Eagles wouldn't be taking a Chance with Alabama guard Warmack

Posted: February 22, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS - So, how would you feel if the first draft pick of the Chip Kelly era is, drum roll, please . . . a guard.

Could happen. It's early. The Eagles won't be on the clock for another 2 months. But you can put it on the list of possibilities, along with a half-dozen other potential draft-night scenerios.

An interior offensive lineman hasn't been taken with one of the first five picks in the draft in 38 years. Thirty-eight years! You've got to go all the way back to 1975, when the Baltimore Colts took North Carolina guard Ken Huff with the third pick.

But if Alabama guard Chance Warmack still is sitting unclaimed when the Eagles select at No. 4 on April 25, don't be surprised to hear commissioner Roger Goodell call his name.

"You're talking about a heckuva player there," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. "A difference-maker.

"For us, we want to make sure we're evaluating the player and not downgrading them because of the position they play. We're going to stick to our definitions of the player and grade him appropriately."

It has been only 2 years since the Eagles last selected a guard in the first round. You may remember him. Danny Watkins? So far, it isn't looking like one of the organization's finer drafting moments.

But Warmack isn't Watkins. We're talking about the difference between can't-miss and call-me-maybe.

NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock thinks the 6-2, 320-pound Warmack is the best player in the draft. Numero uno. Thinks he's one of four guys deserving of being the first pick. The other three, like Warmack, are offensive linemen: tackles Luke Joeckel of Texas A & M and Eric Fisher of Central Michigan, and guard Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina.

"Warmack is the best football player I saw on tape this year,'' Mayock said. "And Cooper is just a tiny notch behind him. As a matter of fact, Cooper's probably a better athlete."

The Eagles are well-versed on Warmack. They know more about him than any other team in the league. What the tape didn't tell them, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and assistant director of pro scouting Ed Marynowitz did. Stoutland was Warmack's position coach at Alabama before leaving to join Kelly's staff last month. Marynowitz was 'Bama's recruiting director and has known the kid since he was in high school.

"Having Jeff and also Ed, that's great insight for us," Roseman said. "That's part of the evaluation process for us. It's almost analogous to when [Kelly] comes in and asks us about the players on our roster. You're not just looking at the tape. You're not just meeting them for 15 minutes [the maximum length of a player interview at the combine]."

Unless you think the light finally is going to go on for Watkins this offseason, the Eagles have a void at guard. They are expected to get tackles Jason Peters (ruptured Achilles' tendon) and Todd Herremans (broken foot) and center Jason Kelce (torn ACL) back from injury. Left guard Evan Mathis is coming off the best season of his career. But right guard needs to be addressed.

If they wind up drafting Joeckel or Fisher, they could move Herremans, the right tackle, back inside to guard. But if they draft Warmack, they could just plug him in at right guard, or have him play left guard and move the versatile Mathis to the right side.

"[Warmack] just needs to keep dotting the I's and crossing the T's and run fast and work hard and be good in the interview room," Mayock said.

Some scouts I talked to actually think Cooper might be a little more suited for Kelly's offense than Warmack.

"Warmack's a power guy," one personnel man said. "He can move, but he's ideal for a man scheme. Cooper's more athletic. He can get out and pull. He'd be better for a zone scheme, which Kelly seems to favor. But Warmack's going to be great in any scheme he's in.

"The only question you have with him if you're the Eagles or one of the other teams up at the top of the draft is are you willing to take a guard that high, even if you're convinced he's going to be a Pro Bowler?"

If the Eagles don't trade down and stay in the fourth spot, they really can't lose. Regardless of what the three teams selecting ahead of them - Kansas City, Jacksonville and Oakland - do, they will be able to get Warmack or one of the other three top offensive linemen.

Since 1990, just 27 interior linemen have been selected in the first round of the draft compared to 83 offensive tackles.

The highest an interior lineman was drafted during that period was Chris Naeole, who was taken 10th by the Saints in the '97 draft.

"You always think of [stopping] the edge-rushers," said former Eagles coach Andy Reid. "Normally, the best athlete on the defense is going against your tackle, not your inside player. That doesn't mean the inside guys are less important. But there's some [higher] value to the tackle position. You saw how we did it in Philadelphia. We normally took tackles and moved them to the guard and center positions."

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