Category Archives: Eagles

Deone Bucannon

Bucannon

If you follow me on twitter you’ve seen me bombard your timelines with Deone Bucannon love and I’ve even wondered how high the Eagles would be willing to pick the All American safety. Instead of continuously inundating your timelines I figured I should put pen to paper (or is it fingers to blog?) and write something a little more comprehensive.

The Eagles have shown interest in Deone Bucannon at every turn of the draft process so far. The Eagles met with him at the senior bowl both privately and after practices [link]. The Eagles had a presence at his pro day, as you can see in this news package. The man you see working Deone Bucannon in the drills in that video is Eagles defensive backs coach John Lovett. And now, according to The Star Ledger the Eagles have a private workout scheduled with Bucannon [link]. When asked about his Senior Bowl meetings with the Eagles Bucannon had this to say of the Eagles interest, “[they told] me that I was doing a good job at the Senior Bowl and they had their eyes on me” [link].

The Darren Sproles Trade

Darren+Sproles+Tampa+Bay+Buccaneers+v+New+GnTwLPA0s_-l

During the offseason you get a lot of self important fans who like to set out their vision for the team and speak out if their preferred football team veers off course. Sometimes, this is perfectly reasonable. And I’m not chastising these fans either, you can look back on this blog and see that I’ve been there many times. People like to categorize things, they like to put things in neat little boxes and say that’s just the way it is. Does the real world work that way? I’d argue there’s a spectrum of things, not nice little cookie cutter boxes of things. Sometimes, when things don’t fit neatly within that “box” or “plan”, they don’t like it.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about Eagles fans who have been preaching on twitter the merits of not overpaying veteran players and building for the future the “right way”. Don’t sign Jairus Byrd? That’s fine, he was too expensive and who knows what he’d be in two years. Don’t sign Darrelle Revis? That’s fine for the same reasons. And they  toss DeMarcus Ware, Julius Peppers, Jared Allen and Vince Wilfork in that group of “too old and expensive” too. It’s not hard to find these people, you can find most beat writers mocking common fans for bemoaning the Eagles lack of a “big name” signing. Is this group of fans right or wrong? Who knows, I’m inclined to agree with that group that says don’t over-pay for a number of reasons. Will we regret not signing all-pro talents? Time will tell, I guess.

But here’s where things get a little ridiculous: People who don’t like the Darren Sproles trade because he’s old. I understand that you want the Eagles to “stick with the plan” that you laid out in your mind but come on. What if the Eagles traded for Darren Sproles and it really doesn’t affect the team’s long-term future? Hint, it doesn’t. One news outlet wrote an article that asked “Darren Sproles: weapon or fading player”, what if he’s both? Why does everything have to be so black and white?

Here’s what I think: Darren Sproles is aging but he’s a viable and dynamic football weapon. He immediately becomes another weapon in Chip Kelly’s arsenal. And, he’s not a hinderance to the future of the team. He’s an upgrade. Darren Sproles is an immediate asset  that brings value to this football team right now. And, he was cheap! A 5th round pick for such a dynamic and versatile weapon? I’ll take that. Had we overpaid and mortgaged a potentially valuable part of our future, I’d understand why people wouldn’t like the move but we didn’t.

Consider recent 5th round picks: Earl Wolff, Dennis Kelly, Dion Lewis, Julian Vandervelde, Ricky Sapp, Riley Cooper, Cornelius Ingram, Fenuki Tupou and Macho Harris. Reality is, Darren Sproles is a proven entity that is far more likely to bring value to your football team unless you get lucky (see: Riley Cooper). Sproles is better than what that 5th round pick would’ve been.

Consider what Sproles brings to this team. He’s a dynamic change of pace running back. He’s the most productive and likely best receiving running back in the NFL. He’s versatile and has proven he can win at both running back and slot receiver. And he’s proven himself to be one of the NFL’s most dynamic return threats. Darren Sproles is an all-purpose yards beast with 15,504 all purpose yards to his name this far into his NFL career.

