Grading the Eagles’ 2010 Draft
There’s a common theory mentioned about the evaluation of NFL teams’ Draft doings, that it takes at least three years to accurately grade how well an organization made out by adding players fresh out of college via the selection event. However, it’s always interesting to take an immediate look at how teams fared, especially a club like the Eagles, as they wound up with a league-high 13 players in the 2010 Draft, which concluded on Saturday. The team managed to grab an astounding 10 prospects in the final four rounds alone, and totaled nine selections that are expected to improve the defensive side of the ball. And, of course, we are no where near being three years away from the Draft; that doesn’t make it any less intriguing to ponder how the Eagles did in picking future stars over the past few days.
A variety of respected sports analysts have already created their own grades of the Eagles’ 2010 Draft. For my grading of the team’s performance in the three-day procedure, letter grades have been used–similar to the way ESPN‘s Mel Kiper, Jr. and the FOX Sports network evaluated NFL teams’ drafting. It’s as straight forward as can be…just like school grading systems, the highest possible earning is an A+ and the lowest is an F.
- DE Brandon Graham came into the Draft as one of the higher-ranked players at his position, but was still not projected to be taken until the mid- to late-part of the 1st-round. Nevertheless, the Eagles felt it appropriate to move up from their original selection (24th overall) via a trade to pick the Michigan product and bolster their defensive line. A hard worker and aggressive pass rusher, Graham is expected to perform at a high level in the starting lineup for many years, though perhaps could have been selected later in the 1st-round. Pick Grade: B+
- FS Nate Allen lacks the flashy style of play and impressive highlight reels that other heralded safety prospects (such as Eric Berry, Earl Thomas, and Taylor Mays) have, but is undoubtedly one of the most consistent and reliable defensive backs in the 2010 rookie class. A tight coverage man while playing for South Florida in college, he is expected to improve the Eagles’ success against opposing teams’ passing attacks and immediately contribute as a starting free safety. Allen doesn’t have top-of-the-line ball skills and a knack for making interceptions, but he is a solid tackler who can stick to elite receivers in pass coverage. Pick Grade: A
- DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim certainly has the work ethic and potential to succeed at the professional level. However, the Eagles’ decision to take him in the 3rd-round of the Draft has widely been questioned, seeing that he was–for the longest time–ranked as a prospect expected to be off the board in the 5th- or 6th-round, but no earlier. His underestimated speed and willingness to line up at both the defensive tackle and outside linebacker spots make him somewhat of a project within Philadelphia’s defensive unit. Head coach Andy Reid reportedly said that Te’o-Nesheim will be used in a role similar to what was played by former Eagle DE Chris Clemons (a situational pass rusher). If that is indeed true, it’s hard to understand why the team chose the Washington product so early in the Draft, yet his upside and quality level of character make him a respectable pick. Pick Grade: C+
- CB Trevard Lindley provides the Eagles with an immediate candidate to have significant playing time at cornerback and arguably has enough talent to be considered worthy of a 2nd-round pick, and Philadelphia was able to snag him in the 4th and seem to feel confident he will learn their defensive system and thrive within it. A ball hawk at Kentucky, his stock for the Draft was not as high as it could have been because of an injury sustained in his senior season. Though he is regarded as an above-average performer in man coverage, Lindley tends to gamble on plays and often times appears as if his primary focus is on picking the ball off (this coincidentally relates to starting Eagles CB Asante Samuel’s style of play). He has the potential to solidify the secondary depth, but must stay healthy and work hard on improving some aspects of his game. Pick Grade: B
- LB Keenan Clayton is an undersized linebacker who–despite having a sound tackling technique and specialty in covering short pass plays–was probably one of the most noticeable “reaches” the Eagles made in the Draft. Largely considered to be worth a pick in only the final two rounds, the OLB from Oklahoma (whose amount of agility has also been questioned) was instead nabbed by Philly with the 121st overall selection in the 4th-round. Several pro scouts have mentioned that Clayton might actually be a better strong safety than linebacker, and overall it’s somewhat of a mystery as to what the Eagles intend on doing with him. The most likely landing spot in 2010 for the rookie, if he makes the team, is a role with the special teams unit. Pick Grade: D+
- QB Mike Kafka was, by no means, drafted as competition for Kevin Kolb at the quarterback spot, but is likely to provide the team with a solid developmental player and backup for quite a few years. An athletic passer from Northwestern, he relies on short, timed throws to lead an offense and, at times, looks as if he could eventually be a starting QB in the NFL. The primary thing that makes the selection of Kafka a bit questionable is the fact that other prospects at his position with supposed higher upside and arm strength (such as Tony Pike and John Skelton) were still available at the time; nonetheless, Kafka should be an interesting player to mentor and prepare behind Kolb. Pick Grade: C+
