Of the 256 players drafted into the NFL this year, Brian Mihalik was the tallest. It should not be a surprise he ended up with the Eagles.
Mihalik, a 6-foot-9, 302-pound defensive end from Boston College, made his only pre-draft visit to Philadelphia. He was not a surefire draft pick, but the Eagles validated their interest by making him a seventh-round choice.
The pick instantly brought to mind Chip Kelly's catchphrase: "Big people beat up little people." And if it didn't, Kelly reiterated it minutes after the selection.
"If you want the prototype for big people beat up little people, he's obviously the biggest person that we've drafted or brought in since we've been here," said Kelly, whose team opens organized team activities Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex.
Kelly said Mihalik fell in the draft because he fits best as a 3-4 defensive end and he played in a 4-3 base defense at Boston College. Although BC used some 3-4 fronts, it did not use the two-gap principles that the Eagles require. And Kelly believes Mihalik is ideally suited as a two-gap, four-technique defensive end.
"I think they saw I fit really well in the scheme," Mihalik said. "I think it'll be a decently smooth transition. It's a position I project well to with my size. I think I was going to play in the 3-4 no matter what."
Mihalik is more than just height. Kelly said he is "off the charts" as an athlete, citing a 4.88-second 40-yard dash and a 34-inch vertical leap at his size.
Mihalik said he was always "decently athletic" for his size but said the things that impressed the Eagles at his pro day were the result of training during the winter.
Mihalik also grew into his body. He entered high school in Avon Lake, Ohio, as a 5-11 freshman. He finished the year at 6-4 and his sophomore year at 6-7. So there is still room to add muscle to his frame. Mihalik said the Eagles think he can add 15-20 more pounds. During the pre-draft process, the Eagles study knee and wrist size to gauge a player's proper weight distribution.
"This is a young man who has a tremendous upside," said Ben Albert, Boston College's defensive line coach and a former Temple assistant. "I don't think he's reached his full potential. He was not redshirted - he played young, he's a big, athletic kid. You definitely can't teach size, and he has that. But not only is he a big guy but he's also an athletic guy."
Mihalik fits the Eagles' off-field preferences. He graduated from BC in four years and was never a player Albert needed to worry about off the field.
The Eagles have a heavy Boston College influence on their staff and all knew Mihalik, including outside linebackers coach Bill McGovern, who was once Mihalik's defensive coordinator, and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, who spent the last two years as BC's offensive coordinator. Assistant defensive line coach Mike Dawson also has connections to the school. Kelly leaned on them to learn about how Mihalik can handle the position adjustment.
Mihalik represented how the Eagles want to approach the late rounds of the draft. Ed Marynowitz, the team's new vice president of player personnel, said before the draft that the Eagles try to focus on what a player can do instead of what he can't do. They understand there's a reason a player is available in the seventh round. So they look for a specific attribute or skill set that they value.
"I think sometimes in the later rounds you may defer a little bit more to numbers in terms of testing numbers and what they have in their body," Marynowitz said. "You want guys that have athleticism and traits that can translate."
In Mihalik, the Eagles are betting on a tall, athletic, long-armed player. His college production is not overly impressive - Mihalik never had more than 27 tackles or 31/2 sacks in a season - and he was not an all-conference performer nor invited to the scouting combine. When the Eagles picked him, he was fielding calls from teams interested in signing him as an undrafted free agent. The Eagles are hoping they can mold the size, change his position, and find a late gem.
"There's a certain amount of teams that he fit, and he's that ideal - if you could put one together [for the 3-4], that's what it is," Kelly said. "He hasn't played it, so there's a projection there. That's why he got drafted where he got drafted."