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Eagles might not be in position to take a franchise quarterback in first round of 2014 NFL Draft

Oct 23, 2013, 1:46 PM EDT

manziel

A quick look at the NFL standings shows that, even with the Eagles 17-3 loss to the Cowboys and 3-4 record, if the season ended today, 13 teams would draft before Philadelphia in the first round of 2014: Tampa Bay (0-6), Jacksonville (0-7), NY Giants (1-6), Minnesota (1-5), Houston (2-5), Oakland (2-4), Washington (2-4), Pittsburgh (2-4), Atlanta (2-4), Tennessee (3-4), Buffalo (3-4), Arizona (3-4) and Cleveland (3-4).

Save for the Falcons, and (on principle) Bills, the commonality between these teams — and not uncoincidentally, the driver of their ineptitude — is their lack of a franchise quarterback. You can quibble over a few. Jake Locker looked good enough early on that the Titans may stick with him. (But would Mike Munchak’s replacement if Munchak is fired?) New York has Eli, Pittsburgh has Roethlisberger. (But how often will the Giants and Steelers get to pick in the top 10?) Brian Hoyer did some nice things for a while there. (But then, this.) Terrelle Pryor? Mike Glennon? Cinderella story, anyone?!

But don’t forget a few likely additions to the line.

St. Louis, somehow the owners of a 3-4 mark (and better point differential than the Eagles), own the Redskins’ No. 1 thanks to the RG3 trade two years ago. It also just watched Sam Bradford’s knee go boom, likely giving the Rams two top picks and a glaring need at the position. Chicago, only 4-3 and likely to be quarterbacked by Josh McCown for what should be “at least” four truly dreadful weeks, will at the end of the season have to decide whether to re-sign an oft-concussed and erratic Jay Cutler, now coming off a torn groin.

Point is, even the most conservative estimate has six of these teams in the market for a quarterback. Even if we go “married couples in separate twin beds” conservative, that still leaves something like four teams drafting quarterbacks.

Who’s (possibly) available? (Asterisks indicate draft-eligible underclassmen.) Even the most casual college football fans know the names. Bridgewater. Mariota*. Hundley*. Manziel*. Boyd. Braxton*. Murray. Mettenberger. Morris. Logan. But do they know about their warts?

Teddy Bridgewater has faced only two ranked teams in 36 games. He also has a hideous release, dainty frame, iffy accuracy. Johnny Manziel’s recklessness (on and off the field) and durability (hurt twice in each of the last two weeks? really?) justify comparisons to Mike Vick. Samesies with Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, who while he seems to have a squeaky-clean character, at times can’t help himself but to unleash his arm strength on receivers, some only five yards away. Same footwork problems, too. Boyd has had the following written about him, by ESPN Scouts Inc: “Has had problems keeping weight down in the past and dedication to conditioning needs to be investigated further.” (Sounds familiar…) Aaron Murray’s a gamer for Georgia despite his reputation for “coming up small” in big games, but he’s, well, small — 6’0, less than 200 pounds. Zack Mettenberger only flourished this year, under LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron — in a sport where guys routinely shine without such advantages. (There was also this.) Logan Thomas, well, he hasn’t done too well at Virginia Tech, ever, but boy, does he have a big arm!

IMO, the only guys I’d be comfortable drafting in the first round and anointing the face of the Eagles for the life of a four-year rookie deal are Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley. Both have elite physical abilities. Uncanny arm strength. Above-average accuracy. Remarkable escapability. Mariota fits Chip Kelly’s scheme, obviously. Hundley has experience in a pro set. And, it should be noted, with a horrendous offensive line chock full of true freshmen. Which, with the way the Eagles O-line has looked this year, makes for a seamless fit.

(Feel free to debate in the comment box below.)

Problem is, they could be gone with the first two picks.

Even if we assume that the Eagles season goes straight to hell, that they win only three more games for the rest of the way (despite getting four gift-wrapped in the Giants, Vikings, Raiders and Cardinals) to finish with a 6-10 record, that’s still, what? The eighth overall pick in next year’s draft? 10th? And of the quarterback-thirsty teams above, how many out-lose the Eagles the rest of the way?

Even if Howie Roseman went Thomas Dmitroff and traded, basically, their entire draft to move up, how many teams would be willing to move down? In this class? With this many quarterbacks? And so many teams needing them? Would that even be in their best interests, given all of their holes on defense?

Where does that leave the Chip Kelly on Draft Day?

Maybe, without a franchise guy to take.

You’d like to say that the Eagles could just go defense — maybe a corner like Florida’s Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy  or Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, safety like Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, nose tackle like Louis Nix III,  linebacker like Alabama’s C.J. or Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, or, maybe, draft DeSean Jackson’s eventual replacement in Clemson’s Sammy Watkins — and wait until 2015 for a QB.

But it’s unfortunately not so easy. Here, the Eagles would be stuck between a series of rocks and hard places. Ownership may be able to be patient through one year of Kelly hype yet no results. Could they stomach two? Isn’t the only way for Kelly to bide time landing a solid draft class? Does that class lift the Eagles enough that the problem repeats? Maybe the absolute worst-case scenario: they reach, elevating an unworthy talent how Jacksonville, Minnesota and Tennessee did in the Gabbert-Ponder-Locker 2010 Draft.

