Hakeem Nicks, UNC Caterers Impress at Pro Day

This is rather interesting — Hakeem Nicks has added 14 pounds since the combine.  That’s a lot of weight.  He now comes in at nearly 6’1″ and 226.

And I had to share this, from Gil Brandt at NFL.com:

The event was held outdoors on FieldTurf, and players who ran the 40-yard dash ran it twice — once with the wind and once against the wind. The pro day included a nice lunch with soups, salads and sandwiches. Scouts were very impressed with the treatment.

It remains true that I can never get enough NFL related information.  That is hilarious.

So… Heyward-Bey

What’s not to like about this guy?  Tall, check.  Fast, hell yes.  Leaping ability, phenomenal.  Playmaker, absolutely (he averaged over 15 yards a catch the last two seasons).

So why isn’t this guy a top 10 pick?

Well, they say his hands aren’t that great.  That he doesn’t run precise routes and he tends to have alligator arms over the middle.  He’s an awful blocker.

Regardless, knowing how the pre-draft buzz works, shouldn’t we expect this guy’s stock to go up?  If those are his negatives they aren’t necessarily the sort of things that show up big in workouts.  Over the next month he’ll continue to impress scouts with his straight-line speed and leaping ability.

There aren’t any linebackers or safeties lurking during Pro Day.

So with 40 times like that, impressive workouts, etc — this guy will probably shoot up the draft charts, right?  Especially without much top-end receiver talent ahead of him.

Eagles Draft: The Myth(?) that the Eagles Suck at the Draft

You hear the complaint all the time, even if it’s been tempered ever so slightly by mini-man Jackson — “the Eagles don’t know how to draft”.  The notion that the Birds are somehow worse than the rest of the NFL on draft day has been debunked by many people, but the belief lingers like a stale you know what.

So allow me a personal attempt at an honest study.  This will kind of be like the post from last week where I compared the Birds receivers to several other guys in the ’09 playoffs.  But this time I’m going to compare Andy Reid’s draft classes against the rest of the “final four” — the Steelers, Cardinals, and Ravens.

If the Eagles’ drafts are sub-standard, it would make sense that the “best” teams in the league ( or at least those that advance the farthest in the playoffs since that is sort of the goal) should compare most favorably against the Birds.

Here are some of the questions I hoped to answer:

  • Did the Eagles draft significantly worse, better, or about the same in recent history as the other teams playing in the championship games?
  • Who drafted the most “elite” guys?
  • Were the Eagles better or worse in the earlier or later rounds than the other teams?
  • How much of an impact did the ’07 and ’08 classes have on their teams?

The most arbitrary decision to make here is when to start the study — 3 years back?  5?  What is recent history, exactly.  I decided on four years. Since this is the average contract length for a rookies nowadays, it seems like a reasonable period of time to decide upon.

To be able to quantify success or failure for each pick, I’m going to classify players into five groups and assign each classification a value on a point system.  This idea is robbed entirely from the meanguy’s work, I’m hoping he doesn’t mind.

Players drafted but who have never started or have no significant impact on their team get a 0.  Players who have had spot starts, contributed in a small way and are still on an NFL roster get a 1.  Players who are certifiable NFL starters or otherwise contribute heavily to their team get a 2, and players who are “playmakers” or elite level guys get a 3.

Before we begin, a few things to consider.  First, it wasn’t easy to classify some of the guys.  Keep in mind this is totally subjective, and for a guy like Omar Gaither I could understand the reasons for classifying him both a “1″ and “2″.  I evaluated each guy on his merits and simply made my own call.

Next, I know it’s especially difficult to render judgements on the ’08 class.  But that’s kind of the whole point.  Which teams are finding guys who make an impact immediately?

Let’s start with the Birds:

Eagles Draft History

Now, the Ravens:

Ravens Draft

The Cardinals:

Arizona Cardinals Draft

Finally, the Steelers:

Steelers Draft

Let’s start answering some questions:

Who drafted the most “elite” guys?
By my subjective ratings, the Steelers had one (Woodley), the Ravens one (Ngata), and the Eagles one (Cole).  The Cardinals had none.

Did the Eagles draft significantly worse, better, or about the same in recent history as the other teams playing in the championship games?
This isn’t entirely clear.  Here is what we know.  The Eagles had more picks (37) than any of the other teams.  The overall average per pick was .65, better than the Steelers (.62) and Cardinals (.54), but worse than the Ravens (.71).

The Eagles drafted 16 bonafide NFL players (non-zeros).  That is more than the rest of the teams.  Of those 16 players, 9 rated as “1′s” — marginal players.  The average score for these 16 was 1.5.  The Steelers drafted 12 “non-zeros” with a rating of 1.67.  The Ravens drafted 15 with a score of 1.6.  The Cardinals drafted 11 for a score of 1.2.

What this tells you is the Eagles have a respectable “hit-rate” with players — they don’t whiff on many picks.  But they draft at least a few more players of marginal talents than the Ravens or Steelers.  This might make sense given the extra picks the Birds have had and that in two of our four years they didn’t draft in the first round.  These decisions are open for criticism, of course.

Did the Eagles draft better or worse in the earlier/later rounds than the other teams?
The Eagles appear to be measurably better in the later rounds than the other teams.  They were the only team to grab an elite player in rounds 4-7 (Cole).  They had 7 “non-zero” players in the later rounds, more than any others (Ravens 6, Steelers 4, Cardinals 4).

