Grades for all Eagles’ 2014 rookies: an overall disappointment

One thing that almost all fans want to see is a rookie make an immediate impact on a team. It can’t be too hard to find guys who can do that, teams do it all the time. So why does it seem like the Eagles have failed to do that year after year? Well, Andy Reid wasn’t the best guy to make draft selections, but in the end, it’s sometimes very hard to know which guys are going to pan out and which guys won’t. In some players, it’s a big risk.

The Eagles were apparently targeting a lot of players who ended up going in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, but ended up with none of them. Their pick, 22nd overall, came to them and many of the guys they wanted were already off the board. So they traded down to the 26th pick. But, they missed out on two top cornerbacks, who were drafted 24th and 25th overall. The Eagles had some bad luck that round, but they may have also botched it. Here’s who they ended up selecting and how they fared on the team this year.

1. LB Marcus Smith

Selected in 1st round, 26th overall

Ah, good ol’ Marcus Smith. What is there to say about him that hasn’t already been said? People wanted a playmaker, and that’s exactly what he was in college, but it hasn’t exactly transitioned well to the pro level yet. He was actually one of the top pass rushers in the country in college, totaling 14.5 sacks in his last year before getting drafted.

But the problem that most people had was that he wasn’t projected to go in the first round, and I’m not really surprised. In his rookie year, he appeared in eight games and didn’t record a single stat. No sacks, no forced fumbles, no nothing. Not even a single tackle. That’s pretty brutal for a first round pick. It’s very possible he’s just not ready yet and he needed a year to improve, but let’s put this into perspective. Many were comparing him to Brandon Graham, who seemed like a reach as a first round pick back when the Eagles took him 13th overall in 2010. But his rookie year, Graham still played 13 games, had 13 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles. At least he did something. Smith on the other hand literally did nothing. Based on this season, I can’t give him any other grade. I’m not giving up on him, but it’s certainly disappointing. Grade: F

2. WR Jordan Matthews

Selected in 2nd round, 42nd overall

It was no secret the Eagles were targeting a wide receiver in the draft, it was just a matter of how many and when they’d pick one. They decided on Jordan Matthews, who put up incredible numbers his senior year at Vanderbilt: 112 catches, 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns. Chip Kelly immediately said that Matthews would be used in the slot, and that’s what ended up happening for most of the season. Unlike Smith, Matthews made an impact on the field almost immediately. He was a bit inconsistent in the preseason, but he had a great year in the regular season. He finished with 67 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns. He still only finished fifth in receiving yards among rookie wide receivers, but he certainly served his purpose for the Eagles. He should be a key part of their offense going forward. Grade: B+

3. WR Josh Huff

Selected in 3rd round, 86th overall

I am pretty confident in saying there would be a much lower chance of the Eagles picking Josh Huff had he not gone to Oregon. Does that mean it was a bad pick? No, but I stand by my position that he was a reach. Huff is a speedy wide receiver that the Eagles had no intention of putting any higher than fourth in the depth chart. Why use a third round pick on him? Well, he did go to Oregon, so Kelly knows him a little better, but he didn’t exactly play like a third round pick. He got hurt in the preseason and missed the first few games of the season. He was used sparingly on offense, catching just nine passes for 98 yards, 44 of which came on one play. He also had a key fumble on his only catch in their loss to the Cardinals. He did do pretty well as a kick returner, returning 14 kicks for 415 yards and a touchdown, which was 107 yards long. But if his focus is going to be as a returner, why’d the Eagles pick him in the third round? Grade: C

4. CB Jaylen Watkins

Selected in 4th round, 101st overall

For the second year in a row, the Eagles had the first pick in the fourth round and took a guy that barely did anything (the other being Matt Barkley in 2013). Kelly liked Jaylen Watkins because of his ability to play basically any position in the secondary, a skill that Kelly values very highly. But his ability to play any of those positions only matters if he plays in some games. He got in four games throughout the season and totaled three tackles, two of which came in the game against the Giants that ended the season, which didn’t matter. I didn’t expect him to play much, but he didn’t exactly play lights out in the preseason. He’ll likely provide depth in 2015 depending on what they do with their current personnel at cornerback. Grade: C-

5. DE Taylor Hart

Selected in 5th round, 141st overall

The last thing I wanted to hear at the end of the season was that Kelly tried to take Taylor Hart in the third round instead of the fifth. What exactly was he thinking with that? Well, Hart went to Oregon as well, but he had even more trouble getting into games than some of the guys taken before him. In fact, he didn’t play a single down of the 2014 regular season. The Eagles were pretty solid in the defensive end position, but the fact that he didn’t play at all bothered me. Grade: D

6. S Ed Reynolds

Selected in 5th round, 162nd overall

The Eagles needed some more depth at safety, but Ed Reynolds turned out to not even make the roster. He was eventually added back to the practice squad, but to draft a guy in the fifth round and not even have a spot on the main roster for him is a little strange. Maybe he’ll crack the roster next year. But since he wasn’t even on the roster, it’d be unfair to give him a grade. Grade: ?

7. DT Beau Allen

Selected in 7th round, 224th overall.

I honestly would not be upset if the Eagles had taken Beau Allen in the fourth round. I’m not saying he had fourth round value, but he added more value to the team than Reynolds, Hart and Watkins combined. I was a bit surprised to see him make the roster, but he played well in both the preseason and in camp. He even played pretty well as a depth guy for them in the regular season, playing in all 16 games and recording 10 tackles and a half of a sack. Not bad for a seventh round pick, huh? Grade: B-

At the end of the draft, I gave the Eagles a B- for their draft with the stipulation that I’d have to wait and see before I could get a full evaluation of some of the players. While one could say it’s still impossible to judge some of these players, it’s pretty clear that some of them weren’t good enough to even get on the field. So overall, after seeing the draft, I give it a C. And believe me, If Matthews hadn’t been part of the draft, it would probably deserve a D.

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