In the past three seasons, Darren Sproles has 3,048 yards from scrimmage on 420 touches and 23 all-purpose touchdowns. That’s incredibly efficient, that’s 7.26 yards a touch. And just last season, Sproles had 8 plays of 20 or more yards and 1 of 40 or more. He also led NFL running backs in yards per route run. And his versatility speaks for itself, he spent 39.1% of snaps in the slot receiver position according to ProFootballFocus.

Why did we cut Jason Avant? It wasn’t because he was old. It was because his level of play didn’t match his level of pay. Chip Kelly wanted a more dynamic option on offense. Well, with the re-signing of Maclin and Cooper, the trading for Darren Sproles and the ascension of Zach Ertz, we’ve more than fulfilled the need for more dynamic options in Jason Avant’s place. Jason Avant’s biggest wart was his lack of dynamic abilities, he averaged 3.5 yards after the catch for his career and 2.4 last season. The committee that appears ready to replace him looks like this:

Darren Sproles: 9.1 yards after the catch for his career and 7.8 last season and forced 15 missed tackles (Avant forced 3)
Jeremy Maclin: 26 touchdowns in 4 seasons, 51 receptions of 20+ yards, 13 of 40+ and 4.2 yards after the catch
Riley Cooper: 8 touchdowns last season, 13 plays of 20+ yards, 6 of 40+ and 5.4 yards after the catch
DeSean Jackson: 9 touchdowns last season, 126 career plays of 20+ yards, 42 of 40+ and last season he was 8th in the league in total yards after the catch averaging 6.2 yards after the catch.
Zach Ertz: The only rookie TE in NFL history other than Rob Gronkowski to average 13+ YPC in their rookie years. He averaged 4.2 YAC for the season, averaged 11.8 YPC from the slot and had 2 TDs.

I like the Darren Sproles trade because it gives the Eagles an immediate weapon on offense, improving a strength of our football team and now, even more so than before I think you can consider Jason Avant upgraded.

And just as a quick aside, I think people grossly under-appreciate the player that Sproles is. Every year you hear about a player who’s going to be the “next Darren Sproles” and it never pans out that way. Sproles is truly a unique weapon that I’m glad to have on my team that is now filled to the brim with playmakers.

Wide Receivers

The Eagles have a potentially gaping hole at wide receiver. Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper both have expiring contracts and Jason Avant is going to carry a cap hit of nearly four million dollars (3.96 million according to Eagles Cap), leaving three of the Eagles top four wide receivers with an uncertain future with the team. The Eagles have expressed interest keeping both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper and both have said they would like to come back, but can the Eagles afford to pay both and who should they bring back? Does Jason Avant’s production merit his return? And if the Eagles were to opt to look towards the draft for options, could a rookie replace the production of the vacating players?

Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper:

One of the biggest debates among Eagles fans these days is who the Eagles should sign, Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper? Howie Roseman has said signing one doesn’t preclude the signing of the other but it could definitely be one or the other and here’s why:
There are three primary wide receiver spots, the X, the Z and the Y. The X and the Z spots are primarily perimeter spots and the Y receiver is the slot guy. This past season, DeSean Jackson (Z) played 1010 snaps, Riley Cooper (X) played 1002 snaps and Jason Avant (Y) played 807 snaps. The next closest receiver, Jeff Maehl, played 129 snaps. This says to me that, barring injury, there aren’t many snaps to disperse amongst the back-ups, there’s 3 primary guys who are going to get a vast majority of snaps.

So why can’t Riley Cooper, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin be those three primary guys? DeSean is the Z receiver and he is not going to be usurped from that spot, when he’s playing hard he’s a game changing force on the outside who wins with his elite combination of speed, agility, route running and ball tracking. When Jeremy Maclin played, he was the X receiver and this past season, the best of Cooper’s career, Cooper was also the X receiver. Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper play the same wide receiver spot. Could either make the transition to playing the Y spot?