On the other hand, their average score for players selected in the first three rounds is .93.  The Ravens average score for their early round draftees is 1.13.  The Steelers score was 1.08.  The Cardinals were terrible.

How much of an impact did the ’07 and ’08 classes have on their teams this year?
The Eagles got vital contributions from Stewart Bradley (’07) and DeSean Jackson (’08).  The Ravens got it from a guard (Grubbs ’07) and of course, Joe Flacco (’08).  The Steelers drafted both Woodley and Timmons in ’07, and the Cardinals got help from Steve Breaston (’07) and Rodgers-Cromartie (’08).

It looks to me that the Eagles hold their own, but have some interesting problems.  They clearly have a strategy of acquiring as many picks as possible, and whatever manipulations (compensatory picks, trades, etc) they are using to achieve that goal are being executed well.  They are as good as anyone at identifying NFL talent.  You would think with all of the extra players the Birds would whiff more than other teams, but that does not appear to be the case.

On the other hand, the strategy of trading out of the first round has had predictable consequences.  The Steelers and Ravens have gotten more bang out of the first few rounds than the Birds.

That all hopefully turns around this year with the two first round picks.

Draft News: Pettigrew Training with Michael Johnson

Brandon PettigrewOlympic gold medalists can always find work:

You may remember Michael Johnson as the medal-festooned Olympic sprinter, but Mr. Johnson’s got a nice little post-retirement gig going in helping draft-eligible players work on their 40-yard dashes in preparation for the Combine. Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew, whose receiving ability and willingness to block makes him a rarity in the era of the spread hybrid players at his position, has been dinged by some scouts over his deep speed. So, he signed up with the Michael Johnson Performance Center and got to work.

How has it helped? We won’t know until Pettigrew runs, but he seems confident in the process. “He’s Michael Johnson. He knows what he’s doing,” Pettigrew said.

Sort of a complex situation for Eagles fans hoping that Pettigrew falls into the Birds’ hands at pick #21 — you better hope this training doesn’t pay off in a big way.  If Pettigrew impresses with his 40 time it’s doubtful he’ll make it past the top 15 picks.

Update 2/22:  Well, I doubt Johnson will be including this particular endeavor in his auto-biography.  Pettigrew ran a 4.87  Ouch.

Eagles Draft Info: Couple of Reminders

First, as most of you realize, the combine starts on Wednesday and runs a full week.  For those interested, we have the important NFL off-season dates listed here.

Second, starting next month college programs will have “Pro Day” workouts for their players who are entering the NFL draft.  NFL.com has as complete a list as you’ll find of the pro day schedules.  It is updated regularly.  Check it out.

Eagles GM: Heckert Interview Thoughts

Reggie BrownIt’s important to remember that anything you hear from personnel people this time of year has some hint of posturing and mind games.  But a couple of the non-”GO GET BOLDIN NOW!!!” points from Heckert’s interview I found interesting:

  • Reggie Brown will be back with the team next year.  From a cap perspective, it never made sense to cut him this season.  However, you have to wonder what this guy’s role is going to be.  I’m sure the Eagles are hoping he works his tail off over the next few months and comes into camp with a chip on his shoulder.  We’ll see.
  • Apparently defensive end is not a priority.  And Heckert said “we’re pretty much set” for linebackers.  The linebacker thing is a no-brainer, but there were at least some questions about DE.  Apparently the Abiamiri/Thomas tandem opposite Cole is satisfying Johnson and his group.

3 Crazy Eagles Scenarios that Might Not be That Crazy

A continued lack of hard news, combined with a total lack of interest in mock drafts (I’ve got to at least see the combine, free agency, and pro day workouts play out) has me pondering some of the wackier “what if?” notions of the Eagles future.

So in the spirit of the off-season (totally irresponsible, baseless speculation) here’s three potential moves the Eagles could make that on the surface might sound unexpected and a little goofy, but the more I thought about them the less crazy they seemed.

Kevin Kolb1.  The Eagles trade Kevin Kolb
We know Andy loved this guy even before his senior year at Houston.  We know that, despite a total lack of success in any regular season action, Reid was confident enough in him to promote him to the #2 spot on the depth chart this year over AJ.

Kolb’s rookie contract runs through 2010.  He’ll be 25 when the 2009 season starts.  He has given every indication that he’s a team player and he puts the work in.

But consider McNabb’s pending contract restructure, which now seems inevitable.  What if the Eagles give him a new 3-5 year deal that really guarantees two seasons.  Those are Kolb’s final two contract years.  And if McNabb plays well, he may very well end up finishing his career in Philly like he keeps saying he wants to.

Kolb would be 27 when he hits free agency.  He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’s going to be content as a career backup.  He wants to be “the guy.”  Is this guy really going to start his career as an NFL starter in 2011 at the earliest?  I don’t see this fella being happy the next three years holding a clip board.

That being said, you still have to consider the obvious injury history of McNabb.  But still, it’s kind of funny that two years after the “Donovan is soooo mad that the Eagles drafted Kevin Kolb” stories a reversal is in the works.

If the Eagles and McNabb strike a deal, they may get a few calls on Kolb.  Will any offer have enough in it to make it worth it for the Birds to part with him?  Seems unlikely, but organizations have made dumber trades for backup QBs.

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