Whenever a new draft class comes in, you have to stop and reflect about how these guys will fit on the roster. What role will the immediately serve? If they are not a day one starter, at what point point should they be expected to crack the starting lineup?
I’ve asked myself all of these questions about the new Eagles draft class. There’s a variety of situations out there. Some guys should definitely start from day one. Others may not be an opening day starter but have the ability to work their way in there later in the season. Some guys may struggle.
All in all, the Eagles brought in another big draft class and, they should be exciting to watch. We won’t be able to fully judge them until later down the line, but for now we can make our own predictions.
Here is a pick-by-pick breakdown of the players I think will start at some point during the 2011 season.
Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor (First Round)
Whether you liked the selection of Danny Watkins or not, one thing is clear. He fills a big need for this day and was drafted with the expectation to come in and start from day one.
With Howard Mudd taking over the reins of the offensive line, I’m sure he spent a lot of time watching film on Watkins before the draft. He probably told Andy Reid “that’s my guy” and it wasn’t that surprising that Watkins was selected.
He fits the mold Reid looks for in a player. Watkins is hard working, has a high motor, and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty along the line. Solid pick by the Eagles, and a guy you’ll see on the field immediately when the 2011 season starts.
Chance to Start: 100%
Jaiquawn Jarrett, S, Temple (Second Round)
Jarrett was a guy we knew the Eagles were interested in, since they decided to bring him in for a workout prior to the draft. However, a lot of people were surprised to see him taken in the second round, as most scouts projected him as a second or third round pick.
Despite the projection, the Eagles decided he was a good fit for them and wanted to make sure he didn’t go anywhere else.
With free agency not starting yet, we’re unsure of the fate of Quintin Mikell. However, all indications seem to be that the Eagles will be letting him walk. They drafted a safety higher than most expected, and Mikell is now 30 years old, the dreaded age for all Eagles players.
If Mikell does indeed walk, I don’t expect the Eagles to just hand Jarrett the starting position. He’ll have to compete for it in camp with Kurt Coleman. I think he has a good shot of taking the starting position when the season starts, but if he doesn’t, I expect him to be starting somewhere down the line in 2011.
Chance to Start: 85%
Curtis Marsh, CB, Utah State (Third Round)
This was a bit of a mysterious pick by the Eagles. Many believed they would look for a corner early in the draft to fill the need they had opposite Asante Samuel. Instead, the Eagles waited until the third round and drafted a player who only played the position his last two seasons in college.
Marsh is a great athlete and has a nice combination of speed and size. He’s shown that he can be talented in the short time he’s played the position, but he still has a lot to learn. He’ll face much more talented receivers in the NFL, and won’t be able to rely on his athleticism as much.
Unless there is a rash of injuries, I don’t see Marsh cracking the starting lineup in 2011. He’ll fight for a position in the nickel package, but his talents are too raw to be thrown into the starting lineup next season.
Chance to Start: 10%
Casey Matthews, LB, Oregon (Fourth Round)
Matthews is a guy I knew the Eagles were high on heading into the draft, and I’m sure they were very happy to pick him up in the fourth round. He’s a high motor, relentless player that is always around the ball making plays.
He’s going to work hard from day one and is a guy I think will absolutely shine on special teams from the start.
When it comes to defense, the Eagles are in an interesting situation. It looks like Jamar Chaney will take over in the middle. If Stewart Bradley is re-signed, which I expect him to be, he’ll likely bounce out to the SAM position, and there will be some competition for the WILL spot. Moise Fokou, Keenan Clayton, Brian Rolle, and Matthews should likely be the contenders.
I don’t think Matthews will win the battle in camp, but he’ll continue to work hard. They’ll likely have some packages that he’ll work into. If he shines in the time he’s given, he may be able to get into the starting lineup at some point in 2011.
Chance to Start: 35%
Alex Henery, K, Nebraska (Fourth Round)
This pick caught me off guard. After it set in though, I think it was a good pick by the Eagles. Like it or not, the Eagles are going to have to replace David Akers some day, and this pick indicates that they have found a guy they believe can do so.
Akers is the longest tenured athlete in Philadelphia, and it’s going to hurt to see him go. However, Henery had an outstanding collegiate career and has proven that he has plenty of leg.
The only thing that he’ll need to prove is that he can make kicks in pressure situations. He did it in college, but the NFL is a whole new ball game.
