By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Eagles addressed some needs during the three-day NFL Draft, staying true to coach Chip Kelly’s mantra of versatility and that “big people beat up little people.”
The Eagles got some size in 6-foot-3, 252-pound edge linebacker Marcus Smith with their first pick, and then followed that by taking rangy 6-3, 212-pound wide receiver Jordan Matthews, 5-foot-11, 194-pound cornerback Jaylen Watkins, who has and can play safety, 6-6, 290-pound defensive end Taylor Hart, who played for Kelly at Oregon and fits well into their 3-4 scheme, 6-1, 207-pound free safety Ed Reynolds and, finally, wide load 6-2, 333-pound nose tackle Beau Allen.
Of the Eagles seven picks, five were defensive players, two were offensive. The Eagles also leaned toward large-conference players. Three were from the Pac-12, two were from the SEC, and one each from the Big 10 and American Athletic Conference.
“There is something to [players from major conferences], but it’s not a hard and fast rule,” Kelly said. “So it’s not like we’re going to look at a guy from a small school. When you end up selecting, you look at it and that’s what it is. I know from a standpoint it’s easier to evaluate.
“It’s apples to apples, not apples to oranges in terms of who he played against. You’re not projecting a guy against maybe a lower level of competition and what he’s going to be like when he makes the jump to the National Football League. It’s not by design, but I know from an evaluation standpoint it’s a lot easier for us to evaluate that way.”
Now it’s a matter of whether or not the seven newly minted Eagles can translate their talents to the NFL level.
“I think we had needs at every position, but it’s all how you look at it,” Kelly said. “If there is a tie, we’re always going to go with the position where we have a spot open.”
Asked if the defense is closer to where he envisioned it, Kelly said that he couldn’t quantify that after the draft, but “we’re closer than we were a year ago, I know that.
In assessing the Eagles’ 2104 draft class, Kelly was open about it.
“I honestly have no idea, because everyone says [that they had a great draft],” Kelly said. “They do it in college after a signing day, ‘We had a great signing day.’ After the draft, we got everyone we wanted, we had a great draft. No one knows. Three or four years down the road, we’re going to be, ‘That guy turned out to be a good player.’ There’s going to be somebody that surprises everybody, us included. It’s an inexact science. If someone thinks that they have a formula or a metric that can get you there, I haven’t seen it yet.
“But I think we feel comfortable with the direction that we’re going and the guys that we brought in here. I’m not a prediction guy, nor can I say it, because I don’t think anybody can. I don’t think we’ll ever be [satisfied with the roster]. That’s the way I think. We’re always trying to get better every single day and that’s the constant stride we’re all looking for. There’s never going to be a day when you just wake up, ‘Haha, we arrived, we got it!’ I think if that day comes, you’re going to get run over.”
On Watkins, Kelly said: “One of the things that led us to this pick is his versatility, because he has played both [safety and cornerback]. Extremely high football intelligence. Billy Davis was at his pro day and spent a lot of time with him there. He’s played safety, he’s played corner, he’s played nickel. I think he obviously has the speed to play corner. But the fact that sometimes when you’re drafting these guys you try to project that maybe they can be this, but there is obviously evidence of him playing safety and doing it at a very high level.”
On Hart, Kelly said: “A relentless football player. Obviously, what we’re looking for at the defensive end spot, that length. He’s played, I don’t know how many games he started for us, but a million starts for us when we were at Oregon. Continued to play at a high level after we left. Has a great understanding of what we’re doing. He’s a true 3-4 defensive end two‑gapper, and that’s what we’re looking for. Great quality young man, a special kid we recruited. A local kid. Went to Tualitin High School, a local Oregon kid that went to the state university and gave everything he had when he was here, and I know he’s going to do the same thing for us. Him and [Eagles’ defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro] have a great relationship, so I think that’s another positive with him coming in here, and his ability to not only understand what we do, but I guarantee he’s going to be a step above some guys in terms of his knowledge of what we’re doing already.”
On Reynolds, Kelly said: “Big, physical, 6-1, 207, extremely intelligent, another high football IQ guy. Will do a good job in terms of what we’re looking for from the safety, quarterbacking the defense back there, getting us lined up, putting us in the right positions. We’re really happy to get him. I know our defensive coaches are really happy with him. The one thing about him is that he’s grown up around the game. The one thing you sense is that he really loves playing football.”
On Allen, Kelly said: “He’s a true nose tackle. He fits and is cut in the same style that we teach and has a good understanding of the 3-4 defense. He was guy were targeting and we were fortunate enough to get him. We played against Beau when I was at Oregon in the Rose Bowl. His natural position is nose tackle, and he transitioned there, he really started to shine.”
Eagles Draft Picks
1. (26th): Marcus Smith, OLB, Louisville
2. (42st via Tenn.): Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
3. (86th): Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
4. (101st): Jaylen Watkins, CB, Florida
5. (141st): Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon
5. (162nd): Ed Reynolds, FS, Stanford
7. (224th via Buffalo): Beau Allen, DT, Wisconsin