How much did the Philadelphia Eagles actually improve themselves with their 2011 draftees? It’s difficult to gauge how a rookie draft class will actually help your team during their first season. Out of 13 draftees last year, we had solid contributions from many of them. Brandon Graham (1st), Nate Allen (2nd), Jamar Chaney (7th), and Kurt Coleman(7th) led the class while Riley Cooper (5th), Trevard Lindley (4th), and Keenan Clayton (4th) saw some playing time. But were any of them a “difference maker”? No, not really. However, that’s not to say they won’t be in 2011.
I felt pretty good about the draft last year. I came away thinking that we drafted some good players that had a decent shot at making solid contributions in their rookie years. This year I’m not as excited but my feelings are probably impacted by the fact we haven’t had free agency yet. But, let’s go through the draft pick by pick and see how they might help this team in 2011…
Danny Watkins: My initial reaction was “What the _____!?!? We just drafted a senior! And he’s also a senior in college!“ Then after I settled down a little bit I actually liked the pick. He will start from day 1 and will significantly improve our offensive line, which I had rated as our 2nd biggest area of need. Would I have selected a different player at this point? Yes. Jimmy Smith, Gabe Carimi, and Cameron Jordan were still on the board. But alas, this was a solid pick and he will be a major contributor in 2011.
Jaiquawn Jarrett: My initial reaction was “A safety? Why are we picking a safety this early? Wouldn’t he have been available in the 3rd round?“ I liked the player, I just didn’t think we needed to draft him at that point or draft that position at that point. But if Jarrett comes anywhere near his “Dawk-like” comparison from Andy Reid, this will become my favorite pick of this draft! He should see significant playing time as a rookie so we’ll get a good feel for him next season.
Curtis Marsh: My initial reaction was “It’s about time we took a corner! We finally addressed our biggest need!“ But when I realized that he’s only played the corner position for 2 years, I soured on this pick a little bit. Curtis Brown, Jalil Brown, and Davon House were all still on the board and all have much more experience playing corner. I felt this pick was a little bit of a reach but I guess they think Marsh’s upside will make him the better player eventually. He’ll see the field some in 2011 but don’t expect much. The Eagles will most likely seek a free agent CB to be the starter opposite Samuel.
Casey Mathews: My initial reaction was “Good pick! We got ourselves a Mathews boy!“ You can’t deny his bloodline but unfortunately the consensus on him is that he’s probably the least talented of the Mathews’ clan. With that said, he still projects to bring some tenacity to the linebacker position. He will have a chance to compete for a starting spot but will probably end up being a situational player and ST’er. He was a good value pick and has a good chance to be a starter in the future.
Alex Henery: My initial reaction was “WTF?! We took a kicker? Wait…huh? Really? We took a friggin kicker? What the hell are they doing!?“ Henery may have been the best college kicker, have a strong leg, and a reputation for making clutch kicks but I really feel this was a wasted pick. David Akers is still 100% capable of being our kicker. He still has a good leg and for the most part is still a top notch player. This move is about the Eagles saying “screw you” to Akers. If you recall, they tried signing him to a new deal but were turned down by Akers’ camp. The Eagles don’t like it when you do that. Combine that with his 2 missed FG’s in the last playoff game and his fate was sealed. Dumb move, this pick could have been used for something much better.
Dion Lewis: My initial reaction was “Ok, does he have any punt or kick return experience?“ I wasn’t as familiar with Lewis but I thought this was around the area the Eagles would grab a player that would be a back-up at one position while serving as our return specialist. Well, Lewis doesn’t really have any experience in the return game but I have to think they’ll at least try him out for kick returns (probably not punts). He’s kind of small and quick, I see the Eagles using him as a 3rd down specialist. He could be used the same way the Chargers used Darren Sproles.
Julian Vandervelde: My initial reaction was “Good, another offensive lineman. But wait, when the hell are we going to address the defensive line?“ Vandervelde was a late riser on some draft boards and has experience playing both RG and LG. The Eagles could also see him as a candidate for the center position as well. Solid pick here, he will serve as OL depth.
Jason Kelce: My initial reaction was “Another O-lineman huh…guess they think we’re just fine at DL“. I wasn’t too familiar with Kelce but after reading up on him I think he’s another solid pick. We do need improvement along the offensive line. He’s only 280 lbs which is a little concerning but he seems like a Howard Mudd kind of guy. Kelce has experience at center and guard but unless he bulks up some more, his size has center written all over it.
Brian Rolle: My initial reaction was “Awesome! We just got the 2nd coming of Lawrence Taylor!“ Ok, not really…just seeing if you were paying attention. My actual reaction was more sedated but I thought that this was good value for Rolle at this spot in the draft. Back up LB and special teamer.
As for our final 2 picks…LB Greg Lloyd and FB Stanley Havili…Lloyd is somewhat intriguing. He’s the son of ex-Steeler linebacker Greg Lloyd who was pretty damn good in his day. Lloyd is coming off of a knee injury but if he can fully recover, he has a good shot at making the roster. Havili was drafted to provide competition for Owen Schmitt but will most likely end up on the practice squad at best.
In a nutshell, I think Watkins, Jarrett, and Mathews will be the only ones we should expect to see any impact from in 2011. Henery will have an impact by default because there’s no way we’ll have 2 kickers on the roster. The rest of these players will be back ups and special teams guys. The picks I’m least fond of are Marsh (lacks experience), Henery (wasted pick), and Lewis (not a return specialist). The fact that we didn’t select any D-linemen was also puzzling.
In grading this draft, if I base it strictly on the players they took I’d give it a solid B+. But if I were to grade it based on what the team needs, I’d give it a C (No DL, CB questionable, no RS, and taking a kicker we didn’t need).