Going into the 2014 NFL Draft, Philadelphia Eagles fans were clamoring for a wide receiver in the wake of DeSean Jackson's release. The fact that Jackson had signed with the divisional rival Redskins left an even more bitter taste in their mouths. The Eagles got a player they needed in the first round, it just wasn't the position the fans were hoping for.
Below is a complete rundown of each pick the Eagles made in this year's draft. As a fan myself, I can't say I'm as disappointed as other fans. But things will be interesting once we start seeing what these rookies can do in training camp.
Round One – #26(26) - Louisville DE/LB Marcus Smith
This was the pick many thought would be a receiver. But with the receiving class much deeper than the number of edge rushers available, taking one of the top pass rushers was a must for a front seven that ranked 20th in total sacks with 37. Smith played linebacker as a freshman, but played his final three years as a DE/LB hybrid, which fits in perfectly with the team's 3-4 defense. Smith broke out in his senior season, finishing with 14.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. Smith will see playing time in 2014 as a sub-package player. However, with Trent Cole due a whopping $10 million in 2015, Smith will almost certainly be viewed as his heir apparent. As much as fans wanted offense in this round, defense is still, very much, a work in progress in Philly. It also didn't hurt that the Eagles gained an extra third rounder from the Browns and only moved down 4 spots.
DRAFT GRADE: B+ (The extra third-round pick helps this grade)
Round Two – #10(42) - Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews
Setting SEC all-time records in catches (262) and yards (3,759), along with 24 touchdowns, Matthews has experience as both an outside receiver and a slot man. Many draftniks were down on him coming out due to his lack of separation skills, but Matthews boasts toughness and overall receiver experience. That experience gives him added worth as the Eagles still need playmakers, despite the signing of Darren Sproles. Chip Kelly has already gone on record as saying Matthews will start off the 2014 season in the slot. At 6'3/212, Matthews could easily make a push for more playing time than predicted if Jeremy Maclin's knee injury caused him to lose his burst. And if Riley Cooper's 2013 proves to have been a fluke. If anything, Matthews is a huge upgrade over the departed Jason Avant, who had manned the slot position for the last 8 years before signing with Carolina.
DRAFT GRADE: A-
Round Three – #22(86) - Oregon WR Josh Huff
This pick caused some eye rolls from fans since Kelly had coached Huff in college. But in my opinion, draft talent that you know and can mold. Huff started 36 games for Oregon, finishing his career with 144 catches for 2,366 yards and 24 touchdowns. Huff is a thick 5'11/206 pounds with sticky hands, is physical in the passing game and excels in run blocking. This makes up for his slow 4.51 forty. He'll compete with Matthews for slot duties, but I don't really expect much from him this year outside of depth purposes. He could move to the slot if Matthews gets a shot at one of the starting jobs later on in 2014 or 2015. Either way, Kelly's offense can never have too many receivers for Nick Foles to throw to. Although, Huff is pretty low on the depth chart right now.
DRAFT GRADE: C+
Rest of Draft Recap:
Round Four – #1(101) Florida DB Jaylen Watkins
The younger brother of Bills rookie WR Sammy Watkins, Jaylen started 28 games for Florida, and saw time at corner and safety. While he doesn't have the skill set to be an NFL starter, he should see time in nickel packages and on special teams. He tallied four career picks in college.
DRAFT GRADE: C
Round Five – #1(141) Oregon DE Taylor Hart
One of the best "five-technique" ends in the league, Hart started 39 college games. He totaled 22.5 career tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and 16 sacks. Hart has tremendous athleticism despite his size (6'6/281) and should see time on the field in sub-packages and in running plays as he excels as a run stopper compared to pass rushing specialist.
DRAFT GRADE: B-
Round Five– #22(162) Stanford S Ed Reynolds
Earning first-team All-Pac 12 honors as a redshirt sophomore and junior, Reynolds played free safety at Stanford. Reynolds isn't very physical or athletic. Not to mention he missed too many tackles at the college level. He'll need to prove his worth on special teams to make the 53-man squad.
DRAFT GRADE: D
Round Seven – #9(224) Wisconsin DT Beau Allen
At 6'2/333, Allen is a pure nose tackle who finished his college career with 8 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. A better run stuffer than someone who can put pressure on the quarterback, he'll be a situational player on running plays and could push incumbent NT Bennie Logan for snaps if he makes the team. Although the chances of Allen truly making the final roster are somewhat slim.
DRAFT GRADE: C-