Add Brian Baldinger to the long list of people scratching their heads over many of the decisions the Eagles made in last week’s draft.
And this is a guy who liked the Jalen Hurts pick.
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“I just think they missed the boat on this thing,’’ said the NFL Network analyst. “Just about every pick they made seemed to be driven by analytics, not production or projecting to the NFL or anything like that.’’
Baldinger understands the Eagles’ desire to get faster, particularly at wide receiver. We’re talking about a unit that had just 11 touchdown catches and a league-low eight receptions of 30 or more yards last year.
The Lions’ Kenny Golladay had as many touchdown catches as all of the Eagles’ wide receivers. The Saints’ Michael Thomas had 78 more receiving yards. So, yeah, they needed to find some reinforcements.
But Baldinger thinks they went overboard on NextGen stats and other metrics at the expense of production and actual football ability.
“There’s such a thing as functional speed,’’ said Baldinger, a former NFL offensive lineman who finished his 11-year career in 1993 after two seasons with the Eagles. “Everybody wants to get faster. But if you’re not able to get on the field, if you’re not productive, what’s the point in being fast? Anybody can collect fast guys. They’re everywhere. But that doesn’t mean they’re good football players or can make plays.
“It’s bizarre. Outside of [fourth-round safety] K’Von Wallace, I don’t know one player they drafted that is going to help them out Week 1. Even [first-round wide receiver] Jalen Reagor. I like him personally. He’s a good kid. Good bloodlines and all that stuff.
“But I honestly don’t know how anybody could look at Reagor the last two years and look at Justin Jefferson and take Reagor over Jefferson [who went to the Vikings at No. 22 after the Eagles took Reagor at No. 21]. I don’t know how anybody can do that.’’
Baldinger’s no-holds-barred take on the Eagles’ 10 draft selections:
“I just don’t understand why they passed on Jefferson. Minnesota spit their teeth out when the Eagles passed on him. They couldn’t get the Jefferson pick in fast enough.
“Jefferson was the best route-runner in this draft. There was nobody close to him. Reagor can’t run routes like him and he’s not as big.
“I don’t want to hear this he’s-just-a-slot-guy stuff. Jefferson can play inside or outside. Just go back and look at LSU in 2018 before [offensive coordinator] Joe Brady got there. He was an outside receiver. Led the team in receiving. Averaged more than 16 yards per catch.
“Brady came in and said to him, ‘We’re going to get five [receivers] out every play this year. [Joe] Burrow can read defenses and get the ball out. How about if you go in the slot? You’ll just kill teams in there.’ And that’s exactly what he did.
“I think Jefferson’s already better than Stefon Diggs. I saw Reagor a lot last year. Did a lot of Big 12 games [for Fox Sports]. He had a lot of drops. He didn’t have a lot of production. He looks like a gadget player to me and not much more.
“You can say Reagor is faster than the 4.47 he ran at the combine. But why didn’t he show it? People can look at these metrics all they want. He ran a 4.46 short shuttle. You look at a guy like Odell Beckham Jr., he ran a 3.92 when he came out. Shaun Bradley, the linebacker the Eagles took in the sixth round, ran a 4.24 short shuttle.
“I agree that his numbers were impacted a little bit by the fact that he had a true freshman throwing to him last year. But I did his first game last year. He had three drops in that game. Three. Uncharacteristic drops. He was dropping bubble screens. If I was a personnel director, I’d be asking, why the drops? What happened? That’s the first thing you ask. Is it concentration? Is it the new quarterback? What happened? I mean, his production took a nosedive.
“Going into last year, I thought [Oklahoma’s] CeeDee Lamb and Reagor were the two best receivers in the Big 12. But you can’t tell me after watching CeeDee, after watching Denzel Mims [Baylor], after watching [Devin] Duvernay [Texas], you can’t say Reagor was better than them last year.’’
“I said back in March that the Eagles should consider taking this kid with the 53rd pick. I said it for a couple of reasons. No. 1, the Eagles need a backup quarterback. They’ve played six postseason games the last three years and Carson Wentz has played nine snaps in those six games.
“No. 2, Hurts is the kind of guy I just want on my football team. Taking him with the 53rd pick is a little expensive. But he’s a winner. He got beat out by Tua [Tagovailoa] at Alabama and stayed. Not just stayed, but graduated and then helped them win the SEC against Georgia coming off the bench in 2018 after Tua got hurt.
