PHILADELPHIA -- We looked at the Philadelphia Eagles' 2013 free-agent signings Thursday. Today we turn to the draft class, with the upfront acknowledgement that you can’t truly evaluate players in their first year.
It’s a little different with the veterans, since they’re meant to be plug-and-play pieces. So we’re not here to make conclusions about the draft picks, merely to assess how they’re coming along and whether we have any better idea if the selections made sense.
• First-round pick Lane Johnson (fourth overall) has played every single offensive snap, mostly at right tackle. He is the beneficiary and victim of the NFL trend toward throwing high draft picks at every position into the fire immediately. There’s hardly any such thing as easing first-round picks into the lineup.
With that in mind, Johnson has been just fine. When he makes a big mistake, it had big consequences. Plays, and teammates, get blown up. Pro Football Focus has him on the hook for seven sacks, five quarterback hits and 30 hurries. He is much stronger in the run game, which typically comes first for offensive linemen. With his size, athleticism and demeanor, you get the feeling Johnson will be a solid player for years here, and that’s ultimately what a first-round pick should be.
Good pick, bad pick: Good pick. Maybe one of the defensive linemen that went in the first half of the round would have been a good call, too, but locking down a tackle spot is vital to building any team.
• Second-round pick Zach Ertz (35 overall) may turn out to be a great player -- there’s no knock on the kid’s size, skill set or football savvy -- but he is arguably the most questionable pick the Eagles made in the 2013 draft. GM Howie Roseman’s declared approach, choosing the best player regardless of position, explains the decision to choose a tight end after the team had invested $12 million in free agent James Casey.
But was it a wise use of the third pick of the round? Chip Kelly just hasn’t used his tight ends the way we expected when the Eagles loaded up at the position. Ertz has 14 catches for 201 yards. By comparison, Washington’s third-round tight end, Jordan Reed, has 34 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns. Is Reed a better player or is he just being utilized more often? Point is, if you’re not going to utilize the tight end, it makes sense to use such a high pick to address one of the many other needs a 4-12 team has.
Good pick, bad pick: Mystifying pick. This is a case where a guy could be a good player, but not a good pick.
• Third-round pick Bennie Logan (67 overall), a defensive tackle from LSU, hasn’t really distinguished himself yet -- although he does have two sacks. That’s OK, because the Eagles signed veteran Isaac Sopoaga to man the nose tackle position as they switched to a 3-4 scheme. With Sopoaga traded away, Logan should get more playing time and a chance to make more of an impact.
Good pick, bad pick: Good because it was the first pick dedicated to a defense in dire need of talent. Of course, if the Eagles had used that second rounder on defensive tackle Kawann Short (Carolina) or linebacker Kiko Alonso (Buffalo), they would have been free to scoop up one of the third-round wide receivers (Terrance Williams, Keenan Allen) or even defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.
• Fourth-round pick Matt Barkley (98 overall) was another curious choice. The Eagles traded up in the round to take the quarterback from USC. That wouldn’t seem out of place except that Barkley seems like an odd fit in Kelly’s offense. The explanation at the time was that Kelly didn’t need a mobile quarterback, but the coach’s subsequent choice of Michael Vick doesn’t really support that.
Barkley has been forced to play the past two weeks because of injuries. It has been eventful, to say the least. He turned the ball over on his first four possessions, an unprecedented feat, but had stretches where he got the ball out quickly and accurately. He may be able to play in this league, but he’d be much better off in a different system.
Good pick, bad pick: Again, strange pick. Nothing wrong with adding young quarterbacks at this point in the draft, but the Eagles had plenty of other holes to fill.
• Fifth-round pick Earl Wolff (136 overall) personifies the development of the Eagles' defense. He was initially meant to play occasionally as he learned, but was forced to start when veteran safety Patrick Chung injured his shoulder. Wolff still makes mistakes, but he has come a long way and continues the Eagles’ tradition of pretty solid fifth-round picks -- Trent Cole and Brent Celek come to mind.
Good pick, bad pick: Good pick. If he recedes into a backup/special teams role, Wolff already has given the Eagles more than many fifth-round picks give their teams.
• Seventh-round picks Joe Kruger (212), Jordan Poyer (218) and David King (239) are non-factors this year. Kruger, who was seen as a developmental guy, is on injured reserve. Poyer was released to create a roster spot for running back Matthew Tucker, then claimed off waivers by Cleveland. King was released at the end of training camp and is on Cincinnati’s practice squad.
Good picks, bad picks: Seventh-round picks. They are what they are.
• Undrafted rookies: Jake Knott, a linebacker, had been a regular on special teams until injuring his hamstring two weeks ago. His absence led to the signing of Emmanuel Acho, so it will be worth watching whether Knott gets his job back when he’s healthy. Tucker was on the practice squad until injuries required his elevation to the 53-man roster. He hasn’t been a factor. Defensive lineman Damion Square, inactive the past six weeks, is one of the players who could get more playing time in the wake of the Sopoaga trade. Offensive lineman Matt Tobin is a project who has been inactive all eight games.