Archive for category 2011 NFL Draft News

Draft report card

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


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Eagles stay local in round 2

Again opting not to move from their predetermined draft slot, Andy Reid gave the second round nod to Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett. Reading between the lines, this means that unrestricted free agent Quintin Mikell is no longer in the Eagles’ plans. Adding Jarrett to two promising youngsters in Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman means that the Eagles are going younger on the back end.

While Jarrett is a solid player, I would have taken either Louisville cornerback Johnny Patrick, who would have been a starter at right cornerback, or Rodney Hudson, a top interior offensive lineman who would be great with Danny Watkins, Jason Peters, and Todd Herremans. For those of you who do not watch much of Temple, Jarrett is a lights out hitter, and has an identical frame to Brian Dawkins. He has the makings of a remarkable special teams player who is a great third safety. He can wrap up, deliver the knockout blow, and does not get beat deep. Sometimes, he needs to be more aggressive and instinctive in coverage, and I think he needs a year to work on that before he becomes a really good player. However, there’s no doubt that the talent is there.

Eagles draft grade: Watkins (C+) Jarrett (B-) … Overall – C+

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Danny Whatkins???

I don’t think anybody saw this one coming. With Gabe Carimi, Jimmy Smith, and Akeem Ayers still on the board, Andy Reid threw Eagle fans yet another curveball by selecting Danny Watkins, the Baylor offensive lineman, in the first round. I still firmly believe that Jimmy Smith should have been the pick, but I believe Watkins will be a good player. After watching additional film of him this morning, I came away really impressed with his skill-set, and there’s no way he’s not one of the top five blockers on the squad.

If you still don’t know, Watkins took a very unconventional route to the NFL. Growing up in Canada, Watkins played a lot of hockey and rugby, but never set foot on the gridiron until after he was older than most of the guys who were drafted last night. At age 22, Watkins played for a community college in California, and two years later became a stud left tackle for the Baylor Bears. He played in an offense very similar to the one the Eagles run, and blocked for one of the most dangerous dual threat passers in college, Robert Griffin III. He put his name on the map in the Senior Bowl, where he was very impressive, and it’s worth noting that he surrendered one sack to Von Miller in two meetings, and that sack happened over four seconds after the snap as Griffin was scrambling. In fact, Reid cited the Texas A&M game as the film that really sold him on Watkins.

Although I believe he is capable of being a solid right tackle, it’s clear that Andy Reid plans to plug him in at right guard from day one. He will team with Jason Peters and Todd Herremans to form a very talented trio up front, with players such as Mike McGlynn, Winston Justice, Jamaal Jackson, and King Dunlap left to battle it out for the two remaining spots on the line. So, while Watkins certainly would not have been my pick, he’s a good player who fills a need. He has a high ceiling and a low floor, and will be in great hands with Howard Mudd. I do want to look ahead to rounds two and three tonight though.

I think the Eagles need to come away with a cornerback in this round, and three guys still on the board really intrigue me. The first is Texas’ Aaron Williams, who almost certainly be taken before 54, when the Eagles select. After him, I love Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling, who the Eagles have a legitimate shot at without moving up. The third player would be Louisville’s Johnny Patrick, who probably has the best shot at still being on the board. Other players to keep an eye out for are UCLA’s versatile linebacker Akeem Ayers, Clemson’s talented defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, and UCLA’s ballhawking safety Rahim Moore.

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The first round: who to stay away from

Everybody loves to predict busts. This guy has character concerns and that guy is too small. The truth is that writing prospects like that off is a dangerous business. For every player that wasn’t athletic enough to make an impact, there’s a Tom Brady and a Wes Welker. For every player that got caught up with off-the-field issues, there is a Ray Lewis and a Michael Vick. Most of the time, players become busts for a reason that isn’t as obvious as what “experts” are pointing to with Ryan Mallett, Jimmy Smith, and Nick Fairley. Here are the players I believe are too risky to take in the first round.

7. Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple: Wilkerson has a rare combination of size and athleticism that will allow him to succeed as either a 3-4 defensive end, or as a 3-technique (DT) in a 4-3 scheme. However, coming from a small school, scouts want to see you dominate your opponents, not just your potential. While Wilkerson flashes extraordinary talent, he plays down to the level of his competition too often. If he can’t be a difference maker in the MAC, I doubt he will find much success in the NFL. He’s worth a draft pick in case the light comes on for him, but the first round comes with too lofty of expectations.

6. Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri: Smith’s burst and athleticism are truly remarkable coming off the edge, and there’s no question that he can develop into a great pass rusher. It’s the amount of development that he has in front of him that concerns me. He needs to add a lot of strength, and he plays far too upright right now to make an impact against superior tackles. Nobody questions his ceiling or potential, but it’s no guarantee that he will go from a tall, lanky kid to a solid, fundamentally sound defensive end.

5. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: Cam Newton is another one of those players who has unlimited physical ability, but is just too far away from being a productive pro. In Carolina, his playbook will not be centered around the QB draw and QB sweep. He will not be throwing ten bubble screens a game, and he will not be able to outrun safeties or bulldoze linebackers. He has no experience whatsoever in a pro-style offense, has not proven that he can throw intermediate routes, and should not be forced into the starting role, which is probably what will happen in the event that he is the first player chosen. In his defense, he performs very well under pressure, is ready for the rigors of the NFL, and is supremely talented. Still, he needs too much work and is not worthy of a high first rounder.

4. Jake Locker, QB, Washington: As I stated earlier, prospects usually don’t bust because of one obvious factor. However, poor accuracy is too important of a factor for an NFL quarterback to overcome. Locker’s character, mobility, and toughness cannot make up for this deficiency in his game, and as much as I’d like to see him succeed, the odds are truly stacked against him.

3. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Pick a random Nebraska tape. You likely see an incredibly sound cornerback who plays with great instincts, awareness, feet, and technique. He is likely blanketing receivers and being much too physical for them. You are likely ready to take him in the top ten, unless of course you picked up the Oklahoma State tape. I know it’s only one game, but when he lines up against a receiver of Justin Blackmon and gets beat over and over again, it does not look good. He’ll be expected to lock down receivers at least as good as him in the pros.

2. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: If Andrew Luck had decided to come out, Gabbert would not be a top five pick. He played in a ridiculous offense, which I thought was a spread punt formation at first. He has no pocket presence, and strikes me as arrogant. His deep ball needs a ton of work, and I see him as a fit in a west coast system only. I think the best he can be is a more mobile Chad Pennington. That’s not first-round material.

1. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: Is Nate Solder really supposed to be a left tackle? He is tall and very gifted, but his athleticism does not translate to the field at all. He plays like his feet are stuck in the mud, and you cannot play tackle in this league without feet. I realize that he’s improving and new to the position, but projects like him usually go in the fourth round. I don’t understand why he’s regarded so highly.

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If I were calling the shots on draft day…

Boy would I give anything to be in this position. In the war room. Phone ringing off the hook. Trying to perfect the crapshoot called the NFL draft. As a general manager, here’s how I would want things to play out.

1. Resolve the CBA, then trade Kevin Kolb

If a new deal is not reached by draft day, no players can be traded for draft picks. That would throw a huge wrench in my dream draft for the Eagles. Assuming one is reached after the draft, I would deal Kolb for a package of 2012 picks that would likely be a first and a third rounder. Yes, you want insurance for a quarterback like Michael Vick, but I do think that Kolb is slightly overrated, and it’s a virtual certainty that if he is not traded, he will leave for no compensation after the 2011 season. Some potential trade partners would be Seattle, Arizona, and Buffalo. With the draft only two weeks away, I will assume that Kolb will be traded for 2012 picks, which may end up working even better for the Eagles in the long run.

