The NFL off-season will reach its apex this weekend when the league holds its annual draft. I realize that it is somewhat ridiculous that an off-season can have an apex, but welcome to the modern NFL where the off-season has become more exciting than the season.
Since it is still be more than four months before I can preview an actual game (or even a preseason game), I decided to write a little something about the draft.
With the 20th pick, the Eagles select…
I have no idea. I don’t think anyone has any idea who the Eagles will take, no matter how much of an “expert” they are.
Oct 26, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tackle Lane Johnson (65) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Eagles 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Did anyone predict the Eagles would take Marcus Smith in the first round last year? Nope! That’s mostly because none of the experts thought Smith would be selected that early. As it turns out, they might have been wise to think that.
How about the year before? Did anyone guess that the Eagles would take Lane Johnson?
Well, actually, quite a few people did. That was mostly because the Eagles had the fourth pick, and the experts can usually get at least some of the top ten correct. With the Eagles drafting 20th, I don’t think anyone could say with any certainty who their pick will be.
Mel Kiper, Jr. seemingly has only one concern in life, and that is the NFL Draft. But based on past results, I’d wager that a blindfolded monkey throwing darts has as good a chance of correctly predicting the Eagles’ selection.
Obligatory Marcus Mariota Section
Based on what I’ve read, it seems that the Eagles’ choice will come down to one of two players: Marcus Mariota or somebody who isn’t Marcus Mariota. (I fully acknowledge that I’ve done my part to add to the Mariota hype when I wrote this.)
Regardless of who selects him, I am sure that Twitter is going to explode the second that Mariota is drafted. If the Eagles do find a way to get him, obviously everyone is going to want to talk about the team’s new would-be franchise quarterback. If they don’t get him, fans will either celebrate or lament that Chip Kelly didn’t get “his guy.” Whoever the Eagles actually draft will be a secondary concern to why they didn’t get Mariota.
If anyone hopes that having another team draft Mariota will finally end all the talk, I have some bad news: There will still be speculation that the Eagles are trying to work out a trade. Some people won’t accept that Mariota won’t be an Eagle until training camp begins, and he hasn’t reported to the NovaCare Center.
A Helpful Guide to Understanding Mock Drafts
As always, there’s been a plethora of news and analysis surrounding the draft. Just about every member of the media who even remotely covers football has come up with a mock draft. And like most Eagles fans, I don’t pay attention to almost any of it. When I see a new mock draft, I usually just skip down to see who they predict the Eagles will take.
Most of these mock drafts oddly ignore the possibility of trades, while others come up with hypothetical trades that have about .01% chance of actually happening.
As I said earlier, the experts can usually get some of the picks right at the top of the first round. For the teams drafting later in the round, there seems to be a two-step process for coming up with mock selections:
- Determine the team’s positional needs based on last year’s starters and free agent activity.
- Find the highest rated player left at one of those need positions.
That’s why just about every mock draft (or at least the ones that don’t have them trading for Mariota) has the Eagles taking a defensive back. What those analysts might not realize is that the Eagles may have confidence in Nolan Carroll, Brandon Boykin, and Earl Wolff, and don’t feel defensive back is a top priority. Or perhaps the team subscribes to the “take the best player, regardless of position” philosophy. In my opinion, that’s a better approach than reaching for a player based on need.
A Helpful Guide to Understanding Draft Grades
If you think mock drafts are a pointless exercise, that’s nothing compared to giving out grades immediately after the draft. Most experts warn that it takes at least three years to properly analyze a team’s draft…and then give an immediate grade anyway.
Want a good draft grade from Mike Mayock? Better fall in line with his expectations. Image Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Most of these draft grades have little to do with the teams and the players who they selected. Usually, the draft grades are based on how well the team met the analyst’s preconceived notions.
Here’s a breakdown of what a team has to do to earn a particular grade from an analyst:
A – Team makes an aggressive move to get a guy who the analyst thinks will be a “perfect fit” in their system. If the team is able to then trade back up into the first round and take another guy who has “slipped,” that usually merits an A+.
B – The team stayed put and drafted players right around the range where the analyst thought they’d go.
C – The team picked players above where the analyst predicted they’d go, or they took players who didn’t line up with the team’s “needs.”
D – The team either traded up to take a player who the analyst thought would fall to their spot anyway or the team traded down and missed out on a player who the analyst thought would be a good fit.
E – The team traded away it’s first round pick for a veteran player who probably won’t help them make the playoffs next season.
F – The team made a move that the analyst didn’t like and then an executive from that team pointed out how the draft experts are usually wrong.
