The 2014 NFL Draft is in the books. Coming into it, we knew the Eagles needed to make some solid additions to help sustain their position atop the NFC East. There were a number of needs that they had to address. Coming in, they needed a pass rusher, help in the secondary, some depth along the front seven, and depth on the offensive line.
As can be expected, the Eagles were movers and shakers throughout the draft. They entered the draft with six selections and ended up picking seven players. Let’s take a look at the picks.
Marcus Smith, OLB, Louisville (First round, 26th overall)
After trading back four picks from 22 to 26, the Eagles surprised many when they took Smith. We knew that they desperately needed to upgrade their pass rush, but it didn’t seem likely that there would be anyone worthy of the pick late in the second round.
The Eagles took the pass rusher they wanted with their pick and got an athletic player with length who has a lot of upside. Smith came out of high school as a quarterback but quickly made the transition to defense upon arrival at Louisville. He has relied on his athleticism thus far and has the room to get much better at the next level.
The curious thing about the pick was the timing. Many thought Smith was more of a second round talent. It caught a lot of people off guard when he went in the first round. The Eagles were passionate about the pick and downplayed it being a reach. However, I’m not so sure that anyone else would have taken him in the first round if the Eagles did not.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (Second round, 42nd overall)
This was my favorite pick of the Eagles draft. They clearly had the need at wide receiver after releasing DeSean Jackson. Matthews is a big-bodied receiver with great speed. He has the ability to go over the middle and is very good and going up and getting the ball. During his time at Vanderbilt, he set SEC records for receptions and yards.
Chip Kelly has indicated that they will use Matthews in the slot. He also noted that a lot of teams seem to be putting smaller guys in the slot, but they prefer to put a bigger guy in that position. I think that Matthews will become a popular target for Nick Foles very quickly.
Matthews can really do it all. He’s a great receiver and is also a good blocker. I’m very excited to see Matthews on the field.
Josh Huff, WR, Oregon (Third round, 86th overall)
After adding a receiver in the second round, the Eagles added even more depth at the position by taking Huff in the third round. I’m not gonna lie, at first I was a little thrown off by taking Huff in the third round. I thought it was a bit too early. However, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Let me tell you why.
There is no one in the NFL who knows Huff better than Chip Kelly. It’s not even close. Chip has a vision of how he wants his offense to look and the type of players needed to execute that vision. With Huff, Chip knows exactly what he’s getting and the options that Huff brings to the offense. He’s the type of player that can lineup everywhere. He can lineup on the outside, in the slot, play out of the backfield, and anywhere else you can imagine.
We know that Chip likes to create unique packages and run plays that no one else in the NFL does. Huff gives him a ton of options and provides more options and a position that was still looking pretty thin, even after the addition of Matthews.
Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida (Fourth round, 101st overall)
After making a trade, the Eagles ended up with the first pick on the third day, an optimal position to be in. They had the option to take any player they wanted or field trade offers with a team who wanted to move up to get someone. They chose to take the guy they wanted by taking Watkins, a guy that Howie Roseman was very high on.
What they have in Watkins is a versatile player who can lineup in multiple spots in the secondary. Watkins comes out of Florida as a corner, but had experience playing safety in college as well. The Eagles will be able to evaluate Watkins leading up to the season before deciding where he fits in best.
At the end of the day, they’ll likely have Watkins focused on one position but they’ll know that they have the option to move him somewhere else in a pinch.
Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon (Fifth round, 141st overall)
In the fifth round, the Eagles added another familiar face by taking former Duck, Taylor Hart. This wasn’t a very big surprise as the Eagles were clearly interested in Hart. Chip knows him very well and he fits the build that they look for on the defensive side of the ball. He’s long and is a very versatile player. At Oregon, he lined up all over the place, and the Eagles love having players that are able to do that.
The Eagles projected starting defensive line looks pretty much set. I like the players that they have. What they don’t have is a ton of depth behind the starting group. Hart is a great addition from a depth perspective and can play a number of positions along the defensive line. He’s a high effort guy that should be able to plug in as a spark plug when the starters need to jump off the field.
Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford (Fifth round, 162nd overall)
This pick came as a bit of a surprise after the pick of Watkins. I don’t know if they wanted more of a pure safety or if they truly intend on using Watkins as a corner. Regardless, it seems like they wanted to bring in additional depth to compete with Nate Allen and Earl Wolff opposite of Malcolm Jenkins.
There are some question marks when it comes to Reynolds. He had a strong 2012 season where he was playing more of a center fielder role. He was able to make some plays on the ball and was an impact player. In 2013, he was more of a box safety who was making fewer plays on the ball but looked good along the line of scrimmage. Again, the Eagles added a player with versatility.
What they do get in Reynolds is a smart player with good size that is a sure tackler. Eagles fans have felt the pain of safeties missing tackles for years now, so it’s nice to add a guy where that shouldn’t be a problem.
Beau Allen, NT, Wisconsin (Seventh round, 224th overall)
With their final pick, the Eagles added a big-bodied nose tackle out of Wisconsin. Although it wasn’t a need that was getting a lot of attention, it truly was a need. The Saints killed them up front during the final drive in the playoffs and they couldn’t stop Drew Brees on a quarterback sneak.
Although Bennie Logan is a great talent, he doesn’t have the true frame required for a nose tackle. Allen has the more traditional build that you look for at the position. He’s not a player that will come in and compete for a starting position, but he should definitely have a role on the defense.
I like Allen to be on the field for short yardage situations and around the goal line. However, I’m not sure if they could have waited to find this type of player as an undrafted free agent, rather than drafting one.
Overall, the Eagles didn’t get a bunch of players that make your jaw drop. However, I think they got some solid pieces. With the additions of Matthews and Huff as well as getting Darren Sproles via trade, I think the offense may be even better next year. Defensively, I think they have made some positive strides in free agency and leveraged the draft to get better.
Overall Grade: B-