Chip Kelly’s first draft class as a head coach in the NFL was always going to be viewed with interest, as a man who had become highly sought after following his time at Oregon took that knowledge of college football into the pros. Armed with that ‘advantage’ of being familiar with the stars of the college game, Kelly will have been hoping to add the requisite quality to an Eagles team that had finished 2012 with a 4-12 record.
The Eagles responded magnificently to Kelly’s fast tempo offensive scheme and the rookie Head Coach was able to instil a rapid turnaround in fortunes. Philadelphia’s win in Dallas in week 17 secured them the NFC East title, a 10-6 record and a trip to the postseason.
Despite a first game defeat to the Saints, there is plenty to be positive about when looking back at Philadelphia’s 2013 campaign. How much of that can be attributed to their 2013 draft class?
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma (B+)
With the poor record of 2012 came the chance to pick early in the draft. The Eagles took Johnson with the fourth overall pick, although he was already behind Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel as the third offensive lineman selected. Despite that, Johnson made an immediate impact and started all 16 games in the regular season as the Eagles offense racked up 442 points and 6,676 yards during the season. Added to that is that fact that running back LeSean McCoy ended the year with an NFL best 1,607 yards. These stats alone show what a successful year the Eagles line had, although the 46 quarterback sacks that were given up is a cause for concern. A very impressive debut year, Johnson will look to build on that going into 2014.
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford (B)
Ertz was picked up at the start of round 2 and has, over the course of his rookie year, impacted consistently in the free flowing offense that Coach Kelly is so fond of. Featuring in all 16 games, Ertz also made 3 starts on his way to 36 pass receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns. In catching 5 passes for 68 yards and 2 scores against the Cardinals he became the first Eagles tight end to catch multiple touchdowns in the same game since 2001. He then recorded an impressive 6 grabs for 57 yards and a score in the shoot out in Minneapolis. Having split time with incumbent starter Brent Celek this season, Ertz has a genuine shot at emerging as the Eagles’ starter in 2014.
Bennie Logan, DT, LSU (C+)
The third round draft pick also saw plenty of game time in his rookie year. Yet another draft pick to appear in all 16 games, he emerged as a starter in eight consecutive games during the second half of the season. Logan ended the regular season with 27 tackles (adding another 4 in the loss to the Saints), with 2 sacks and a fumble recovery. He also managed to make a name for himself on special teams, by managing to block an extra point against Detroit. Logan is another draft pick with the potential to see a great deal more action in 2014, after a solid rookie year.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC (D)
The quarterback’s stock had already fallen by the time he was selected in the fourth round. Originally projected as a potential first/second round pick, the desire for teams to fill other areas saw him drop to the 98th overall selection. He then had to sit and bide his time behind Michael Vick and Nick Foles. Following injuries to both players, he had a chance to show what he could do in starts against Dallas, a struggling Giants team and Oakland. It is safe to say that Barkley did not take this chance, and was replaced by Foles early on in the third of these games. Overall he threw for 300 yards, without a touchdown.
On top of that were four interceptions in just 49 attempts (including three against the Cowboys) and three fumbles, for an overall passer rating of 44.6. With the form of Foles, the best he can expect next year is to be kept on as a back up. He will need to show a lot more to the coaches to convince them he is a player worth supporting long term, but he now has the opportunity to learn under Foles in 2104.
Earl Wolff, S, NC State (C+)
Wolff’s season was hampered by a knee injury suffered at Green Bay, causing him to miss five games. He still managed 11 appearances and six starts, racking up 45 tackles and an interception in his debut campaign. The safety will be hoping to bounce back from his injury to reclaim a starting spot next season.
Joe Kruger, DE, Utah (no grade)
Kruger suffered a season ending shoulder injury in preseason, which saw him placed on IR. 2014 will be his first chance to taste NFL action.
Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State (no grade)
Although drafted by the Eagles, Poyer was released by the team and claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Browns, where he recorded 3 tackles.
David King, DT, Oklahoma (no grade)
King was drafted with the 239th overall pick, but released in August before the preseason started.
Despite the lack of impact from their latter choices, the Eagles had a successful draft. Four of their top five selections made an impact to the team and in Johnson and Ertz they have two players who can play a key role for years to come. Barkley is the one real disappointment; he will have to bide his time now to see if another chance comes his way in Philadelphia.