After months and months of scouting, analyzing, planning, yelling and banging the table, the three-day marathon of excitement known as the NFL Draft is over (until next year!). Now we enter into a relative dead period for the league until training camp starts in July. WHAT THE HELL ARE WE GOING TO DO WITH OUR LIVES?! That's a good question. The Flyers aren't in the playoffs, neither are the Sixers, and we're still not sure the Phillies -- who are baseball's version of the current Boston Celtics -- can be anything more than a middling team this summer. If only they could play the Mets every series. In the meantime, let's recap all eight of the Eagles picks, bookended with two Oklahoma Sooners: Lane Johnson (4th overall) and David King (239th overall).
1 (4): Lane Johnson - OT - Oklahoma
There's no doubting Lane Johnson's freakish, mouth-watering athleticism and movement skills, which will be utilized pristinely in Chip Kelly's offense on pulls and screens of all kinds. He developed remarkably well over just two seasons of playing OT, and had as good a week as Eric Fisher at the Senior Bowl. When it became clear that both Fisher and Luke Joeckel would go within the first three selections, I started to consider Johnson as a potential target. But even then, I wondered if the Eagles were more interested in trading down and acquiring extra mid-round picks than taking Johnson, who, in my opinion, was clearly behind Fisher and Joeckel. I like how he's used to playing in an up-tempo offense, flashed a mean streak as 2012 season progressed and started finishing every block. Lane showed exceptional foot quickness to stay in position and mirror pass rushers, with rare recovery skills and fluidity in his hips to reposition and stand his ground after taking a false step. I almost felt like I was watching a CB at times, and I can safely say it's the first time such a thought has occurred to me when scouting an OT. Johnson consistently caved in the DE to create holes in the run game, and he typically kept Landry Jones clean in the pocket. Got to the second level in the blink of an eye but wasn't always decisive in space, and I saw issues with technique -- specifically dropping his hands too much and getting overextended. Also, DEs were able to dip under and bend around the edge a few too many times for my liking, even if Johnson was able to frequently use those long arms to disrupt momentum and push them off course.
Here's what I'll say about Lane Johnson: He might have a higher ceiling than both Fisher and Joeckel because of his rare, literally unprecedented athletic ability, but he also has a lower floor. He's either going to keep developing and turn into a stud, or he's going to plateau and fall short of everyone's lofty expectations. Jeff Stoutland pounded the table for Johnson, and getting to work with Coach Stout is the best possible situation for any developing OT. With Jason Peters and Todd Herremans each over 30 and coming off injury, getting started on finding their eventual replacements is necessary. Dennis Kelly remains a swing tackle with upside, but Johnson could be that franchise cornerstone. I know Chip Kelly says players determine the depth chart with their play on the field, but it feels like Johnson is penciled in at RT already with Herremans sliding inside to RG.
PS - Chip's going to install certain goal line packages that take advantage of Lane Johnson's past life as a junior college QB, right? Please? Let him be tackle eligible, or line up in the backfield and run a QB draw. I don't care, just have it be something awesome.
2 (35): Zach Ertz - TE - Stanford
A pick that I admit I did not particularly like at the time. I was hoping for Arthur Brown; the fact that Ozzie Newsome traded up later in the round to take him has me feeling vindicated. Back on topic. I've made no secret of the fact that I think Travis Kelce -- of course Andy Reid took him! -- is the best TE in this class for Chip's offense, and the TE with the highest upside in general; if the Eagles were going to address the position, he would've been my top choice. Obviously Chip felt differently, and I get the feeling he has a better idea than I do of what TE would ideally fit his offensive vision.
When it comes to Ertz, I had specific expectations of him when I watched his tape for the first time back in January. The hype led me to believe I should be expecting this superstar TE with freakish, explosive athletic ability. Instead, what I saw was a player who elicited a reaction of "he's good, sure, but overrated based on my preconceptions." Perhaps I had to just recalibrate those preconceptions. Ertz is a "move" TE who's versatile and lines up everywhere (backfield, in-line, split wide, outside hashes) -- plays more like a big WR. Blocking has good moments and bad; inconsistent overall, but not for lack of effort. Quick off the line with initial burst; he's a superb route runner who sells fakes and displays suddenness at the stem, which will be necessary to create separation at the next level. Finds soft spots in the defense. I don't think Ertz plays as fast as his 4.68 40-yard dash; not stiff but not especially elusive after the catch, though he does run hard, lowers his shoulder to initiate contact and fall forward. Typically soft hands and rarely lets the ball get into his body (plucks it out of the air), but there were also some (easy) drops that were frustrating and prohibited me from anointing his hands as "excellent." Won jump/50-50 ball for TD catch to tie game vs. Oregon, but will short arms (smaller catch radius) and average vertical manifest themselves at NFL level? We'll see.