- TE Clay Harbor was arguably the most unexpected and interesting pick by the Eagles in their entire drafting scheme this year. It’s not that the Missouri State prospect was a low-ranked player at his position or anything of that sort; Philadelphia was simply not projected to make any adjustments to what was already a fine tight end spot, with young star Brent Celek and hopefuls Cornelius Ingram and Martin Rucker present. However, the selection can obviously not be changed, and Harbor brings an athletic and versatile weapon to the offense. He is a reliable receiver and could actually see some time as a fullback as well. The fact that the Eagles did not really need a TE is one of the few negative factors in this specific selection. Pick Grade: B
- DE Ricky Sapp could end up being one of the smartest picks by the Eagles, even though he was only taken in the 5th-round of the Draft. A versatile defender from Clemson who worked out for the team prior to the event, he may very well develop into a rotational or even starting role along the defensive line with his explosive pass rushing capabilities and proven productivity. With the exception of some injuries sustained in college, he probably would have been taken in the 2nd-round. Also a candidate to man an outside linebacker spot, Sapp is clearly one of the rookies who should be watched closely as the offseason progresses and is already becoming a fan favorite among those drafted. Pick Grade: B+
- WR Riley Cooper (pictured) was rarely mentioned as being a target of the Eagles, but his physical frame and solid receiving skills make him a viable competitor for one of the reserve wideout spots. In his collegiate career at Florida, he displayed a decent amount of speed and came through for the Gators as a reliable backup target. Ironically, he was also drafted by the professional baseball team of Philadelphia, the Phillies, but left that sport after deciding to pursue a full-time career in football. Though not a very speedy or agile wide receiver, Cooper is unquestionably capable of handling reserve duties on offense and also performing well on special teams. For a 5th-round pick, he holds potentially great value to the team. Pick Grade: B-
- RB Charles Scott gives the Eagles what they have needed for several years now–a true power running back. The team successfully relied on Pro-Bowl FB Leonard Weaver last year for the majority of short-yardage rushing situations, but there was still no member of the backfield with a clear specialty in pounding the ball up the inside of the field that could be used in combination with Weaver. A bruising, hard-working product of LSU, Scott figures to use his large frame and physical style of play to earn carries as the Eagles’ goal-line and situational RB. An injury limited his amount of opportunities in his senior season in college, hence his fall to the late-rounds of the Draft; he remains a solid addition from the Draft and is expected to make immediate contributions to the offense. Pick Grade: A-
- LB Jamar Chaney is sure to make a run as being the Eagles’ biggest “steal” of the Draft after being taken by the team in the 7th-round but holding a lot of potential for the NFL. He possesses adequate size and strength to play at any of the linebacker spots, and has also proven to have above-average speed. If not for some durability concerns and recent injuries, the Mississippi State standout may have actually been off the board in the 2nd- or 3rd-rounds of the Draft. A tough defender who has also shown promise in pass coverage, he is likely to compete for a reserve spot in the LB corps and man a special teams role, but–with good conditioning and development–could eventually challenge for an everyday job in the starting lineup. Pick Grade: B
- DT Jeff Owens is actually regarded by many to have enough potential and upside to compete for a serious amount of playing time with starting defensive tackles Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson. He uses his large physical frame very well, and showed a tremendous amount of aggressiveness in his pass rushing attempts and run stopping techniques at Georgia. He is willing to play through injuries, and could definitely be a force as a developmental interior lineman for the Eagles. The primary thing that kept him from going early in the Draft is his lack of consistency and endurance to play as an every-down DT. His high upside makes him a player to keep an eye on, though. Pick Grade: B-
- SS Kurt Coleman was taken with the team’s final pick in the 7th-round of the Draft, and isn’t likely to be more than some competition for a backup safety job. While at Ohio State, he rarely impressed scouts but showed a decent amount of aggressiveness in spite of his smaller size. His future as an Eagle is largely expected to depend on where acquisitions Marlin Jackson and Nate Allen are lined up–both are currently listed as safeties, but if one or both are switched to cornerback, Coleman may have a legitimate shot at cracking the final roster as a developmental reserve. Pick Grade: D
As stated in the beginning of the article, true evaluation of drafted players cannot be revealed until several years after they have entered the league. However, it’s interesting to look at how the picks are looked at immediately and how they change over time. In conclusion, I have rounded out the grading of the Eagles’ 2010 Draft with an overall grade of a B+, as they addressed all of their serious needs and added a few interesting prospects at already-stocked positions, yet seemed to reach for players on a few occasions.