I was fortunate enough to do a Q&A with Zach Berman of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Check out the interview below:
EG: What are your thoughts on the Marcus Smith draft selection?
ZB: Going into the draft, I viewed pass rush as the Eagles’ biggest need. The problem was this did not appear a particularly deep class for edge rushers. If the Eagles believe Smith was in a tier of pass rushers that would have dropped off after the top of the second round, I certainly cannot fault them from the pick. The fact that they collected a third-round pick that they turned into a fourth-round pick and fifth-round pick enhances the value. Smith has the frame the Eagles desire from the position, and he produced in college. I watched him in person this season and remember he stood out that afternoon.
I don’t have an issue with the pick, so long as they properly assessed the value. General manager Howie Roseman is confident that Smith would not have lasted much longer. The bottom line is this: If the Eagles really like Smith, then it’s a better a few picks too early than one pick too late. So we’ll see the next few seasons how he is as a player.
EG: What are your thoughts on the Jordan Matthews draft selection?
ZB: Matthews was a player I believed the Eagles would target going into the draft. In the past 48 hours, I’m even more impressed by the pick. Matthews has size, speed, and college production. He is the SEC’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, and he did it without an elite quarterback and against top cornerbacks. Matthews’ personality is also a plus -- by all accounts, he’s competitive and conscientious, and he fits the profile that Chip Kelly seeks.
The Eagles say they will use him in the slot. I’m intrigued by that decision. The Eagles want to go big in a place where other teams go small, and Matthews was effective playing in traffic for Vanderbilt. I thought this was a strong pick, both in terms of the player and the value.
EG: What are your thoughts on the Josh Huff draft selection?
ZB: There is no NFL coach who knows Huff better than Chip Kelly, and Kelly’s excitement about drafting his former receiver is relevant. Kelly, after all, is the one calling the offense. He knows what he wants from an offensive player, and he wanted Huff.
Perhaps familiarity with the player clouded his objectivity, but if he knows how to use Huff and thinks Huff can be productive, then it makes sense. As for when they picked him, they probably could have waited. It’s always better to enhance value in the draft, because each pick is dynamic. But as I said earlier, if you like a player that much, it’s better to take him too early than one pick too late.
EG: With Huff's great speed, what kind of role do you see him playing this upcoming season?
ZB: It’s too soon for me to say. There are factors I need to see – how healthy is Maclin? How effective is Matthews? – but Huff can come in and be a good depth piece who contributes on special teams. The Eagles needed depth at wide receiver, and they spent Day 2 on the position. Huff’s role will evolve. His familiarity with the offense will help, but I don’t think he’ll bump above a healthy Maclin, Riley Cooper, and Jordan Matthews. Add in LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Zach Ertz, and Brent Celek, and it’s important to remember there is only one ball to go around.
EG: Do you like the Jaylen Watkins pick? What kind of playing time do you see him receiving?
ZB: I heard positive things about Watkins going into the draft. He doesn’t have the length the Eagles look for at cornerback, but his versatility and speed can be an asset. Watkins insists that his injury during the pre-draft process affected his evaluation, and Howie Roseman said the same. Not many fourth-round picks develop into starters, so expectations must be tempered. But if he’s a solid piece to the defensive backfield who can eventually play three positions (outside, slot, safety), then that’s a player you want on your football team.
As for playing time, it’s too soon to say. At this point, I see him in 2014 as a special teams player who dresses on game day and provides depth in the secondary.
EG: What overall draft grade would you give the Eagles?
ZB: I’ll stay away from grading the draft, because they must play first before you can have a feel. But they added five defensive players, and they took a big step in reconfiguring the roster to look more like Chip Kelly wants it look. He has specifications he wants for player, and he inherited a roster that was not necessarily built with those specifications in mind. All of this week’s picks made sense when understanding what Kelly wants. I’m especially intrigued by Matthews and safety Ed Reynolds, who I think is a promising safety. But time will tell with all these players. I look forward to writing about it.