Philadelphia hosts draft: Did hometown Eagles address teams needs?

Apr 27, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; A general view of the draft theater during the first round the 2017 NFL Draft at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 27, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; A general view of the draft theater during the first round the 2017 NFL Draft at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Did the Eagles address teams appropriately during the 2017 NFL Draft?

The Philadelphia Eagles deserve high marks for their work in this weekend’s draft. Their selection of Derek Barnett to replace Connor Barwin as a starting defensive end provides an immediate upgrade in Jim Schwartz‘s defensive scheme. The city of Philadelphia deserves an A+ for putting on a spectacular event.

Around 70,000 fans attended the first-round festivities on Thursday night. An estimated 100,000 people attended during days two and three. The Eagles fans made their presence known at every opportunity. Jim Cramer made an appearance. Drew Pearson, Hall of Fame receiver from the Dallas Cowboys, helped provide a moment that we won’t soon forget. The Eagles, themselves, had a solid draft that addressed just about every perceived need that the team has. Let’s discuss the impact.

The early draft picks make the defense better

The starting defensive line of Barnett, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan and Brandon Graham should be formidable. Drafting corner backs Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas addressed the Eagles biggest need. Along with incumbent safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, the secondary should turn into a strength rather than a liability as the season progresses. The selection of Nathan Gerry did not address weak outside linebacker. Rather, Gerry provides a replacement for departed special teams ace Bryan Braman. The immediate impact of the draft is that the defense should be much better, and special teams should remain a strength.

The receiving corp will need training camp to provide clarity

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The Eagles drafted wide receivers Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson. Both should provide depth on special teams. Rookie wide receivers typically don’t immediately contribute to the offense, but in the long term, Hollins could likely be a replacement for Jordan Matthews, and Gibson may eventually replace Torrey Smith. It’s difficult at this point, due to the salary cap, to release Nelson Agholor, but Dorial Green-Beckham is another case entirely. He and some of the other backups will need to shine in training camp if they want to catch the eye of some other teams.

Questions about the running game

The Eagles addressed the running back position (somewhat) with the selection of Donnel Pumphrey. Due to his size, Pumphrey isn’t your typical every-down running back. He’s a similar to Darren Sproles. He’s definitley a benefit on third down and can cause mismatches. Sproles has indicated this is his last season, but Pumphrey’s selection could also imply he may be a cap casualty, as opposed to Ryan Mathews. The Eagles have faith in Wendell Smallwood, but it’s also fair to wonder if the Washington Redskins‘ selection of running back Samaje Perine four spots earlier didn’t alter the Eagles’ draft plan. The evolution of the running back position will be interesting to watch during training camp and in pre-season.

Are there any other roster moves to come?

The Eagles haven’t made their desire to move on from outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks a secret. The “WILL position” (weakside linebacker) remains an open discussion. The last person to play that position for the Eagles, Stephen Tulloch, retired recently. It’s hard to imagine that Kendricks will be on the opening day roster. It’s truly surprising that he wasn’t traded during the draft. The same could be said about Jordan Matthews.

Next: How did the 2017 NFL Draft affect the veterans?

The word on the street is the Eagles may not be too keen on keeping Matthews, who was their best receiver in 2016, after his rookie contract expires. It does so following the 2017 season. Both sides would benefit from a parting of ways, and Matthews could join any team that wants him. There are significant salary cap implications. The defense is better now and the special teams unit should continue to be a strength. There’s also a chance that the offensive unit could be in the top ten of all NFL teams based on their free agent acquisitions.

The two biggest questions entering mini-camp are who’s going to play weakside linebacker and how does running backs coach Duce Staley plan to rotate his guys. Keep your eyes open. You can’t rule out a serious push for Jamaal Charles.