Then again, the best-case scenario sounds pretty good. They could take Roberson or Purifoy, the best physical talents among the three top corners, slide Bradley Fletcher to the No. 2 corner spot, with Brandon Boykin staying in the slot to, hopefully, transform the defense the way that Patrick Peterson and Joe Haden did singlehandedly for Arizona and Cleveland, and wait for a quarterback to slide into the second round, most likely Murray or Morris. (Who’s stock may soon be on the rise, now that Miami is bowl eligible this season.)

Ultimately, while it sounds like a great way to get through what may be a tough season, don’t delude yourself into thinking the Eagles are definitely getting a franchise quarterback next year. At least not in Round 1.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MKH973 Catch him every Saturday from 12-2 on 97.3 ESPN-FM.

  1. Kevin - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:09 PM

    Best case senario…Mariota stays in Oregon another year, Eagles draft for defense and a big wide receiver, and find a way to get him next year.

    Reply
  2. Mark432 - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    If I were an NFL team I’d want no part of Manziel. At the very least before some of the other guys are off the board.

    Not an Eagles fan but they would be wise to take Bridgewater IF they’re in the position to do so.

    Reply
  3. bruce - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    I’d be very surprised if the Eagles don’t trade up in the draft for a QB. With the 14th pick and some other incentives
    I can see it happening.

    Reply
  4. will - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    i had the pleasure of getting the the thrilling ucla-stanford game last week. if throwing the ball at receivers feet is the measure of accuracy, then i agree hundley has above average accuracy.

    Reply
    • Matt Hammond - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:51 PM

      dude was running for his life the entire game. alternatively, foles had the fourth fewest snaps under pressure among ALL nfl quarterbacks last week, and still completed 46.7% of his throws. hundley’s legit.

      Reply
      • aaron - Oct 23, 2013 at 6:22 PM

        Nick Foles had similar stats to Hundley when he played for Arizona(a much worse team, with an even worse offensive line, in the same conference).

      • Matt Hammond - Oct 24, 2013 at 7:52 AM

        doesn’t have the same zip, accuracy, mobility, size — hundley’s a superior talent, and it’s not even close.

    • erzug - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:20 PM

      Not so sure it wouldn’t work. After all, McNabb lasted 10 seasons throwing balls at receivers’ feet.

      Reply
  5. Loke - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Good! Anything to avoid them taking yet another “Athletic” type QB. Wake me up the next time one of those that relies on his legs wins the big one. If they do end up with one that will be the straw that breaks the camels back for me.

    Reply
    • willh888 - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      Of the few mobile QB’s in the league last year, these guys made the playoffs including one Super Bowl appearance. RGIII, Russel Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck.

      I think Cam and Vick were the only two not to do anything. Gotta get that old school stuff of out your head. Mobile isn’t always bad

      Reply
      • Mark432 - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:06 PM

        We’ll see about RGIII but I’m not sure if he’s going to come all the way back to where he was. Luck is mobile but not like the other guys.

        Loke is talking long term. We’ll see how this new group of guys does but for now I’m with Loke’s logic.

      • Alex S - Oct 24, 2013 at 9:23 AM

        There’s a difference between being mobile and like Loke said “relying on your legs.” Its a fine line between the two but I think everyone would agree that A. Luck is extremely mobile but doesn’t rely on his legs, while with RGIII and Cam N. the line gets much more fuzzy.

        I personally agree that a QB who’s gotta rely on his legs that much to be dangerous isn’t someone I have serious faith in for winning the big one. While change can be good, somethings never change, and a quarterback who can stand in the pocket and dissect a defense is something that I think will never get old..

  6. Bill McBride - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    Everyone seems to forget about AJ McCarron.This guy proves weekly that he is more than a game manager.

    Reply
    • John - Oct 24, 2013 at 11:19 AM

      I wouldn’t touch McCarron. Watching him live on Saturdays as a ua student he is nothing more than a game manager. He lacks arm strength, and I’m not talking about throwing 70 yards. He lofts all his deep balls, and his intermediate and short passes lack velocity, and he fails to lead his receivers. If he went before the 4th round I would be stunned. He’s a glorified Greg McElroy.

      Reply
  7. Joe P - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    Hackenburg in 2017. That is all.

    Reply
  8. Chip - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    Trade each first rounder for the next 2 years while collecting depth. Then draft Winston or Hackenberg. Boom, QB solved with automatic #1 and a couple extra first rounders

    Reply
  9. hitnrun - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    The “problem,” if you want to call it that, is that the Eagles aren’t likely to be drafting high enough to get their hands on a franchise QB in the traditional way in the near future.

    The only way they end up back in the top 5 is the collapse of Chip Kelly’s stewardship, which for better or for worse will take a few years to play out. By then, the current potential of this team is lost and its makeup today is moot.

    I think they have to keep their eyes open for another team willing to sell, then pay what it takes, IF they think a guy can be a real franchise player. Especially if that team is willing to take a player instead of a pick. There’s no one on this roster who can’t be replaced, and there’s nothing harder to get than a franchise QB.

    Reply
  10. jbk1009 - Oct 25, 2013 at 8:31 AM

    People have lost faith in the kid because of coaching change, but I still think that Driskel at Florida will be a player at the next level. A mid round pick and a real coach getting him in the system with a line up front? I know first hand, literally, Chip Kelly wanted him badly at Oregon. What he could do with him at Philly would be interesting.

    Reply
  11. vegas - Oct 26, 2013 at 3:44 AM

    !. Mike Evans, Craig Loston or Johnny Football
    2. Colt Lyerla or Dorial Beckham-Green

    Reply

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