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Likes and Dislikes From 2011 Philadelphia Eagles NFL Draft

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With the 2011 NFL Draft in the books, many analysts have given the Eagles mixed grades on their 11 draft picks. The truth is, the Eagles did get some things right over the three-day draft. They also fell into some of the same mistakes we have seen in year’s past. Here is a quick analysis of what to like and not like about the Eagles’ 2011 Draft:
 

What to like:

- The selection of Danny Watkins was an obvious sign that guru offensive line coach Howard Mudd likes Watkins’ ability to be a very good pro. While it didn’t address the team’s need at right tackle, anytime the Eagles can fill one of the five offensive line positions with a quality player, it has to be viewed as major progress. The fact that almost every draft expert has said that Watkins will open the season as a starter is also a very good sign.

- In a draft that was not rich in linebackers, the Eagles did come out of the weekend with a player who can help out their weak linebacking corps. Casey Matthews was an all PAC-10 middle linebacker who could compete for playing time right away. He tackles well and is athletic, although his size and strength will need to improve (he had the worst bench press of any inside linebacker at the combine with only 13 reps at 225 pounds).

- The Eagles continue to heavily weigh character and maturity when drafting players. The maturity of Danny Watkins and work ethic of players like Jaiquawn Jarrett and Casey Matthews (brother of Clay Matthews) are what a winning franchise is built upon. Meanwhile, the Eagles passed on players like Colorado CB Jimmy Smith whose multiple drug-and alcohol-related incidents are a sure sign of future issues and a wasted draft pick.

- While it may be a stretch to include this as a “like”, the Eagles failure to draft a cornerback or defensive end may indicate that they plan on pursuing a free-agent that can start for them at these players like cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Jonathan Joseph or defensive linemen Cullen Jenkins. If the Eagles fill in those gaps with impact free agents, their draft selections could ultimately be viewed as very useful picks.

What not to like:

- Once again, the Eagles did not take proven players from big-time programs in power conferences. Their first three picks hailed from Baylor, Temple and Utah State. If those players do not pan out, the Eagles will again be questioned on their habit of looking past recognizable players from the SEC, PAC-10 and Big-10.

 - The Eagles had two picks in 4th round, 5th round, 6th round and 7th round and once again used every one of them to draft players that may be cut or make little impact. Why continue to draft 11 players (8 of them in the fourth round or later) when you could use a couple of those picks to get another 2nd or 3rd rounder? For example, the Eagles could have penciled in Prince Amukamara as their starting right cornerback if they had been willing to move up from the 23rd spot, and Amukamara ended up lasting until the Giants took him with the 19th pick.

- The Eagles continue to follow the philosophy that says, “Take a player you really like when your pick comes up, even if he is expected to be available later”. This approach continues to cost them opportunities to add talented picks while still getting the player they love a round later This was the case with Jaiquawn Jarrett and Curtis Marsh, who were taken in the second and third rounds respectively. It was widely believed that both players would have been available in the third and fourth rounds. Drafting both of those players a round later would have, in essence, freed up the Eagles second round pick for an impact player. So, they could have used the 54th overall pick for a player like Miami CB Brandon Harris or Florida OT Marcus Gilbert, both of whom could wind up being solid NFL starters.

- Two of the top priorities for the Eagles as they entered the draft were defensive end and cornerback. Following the draft, two of the Eagles biggest priorities are still defensive end and cornerback. Here’s hoping that an uncertain free agency period still allows them to find some answers to both of those weaknesses.

 - The Eagles used multiple draft picks on players with injury or experience question marks. Third round pick Curtis Marsh was converted from running back to cornerback and has been described as an athletic player whose significant learning curve will likely prevent him from playing right away. Seventh round linebacker Greg Lloyd Jr. played in only seven games as a senior at Uconn after tearing both his ACL and MCL in 2009. Oh, by the way, Greg Lloyd Jr. is the son of former Steelers great Greg Lloyd Sr. who just happens to be a coaching intern with the Eagles.

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net   

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Danny Watkins Photo: courtesy of Baylor University