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
3 (67): Bennie Logan - DT - Louisiana State
I was hoping this pick would be Jesse Williams, but apparently his medicals -- specifically his knee -- pushed him down boards. Also, according to Albert Breer, who polled NFL teams, the general draftnik community simply overrated Williams' talent level. We'll see on that; I'm sure he'll thrive in Seattle. Nevertheless, I'm happy with Logan, who I think fits the mold of a versatile DL and should see time at both NT and DE/5-tech. He's athletic and can both anchor and penetrate, which is an invaluable commodity, particularly in the type of defense the Eagles hope to run. Just solid all around, plug-and-play type who should start as part of a rotation at DT and see his snaps steadily increased as the season progresses. Other pluses that stuck out to me about Logan on tape: Plays low and with good leverage, read/react ability, gap-discipline, range against the run, hustles, quick and strong hands to disengage and defeat blocks, good tackler who engulfs ball carrier.
4 (98): Matt Barkley - QB - Southern California
Easily the pick that has generated the most conversation, both optimistic and pessimistic. Barkley, if he had come out for the 2012 draft, was generally regarded as the consensus third-ranked QB behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Let's remember that. At first, I was perturbed because Barkley disappointed me this season, with one moment in particular -- which I watched in real-time -- that stuck in my craw and really soured me on him. I'm talking about the end of the Arizona game. With his Trojans trailing 39-36, Barkley got the ball at his own 13-yard line with 55 seconds left and no timeouts. His first throw annoyed me, as it was a 7-yard throw before the sticks to Silas Redd, who had to break a tackle to get the first down and stop the block. Two passes that gained a total of 27 yards followed. The USC offense was at the Arizona 48 with 15 seconds left, needing to get into position for a game-tying field goal. It's the next play that pissed me off to the point of losing faith in Barkley. Deep drop with pump fake before barely overthrowing Marquise Lee deep down sideline, play takes 10 seconds. Why not, instead, try for another quick 10-15-yard throw in the middle of the field? Could've left time for one more quick throw after that. As a result, all he had left was time for a bomb into the endzone (which was broken up). I don't know, I felt this was an issue of time and situational mismanagement -- nothing drives me crazier.
As I thought more and more about the pick, I came to rationalize it. I know this makes him no different from any other GM, but Howie Roseman consistently preaches the importance of finding value. Is there a better instance of potentially finding value than drafting a former consensus top-pick -- at the most important position, no less -- in the 4th round? There are 21 cutups on draftbreakdown.com, and I plan to watch each and every one of them. At some point down the line, when I go through them all, I'll do a more in-depth scouting report. For now, my quick takes:
Pre-snap orchestrator, has free reign at LOS
Polished, patient, goes through progressions, wins with his brain
Tough, not afraid to stand in the pocket and take a hit to make a throw
Keeps eyes downfield while sliding and stepping up to avoid pressure
Capable of making "wow" throws that are not stereotypical arm strength throws, but more having to do with touch and ball placement
Throws a pretty nice deep ball downfield (actually overthrows open receivers at times)
Underrated lower body strength, won't elude defenders with his feet but can shed would-be tacklers to extend plays
Doesn't always handle pressure well, can get skittish in the pocket if protection isn't up to snuff
Minimal zip on his passes (no "zing" quality), which is especially troublesome when having to squeeze the ball into tight windows (as is necessary in the NFL)
Lack of natural arm strength can't make up for feet not being set, struggles when forced to shuffle/reset and unable to step into throws
Ball hangs in the air, doesn't (can't?) consistently drive throws outside the numbers
Misses some wide open throws
Below average athlete
Makes some baffling decisions, even when he has time, and throws into coverage
Sometimes appears too nonchalant, question poise and sense of urgency under pressure
I think the best way I can sum up Barkley is thusly: His physical skill set is such that he needs to be perfect -- and needs his surrounding cast to be perfect -- in order to succeed. When Barkley -- and his team -- falls short of that, he doesn't have the special tools to compensate. However, protect him capably, surround him with talented weapons, install an offense predicated on short-drops and quick decisions (which is what Chip wants)... and you might end up getting that franchise QB. For now, I'm still on Team Foles.