Slot Routes Slot Route %
Maclin (’10-‘12) 365 21.3%
Cooper (’10-’13) 143 11.8%

Neither has played extensively inside but Maclin is the more experienced slot man of the two. In three seasons Jeremy Maclin saw 78 targets for 61 receptions, 682 yards, and 2 TDs in the slot. In four seasons, Riley Cooper saw 23 targets for 16 receptions, 280 yards, and 5 TDs in the slow. Both have shown they can produce from the slot but it’s a projection for both. I think Maclin is better equip for slot play considering he’s less of a strider and has better quickness to get open in tight areas but Riley Cooper is tough and physical and could potentially body up some of the smaller nickel corners in the NFL.

If Chip Kelly makes the judgment that Maclin or Cooper can be moved, both could be re-signed but if he decides they’re better off pursuing another option, it’ll be one or the other. And the primary slot receiver (Avant) only saw 62 targets this season, with Maclin and Cooper (to an extent) being proven playmakers on the outside they could very well price themselves out of a slot receiver spot.

For the sake of this next part, lets pretend it’s one or the other.

Jeremy Maclin in 4 seasons: 423 targets, 257 receptions, 60.7% catch rate, 3442 yards, 13.4 YPC, 16 TD, 158 first downs, 61.4% first downs, 51 20+ yard catches, 12 40+ yard catches, 4.2 YAC (in Andy’s offense)
Riley Cooper in 4 seasons: 183 targets, 93 receptions, 50.8% catch rate, 1514 yards, 16.3 YPC, 13 TDs, 65 first downs, 69% first downs, 24 20+ yard catches, 8 40+ yard catches, 4.5 YAC (never averaged more than 3.8 in Andy’s offense)

I think it’s pretty clear who we should choose if it came down to one or the other. Jeremy Maclin obviously gets more volume stats because he was the starter but he also proved to be a much more reliable target than Riley Cooper.

Jason Avant

Nothing but respect for Jason Avant but his 2013 effort just isn’t going to cut it. This season, Jason Avant had 43 catches for 468 yards on 77 targets (55% catch rate), 97 yards after the catch all season, 3 dropped passes and 2 fumbles. To put those numbers into context, he was 103rd out of 111 wide receivers in yards after the catch and 87th in catch percentage. He was 23rd out of 33 qualifying receivers in yards per route run from the slot. And his catch rate from the slot was 50%, good for 32nd out of 33 qualifying players.

It had gotten to the point that this is what rotoworld wrote of him at the end of the season:

It was another predictably yawn-worthy game in a yawn-worthy season from the Eagles’ slot man. Avant, one of the slowest receivers in the NFL, caught 38 passes for 447 yards with two touchdowns as he saw his YPC drop for the third straight season.

Jason Avant, once Mr. Reliable and Mr. First Down has become unreliable in addition to being one of the least dynamic featured receivers in the NFL. And once a key cog on special teams, Avant was hardly noticeable this season in that aspect. To be frank, Avant isn’t giving the Eagles much anymore.

The Eagles can save 3.25 million in cap space by cutting Avant. VERY real chance it happens.

A Rookie?

Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper have combined for 36% of the Eagles catches since 2010 and that’s with Jeremy Maclin missing an entire season. Losing even two of them would leave a decent sized hole in the Eagles receiving corps. But lets say all three slip away, can a rookie help replace the production of three veteran receivers? It would take quite an effort for any rookie receiver to match the production of a Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper, as a matter of fact in the last decade only 17 rookie receivers have hit 800 yards or more receiving, a mark that either Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper have hit each of the past four seasons.

