The 2014 NFL draft is officially in the books and with it the 2nd Eagles draft under head coach Chip Kelly. Going into the draft it was pretty clear the Eagles had specific needs to fill. On offense with the departure of Jason Avant and the release of DeSean Jackson a wide receiver or two would need to be picked. Aside from those positions the name of the game was defense going into the draft. As great as the Eagles were on offense last season, which was the main reason this team was able to win the NFC East and make a return to the post-season, every Eagle fan knew they would need to address the defense in the draft. Coach Chip Kelly and GM Howie Roseman accomplished all of that but it was the manor of how they went about doing it that puzzled me.
Howie Roseman had been very active in recent weeks up to the draft preaching about how the Eagles will be drafting the best available player on their board and not specifically reaching for players that fill a certain position. Time and time again Roseman stressed that to the fans and the media and going into night one of the draft and that’s what we expected. Except that’s not how it went down. The Eagles had the 22nd pick in the first round and based on all mock drafts leading up to opening night the Eagles had about 5-6 different players they wanted to target. Experts believed some those players consisted of Wide Receivers Odell Beckham Jr from LSU, Brandin Cooks from Oregon State, safeties Calvin Pryor from Louisville, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama, and cornerback Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech.
All of those players were picked prior to the 22nd pick so the Eagles instead traded down from 22-26 with the Cleveland Browns who decided to use that pick to draft quarterback Johnny Manziel. I for one applauded the Eagles for not taking Manziel unlike others around the Delaware Valley who actually wanted the Eagles to draft the controversial QB out of Texas A&M. If the Eagles decided to draft Manziel it basically would have been a slap to the face of Nick Foles and probably would have officially ended his Eagles career. Last I checked Foles had the highest QB rating and best touchdown to interception ratio in the NFL last season and he’s a lot taller than Manziel. It wouldn’t have made any sense to draft Manziel after the season Foles just had. In my opinion Manziel won’t do much of anything in the NFL and eventually flame out in a few years. His reckless style of play won’t work in the pros and the fact he’ll be playing in the AFC North against some of the best defenses in the Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals doesn’t bode well for the kid.
The Eagles sat at pick 26 where they basically scrambled to make a pick they shouldn’t have. Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly saw former Eagle coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs draft defensive end Dee Ford out of Auburn. Ford was a guy on the Eagles draft board and it was clear the Eagles panicked after that pick was made. That leads us to the decision to draft Marcus Smith at number 26. Smith was projected to get picked in the 2nd or 3rd round at best. Not even he was aware he would get picked in the first round as he wasn’t even at the draft instead he was out eating dinner with friends when he received the call. Roseman later claimed the Eagles weren’t expecting to see Dee Ford get picked by the Chiefs thus causing them to panic and reach for a pick early on with Marcus Smith.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that Marcus Smith is a bad pick it’s just the timing of the pick that was all wrong. The birds should have just traded out of the first round all together for more picks. Roseman later made the claim that there was a premium on pass rushers at the 26th pick and that if they didn’t take one there it would have been tough to grab a quality pass rusher later on in the draft with Ford being taken off the board by Kansas City at pick 23. The only problem is myself and others aren’t buying that theory. Marcus Smith wasn’t projected any higher than the 2nd round so you easily could have traded down for another pick and still gotten him later on. Instead the Eagles panicked and used a first round pick on a guy that had no business being drafted that high. Sure he might turn into a solid player one day but he’s a project. He’ll only be on the field in 2014 in certain situations. In my opinion a first round draft pick is an impact player that can start right away on your team not someone that is projecting to start 2-3 years down the road.
Roseman and Kelly though made up for the 1st round blunder by taking some solid players later on in the draft. In the 2nd round they drafted Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews who happens to be cousins with the greatest wide receiver of all time Jerry Rice. I’d say those are pretty good genes right there. Matthews played against some of the top SEC defenses and finished his collegiate career as the all time SEC leader in receptions and yards which is pretty impressive considering Vanderbilt had no offense and defenses were keyed in on him every game yet he still made catches and grabbed yards. Matthews is 6-3, 217 pounds which is about 5 inches taller and 40 pounds heavier than his predecessor DeSean Jackson. He also graduated in 3.5 years with an economics degree so the guy is smart. Matthews is without a doubt the stud of the draft for the Eagles. He’ll most likely line up as the 3rd wide out in his rookie season playing the slot. I expect him to have a huge impact right out of the gate for the Eagles this season. Most of the coverage should go against Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper on the outside which could create some fantastic mismatches for Matthews.
The remaining Eagle draft picks included wide receiver Josh Huff from Oregon, cornerback Jaylen Watkins from Florida, defensive end Taylor Hart from Oregon, safety Ed Reynolds from Stanford, and defensive tackle Beau Allen from Wisconsin. It was a nice mixture of former Chip Kelly players and former Chip Kelly opponents from the Pac 12. Kelly clearly has strong feelings towards his former players and opponents. Since his arrival last season no NFL team has drafted more players from the Pac 12 than the Eagles.
By the conclusion of the draft I was feeling better about the actual picks but one thing really stood out to me that infuriated me more than anything. On the last day of the draft the Eagles decided to trade backup running back Bryce Brown to the Buffalo Bills for a future draft pick. The deal will be dependent upon former Bill wide out Stevie Jonson who was shipped to the 49ers during the draft. Pending Johnson’s performance the Eagles can get either a fourth-round pick in next year’s draft, a third-round pick in 2016 or a 4th rounder in 2016. The bottom line is the Eagles got something for Bryce Brown who at best would have been the number three running back on this year’s Eagles behind Shady McCoy and Darren Sproles. Brown is now entering his third season in the league. He showed dashes of brilliance in his first season having a game for 178 yards rushing against the Panthers and 169 yard rushing game against Dallas. But outside of those two performances Brown was a subpar running back. My point is that the Eagles were able to get something for Bryce Brown but they continue to tell us they couldn’t get anything for DeSean Jackson. Jackson just came off a pro bowl season and is in the prime of his career not to mention he had a career high in receiving yards and touchdowns last season. Yet the Eagles couldn’t get anything for him but instead were able to generate a market for Bryce Brown. I understand money plays a huge role in all of these moves but the Eagles are still being hit for 6 million this year against the cap because of DeSean Jackson because they held on to him to long into the offseason. I firmly believe if they would have held on to him up through the draft they could have traded him and received at minimum a late round draft pick for the future. The fact the Eagles let DeSean walk when it’s pretty obvious they could have gotten something for him at the draft leads me to look at this draft with a negative outlook because they missed out on the potential to add more talent.
Bottom line the draft is nothing more than a gamble. It’s the same a investing in the stock market or playing roulette in a casino. You never know what you’ll get with any of these players. Some of the greatest players of all time have been drafted in the late rounds while others who have been drafted in the first round have turned into nothing but a bust. Only time will tell how the 2014 Eagles draft class will play out but it’ll be fun watching them grow and hopefully flourish in a core group of players that can help take this franchise to the Promised Land.