With the Eagles taking a kicker this high in the draft, I believe they full expect him to come in and be the guy in 2011.
Chance to Start: 100%
Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh (Fifth Round)
When the Eagles entered the draft, we knew that they had interest in taking a running back in the middle rounds. They worked out a number of backs before the draft, all who projected to be mid-round or later selections.
As expected, the Eagles took a running back in the fifth round. Dion Lewis was the selection, and the Eagles went back to University of Pittsburgh to get him, the same place they found LeSean McCoy.
Lewis was not drafted to come in and compete for a starting position. He was drafted to come in and compete as a backup. They have hopes that McCoy will take him under his wing and that the two can turn into a dynamic duo for years to come.
Again, this is a player who won’t start unless there are injuries.
Chance to Start: 5%
Julian Vandervelde, OG, Iowa (Fifth Round)
As we got deeper into the draft, I believe Howard Mudd had a list of targets for the Eagles that would fit into what he wanted to do in 2011. I believe Vandervelde is one of those guys.
Mudd has never been the type of coach to finding the biggest lineman out there. He prefers to find guys who may be considered a bit smaller, but have quick feet and are very athletic.
Vandervelde fits the bill here and was a known leader and team captain at Iowa. He should provide some nice depth, but with Todd Herremans and Danny Watkins the projected starters, I don’t see him possibly finding a starting position this season.
Chance to Start: 5%
Jason Kelce, C, Cincinnati (Sixth Round)
Kelce also seems like another Howard Mudd guy. He’s very versatile and played guard at Cincinnati up until his senior year before being moved to center. When he joins the Eagles, he’ll likely be asked to learn both positions.
His build is like Vandervelde’s. He’s a guy that could be considered smaller for an offensive lineman, but has more athletic ability then most guys who are bigger than him.
The Eagles have had recent success in drafting guys out of Cincinnati in the later round. Both Trent Cole and Brent Celek went there, and the Eagles are hoping Kelce is another late gem.
However, with the players the Eagles currently have on the interior of the offensive line, it seems very unlikely that Kelce will find his way into the starting lineup in 2011.
Chance to Start: 5%
Brian Rolle, LB, Ohio State (Sixth Round)
Rolle is a guy who is a lot like Casey Matthews. He’s has a high-motor and is absolutely relentless when he’s on the field. Wherever the ball is on the field, he’ll likely be around it.
Like Matthews, I expect Rolle to come in and immediately shine as a special teams player. He’ll use his speed to his advantage to get down the field and has been known to lay down a big hit or two.
As mentioned earlier, there’s definitely going to be a lot of competition with the linebackers, both in Training Camp and throughout the season. Whoever ends up starting needs to realize that there are a bunch of guys working hard behind him, and that they need to play at a high level or they will be replaced.
I don’t expect Rolle to be a starter on day one, but I know he has a great work ethic and will try to find his way in there at some point in the season.
Chance to Start: 30%
Greg Lloyd, LB, Connecticut (Seventh Round)
Unlike the other two linebackers the Eagles drafted, Lloyd is not build on speed. He is built on power, and is known to be a devastating hitter in the run game.
He’s a big player and is someone who appeals to me because he can deliver that nasty blow. It’s been a while since the Eagles had a big-hitting linebacker, and that’s exactly what Lloyd is.
However, the Eagles took a risk on drafting Lloyd. He tore his ACL and MCL at the end of the 2009 season and it caused him to miss a lot of time in 2010.
My gut tells me that Lloyd is going to have trouble staying healthy for the Eagles. Even if he does, I don’t see him making his way into the starting lineup in 2011.
Chance to Start: 5%
Stanley Havili, FB, USC (Seventh Round)
In drafting Havili, the Eagles have shown that they aren’t very confident in Leonard Weaver returning this season, or possibly ever. It’s not the biggest surprise in the world, and it’s a shame because Weaver is such a great guy.
The Eagles aren’t a team who uses a traditional blocking fullback too often. We saw Weaver shine two years ago as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. Owen Schmitt was used this way last season as well.
Havili fits what the Eagles look for in a fullback. He’s not known to be a very good blocker, but he has tremendous hands for a guy his size and can be a situational runner as well.
However, the Eagles will only keep one fullback on the roster and it’s hard to see Havili beating out Schmitt for the job.
Chance to Start: 5%