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
5 (136): Earl Wolff - SS - North Carolina State
I imagine Wolff is going to compete for playing time immediately, given the relative uncertainty at the safety positions -- Kenny Phillips' knee, Patrick Chung's inconsistency, Nate Allen's regression, Kurt Coleman being Kurt Coleman. It wouldn't even surprise me if he wins a starting spot in training camp; I at least expect him to see the field plenty as part of a heavy rotation. Suddenness of movement, range and closing speed stick out. Physical player who can pack a punch and is a smooth, natural, gifted athlete. Good at baiting the QB by hiding in coverage, explosive jumper and made sticky hands INT vs. Clemson (2012); also remember him making a nice INT vs. Maryland in 2011. Instincts are questionable; bites on play-fakes and sometimes take poor angles/missteps. Great motor, chases the play all over the field, typically solid tackler who wraps up (though there were some whiffs) and gets ball carrier on the ground. I think Wolff needs to be told either to stay in the deep half and play coverage or roam in the box down near the LOS. I like him a lot as an assignment-player, but you're playing with fire if you ask him to read and react consistently.
7 (212): Joe Kruger - DE - Utah
Paul's brother. Our very own SouthernPhilly tipped this off months ago with his "Re-Recruiting Trail" article, and then called the pick right before it happened. Something of an underrated darling who had his cause championed by the Twitter draft community, I didn't scout Joe Kruger extensively, but he had a knack for making plays during live viewings and showed up time after time while I was watching Star Lotulelei's tape. Long, sleek build. Fired off the ball like he was shot out of a cannon; used his arms really well to bull rush and lock out blockers, combined with using his hands to defeat them. Tenacious, seemingly always pushing blocker back and getting into QB's kitchen, great motor, so much fun to watch in pursuit. Kruger lined up all over the front 4, played with his hand in the dirt and standing up. I know initial word is the Eagles plan to use him as a DE/OLB hybrid, which is how he was deployed in college, but I wonder if the long-term plan is to eventually get him into the 280-290-pound range and playing 5-tech full-time. I'm sure this will depend both on how Kruger plays and how the position battles shake out at DE and OLB.
7 (218): Jordan Poyer - CB - Oregon State
No one could understand how and why Jordan Poyer was in free-fall throughout the draft. I was one of those people, as I really liked Poyer on tape, despite a lack of explosiveness that showed up in his workouts. I guess questions about his speed and athleticism prevailed in scouting circles because the only off-field concern stemmed from an incident in which he, when underaged, refused to leave a bar. Diagnoses and reacts instantaneously, quick feet, balanced, tough, smart, instinctive playmaker with perhaps the best ball skills -- locates in the air, spectacular hands -- of any CB in the draft. More of a hitter than tackler, though he does show ability to wrap up, and never shies away in run support. Played all types of coverages at Oregon State, but appeared most comfortable and aware in zone -- where he could read QB and slide into position -- which is where he's best suited to excel in the pros. Size and poor vertical jump hampered him from winning jump ball battles with WR in college, will be even more magnified in the NFL. Is this something he'll be able to overcome? Can he be trusted one-on-one against NFL WR?
7 (239): David King - DE - Oklahoma
Here's what I know about David King: When I'd go to NFLDraftScout.com and look through the position rankings, I'd always get to the end of the supposed draft-worthy prospects that garnered the "7-FA" grade. King's height/weight/speed combination -- as well as the rest of his workout numbers -- always caught my eye. His production is minimal and, this might come as a surprise to you, but I would've preferred Tristan Okpalaugo (who remains unsigned as a UDFA) at this spot.
Grade: Draft grades are so incredibly dumb and pointless right now. Mel Kiper gave the Seahawks an "F" this time last year for their 2012 haul. I thought the Eagles stayed true to their board and lined up BPA and value with needs very well.