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Paul Domowitch: Eagles hope to score in second, third rounds

TEN YEARS ago, the Eagles hit pay dirt in the second and third rounds of the draft, selecting safety Michael Lewis, cornerback Sheldon Brown and a running back by the name of Brian Westbrook.

Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins may be on the Eagles' radar in the second round. (Michael Conroy/AP)
Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins may be on the Eagles' radar in the second round. (Michael Conroy/AP)Read more

TEN YEARS ago, the Eagles hit pay dirt in the second and third rounds of the draft, selecting safety Michael Lewis, cornerback Sheldon Brown and a running back by the name of Brian Westbrook.

Lewis, Brown and Westbrook made a collective 241 starts for the Eagles and helped them make it to the NFC Championship Game four times and to the Super Bowl once.

Since then, with two notable exceptions, the draft's second and third rounds have been one dry hole after another for the Eagles.

They snagged sliding wide receiver DeSean Jackson late in the second round of the 2008 draft. A year later, they hit another second-round bull's-eye when they selected running back LeSean McCoy.

Of the other 18 players the Eagles have selected in the second and third rounds since the '02 draft, just two - wide receiver Reggie Brown (second round '05) and tight end L.J. Smith (second round '03) - started more than 35 games for them. And Brown (45 starts) and Smith (65 starts) hardly are viewed as success stories in these parts. Ten of the other 16 started six or less games for the Eagles.

That's a pretty bleak batting average and doesn't bode well for their chances of finding some keepers in the second and third round of the draft Friday night.

Last year, after selecting guard Danny Watkins in the first round, the Eagles took Temple safety Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round and running back-turned-cornerback Curtis Marsh in the third round. Watkins started 12 games. But Jarrett and Marsh both spent most of the season on the bench, making minimal contributions in a disappointing 8-8 season.

"It's very hard to find rookies who can come in and make an immediate impact," general manager Howie Roseman said. "When we draft a player, it's a long-term decision for the organization. We're looking for players who will develop into good players over the long haul."

The Eagles, who picked up a new pass-rushing toy (defensive tackle Fletcher Cox) for Jim Washburn in the first round Thursday, have three picks tonight, including two in the second round. They own the 14th and 19th selections in the second round and the 26th pick in Round 3. If they stay put, they'll have three of the first 51 picks in the draft and four of the first 88.

"It's a great opportunity for us," Roseman said.

The fact that they have an extra second round selection - courtesy of last summer's Kevin Kolb trade - gives them some ammunition to move up in the second round if there is someone they want.

While Roseman has repeatedly said the Eagles will focus on taking the best player available rather than addressing specific needs in this draft, that doesn't mean they've totally thrown need out of the decision-making process. It just means they're not going to reach for a player based on positional need like they did in the second round last year with Jarrett.

In explaining the Eagles' decision to trade up three spots Thursday from 15 to 12 to grab Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, coach Andy Reid said, "We didn't have an absolute need going into this draft. We were able to hang there [early in the first round] and see how things fell. We sat there and were going to be patient to a point. We put a mark on the guys that were really top-notch football players in the first round. When [Cox] started falling, we got excited about that."

The Eagles will take the same patient approach Friday.

While they have no crying needs, there are some things they would like to come out of this draft with, including a cornerback who can play in the slot, an offensive tackle who can provide depth behind starters Demetress Bell and Todd Herremans, a running back to complement McCoy, and perhaps their quarterback of the future.

Michael Vick turns 32 in June. He's coming off a bad year. The Eagles only are financially committed to him for one more season. So, if he struggles again, there's a good chance he won't be back in 2013. It would behoove the Eagles to have a replacement option in place. It's possible they consider Mike Kafka a replacement option, but I doubt it.

Four quarterbacks were taken in the first round Thursday - Andrew Luck (first to Colts), Robert Griffin III (second to the Redskins), Ryan Tannehill (eighth to the Dolphins) and Brandon Weeden (22nd to the Browns).

Two quarterbacks the Eagles could have interest in Friday are Kirk Cousins of Michigan State and Russell Wilson of Wisconsin. Cousins figures to go somewhere in the first half of the second round. Wilson, who is only 5-10 1/2, is projected as a late-third or early-fourth-round pick.

"What's happening this year, because of the success last year of Andy Dalton as a second-round pick, everybody's looking for the next Andy Dalton," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "I think a lot of people are looking at Cousins as potentially that guy.

"It's pushing him up a little higher than he really needs to be. On tape, he's a third- or fourth-round guy. But he's a compelling kid. He did something at his Pro Day that I've never seen a high-level quarterback do. He basically took control of his Pro Day. Scripted his own 60 throws. Integrated 4-5 tight ends, wide receivers and running backs into the script and he ran it.

"There was no college coach or pro coach or coaching guru running the thing. The kid ran it. And trust me, a lot of NFL guys took note of that. He's a leader. He's a smart kid. You don't see that happening very often."

This is the second year of the draft's three-day format. The Eagles, like the rest of the league's teams were able to snag some ZZZZs after Thursday night's first round and plot their strategy for tonight's second and third rounds.

"I think it's good because you're able to take a deep breath," Roseman said. "You're able to pause and take a look at what's out there. Have some detailed conversations on the things that have changed, as opposed to being in the moment. We talk a lot about calm thoughts in calm times. That's what it allows us to do."

We'll see if those calm thoughts in calm times can find them the next LeSean McCoy or DeSean Jackson rather than the next Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (third round, '10) or Bryan Smith (third round, '08).

Complete coverage of the 2012 Eagles draft