“Then he goes to Oklahoma and wins the job and put up incredible numbers. He learned a completely new system and got better. I thought he showed a lot of improvement. And the way the game is being played now with Kyler [Murray] and Lamar [Jackson] and Russell [Wilson], he plays that style of game. His eyes are down the field. He’s an elite athlete.
“Everybody is going to see his talent. Everybody is going to see the way he runs. They’re going to see his arm strength. Now, is he accurate enough? We’ll see. But I think he’s an ascending player.
“They have a good football team. They have a good quarterback. But if Carson gets hurt again, they need to have somebody that can win games. Marty [Mornhinweg, the Eagles’ senior offensive consultant] was in Baltimore with Lamar when they drafted him. He knows packages right now that they can put in [for Hurts].
“People have suggested they could use him the way the Saints have used Taysom Hill. I don’t know about that. Hill plays on every special team. I’m not putting this guy out there on my punt teams. I’m not doing any of that stuff they’re doing with Hill.
“Carson probably isn’t going to handle this well. He’s going to be constantly asked about it. It’s going to become annoying to him. But you can’t not ask about how it’s going to be and what his role is going to be. If Carson goes out there and plays well, everything will take care of itself.’’
“I don’t understand this pick at all. This is just a pure analytics pick. If you watched Colorado play last year, you can’t find the guy. First of all, they played that silly, soft defense with the three-man fronts that everybody in the Pac-12 plays. So he wasn’t in the box. He’s not an in-the-box linebacker. He’s out there on the perimeter against slot receivers and he’s just running to the ball.
“Like a lot of people, I use the term position-less football when describing certain players. Derwin James. Isaiah Simmons. But where is this kid going to line up and play? If you’re playing the New York Giants with Saquon [Barkley] or the Cowboys with Zeke [Elliott], where is he going to play exactly? Is he an off-the-ball inside linebacker? Where is he going to play and how is his speed going to be used when you play teams like that?
“I don’t know what position he is. Are you really going to put him against Cole Beasley in the slot? What is he going to do? I don’t understand the pick at all.
“He’s hardly played. Didn’t play in high school. Played just two years of Division I ball. He has no instincts for the game. That’s why I say it was completely driven by analytics. So he’s fast. So what? The mistake they’re making is it’s not going to make you faster if you’re not on the field.
“I guess they’ll use him on special teams. He probably can go chase some kicks for you, though 80 percent of all kickoffs are out of the end zone. He can chase some punts. But I just don’t see how he is going to help that defense any time soon or where he’s going to line up. It just seemed like a bizarre pick.’’
“I liked this pick. I thought it was a really solid pick. They drafted him in the right spot. He was a four-year player. Started 36 games. You can watch him cover slot receivers. He covered Justin Jefferson in the national championship game.
“He’s not really a free safety. He’s more of a down-in-the-box guy. But he’s a good tackler, a good blitzer, a good cover guy. He’s just a good, smart football player. I thought he was probably the one guy they drafted who has a chance to get on the field on Day 1. Nothing’s going to be too big for him. He’s played in the postseason every year. He’s been durable. If you look at his analytics, he runs well. He has good short-area quickness.
“He was a really good selection. I could see him becoming one of their starting safeties within a short period of time.’’
“He’s OK. Basically a developmental player. Took him a little high. But just give him to Stout [offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland] and let him develop and maybe he’ll compete with Matt Pryor for the backup guard spot at some point.’’
“I just look at him and say, if he’s playing against Stephon Gilmore, is he really going to catch a ball? There’s just nothing about him that jumps out. I don’t care how fast he is. I didn’t see anything from the guy. I didn’t see great production. I see questionable hands. He’s fast, but I don’t see him running away from people.’’
“A good pick. He’s tough. I think he can actually play. I have a feeling he’ll help them more than Davion Taylor ever will. He’s got short arms, which could be a little bit of a problem. Length is important at linebacker. You’re diving all the time. Guys with long arms seem to make more tackles. But he’s been trained and coached the right way.
“He couldn’t get off the line against Louisiana Tech. I think it’s a real stretch thinking he’s going to be an NFL player.’’
“He’s got some size to him. Basically a free-agent prospect. He hasn’t played a ton of football, but he’s athletic and has pretty good feet. Let’s see how he does against Brandon Graham in one-on-ones. Let’s see how he holds up.’’