Eagles Draft Interest Results: Why Visits and Diplomas Mattered Most

Mitchell Leff

There was a trend in the players the Eagles selected from the 2014 NFL Draft.

When I released my Eagles pre-draft interest tracker earlier this month, some mentioned they would be interested in seeing if there were any trends to the chart after the 2014 NFL Draft was over. Looking back, with the help of additional information that wasn't previously available, one trend was clear: pre-draft visits matter.

Player School Visit SB CM PD/WK CK Opp CK Rec Top HS Other Total
OLB Marcus Smith Louisville X X X 3
WR Jordan Matthews Vanderbilt X X X 3
WR Josh Huff Oregon X 1
DB Jaylen Watkins Florida X X X 3
DE Taylor Hart Oregon X X 2
S Ed Reynolds Stanford X XX 3
NT Beau Allen Wisconsin X 1

Six of the seven Eagles draft picks all came to Philadelphia for a visit. The only prospect who did not come in for a visit was Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff, who obviously played for Chip Kelly when he was still the Ducks' head coach. Taylor Hart also played for Oregon and was brought in for a visit, but the Eagles were likely checking on Hart's medical situation considering he broke a bone in his foot in January 2014.

Every NFL team is allowed 30 pre-draft visits. The prospects don't actually work out for the teams at this time. Instead, the visits are typically used for interviews and medical examination. It's all part of the information-gathering process. Pre-draft visits are also used in the misinformation process, however. Eagles GM Howie Roseman admitted that some visits are made just to confuse other teams (as well as the media and fans).

Another key component which I did not include in my chart was highlighted in a recent article by the Wall Street Journal. Apparently, the Eagles are really big on targeting college graduates. Six of the seven players the Eagles acquired from the 2014 NFL Draft are on track to graduate. As the article suggests, the Eagles not only want players who are well-educated, but they also want to see a track record of commitment.

As for areas that didn't seem to be very important, look no further than Senior Bowl interest and NFL Combine interviews. Being a top high school recruit didn't seem to matter much either, which is something the Eagles have admitted to valuing in the past. Perhaps most surprisingly, the Eagles did not follow the theme of the 2013 Draft which involved them drafting players who performed at a high level against Kelly in college. The only candidate who applies here is Ed Reynolds. Instead of drafting Kelly opponents, the Eagles opted to draft two of his former players instead (Huff and Hart).

Fittingly enough, the oddest category was "Other". Both of the Eagles top two picks just so happened to be photographed with Kelly one-on-one prior to the draft. Here's Kelly and Smith talking at the Louisville Pro Day.

And now this picture of Kelly smiling with Jordan Matthews at the Vanderbilt pro day:

I'm not sure if this actually means anything or if it was pure coincidence... but nevertheless it's a little humorous.

It will be interesting to see how these trends hold up for the Eagles in future drafts. Having specific qualifications (gradutes) and interest habits (visits) will help the team identify the players who are right for them. On the other hand, it could be troublesome if the Eagles are becoming too predictable in their pre-draft approach.

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