Over the weekend, the Eagles welcomed eleven young prospects to the family. How many of them will be able to make their mark on the franchise immediately. Last year, the team got great production out of Jamar Chaney, Kurt Coleman, and Nate Allen, with Riley Cooper, Trevard Lindley, and Brandon Graham showing some promise as well. Here are my grades and analysis of all eleven selections.
1. Danny Watkins (Round 1, 23rd overall): Watkins wasn’t on my radar in the first round, but he will start at right guard from day one and has a great amount of untapped potential as a player who is still new to the game. He reminds me a lot of Logan Mankins, who was taken in a similar spot and then promptly kicked inside to guard, where he excelled. It’s worth noting that he’s almost 27, but he’s still a solid pick for the Eagles. To me, he has a high floor and a higher ceiling, and while I would have rather had Jimmy Smith or Gabe Carimi, I can’t fault Andy Reid too much for this pick. Grade: B-
2. Jaiquawn Jarrett (Round 2, 54th overall): I can tell Jarrett will be a fan favorite. He played his college ball for Temple and will hit the snot out of anything that moves. Brian Dawkins comes to mind as Jarrett excels in run support. Of course, the fact that the Eagles went safety so high almost certainly means that Quintin Mikell’s run in Philadelphia is over. Jarrett will be an exceptional special teams player while he adjusts to the speed of the game and becomes more comfortable in man coverage. If he learns quickly, he will compete with Kurt Coleman for the starting strong safety gig. Because I’m not quite sold in his coverage skills, I give the pick a B- grade.
3. Curtis Marsh (Round 3, 90th overall): Marsh is a developmental cover man who spent a good part of his college career as a running back at Utah State. He recently converted to cornerback, where he showed vast improvement in 2010. Still, a ton of work needs to be done before he can push Trevard Lindley or Joselio Hanson for a prominent role in the defense. While he’s a gifted athlete, I fear that he may have too much work ahead of him before he can become an effective defender. Grade: D+
4. Casey Matthews (Round 4, 116th overall): Matthews is hoping to become the fourth member of his family to be an all-pro NFL player. A vastly inferior athlete to brother Clay, Casey plays with heart, intelligence, and intensity. He’s one of those players who you are simply afraid to bet against, and makes for a wonderful presence in the locker room. He can either play the MIKE or WILL linebacker spots, and would likely be forced into a starting role if Stewart Bradley is not retained when the lockout ends. In the best case scenario, he is a versatile back-up who can play at a high level at all three linebacker slots. Grade: A-
5. Alex Henery (Round 4, 120th overall): A kicker in the fourth round is a rare sight, but Andy Reid felt compelled to pull the trigger on arguably the best kicker in NCAA history. This means that David Akers is as good as gone, especially since Reid refused to talk about him during the post-draft press conference. Henery can also punt, and there’s an outside chance that he can replace both Akers and Sav Rocca and save the Eagles a roster spot. You hate to spend such a high pick on a kicker, but clutch kicking is very valuable and Akers would have to be replaced at some point. Grade: B-
6. Dion Lewis (Round 5, 149th overall): Like LeSean McCoy, Lewis was a superstar running back for the Pitt Panthers and entered the draft as an underclassman. Like McCoy, he’s undersized at 5’7″, 193, and plays much faster than he times (both Lewis and McCoy ran a shade under a 4.6). Lewis doesn’t have very good measurables, but he is very shifty, tough, and has a knack for the game of football. He’s a much better inside runner than McCoy was coming out of college, although he’s not nearly as elusive. The two friends will form a formidable backfield combo, especially if Jerome Harrison is brought back to form another three headed monster. Grade: A-
7. Julian Vandervelde (Round 5, 161st overall): A guard, an opera singer, and an all-academic selection, Vandervelde is an intriguing interior offensive line prospect out of Iowa. At 6’3″, 300, he doesn’t have overwhelming physical traits, but is tough and cerebral. I don’t know much about him, but I believe Howard Mudd will be able to turn him into a solid reserve guard. The Eagles will need depth behind Todd Herremans and Danny Watkins. Grade: C
8. Jason Kelce (Round 6, 191st overall): The last two players the Eagles took out of Cincinnati were also late round picks who were too small or too slow. I’d say Trent Cole and Brent Celek turned out pretty well. Kelce is a severely undersized center prospect at 280 pounds, but as a former linebacker, he displays very good tenacity and quickness for the position. He’s a developmental prospect who will have to beat out practice squad players like Fenuki Tupou and A.Q. Shipley. Grade: D+
9. Brian Rolle (Round 6, 193rd overall): A good buddy of Kurt Coleman, Brian Rolle is an unusually small linebacker. At Ohio State, he played the middle while standing under 5’10” and weighing under 230 pounds. However, he’s exceptionally fast and is absolutely fearless. He attacks blockers as fiercely as James Farrior, and plays the game at full speed. In many ways, he’s similar to Jamar Chaney as far as making up in speed what they lack in size. He will be a special teams demon and looks like a great player to plug into nickel and dime packages although I doubt he will ever be a starter. I like the pick, but I would have much rather had his teammate Ross Homan. Grade: B
10. Greg Lloyd Jr. (Round 7, 237th overall): Lloyd is the son of the former Steelers linebacker, and has a shot at making the team. At 246 pounds, he’s a thumper inside who’s had to overcome several injuries. He reminds me a lot of Joe Mays, a stout middle linebacker who was taken in the late rounds by the Eagles. I’ve never seen Lloyd play, so I will give a grade based on his chances of making the team. Grade: B-
11. Stanley Havili (Round 7, 240th overall): Havili was a matchup nighmare at USC as a fullback/tailback/wide reciever/tight end. At 227 pounds, he’s an athletic fullback who can split out and run routes on linebackers and run the ball hard between the tackles, not unlike Leonard Weaver. He was drafted as insurance in case Weaver is unable to recover from his injury. He and Owen Schmitt would then compete for the fullback job. Grade: B+
Overall, the Eagles got about five players who will be able to contribute as rookies, which is not bad. However, they did nothing to address their huge need at right cornerback. I hope they plan to reel in a big fish in free agency, whether it be Nnamdi Asomugha, Antonio Cromartie, Jonathan Joseph, or Aqib Talib. As always, it will take three or four years to judge this draft class, but if I had to assign it a grade now, I would give it a low B. With the eleven picks the Eagles ended up with, here’s who I would have taken, in order.
Jimmy Smith, Rodney Hudson, Sam Acho, James Brewer, Quan Sturdivant, Richard Sherman, Da’Rel Scott, Ross Homan, Greg Romeus, Eric Hagg, Stanley Havili