Here is the column I wrote on the Eagles draft for Friday’s paper.
While the returns from this year’s class won’t be known for a few years, the Eagles theoretically did quite well for themselves in last week’s NFL draft.
I’m not much for grading picks, since none of the players selected has even taken a snap during a mini-camp, but getting value for each selection is key and the Eagles did as well at that as any team in the league.
With six offensive linemen chosen in the first 11 picks, the Eagles secured the draft’s third best tackle in Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson at No. 4. While Johnson has only been playing tackle for two years — he was a quarterback, tight end and defensive end before growing into an O-lineman — he has as much upside as any player in the draft.
The best athlete of the linemen, Johnson will start his career with the Eagles at right tackle and eventually slide over to the left side when Jason Peters’ time in Philadelphia ends. Peters is coming off multiple Achilles tendon tears and it’s unknown if he can return to the level of play that made him the NFL’s top linemen in 2011, so having Johnson is a good fallback option should Peters struggle.
What Johnson’s selection does in the short term is allow Todd Herremans to kick inside to guard, by far his best position, and signal the end of the road for first-round bust Danny Watkins, who has been an utter failure after being a monumental reach in the 2011 draft.
The Eagles made a luxury pick in the second round by taking Stanford tight end Zach Ertz, but that’s OK because they stuck to their board instead of forcing a pick for need like they did two years ago in the second round by taking Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett. Ertz will team with Brent Celek to form a duo that can attack teams short (Celek) and deep (Ertz). A notch behind Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert as the draft’s best tight end, Ertz gives the Eagles a threat down the seam they haven’t had in ages. He has a ways to go as a blocker, but in today’s NFL, blocking tight ends are a thing of the past.
Third-round pick Bennie Logan out of LSU was the only pick that didn’t sit well with me. Logan is a talented defensive tackle, but his effort at LSU ran hot and cold and guys like that raise red flags. It’s hard to count on a guy playing harder once he’s gotten paid, but in the third round it’s a bit easier to live with a player like Logan. He can spell nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga at times and also provide depth as a defensive end when the Eagles employ a three-man front.
Unlike Logan, I had zero issues with the Eagles spending a fourth-round pick on USC quarterback Matt Barkley. If he had come out as a junior Barkley might have gone in the top five, but he returned for his senior season and it was a disaster.
USC came into the season ranked No. 1, but the Trojans severely underachieved on their way to a 7-6 season. To make matters worse, Barkley hurt his shoulder, which caused him to miss the Notre Dame game and the Trojans’ bowl game. I won’t call Barkley the Eagles quarterback of the future (those aren’t usually found in the fourth round), but they only gave up a seventh-round pick to move up four spots to draft someone the Eagles ranked as one of the top 50 players in the draft.
While Barkley doesn’t have the strongest arm, he’s accurate, is a leader and was a four-year starter at USC. I don’t see him playing much this season, but Barkley adds intrigue down the road.
Fifth-round safety Earl Wolff was a three-year starter at N.C. State. He was highly productive for the Wolfpack (361 tackles and eight forced fumbles) and ended his career as an All-ACC first-team selection. Wolff has good size (5-foot-11 and 209 pounds) and speed (4.44 seconds in the 40-yard dash a the combine). So why did he fall to the fifth round?
He plays a bit reckless at times in both run support and coverage, and only had six interceptions in 51 games in college. That said, Wolff will contribute immediately on special teams and bring a physical presence in the secondary.
Defensive ends Joe Kruger and David King weren’t sexy picks, but in the seventh round both offered good value. Kruger won’t turn 21 until June 4 so there’s potential to add bulk to his 6-6, 269-pound frame and he comes from good bloodlines (he’s the brother of Paul Kruger, the former Baltimore Raven who signed a huge free-agent deal with the Cleveland Browns).
King played at a high level at Oklahoma, and while he won’t add much for the pass rush (5 ½ sacks in 43 games), he has the size (6-4, 281) to play as a 3-4 defensive end.
Another good value pick in the seventh round was Oregon State cornerback Jordan Poyer. A productive player for the Beavers (13 career interceptions), Poyer played better than he tested (4.65 in the 40 caused his draft slide).
He’ll be another special teams contributor (he was the gunner on the punt team at Oregon State) who can also help in the return game (Poyer averaged 14.1 yards per punt return and 27.8 yards per kickoff return in college).
The Eagles undrafted free agent class has potential. LSU punter Brand Wing had as much talent as any punter but also had some off-the-field issues. Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet ran for 1,964 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior and defensive end Damion Square made 31 starts for Alabama.
The Eagles did great job of adding talent to their roster on paper. We should know in three years if it translated to the field.