Surprisingly, Eagles go on offensive in draft

Posted: April 27, 2009

WIDE RECEIVER, running back, and tight end.

Going into the 2009 NFL draft, if you'd told someone those were the positions where the Eagles would make their first three selections, no one would have been surprised. Maybe a little intrigued that running back wasn't No. 1, but far from shocked.

Yet, like most Eagles drafts, by the time the sun set yesterday it somehow felt surprising. Maybe because almost no one - including the Eagles themselves - thought the wideout was going to be Missouri's heralded Jeremy Maclin, whom the Eagles traded up to draft 19th overall. Maybe because no one anticipated yesterday's trade for starting New England corner Ellis Hobbs, which suddenly made Sheldon Brown trade scenarios much less unthinkable. (Never mind that the Birds didn't trade Brown over the weekend, as he had hoped - if anybody needs a corner, between now and the season, assuming Hobbs comes in and plays well, you have to assume Brown is much more available than he was when Joselio Hanson was the only other experienced corner on the roster.)

Maybe it all seemed surprising just because the Eagles actually did a lot of the stuff the fans have been venting about in despair, for years.

Maclin represented only the second time in Andy Reid's last five drafts the Eagles have gone for an offensive player with their initial pick. The other time was backup quarterback Kevin Kolb, 2 years ago. Maclin would be the highest-drafted Eagles "skill" position player since Donovan McNabb. Never before had Reid's first three selections all been offensive. Only once before, in 2004, did Reid get through an entire draft without selecting a defensive lineman.

The Eagles drafted eight players, a total that of course does not include Hobbs or offensive tackle Jason Peters, for whom they traded the 28th overall pick in the first round, plus a fourth-rounder this year (and a sixth next year).

There were two wideouts, Maclin and sixth-rounder Brandon Gibson, from Washington State. Fifth-round tight end Cornelius Ingram, from Florida. Second-round running back LeSean McCoy, from Pitt. Fifth-round corner/safety Victor "Macho" Harris, from Virginia Tech. A fifth-round offensive tackle, Fenuki Tupou, from Oregon, and a seventh-round guard, Paul Fanaika, from Arizona State. Finally, a seventh-round linebacker from Maryland, Moise Fokou. That's six out of eight for the offense.

Put the draft together with the rest of the offseason - the trade for Peters, the signings of offensive tackle Stacy Andrews and fullback Leonard Weaver - and this is clearly the year of the offensive rejuvenation. The minicamp that starts Friday will be really interesting, to the extent that minicamps can be interesting, as all the new guys grapple with Andy's offense.

Reid, as always, was leery of grand pronouncements.

"On paper, it looks good. It's important that we gel together as a football team," he said. "You have to go through that whole training camp experience, and you have to keep the injuries out of the picture. See how these young guys grow in our system."

Reid, who said he texted Donovan McNabb when he was drafting Maclin, said yesterday he had spoken with the quarterback during the draft and "he is excited about it." We'll get a better handle on that by the end of the week, when McNabb gives his usual minicamp state-of-the-Donovan address. Expect a few questions about that ESPN report from a couple of months ago about the QB wanting to assess the offseason before deciding whether to pursue a contract extension/reworking with the Birds.

A McNabb spokesman said last night that McNabb probably wouldn't comment on anything before minicamp, which he is expected to attend.

You've probably read and heard a good bit about Maclin and McCoy, the two 20-year-old skill guys, by now. What came out of the second day, other than Hobbs? Well, Ingram is a player many experts thought would go higher, though he played in a spread offense, like many 2009 tight end prospects, and apparently has no acquaintance with the art of blocking. Ingram's draft status was affected by the fact that he missed the 2008 season with a left ACL injury suffered in August.

Ingram said in a conference call he knew "the knee problem was a question to a lot of teams," but that he would be ready to go right away.

Harris, nicknamed "Macho" for his careening style as a toddler, is one of those athletes in search of a position, a guy who could be a corner or a safety or just a special-teams type.

Reid seemed especially glad to have him in the fold.

"Well you know what, he is unique because he is a football player," Reid said (leaving open the question of what, exactly, all these other draftees are). "This kid . . . he loves to play the game and he plays it very well. Now, his 40 time and all that didn't work out all that well. I just took him because you can put him at safety or corner and he makes plays. He plays so smart, so instinctive, and with so much energy. He is kind of fun to watch."

According to the Web site NFLdraftscout.com. Harris ran a 4.68 40.

One footnote to the weekend: Maclin was a standout as both a kick and a punt returner at Missouri. Hobbs was second in the NFL with a 28.5-yard kickoff return average last year. Clearly, new special teams coordinator Ted Daisher has more options now.

Reid said he wanted to see everybody in action before making any return-game decisions.

Reid was asked yesterday about focusing the draft (and the offseason) so dramatically on the offense, if that meant he was happy with his defense.

"I think we have competition there, and I think that's important," he said. "As long as the players are good, I want to create some competition, and I think we've done that. I thought we needed to bring in some offensive players, so that was the direction we went. I'm not going to say I'm content with anything until the season is over, and then I'll be able to answer that." *

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