Eagles' Chip Kelly likely to follow Andy Reid's path with first pick

Posted: April 26, 2013

If Andy Reid were still the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, there is no question what the team would do with the fourth pick of the NFL draft on Thursday night.

Reid would request that the player-personnel department run by Howie Roseman take the biggest offensive tackle still available. That would have been a solid decision, just as it will be if Chip Kelly makes the same one, but it is also in keeping with the straight line of Reid's draft history.

In nine of the 14 drafts with Reid as head coach, depending on which side of the ball required more attention that year, the Eagles took either an offensive or defensive lineman with their initial selection. Whether it was a pick they kept, or whether they traded down or traded out of the first round, whenever they finally stood and called a name and a school, it was usually to take a line grunt.

That's a solid way to approach building a football team, or rebuilding one that suffered the kind of collapse that befell the Eagles. The draft that begins Thursday night is rich in line talent, but poor in special players at the skill positions. Plus, the Eagles are coming off a season in which the offensive line either melted down or broke, and they need something aside from fond wishes to pair with Todd Herremanns and Jason Peters at the tackle positions.

So, unless he is as tricky as his reputation, Kelly will channel his inner Reid and take the best tackle still on the board. All of us have seen enough mock drafts to know that nobody is really sure who goes where and who will be left when the Eagles pick. Reid himself leads off the night for Kansas City, and he will take one of the three offensive tackles allegedly worthy of a high pick. If he doesn't, the league is hereby authorized to start an investigation.

It could be that the three teams picking ahead of the Eagles will take offensive tackles Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, and Lane Johnson. That would leave Kelly with a decision, but it is more likely that at least one of those teams will go in another direction, possibly for defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. The Raiders pick just ahead of the Eagles, and it's always impossible to predict what that organization will do. Oakland could draft an offensive player, a defensive player, or a wirehaired fox terrier. There's no way to know.

The answer is that the Eagles are almost certain to draft an offensive tackle with the fourth pick in the draft. The question is whether the faithful who have waited for Kelly to hit the ground running will agree that putting the ball straight and safely down the fairway is the way to go. Not that it will matter one little bit to Kelly.

After 14 drafts in which the safe play was almost always the chosen play - those occasions when the team didn't draft a fireman, construction worker, or anyone else from the Village People - chances are that the new guy will be a little bit of a letdown if he goes ahead and does the same thing.

Honeymoons aren't forever, and Kelly's will end, too. He might get an extra few days at the resort because people are just so happy to see another face at the podium, but the honeymoon will come to a conclusion. Taking the big offensive lineman is fine and defensible, but people will suffer a flashback if the Eagles trade down from the fourth slot for the purpose of grabbing a lesser talent and some slop in the later rounds.

That was a specialty during the Reid era, and particularly when Joe Banner and Ryan Grigson had some input. It's hard to know Roseman's philosophy because, even though he has been general manager for three drafts, Jeffrey Lurie said his GM was basically going out for sandwiches in 2010 and 2011. The organization has gone out of its way to shield Roseman from any responsibility for those bad drafts, although he seemed plenty eager to accept some before they went bad. As for the 2012 draft, it looks fine right now, and Roseman is hailed as the architect. If that one goes south, too - which would require only a downturn by either Fletcher Cox or Mychal Kendricks - here's betting that Reid would all of a sudden be left holding the bag.

That will become apparent eventually. As for 2013, we'll see for three days starting Thursday night. Take the sure thing. Or do something inventive outside the box. But don't trade down and then start crowing about brilliant finds in the late rounds.

We've seen that movie before, starring Brian Rolle, Ricky Sapp, and Jamar Chaney. The show was never as good as the trailer promoting it.

Contact Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com. Read his blog at www.philly.com/postpatterns. Follow on Twitter @bobfordsports.

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