Football intelligence and versatility seem to be the buzzwords of this 2014 Eagles draft.
Chip Kelly invoked them again after the Birds opened the fourth round by selecting Jaylen Watkins, a 5-11, 194 cornerback and safety from Florida, with the first pick of the fourth round. The Birds later shed stalled developmental prospect Bryce Brown, the third-year running back who showed great promise as a rookie after basically not playing college football. Brown went to Buffalo, for a conditional pick that could be a third-rounder next year or a third or fourth rounder in 2016. Plus, the Birds moved up from 237 in today's seventh round to 224.
"Extremely high football intelligence," Kelly said of Watkins, after touting his ability to play both corner and safety. "Could be the quarterback of the defense because of his football intelligence ... just really thought he was a really good value, especially today."
With their first of two fifth-round picks, 141st overall, the Eagles went back to Oregon, where they'd gotten WR Josh Huff in the fourth round, to take defensive end Taylor Hart. Later in the fifth, with pick 162, the Eagles took Stanford safety Ed Reynolds, son of former Patriot and Giant Ed Reynolds. Reynolds said when his dad worked for the NFL and he was a Lawrenceville. NJ, middle-schooler, he visited NovaCare, met Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb. He said it was "surreal" to know he will now be working there.
'Big, physical, 6-1, 207, extremely intelligent," Kelly said of Reynolds. "High football IQ guy."
Kelly called Hart "a relentless football player," who has the length Kelly covets (6-6, 281). "He's a true 3-4 defensive end, two-gapper. That's what we're looking for."
Obviously, Kelly and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro know Hart very well. Kelly said he was worried Hart wouldn't last, but "Howie guaranteed he'd be there in the fifth."
"I think it's a huge advantage going to a team already knowing what the defensive line coach wants," Hart said. "I watched (the Eagles) quite a bit ... I watched them and I could recognize the defenses, so it was pretty neat to do that, too."
Earlier, Kelly said the Eagles listened to trade offers, after the league went home following the third round Friday night and everyone thought about what was still available, but the Birds wanted Watkins and didn't get an offer worth risking not getting him.
Watkins is the older half-brother (by less than a year) of Sammy Watkins, the Clemson receiver who was drafted fourth overall by Buffalo. Watkins also knows Nate Allen, whose mother was one of his high school teachers in Cape Coral, Fla.
(Don't fret, there is no evidence he is related to or has ever met Danny Watkins.)
Watkins said he switched back and forth between positions "just because of my versatility ... I'm very knowledgable. I'm one of the few that can handle playing both."
Brown, a seventh-round pick in 2012, bounced around during a college career that saw him end up at Kansas State. As an Eagles rookie, he filled in for LeSean McCoy and ran for 347 yards in two starts, but the offense changed when Kelly arrived, and Brown, very raw because of his lack of overall football experience, didn't seem to adjust well.
Kelly said the Bills have been after Brown for a while, and that the Eagles have a running back "logjam" with McCoy, Darren Sproles, Chris Polk and 2013 rookie Matthew Tucker.