Philadelphia Eagles: Versatility is key in 2015 NFL Draft


Ever since head coach Chip Kelly gained full control of the Philadelphia Eagles roster, he has made plenty of moves. But one thing in particular stands out when you look at all of them, versatility. Although Kelly has made some controversial decisions, the players that he brings to Philadelphia can do more than just one thing on the field.

This offseason is the first year Kelly has full control of all personnel decisions. That being said, here are the new players the team has signed or traded for since Kelly has taken over control of the mother-ship:

Sam Bradford, QB

Tim Tebow, QB

DeMarco Murray, RB

Ryan Mathews, RB

Miles Austin, WR

Seyi Ajirotutu, WR

Brad Jones, LB

Kiko Alonso, LB

Byron Maxwell, CB

Walter Thurmond, CB

E.J. Biggers, CB

Each and everyone of those players brings something different to the table, as they say. Yes, even quarterback Sam Bradford has a bit of versatility in his game due to his experience in the spread offense at Oklahoma. Kelly has preached versatility ever since he was hired as the head coach in Philadelphia and now that he’s control, that’ll be more prominent on the roster than ever before. Vice president of player personnel Ed Marynowitz echoed the same idea during his press conference earlier today:

"In terms of position versatility, the more a player can do, the more valuable they are. So a guy that can play both guard and tackle is more valuable than a guy that can just exclusively play guard. A guy that can play maybe corner and safety, maybe a little bit more valuable than a guy that can only play safety. That’s just with 53-man value, 46-man game day value. The more you can do, the more valuable you are."

That quote further supports the idea that Kelly has brought to Philadelphia, it’s nice to see the entire staff is on the same page. But this was evident before Marynowitz’ press conference as well. If you look at the prospects the Eagles have drafted since Kelly has joined Philadelphia, they all provide some sense of versatility. Players such as right tackle Lane Johnson, wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff and cornerback Jaylen Watkins, they each can line-up at multiple spots on the field.

Looking forward to the 2015 NFL Draft, 29 of the Eagles’ 30 pre-draft visits have been reported and a majority of the prospects visiting the team are considered versatile. For example, the Eagles look for safeties that have experience playing cornerback as well. That’s a big reason why they’re focusing so hard on players such as Byron Jones, Eric Rowe, Damarious Randall and Eric Rowe.

Each of those players have spent time at both cornerback and safety in college, as well as possessing the athletic traits the Eagles look for. But the fact that the Eagles have shown significant interest in them over such names as Alabama safety Landon Collins goes to show just how much they value coverage ability and experience, especially at safety. Amos is especially good in coverage, which you can read more about here.

Other defensive prospects the Eagles have brought in for pre-draft visits such as Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney, Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson and BYU linebacker Alani Fua are unknowns. Isn’t that a bad thing though? Not in the Eagles’ case, they love players with freakish size and athleticism. While McKinney fits that mold, many don’t know if he’ll play outside or inside linebacker at the next level…and I’m not sure the Eagles really care. They love that kind of versatility, especially at his size.

Thompson is just a rare specimen. He isn’t going to blow anyone away with his size or combine numbers, but when you put on the film, he makes plays. Whether it’s at safety during his early college days, linebacker or running back…yes, I said running back. Thompson can do it all and analysts seem to be all over the place in terms of projecting his best fit at the next level. Either way, that type of versatility is something that likely has the Eagles’ front office and head coach Chip Kelly, drooling about the endless possibilities of Thompson in midnight green.

Fua was one of the last prospects the Eagles brought into the NovaCare Complex for a pre-draft visit. He’s an intriguing prospect because of his size, athleticism and of course, versatility. At 6’5, 238 lbs., Fua has a slim build for a traditional 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. But for the Eagles, specifically, it might be the perfect fit. He’s outstanding in coverage and that’s something they really value at the linebacker position, especially on the outside. In college, Fua was even used to defend the slot at times, which is impressive for his size. He’s certainly a player worth watching on day three of the draft because of his versatility and potential fit in Philadelphia.

Oct 25, 2014; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Nelson Agholor (15) during the second half against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Utah won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Switching over to the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles have honed in on wide receivers and offensive linemen in the draft. They hosted seven wide receivers for pre-draft visits, the most out of any position. They brought in players projected to go all throughout the draft including multiple players projected to go in the first round. Nelson Agholor, Jaelen Strong and Breshad Perriman are all projected to be selected in the first round, or early second round at the latest.

Although they are all different sizes, weights and posted different numbers in drills throughout the pre-draft process, they all are versatile. Especially Agholor, who the Eagles and Kelly have spent a ton of time watching leading up to the draft. Not only was Agholor brought in to Philadelphia for a visit, Kelly traveled to Tampa Bay to workout Agholor privately as well. He fits what the team looks for at wide receiver because of his route running, ability to make plays after the catch and the fact that he can line-up practically anywhere on the field.

Agholor, along with Strong, spent quite a bit of time in the slot during their college careers. That clearly appeals to Kelly because he likes his players to “be multiple” and if they can play several positions on the field, they can contribute more. Agholor was also an explosive punt returner at USC as well, just another notch in his belt. When Marynowitz referred to players being “the best player available for us,” he could have very well been talking about a player such as Agholor.

It’s become clear that Kelly, Marynowitz and the Eagles have a specific type of player they look for at each position. Whether it’s their height, weight, athleticism or whatever else may be the key, something will always change. But one thing appears to remain constant, they want players that are versatile and that may never change.

Next: Philadelphia Eagles: Ed Marynowitz said a whole lot of nothing

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