Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

What could have been for Eagles in last three drafts

The Eagles have lots of problems. Nobody is going to dispute that. The root causes of those problems, on the other hand, could be debated from noon until midnight.

The Eagles have lots of problems. Nobody is going to dispute that. The root causes of those problems, on the other hand, could be debated from noon until midnight.

How much blame, for instance, should be placed on the draft during coach Chip Kelly's first three seasons as head coach? We don't know for sure how much input the coach had in the first two drafts when Howie Roseman still held the title of general manager, but Kelly has never been shy about distancing himself from the team's first-round selection of Marcus Smith in 2014. He is also on record as saying that Roseman had final say on selections in 2013 and 2014.

This year's draft, of course, was a Chip Kelly production.

Common wisdom says draft classes take at least three years to evaluate, but some things can be measured before that. The best way to see how things are going is to examine the player the Eagles selected against players they could have taken instead.

Start with Smith, the 26th pick out of Louisville in that 2014 draft. The Eagles actually had the 22d pick but traded it to the Cleveland Browns, who used it to select quarterback Johnny Manziel. Given Manziel's parade of off-the-field problems, it's a decision the Browns probably regret, but it is still intriguing to wonder what he could do in a zone-read offense designed to keep teams honest with the threat of a quarterback run. At the very least, Manziel would have been more worthwhile than what we've seen from Smith.

Looked at another way, would the Browns be willing to trade Manziel, even with all his problems, for Smith straight up right now?

The players selected 22d through 32d in the first round of 2014 all have better resumés than Smith, who admitted on draft day that he did not expect to be selected until the second or third round.

If the Eagles wanted to select a Louisville player, they should have gone with Teddy Bridgewater, another quarterback who would have been a nice fit in a zone-read offense. He went 32d to Minnesota and has the Vikings at 8-3 this season.

The Eagles could argue that they got an extra third-round pick by trading down in the first round in 2014 and that allowed them to move up to get Jordan Matthews in the second round. After a solid rookie season, he has had a disappointing 2015 and the Eagles could have gotten a better deep threat at the position by drafting John Brown, who went in the third round to Arizona.

Go back a year to 2013 and it's hard to argue with Lane Johnson as the fourth overall selection in a draft that saw offensive tackles taken with three of the first four picks. The fact that the Eagles have not drafted an offensive lineman since then is mind-boggling and among the roots of the team's problems.

Could the Eagles have done better than Zach Ertz in the second round? The answer is yes if they had selected Travis Kelce, the younger brother of Eagles center Jason Kelce. Kelce went in the third round to Kansas City. Still, Ertz, when compared with others in the second round of 2013, is a solid pick, and when you add in Bennie Logan in the third round, it's impossible to blame much of anything on that draft class.

It's dangerous and difficult to grade a rookie class, but it's just a fact that first-round pick Nelson Agholor has had little impact for the Eagles. According to Pro Football Focus, he grades out 25th among the 27 first-round picks who have played this season. Eight of the 12 guys picked after him have higher ratings, but only three from that list - Dallas cornerback Byron Jones, Carolina linebacker Shaq Thompson, and Green Bay cornerback Damarious Randall - have been so good that you'd say they would have been much better picks.

Minnesota's Stefon Diggs (fifth round), Washington's Jamison Crowder (fourth round), Seattle's Tyler Lockett (third round), Carolina's Devin Funchess (second round), and Tennessee's Dorial Green-Beckham (second round) were all receivers taken after Agholor and have had greater impacts.

With cornerback Nolan Carroll gone for the season, we are about to find out a lot more about rookie second-round pick Eric Rowe, and we've already learned through his season-ending injury that inside linebacker Jordan Hicks was the best third-round pick in the draft.

So how much fault for the Eagles' free fall should be attached to the last three drafts? At least some, especially when you look at that selection of Marcus Smith.

Pugh protests label

New York Giants offensive tackle Justin Pugh, a 2013 first-round pick and product of Council Rock South High, is expected to return to the lineup Sunday against the Jets after missing the last two games because of a concussion. He told Giants reporters that he was not pleased to see some fans referring to him as being "soft" and "a bad teammate" on Twitter.

"It [ticked] me off," he said. "There's no one who wants to be out there more than I do. . . . I understand from the fans' perspective: They want us out there. You don't want to be labeled as a soft player. That's a personal attack on me."

It sounded as if the Giants exacerbated the problem by saying he was suffering from dehydration rather than a concussion and listing him as probable for a game a few weeks ago.

"When you're talking about your brain and long-term effects from it and we're seeing now what happens with guys, you have to make sure you take care of your brain," Pugh said. "I was scared, I'm not going to lie. I was definitely scared by it. It was almost like you couldn't believe how tired you would get. I was sleeping 13 hours at night and I would come home from here and sleep another two hours. Literally it was just sleep, sleep, sleep, because my brain needed to rest."

Thumbs Up 

You might get the impression that I hate everything that comes out of commissioner Roger Goodell's mouth. That's not true. I liked the fact that he said at this past week's owners meetings that the NFL competition committee is going to work hard this offseason to better define what constitutes a reception. We will all be grateful for a better interpretation.

Thumbs Down

Whether or not Detroit's Devin Taylor actually touched the facemask of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the penultimate play in Thursday night's surreal game at Ford Field is debatable and something that should at least be allowed to go to review. Regardless, the Lions deserved to lose when they could not do a better job of defending a 61-yard, game-winning Hail Mary pass by Rodgers on the final play.

Early afternoon game: Seattle at Minnesota

The return of Adrian Peterson this season has been the biggest boost for the Vikings, but Minnesota also has the best combined return teams in the NFL. Cordarrelle Paterson is second in the league with a 29.2-yard average per kick return and Marcus Sherrels is fourth in punt-return average at 9.8. They both have return TDs this season.

Late afternoon game: Kansas City at Oakland

Jeremy Maclin had nine catches for 81 yards in his three games before last Sunday, when he caught nine balls for 160 yards in the Chiefs' win over Buffalo. K.C. tight end Travis Kelce ranks fifth among all NFL tight ends with 689 receiving yards. The Raiders ended a three-game losing streak with a win at Tennessee.

Sunday night game: Indianapolis at Pittsburgh

The Colts are 4-0 with Matt Hasselbeck. He is the first quarterback to win his first four starts at the age of 40, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Though it's a small sample size, his 94.4 passer rating is his highest in any season he has started at least four games with the exception of 2005, when he led Seattle to the Super Bowl.

MONDAY NIGHT GAME: Dallas at Washington

Despite losing four of its last seven games, Washington has vaulted to the top of the NFC East. Washington has the league's 25th-ranked offense and the 20th-ranked defense. Among the four NFC East teams, only Dallas' defense at No. 8 and the Eagles' offense at No. 14 rank in the league's upper half of teams.