Note: Keep in mind that no trades can happen until a new CBA is agreed upon. Saying that, these scenarios outlined below are under the assumption that a CBA will be in place before the 2011 Draft.
Most people would argue that the Eagles are not only set at the QB position, but that they even have one too many QBs on their roster. This is the third offseason in a row where the biggest question for the Birds has been what QBs are going to be on the roster come July in Lehigh.
Now, this offseason is a little different in that the starting QB has been set since midway through last season, with the play of Michael Vick leading the Eagles to an unlikely division title in 2010. But, as Andy Reid loves to point out, it is a luxury, not a burden, to have two QBs who he considers “Super Bowl-caliber.” So, if they consider themselves to have two starting-quality QBs, why would they even consider drafting a QB in 2011?
There are two main reasons they would consider drafting another QB in the later rounds of this year’s draft. First off, it depends mainly on the package of picks and/or players they can receive in return for backup QB Kevin Kolb. If they can receive a first-round pick, as has been reported recently, their decision in accepting or declining this offer would go a long way in determining their plans for the QB position for this season and beyond. Secondly, their trust in the development of current third-stringer Mike Kafka will go a long way in helping them decide whether or not to address the QB position in this year’s draft.
The main argument most fans and writers have had against the trading of Kolb has been Vick’s style of play. He is known for being overly aggressive, almost to a fault, and throwing his body around on the field with reckless abandon.
The Eagles need a viable backup, they say, because Vick is almost guaranteed to miss 2-4 games next season, if not more. It has been argued that that backup should be Kolb because writers and fans alike are not ready to turn this team over to Kafka for a handful of games next year since the expectation will to be to win the division.
If they do end up trading Kolb, it could be taken as a clear indication that the Eagles’ brass is looking to draft a developmental QB in the later rounds who they view as someone to give Kafka competition for the backup role.
This is where Delaware (and former Penn State) QB Pat Devlin comes into the picture. Devlin is a local product from Downingtown East High School who seemed destined for a great career at Penn State after setting the Pennsylvania high school career passing yards record. But, after redshirting as a true freshman, followed by sitting behind Anthony Morelli and Darryl Clark in two successive years, he decided to transfer to the University of Delaware after the 2008 regular season. He became the immediate starter at Delaware in 2009, and led the Blue Hens to the FCS championship game in 2010.
Devlin stands a prototypical 6’4” and 222 pounds. He is a pocket QB who stands tall and uses his body extremely well. He is mobile enough to get out of trouble when he needs to, but he will never be confused as a Michael Vick clone. He uses his footwork extremely well in the pocket by sliding and moving away from pressure, and is not afraid to step up in the face of a defensive lineman. He is also an extremely smart QB who usually makes sound decisions. He was an honor student at both Penn State and Delaware, so you know the brains are there to pick up the Eagles’ complex playbook quickly.
The biggest plus about Devlin’s game is his arm strength. He is a QB who can make every throw in the book, and throws the out pattern on time with zip with a simple flick of the wrist. He can also throw the deep ball over the top with ease. Now, he doesn’t have the raw strength of someone like Donovan McNabb or Brett Favre, but he is more than capable of making all the NFL throws.
Devlin does have some drawbacks to his game, which is why he isn’t being considered a day 1 draft target. He isn’t afraid to step up to pressure up the middle, but he has a difficult time in moving laterally to avoid this pressure. When rushed off the edge, he shows great poise in stepping up in the pocket. But, when attacked up the middle by a defensive tackle, he struggles to avoid the rush if he isn’t able to release the ball quickly.
Also, his accuracy has come into question on more than one occasion at both Penn State and Delaware. He has the tendency to lose his accuracy from one play to the next without much warning, and he will hang the ball in the air much too long on occasion.
His mechanics are good overall, but his release has been known to be a little slow, and he has had many instances where he has held onto the ball for too long because he failed to anticipate a receiver’s route. (I am not privy to all of the nuances of the Delaware or Penn State playbooks, but this happened more than enough times to determine that this wasn’t caused simply by miscommunication on an option route.)
But, the biggest issue for Devlin is the same issue that former Delaware QB Joe Flacco faced when he was in the draft: competition. Playing at the FCS level will scare a lot of teams away from players, even if they believe they have a high level of talent. Teams like their players to come from the big BCS conferences, and they are skeptical when looking at stats which they believe came against inferior competition.
Clearly, Devlin had the talent to play at Penn State, so many teams will ask why he ran away from that challenge instead of facing it head on. It is a legitimate concern, but it is one that should be taken on a case-by-case basis. There is no rule to how these players will perform. On one hand, you have players like Flacco and Rich Gannon. And on the other, you have guys who don’t pan out like former Eagle Chris Gocong.
Overall, I am a big Pat Devlin fan and would love to see the Eagles go after him in something like the 4th or 5th round. He has all the physical attributes and tools to be a solid NFL QB with a few years of seasoning. He has the size, arm, and mobility to fit the Eagles West Coast system. He doesn’t have the accuracy of a prototypical West Coast QB, but that will come with improved mechanics and a quicker release.
Then again, McNabb was never considered a “prototypical” West Coast QB in his years here, and I’d argue he was pretty successful. Reid and Marty Mornhinweg have shown that they are willing to work with the offensive talent at their disposal, and they normally get the most of them. I am not comparing Devlin to McNabb in any way, but am simply stating that I believe Devlin could turn into a solid NFL QB with the help of the Eagles coaches, who have been known to produce some very good QBs in the past.
Devlin would come in and immediately compete with Kafka for the backup job if Kolb is, in fact, traded. If he is not, I still believe drafting Devlin to compete with Kafka for the third-string job is a good idea, as Devlin is the more complete QB in my eyes. Any time you can improve the talent on your roster at the most important position on the field, I believe you have to take it.