse than drafting another first round guard.
Hey, look… there seems to be a general trend here.
Photo from Getty.
There was a lot more hand-wringing and bad-mouthing than I expected regarding Washington’s big trade to jump up to the second pick in the draft. And yes, absolutely the cost for Robert Griffin III was high. The risk may be even higher. But even so, the Redskins front office deserves high marks for executing this dramatic move.
One of the paramount truths of today’s NFL is that your franchise is irrelevant unless it has an elite quarterback. I don’t mean that you absolutely can’t win. Teams can go far in the playoffs or even win a Super Bowl with some luck, timing, and roster dominance in other areas (See: 2011 Broncos, 2000 Ravens). I mean that you are unable to sustain or count on success.
Teams that don’t have a franchise QB grasp at straws year after year. They do what the Redskins have done. They throw second-tier, underprepared youngsters into the role and hope they succeed. They cycle through overpriced veterans past their prime and flawed journeyman. It’s the most pathetic of struggles, as the front office just tries to keep their team above water.
Since Dan Snyder bought that team in 1999, they have had seven different single-season passing leaders. It’s been a murderer’s row of Brad Johnson, Tony Banks, Patrick Ramsey, Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell, old Donovan McNabb, and Rex Grossman. Yuck.
Andy Reid is not a perfect coach, but he understands this better than anyone. He didn’t hesitate to draft Donovan McNabb, and reared him into a top quarterback. When Reid saw the end of McNabb’s career, he snared Kevin Kolb to carry the torch. And now he’s settled on Michael Vick for at least the next couple of years. All three of those quarterbacks, even Kolb, would have been upgrades over the slop the Redskins have tolerated over the last decade. Reid never would have let himself go that long without a real franchise quarterback.
Regardless of how it turns out, the Redskins should be applauded for finally grasping that half measures aren’t enough. Another couples of years stumbling along with more free agent castoffs or another mediocre prospect would have gotten that front office fired anyway. At some point, you might as well try something that could actually work.
Photo from Getty.
Greg Cosell, for NFL Films:
There’s a critical distinction in the development of NFL quarterbacks. It’s the difference between understanding defenses, and manipulating defenses, the divide between the concrete and the conceptual. Understanding defenses is the first step in the process. It allows you to register and process what you see. Manipulating defenses before the snap of the ball is the Ph.D of NFL quarterbacking. The great ones, like Brady, Brees, and now Rodgers and Manning, know where the defense will move after the snap. Their decisions are almost always made in the pre snap phase. Nothing that occurs after the snap surprises them. They play proactively, not reactively. As a Patriots offensive coach once told me, the magic with Brady occurs before the ball is snapped.
Vick must get to that point in his development. That comes from off-season work, something he has not had as a starter in 6 years. Vick needs to play the position as a disciplined craft, not as a spontaneous playmaker. That road will always lead to disappointment and frustration.
Les Bowen got some prized one-on-one time with everyone’s favorite evasive head coach, and pulled a few good nuggets to share with the group.
Andy has spoken to DeSean Jackson since the franchising of the wideout last week. “I think he’ll sign the tender,” Reid said. “He was very positive about it.” Reid reiterated what he said last month, that the attitude change down the stretch convinced him he could go forward with Jackson, after a rough middle of the season. “That was important,” Andy said. I don’t have a good quote that conveys it, but I got the sense Reid absolutely expects to have Jackson here.
The evidence continues to mount that DeSean’s midseason stretch of poor play and the infamous alarm clock incident scared him straight. Whatever happens between the wide receiver and the team long term, Jackson can’t afford to look like the villain.
Reid sees Mike Kafka as his No. 2 QB in 2012, with Trent Edwards maybe No. 3, depending on how he does and what else develops, via the draft, for instance.
Surprising that Andy didn’t even try to play up Edwards for the third quarterback spot. He’s just keeping the seat warm for somebody else. The questions about Kafka remain.
Heisman-winning quarterback and draft analyst man-crush Robert Griffin III met with the Eagles at the NFL Combine late last week, sparking a mini-resurgence of speculation (read: hope) that by some twist of fate RG3 could be coming to Philadelphia.
Jimmy Kempsi wrote, “it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see the Eagles make some sort of blockbuster trade to move up to 2 to get him.” He goes on to make some good points: Michael Vick will turn 32 before the season starts, his contract isn’t really for the full six years, and the cost of paying a first round quarterback isn’t prohibitive any more. Despite those reasons, there are still major barriers to bringing Griffin to the Eagles.
Let’s start with the fact that the Eagles are completely outgunned in trade negotiations. All indications are that the Rams are looking to sell out of the second overall selection. Do you know what it would take for the Eagles to even get into the conversation for that pick? According to the draft value chart, giving up the Eagles 2012 1st, two 2nd, 3rd, and 2013 1st round picks still leaves the team coming up slightly short.
For comparison, let’s take two of the teams cited most often in trade rumors: the Browns and the Redskins. Cleveland has the 4th and 22nd overall picks. Just those two selections are already worth more than the massive Eagles bounty described above. Former Eagles GM Tom Heckert definitely has the inside track on Griffin. Washington, meanwhile, could match Philly’s offer with just their 1st and 2nd round picks this year and 1st rounder next year.
You can draw comparisons with Vick today and Donovan McNabb in 2007, the year the Eagles drafted Kevin Kolb, but the cost is so much more prohibitive for Griffin. Using an early second round pick when you already have a starting quarterback is questionable, forfeiting almost your entire draft is prohibitive.
And that brings up the second major reason to shoot down any Griffin ideas: the opportunity cost is far too high. Giving up that many high picks would mean ignoring needs at a bunch of positions, including linebacker, defensive line, cornerback, and wide receiver. Given the general lack of young talent, especially on defense, the Eagles cannot afford to waste the opportunity to finally get a good, full draft.
Drafting Griffin, despite these concerns, would be writing the next year or two off. The Eagles front office would be admitting to the fans and — more importantly — a veteran group of players that they can’t win in 2012. They would be telling Michael Vick, who everyone hopes will work to improve himself this offseason, that he’s not really their franchise player. That could be a disaster.
What it comes down to is that the timing is off. Tommy Lawlor called the situation “awkward,” but it’s more than that. 2012 is shaping up to be a make-or-break year for more than just Andy Reid. Vick needs to get back to his 2010 form. DeSean Jackson, if he even accepts the franchise tag, could be gone after 2012. Veterans like Cullen Jenkins, Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, and Trent Cole may only have a year or two of high-level play left, and poor drafting has left the cupboard bare behind them.
Next year should answer a lot of questions about this team and the way it’s constructed. The Eagles could rebound and make a playoff run, in which case you will want a strong crop of young players in place to fill in the holes and keep up the momentum. Alternatively, if the Eagles flop there will be a NovaCare house cleaning like we haven’t seen since 1999. In that case, the team will be in a natural position to draft a new franchise quarterback and rebuild around him going forward.
Watching RG3 highlights is intoxicating, and I would love it if he ended up with the Eagles. But it’s not going to happen. Let’s just make that clear.
Photo from Getty.