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A Draft Process Comes Together

Posted Apr 27, 2013

It will take some time, general manager Howie Roseman admitted when it was over, for it all to sink in and for the roster pieces to come completely into focus. For now, the 2013 Eagles draft stands as a testament to preparation ...

The Eagles selected eight players over the three-day draft process and added them to a roster that has had a dramatic makeover since the 2012 season ended. Change was needed after a 4-12 season, so the Eagles brought in a new coaching staff, bolstered the personnel department and then rolled their collective sleeves and dug into the roster.

Wheelers and dealers in free agency, the Eagles took a more toned-down approach in the draft. They made only one trade -- a stunner, which we'll talk about in a moment -- and for the rest of the time stayed true to their pre-draft evaluations and took the best player on the board.

It's something teams say just about every year, but in the case here, the Eagles stayed put and didn't reach for particular positions. They were there at No. 4 in the first round on Thursday night and selected offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who everyone would say was the right pick at the right spot.

They picked Stanford tight end Zach Ertz in the second round and spoke glowingly about his physical gifts and the potential favorable matchups he can create in this offense's passing game.

In the third round, the Eagles addressed the defensive side of the ball and added lineman Bennie Logan, who will add competition to what the Eagles want to do up front, and that is to become tougher and more physical.

Saturday brought about the lone trade -- the move up to get to the top of the fourth round at the minimal cost of a swap of fourth-round picks and a seventh-round selection -- and the Eagles then made a move that snapped everyone to attention. They selected USC quarterback Matt Barkley, a four-year starter in college who the draft analysts said would have been a top 10 draft pick had he left USC after his junior season in 2011. Barkley stayed in school and suffered a shoulder injury playing behind an inconsistent offensive line and his draft stock landed him where the Eagles chose him.

Matt Barkley

Barkley joins a group of quarterbacks that is must-see viewing. There are five of them in all, and head coach Chip Kelly said the team planned to take five into training camp. Kelly said the Eagles had Barkley evaluated as a top-50 player in the draft and when he was there after three rounds, the Eagles made the move to get him in the fourth.

It is an intriguing addition, to say the least. All of the theories out there for months that Kelly needed a "running" quarterback to engineer his offense were dispelled by the acquisition of Barkely, who is a fine athlete with good feet and pocket mobility, but who is not going to be confused with a running quarterback. Roseman, in fact, said that the qualities Kelly expressed that he wanted in a quarterback were similar to those Andy Reid wanted in a quarterback.

How it all sorts out at the position with Barkley joining Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne is to be determined on the practice field this summer as they take their practice reps and run the offense. The offense's structure, then, may not be as Oregon-centric with the read/option theme dominating as some theorized. Kelly has insisted since day one that his X's and O's will be driven by personnel, and that he has an "equal-opportunity" approach to putting points on the scoreboard, and the selection of Barkley validates even further that idea.

So now look at the offense. The Eagles have added some explosive pieces since free agency opened with James Casey a key add then and with Johnson coming in to up the level of play along the offensive line and with Ertz blending in his talents to an offense that will stretch the limits of our imagination with personnel packages -- three tight ends on the field at one time? How fun! -- and innovation and flexibility.

If the Eagles can get it right along the line of scrimmage with the return to good health of Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans and with the infusion of Johnson to go along with Evan Mathis -- and this is not discounting Danny Watkins or some of the other young linemen who will be given long looks -- then this offense has all kinds of potential. The Eagles have a fine stable of running backs with LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk. The wide receivers bring a lot to the table. The tight ends are suddenly as deep and talented as this franchise has ever seen.

Exciting, isn't it?

For the rest of the draft the Eagles picked from the top of their draft rankings and brought in some prospects who will increase the level of competition throughout. It is far, far too early to know how any of these rookies will mature in the season ahead, but the Eagles feel they've trusted their scouting reports and that they anticipated the order of the draft very well.

"If you go into it saying that your're going to fix every single part of something, it's going to be impossible,"said Roseman. "If you come out of the draft saying that we filled every need, it's probably not going to be a good draft. I don't think that was our goal ... It was to start the process of building back a team that is going to compete every year."

This was Kelly's first experience in an NFL draft room and the "process" from start to finish in the draft, and for that matter the several months of personnel acquisitions, was smooth. Everyone said those making decisions were on the same page as they grew to know each other and as Kelly spelled out what he was looking for in players. The Eagles shared their vision through draft weekend and the result is a roster that now moves forward with tremendous excitement and confidence.

How can you not be pumped? The Eagles have had a lot of changes within the organization in the last year and nobody is looking back. It's full steam ahead with energy and commitment and teamwork.

There are a lot of pieces in this puzzle now, and it's going to take some time to see how it all fits. The Eagles aren't yet finished adding to the roster. They're going to continue to tweak.

No doubt, though, that the feeling is that the Eagles are moving in the right direction together and that all parties are on the same page understanding the goal ahead. The 2013 Eagles draft is in the books, and now we'll all let it sink it, talk about it and see how the locker room meshes with what the coaches need.

Are you ready for what's ahead? A new day is here for the Eagles, and the collective heartbeat is strong and vibrant and impossible to ignore.

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