Awful Draft Choices in Eagles History
Feeling confident that the Eagles will make some good picks this weekend? This look back at some of the team’s worst-ever draft picks should help put a nice dent in that confidence!
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Older Eagles fans will usually rate Kevin Allen as the team’s worst draft pick of all-time. It’s hard for me to argue that since Allen didn’t contribute much on the field, got suspended for using an illegal substance, and then went to jail for sexual assault. That’s a pretty damning combination.
Fortunately, that was before I became an Eagles fan. But I’ve seen plenty of bad picks in my time. Here are three that stand out for being particularly bad:
Siran Stacy – The team didn’t have a first round pick in the 1992 draft after trading up for Antone Davis (a rather poor choice in his own right) the year before. So it was crucial that they get a good player in the second round. They did not.
People immediately mocked the pick because Stacy was apparently named after Saran Wrap. People later mocked the pick because Stacy never actually carried the ball in a game.
Jon Harris – As I’ve said, the draft experts don’t always get it right. But if you draft a guy in the first round, and ESPN doesn’t even have video of him, there’s a chance you made a mistake, or at least overreached a bit.
Most analysts had Harris – a defensive end out of Virginia – going in the fourth round. Apparently, head coach Ray Rhodes saw some of his highlights and became infatuated. Rhodes went as far as to compare him to Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Sure, they both had long arms, but there was one major difference between them: Jones was a Pro Bowler, and Harris barely saw the field. His career lasted only two years.
Danny Watkins – Drafting offensive lineman in the first round is similar to getting underwear at Christmas. You know you need it, but it’s tough to get too excited.
It’s even less exciting when the guy you draft is already 26 years old, has limited football experience, and would rather be working as a fire fighter. I suppose this story has somewhat of a happy ending, because four years after the Eagles took him in the first round, Watkins is now working as a fire fighter!
The Week in Andy
After 13 years together, many Eagles fans still feel some Andy Reid withdrawal. I’ve decided to help them out by providing a periodic look at what “Big Red” is up to in Kansas City.
The scene: The Chiefs’ front office staff is finalizing their draft board. General manager John Dorsey is addressing the room.
Dorsey: We’ve got our draft board all set up. Does anyone have any questions? (Casts nervous glance at Andy Reid who appears to be sleeping.)
Dorsey: Okay, good. I guess we’re –
Feb 18, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid speaks to the media during the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Reid: (Wakes up with a loud snort and then looks around) Hey, guys. So, what were we talking about again?
Dorsey: (Sighs) We were doing a final review of our draft board for tomorrow.
Reid: Well, you know what I always say: You can’t go wrong drafting a lineman!
Dorsey: Coach, you’ve gone wrong quite a few times doing that.
Reid: Let’s not over think this. On offense, just get the biggest body we can find and let Pederson coach him up.
Doug Pederson: Hells yeah! I’ll run him into the ground and make a man out of him! If he can’t hang, he’ll be cut before the first game!
Dorsey: I don’t think cutting our draft picks is a wise strategy.
Pederson: So then you want some pansy who can’t take the heat protecting the QB’s backside? Yeah, real good idea, Dorkey!
Dorsey: I’ve asked you many times to please not call me that.
Pederson: And I’ve told you to shut up and leave the football to the football guys!
Dorsey: I played in the league for five years!
Pederson: (snorts) Yeah, on defense. Like that counts.
Dorsey: (Shakes his head) Are there any other comments before we move on?
Reid: On defense, we just need to find some quick defensive ends so we can keep throwing fastballs at the offense.
Pederson: Once again coach, that hasn’t really worked out that well for you.
Reid: Well here’s what I know. Whenever I’m coaching the offense, and the defense starts coming at us with those quick, little ends, we can’t seem to move the ball.
Dorsey: That may be more of a reflection on your offense than anything.
Reid: Nope. Hosses on offense, fastballs on defense. That’s the way you do it.
Dorsey: Coach, tomorrow afternoon, before the draft, how would you feel about a big meal of ribs?
Reid: Sounds great! But you know, ribs always make me sleepy as heck. I’ll probably need a nap afterwards.
Dorsey: You don’t say.
When Sunday night rolls around, the Eagles will have a bunch of new players. (Unless of course, they trade all their picks for Mariota.) Will these players serve as the foundation for a Super Bowl winner or will they be failures along the line of Stacy, Harris, and Watkins?
It will take years to find out the answer, but at least by Monday we’ll know the answer to one question: How much did Mel Kiper like what the Eagles did? And isn’t that all we really need to know?