2. Stay put at 23

I really like the 23rd slot this season. A couple players that I really like will still be available and there’s not a huge drop-off in talent from 13th to 23rd. After your six to nine elite players, there are about fifteen to eighteen prospects in the second tier. A few will be available when the Eagles pick. However, after the late twenties, the talent does thin out considerably. It would take an exceptional offer to get me to back off from the 23rd selection. At that point, I would take Jimmy Smith. He fills the Eagles’ biggest need, is probably the top talent on the board, and can make an immediate impact. He’s tall, lanky, and can flat out cover. You can plug him into the starting line-up and he will produce. The more I watch him, the more I think Antonio Cromartie. Physically, they are nearly identical and they play a very similar brand of football. Neither know when to shut their mouths and their teams cringe whenever they talk to the media. However, in Smith, you’re getting a pro bowl talent at 23, so you have to deal with the character issues. He and Asante Samuel could form one of the great cornerback duos in the league, and there would be great depth behind them with Trevard Lindley and Joselio Hanson. If by some miracle Smith is off the board, Gabe Carimi would be my pick. He doesn’t have the upside of Smith, but he’s a tough, reliable right tackle. The Eagles need a bookend for Jason Peters almost as much as a right corner, and Carimi’s length and nastiness fit the Andy Reid mold. I buy the comparisons to Jon Runyan, and I would take Carimi over Anthony Castonzo or Nate Solder. Mike Pouncey would be my emergency option, and if all three are gone, surely a talented front seven player such as Corey Liuget or Akeem Ayers would still be available.

Move: Draft Colorado CB Jimmy Smith at 23.

3. Probably trade the 54th overall pick

Either up or down, I don’t care. If Rahim Moore falls into the forties, I would trade 54 and one of my fourth rounders to go up and get him. I think he’ll be a very, very good player. He, Jimmy Smith, Nate Allen, and Asante Samuel makes the secondary a big strength. That scenario isn’t all that likely though. So, when my pick finally rolls around, I would take Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard or Miami guard Orlando Franklin if either is still around. Franklin reminds me a lot of Todd Herremans. He’s a complete player who pairs his athleticism with toughness. Sheard is very powerful at the point of attack and explosive enough to make a difference as a pass rusher. If both are gone, I would trade this pick to a team who wants to snatch up one of the last good quarterback prospects, whether it be Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, or even Ryan Mallett.

Move: Trade 54th selection to QB needy team for early 3rd round pick and 2012 4th round pick.

4. Take advantage of having 4 picks in rounds 3 and 4

With my first third rounder, I’m taking Alabama tackle James Carpenter. He can pass protect with the best of them, and can push for the starting job at right tackle or right guard. My next pick would be spent on Miami linebacker Colin McCarthy. He’s a big, tough, versatile player who isn’t the most physically gifted player, but can provide great depth and compete with Moise Fokou, Stewart Bradley, and Jamar Chaney. In the fourth round, Syracuse running back Delone Carter is my man. I think he has a chance to be the next great short, thick running back as he compares favorably to Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice. Now, those are high expectations, but he can certainly be a great back-up to LeSean McCoy and Jerome Harrison, potentially forming a new three headed monster. Carter is shifty but tough to bring down, and is natural when catching the football. My last fourth round pick goes to Greg Romeus, the Pittsburgh defensive end. He had bad injury luck and consequently did not produce in his senior season, but was regarded as a high first round pick last year when he decided to return to school. Add him to the plethora of talented, young pass rushers trying to crack the rotation including Ricky Sapp, Philip Hunt, and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim.

Move: Draft Alabama OT James Carpenter, Miami LB Colin McCarthy, Syracuse RB Delone Carter, and Pittsburgh DE Greg Romeus.

5. Late rounds

Just take flyers on guys who have potential in areas where there is a roster spot open. I like South Carolina receiver Tori Gurley, Portland State tight end Julius Thomas, Syracuse linebacker Doug Hogue, Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman, and UCLA defensive tackle David Carter.

