Many draft analysts have labeled the Eagles the biggest losers in the NFL draft, even though we likely won't know for a few years whether the players they picked will have an impact.
Ray Didinger, Comcast SportsNet's analyst on Eagles Post Game Live, would not go that far. Still, he was among the many who were surprised that the Eagles made University of Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb their first pick.
Kolb was the 36th selection overall, selected in the second round by the Eagles after they traded out of the first round in a deal with Dallas.
"I have been covering the Eagles drafts in one form or another since 1970 and that is the biggest single surprise the Eagles made with a pick in all the time I have been following them," Didinger said. "I didn't think the Eagles would draft a quarterback, and certainly not with their first pick."
Didinger's opinion matters because of the esteem with which he is held in his medium.
Didinger isn't flashy. He doesn't make outlandish comments, but just gives his audience among the most thorough and informative analysis when it comes to the NFL.
Didinger's analysis of the Eagles extends into the off-season and annually includes his dissection of the draft.
Aside from appearing each Saturday morning on WIP-AM (610), beginning at 10, Didinger also serves as a senior producer for NFL Films. As such, he studies as much film as some NFL coaches.
That studiousness can't help but prevent knee-jerk reactions and ensure well-researched opinions.
Didinger rates all the players by position, and he said he had Kolb ranked as the sixth-best quarterback in the draft even though he was the third one chosen.
While few could honestly talk about the other picks the Eagles made with any authority, Didinger saw an interesting pattern with the Birds' next two picks, defensive end Victor Abiamiri of Notre Dame in the second round and linebacker Stewart Bradley of Nebraska in the third round.
"Contrary to the perception that this draft is about the future, I think Abiamiri and Bradley have a chance to play," Didinger said. "They are both very physical players, have good tackling form, and to me they are kind of a fit. And unlike most linemen, I think that Abiamiri can play special teams because he is such a good tackler."
Just don't ask Didinger to give a draft grade to the 2007 class.
"I would be hard-pressed to grade the 2006 draft yet," he said.
Didinger doesn't think the Eagles are as strong as the team was when it advanced to the second round of the playoffs before losing in New Orleans.
"Having said that, I still think they are the best team in the division and very much in the mix in the NFC," he said.
Since there appears to be no dominant NFC team, Didinger thinks the Eagles can be competitive. Still, he has questions about the team following free agency and the draft.
Didinger said losing cornerback Rod Hood, quarterback Jeff Garcia, and receiver Donté Stallworth to free agency was huge.
"I don't think people understand how good Hood was in the role he played," Didinger said. "I thought losing Garcia was key. And the Eagles replaced Stallworth with Kevin Curtis, who is a good player, but not as good as Stallworth."
Didinger liked the addition of linebacker Takeo Spikes from Buffalo, even though he's 30, missed four games last year with a hamstring injury, and was sidelined for the final 13 games in 2005 with a torn Achilles tendon.
"Last year, I thought Spikes played very well and had really good games against good teams," he said. "I think getting the opportunity to come to a team that figures to be in contention will bring out the best in him."
Didinger realizes that many people have become "experts" when it comes to the draft and evaluating football teams.
"One of the dangers and part of the popularity of the draft is that we have created this subculture within the fan community where everybody is a draft expert," he said. "People call on the radio and argue the merits of a cornerback from Alcorn State and a guy from Alabama A&M, and it's likely they haven't seen either of them."
That's not the case with Didinger, whose knowledge is based on hours of studying and evaluating players instead of just reading about them.