ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. is hands down the kind of NFL draft punditry. He's had challengers in recent years from the likes of NFL Network's Mike Mayock and his own network's Todd McShay, but as someone who watches search traffic for a living... Mel is still the guy whose opinion most fans are seeking out.
So of course, I was interested to see what he said about the Eagles 2013 draft class. Overall, he was quite high on it, giving the Birds a "B+" for their efforts.
The Eagles really did well at the No. 4 spot. Lane Johnson has the best combination of upside and athleticism in the draft, and while he's an unfinished product, he's the perfect tackle to develop in Chip Kelly's fast-paced system. After that, we saw a kind of fun theme develop -- a head coach who gets a say in personnel decisions, taking players he should know really well. It started in Round 2, where the Eagles took my No. 2-ranked tight end. Well, Zach Ertz caught 11 passes against Kelly's Oregon Ducks last year. Matt Barkley also piled up huge numbers versus Oregon, and was the first pick taken in Round 4 (I once said I thought Barkley was a future first pick -- maybe I meant in Round 4?). Kelly wants competition at QB, and Barkley is going to come in ready to compete. Bennie Logan fits as a potential 3-4 DE or even a nose tackle, and Earl Wolff offers some depth at safety. They needed a corner and got another guy Kelly knows, Jordan Poyer from Oregon State. Joe Kruger isn't fast, but he could provide a pass rush in this system. Overall, I like what the Eagles accomplished.
Reading that got me thinking, what else has Kiper said about the Eagles drafts in the past and how right has been on his analysis? Let's take a took.
2008 - Grade: C+
Trevor Laws had a very good 2007, and was arguably Notre Dame's best player. I like where the Eagles got DeSean Jackson because he's an exciting player (when healthy) who will help out in the return game. Bryan Smith is a combination DE/OLB, and Michael McGlynn had a nice season at right tackle opposite Jeff Otah. Cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu is a pick for the future; after declaring for the draft, he suffered a knee injury in January and isn't expected to play in 2008. Andrew Studebaker out of Wheaton has the potential to be a situational pass-rusher.
Kiper doesn't have a lot bad to say about the individual players here, but the overall grade gives you a good idea of what he thought of this class as a whole. I'd say he was right. Jackson was obviously a great pick in the second round, but no one else from this class is even still on the team. Interestingly, the 2nd best player the Eagles got this year was probably 7th round pick King Dunlap. 6th round pick LB Joe Mays did go on to become a serviceable NFL LB, but not in Philadelphia.
2009 - Grade: B -
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was a good pick, but he needs to work on his route running to be a consistent threat in the NFL. Running back LeSean McCoy was a good selection in the second round and so was tight end Cornelius Ingram in the fifth round. The fifth round was a good round for the Eagles, who also picked up cornerback Victor Harris and offensive tackle Fenuki Tupou.
Maclin has been a good player, while McCoy is a star. So Kiper was right on those. Ingram & the 5th round? Not so much. Also, he didn't point out the guy who was the 3rd best pick from this class, LB Moises Fokou.
2010 - Grade: B+
The Eagles were positioned well to take advantage of a deep draft, and they did, piling up seven productive picks between the third and fifth rounds. But Philly started well, too. In Brandon Graham, it has a potential rookie of the year on defense. The Eagles filled a need at safety with Nate Allen, and I like Trevard Lindley in the fourth. He has second-round ability. Ricky Sapp might be a tweener, but getting a guy who can get to the quarterback like he can in the fifth round is good value. He could be a solid situational pass-rusher early in his career. Riley Cooper is quicker than many people think to go with above-average size.
So this class got a better grade than 2009, but clearly it has not performed better. Graham's injury prevented him from entering any rookie of the year discussions. Allen did not a fill need at safety and there's nothing really to like about Lindley. Ricky Sapp wouldn't have been good value in any round, but he was right to call out Cooper as a nice late pick. Overall, I think we'd all agree that this is not a "B+" draft in hindsight.
2011 - Grade: C+
Summary: This feels like last year. I look at the Philly board and think, "Well, they got a lot of guys." The Eagles targeted what I considered their three biggest needs with their first three picks. The selection of Watkins surprised some people, as he may have been available even into the early second round, but they may believe he has the capability to stay at tackle. I think he's a guard. Elsewhere, Jarrett provides depth at safety, and Marsh will be asked to step in early at corner. David Akers can't feel too confident about his future in Philly, as Henery was the first kicker off the board. The looming question now is what picks or players will come back if and when the Eagles decide to deal Kevin Kolb.
Well Kiper was right to give this the lowest grade in our study because it's clearly the worst class. He wasn't high on the Watkins pick, which in hindsight was correct. Overall actually, he really doesn't seem to like any pick in this class.
2012 - Grade: A
One of the best drafts in terms of lining up needs and getting guys at spots where I didn't think they'd still be around. They moved up to get Fletcher Cox, an immediate starter. Mychal Kendricks is a perfect fit, and at No. 46, a really good value. The Eagles look a lot better up the middle after this weekend. If Vinny Curry came off the board really early in the second round, nobody would have been surprised, so to get him at No. 59 is a steal. Nick Foles has the upside of an NFL starter, and Andy Reid could turn him into something. Brandon Boykin is my No. 9-ranked corner, so I love the value as a fourth-rounder. I thought they might get a tackle earlier, but it's hard to quibble given the value they got with every pick early on. I love this draft, and Bryce Brown will be an interesting story if he sticks. Keep an eye on Brandon Washington, a sixth-rounder with the upside of a starter at guard.
This was Kiper's highest rated class of that year and while it's still too early tell it does seem to be a strong class. That said, if you compare it to Kiper's lowest rated class from last year, Seattle, it does give you some pause. The Seahawks netted Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner & Russell Wilson with their first 3 picks. He actually gave them a "D-" for value. Again, Russell Wilson in the 3rd round.
As you might expect, Kiper's record on judging the Eagles has been a bit uneven... but overall I'd say he has been decently accurate. His two lowest graded drafts have probably been the team's worst, although 2008 may very well be better than 2010. If Brandon Graham continues to play the way he did last year, that's probably a wash.