Eagles let history be their guide in this draft

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Chip Kelly says the Eagles aren't drafting based on need, but will take the best player available at the time.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Chip Kelly says the Eagles aren't drafting based on need, but will take the best player available at the time. (says the Eagles aren't drafting based on need, but will take the best player available at the time.)
Posted: April 26, 2013

ELEVEN YEARS ago, the Eagles hit the trifecta in the second and third rounds of the 2002 draft, selecting Colorado safety Michael Lewis, cornerback Sheldon Brown and a Division 1-AA running back by the name of Brian Westbrook.

Lewis spent five seasons with the Eagles, three as a starter. Went to a Super Bowl and Pro Bowl with the Birds.

Brown was a rock at right corner for the franchise, starting 98 games in eight seasons and helping the Eagles advance to five NFC Championship Games.

Westbrook became one of the greatest running backs in franchise history during his 8-year run here.

Since then, well, with the notable exceptions of DeSean Jackson (second round, 2008) and LeSean McCoy in (second round, '09), the second and third rounds have been a dry hole for the Eagles.

They've selected 22 players in the second and third rounds of the last 10 drafts. Jackson and McCoy are the only two with a Pro Bowl on their resume.

Besides them, just four of the other 20 selections even made 32 or more starts in an Eagles uniform - safety Nate Allen (second round, 2010, 38 starts), tight end L.J. Smith (second round, 2003, 53) wide receiver Reggie Brown (second round, 2005, 45) and linebacker Chris Gocong (third round, 2006, 71).

And none of those are exactly considered success stories. Allen was benched late last season, and right now, after the free-agent acquisitions of Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips, isn't even a projected 2013 starter.

Smith caught more than 34 passes just twice in six seasons. Brown caught more than 43 passes just once in five seasons. Gocong lasted just three seasons in Philadelphia before being traded to Cleveland. He had just four sacks and no interceptions with the Eagles.

The Eagles will try to change their second- and third-round luck tonight when the draft resumes. Many NFL personnel people believe the real strength of this draft is in those rounds.

"It's very deep at a bunch of different positions," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "Offensive line, defensive line, safety, wide receiver.

"This is a draft that's getting knocked because it's not sexy at the top. But I think it's a draft that teams will appreciate. Especially if you've got multiple picks in the second, third and fourth rounds. I think you'll be pretty happy."

Unfortunately for the Eagles, they don't have multiple picks tonight. At least not yet. They own the third pick in the second round, behind Jacksonville and San Francisco. And they own the fifth pick in the third round. They really need to hit on at least one of those picks.

Will they take a quarterback? A safety to battle Allen and the oft-injured Chung and Phillips? A pass-rusher?

According to head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles intend to go where their draft board leads them.

"Our board is set," he said. "It's kind of where it is. As teams pick guys you just take them off of where you had them. Then, when your pick comes around again, what's on the board for you at that point in time" is who you take.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman had admitted many times that the biggest mistake the team made in the disastrous 2010 and 2011 drafts was picking for need rather than taking the best player available.

They changed their approach last year and had what so far appears to be a fairly productive draft, though just one of their three second- and third-round picks from last year - linebacker Mychal Kendricks - appears to be a lock to be a season-opening starter.

Their other '12 second-round pick, Vinny Curry, still doesn't even know if he's going to be a defensive end or a linebacker. He's not sure if he should be eating at Golden Corral or nibbling on carrot sticks.

Their third-round pick last year, quarterback Nick Foles, faces an uncertain future as he tries to win a starting job in an offense that seems ill-suited for him.

Anyway, Kelly said the Eagles won't reach tonight. They feel they addressed all of their glaring needs in free agency when they added nine players, including seven on defense. Yesterday, they solidified their offensive line when they took Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson with the fourth overall pick.

"We're not going to put ourselves in a situation where we need [to draft a specific position]," Kelly said. "Howie and his guys did a great job in free agency of putting us in a position where we don't have any holes, where we don't have this position and we need to kind of, regardless of what the board says, we need to take this position.

"We're in a position now where we're going to take [a player] based on what our board says. When we get around to our second [round] pick, we'll look and see who our highest rated player is when we get to that point in time.

"It could be an offensive player, could be a defensive player. It's not, 'Hey, we took a tackle at one so now we have to go this way at two.' It's whatever is on the board."

As Mayock pointed out, this is a deep draft. There still are a lot of players left on the board who can help the Eagles.

Roseman said the current 3-day draft format helps teams catch their breath and reassess things after the first round, and again after the third round.

"The overnight break between the first round and the second and third rounds, and the fourth-through-seven rounds, is really helpful," Roseman said. "Because you're able to study your board, get a sense for who's left, and then, not restack it, but look at the priorities and look at the preferences."

And maybe, just maybe, find another Brian Westbrook or LeSean McCoy or DeSean Jackson rather than another Bryan Smith or Tony Hunt or Billy McMullen.

Email: pdomo@aol.com

On Twitter: @Pdomo

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