6. Look ahead to 2012

Now, I have two first, two third, and two fourth round picks in 2012. There should be many more NFC East crowns in the coming decade…

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Another reason to hope for CBA resolution

With every passing day, Kevin Kolb’s trade value seems to be rising. Other than Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert, teams aren’t overly excited about any other prospects. With Carolina, Cincinnati, Arizona, San Francisco, Tennessee, Washington, and Minnesota all very much in the market for a new quarterback, only two will get their hands on a guy they view as a franchise quarterback. So, five teams will have a big decision to make. Do they roll the dice on a Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, or Colin Kaepernick? Or do they explore trade routes. Donovan McNabb, Kyle Orton, and Carson Palmer will be available, but Kevin Kolb is the premier quarterback who can be pried away from his current team. Now, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that one of those five teams would be willing to part with a high first round pick in exchange for Kolb.

Jay Cutler netter Denver Kyle Orton, two top 20 selections, and a third round pick. Combined, those four items are worth the first overall pick. Kolb isn’t at Cutler’s level, but he’s ahead of where Matt Schaub went. In exchange for him, the Falcons received the equivalent of the 14th overall pick. So, it’s fair to assume that Kolb should be able to be dealt for a top 15 selection. Consider Arizona’s plight. Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert are not likely to slide past Carolina, Buffalo, and Cincinnati. If they are both off the board, Larry Fitzgerald will not be happy. If Fitzgerald is unhappy, he likely will move on after the 2011 season, the last year of his contract. Without Fitzgerald, Arizona loses a significant portion of its fan base, its best player, and its primary building block. For the Eagles, the fifth pick would probably mean either Patrick Peterson or Von Miller suits up in Eagle green in 2011. So, the Eagles should be extremely disappointed if they are not allowed to trade players for 2011 picks.

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Eagles exploring cornerback prospects

Recently, the Eagles have expressed a lot of interest in this year’s crop of cornerbacks. Corner is probably the biggest need on the roster, and Philly could select more than one of them in the upcoming NFL draft. Here are some of the names that the Eagles have been checking out.

Curtis Brown, Texas: Brown is a very tall, very physical corner despite being thinner than you would prefer. Although he doesn’t have blazing speed (4.51), he can run with receivers down the field. He’s probably not ready to start quite yet, but his athleticism and willingness to tackle will certainly intrigue teams. To get him, the Eagles would have to burn their second round pick, and I think that Ras-I Dowling and Johnny Patrick are much better players at this point.

Davon House, New Mexico State: Regarded as one of the top small school prospects in the draft, House has elite physical tools. He’s 6’1″, 200, and ran a 4.35 at his pro day. He’s a big hitter who is exceptionally strong for a cornerback. Unfortunately, he doesn’t play as fast as he times due to his stiff hips. He can get beat down the field, and at this point he’s a bigger project than you want out of a second or third round pick. As of now, he’s only my 17th rated cornerback, and is only worth a pick towards the fifth round.

Demarcus Van Dyke, Miami: Great speed and coverage ability is what DVD does best. He was able to shut down Titus Young and others at the Senior Bowl, and he shows good awareness in coverage to go along with his 4.33 speed. However, he is very frail and will offer next to nothing in run support. Unless he adds weight, I see him as a gunner on the punt team. He’s worth a late round pick based on his potential.

Curtis Marsh, Utah State: I haven’t seen much of Marsh playing, but he has elite physical tools at 6’1″, 197, and a 40 time around 4.4 seconds. I haven’t seen him get beat badly, and he doesn’t seem to have any glaring weaknesses in his game. He’s an interesting prospect that I wouldn’t mind taking a chance on in the fifth round.

Korey Lindsey, Southern Illinois: I can’t say I’ve seen Lindsey play at all, but he has been named an all-American twice (for division I-A). He has very good size, but appears to be a little injury-prone. I will reserve judgment on him.

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