Bill Billick gives some insight as to why rookie receivers have such a hard transition once they get to the NFL:

Wide receiver has become one of the toughest positions for rookies to adapt to in the pros. There are a lot of challenges that factor into this: eluding press coverage, getting separations on a break, running disciplined routes (both in terms of positioning and timing) and mastering the myriad sight adjustments and choice routes that are a big part of the modern pro game. Those are all very difficult aspects of the process. So is gaining the trust of your quarterback. If you’re a veteran, likePeyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers, you don’t want to throw to someone you hope is going to be in the right place, or someone you think is going to run the correct route. You want the receiver you know is going to make the right sight adjustment. You want the guy who will make the out-cut at exactly 7 yards — not 6 or 8 — and who’ll tap his toes inside the boundary to complete the catch.

Billick also makes another interesting point:

Of the top 11 players in receiving yards last year, eight were former first-round picks and another (Vincent Jackson) went in the second. Only Wes Welker(undrafted free agent) and Brandon Marshall (fourth round) weren’t high picks.

Relying on a rookie receiver is a risky gamble but add in spending valuable resources (top draft pick) on a player you won’t see the return on until year two just isn’t worth the risk for a team that already has functional and productive pieces at the WR spot, has other holes to fill and is trying to compete. The wiser route, in my opinion, would be to bring back either Maclin or Cooper and then draft a rookie in the middle rounds to take Jason Avant’s spot, whose production is much more likely to be matched or exceeded by a rookie.

The Offensive Tackles

With it appearing likely that the Chiefs are going to select Luke Joeckel the Eagles might have the option of choosing between Lane Johnson and Eric Fisher depending on how the Raiders and Jaguars pick. But how would they fit into Chip Kelly’s offense? [1]

The inside zone play is our “go to work” play. We want to get off the ball and be a physical downhill running football team. This is not a finesse play. This is physical football. The offensive lineman play with confidence because they know they have help from their teammates in their blocking scheme. This is the offense we run and everyone knows that. We have great players but we also execute it well. We ran this play 202 times this past season. We averaged about seven to eight yards per carry with this play.

The outside zone play is a complement to the inside zone play. The inside zone is a hole to cutback play. The outside zone is more of a hole to bounce play. The reason we run the outside play is to circle the defense. When you get good at running the inside zone the defenders begin to tighten their techniques and concentrate on squeezing the inside gaps.

If we feel that is happening or we start to get many twists and blitzes inside we run the outside zone play. It gives you speed in space and the offensive line can play with confidence when you have something to change the focus of the defense. We ran the outside zone play 122 times last season for 6.8 yards per carry. It is a good compliment to the inside zone play.

Basic zone read via smartfootball.com

Chip Kelly’s lines aren’t plodding and enormous, they’re lean and athletic. I’ll let Kyle Long explain:

“You need to have mental toughness, physical toughness and you have to be in condition to play in an offense that moves in such a high tempo. We play at a fast tempo and then when we need to, we kick it into overdrive. He’ll say, ‘We’re going to go tempo here’ and everyone looks around and we all lick our chops because we know the guy across from us is going to be more exhausted than we are because we prepared and practiced at a high level.”

Chip Kelly plays it coy at his football clinic linked above when he talks about his running scheme but he really does ask a lot of his offensive line. His offensive line doesn’t have much help, there aren’t any fullbacks or jumbo personnel. He runs a smash-mouth offense out of spread offense sets. The entire idea behind his running scheme at Oregon was to spread the defense out, empty the box and control the line of scrimmage. His offensive linemen need to be in good condition like Kyle Long says but at the same time they need to be big and strong enough to control the line of scrimmage. He runs power plays. He runs zone plays. He runs read option plays. Chip used man and zone concepts at Oregon. And his tackles will do anything, they pull, trap and downblock. He really does need talented offensive line players if he wants to run his scheme effectively.

Turnovers

This guy spoiled us.

In 2010 the Eagles were fourth in the NFL in turnover differential at plus seven. Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb had a combined TD:INT ratio of 28:13 and the secondary (led by Asante Samuel) accounted for 21 interceptions while the defense 23 interceptions overall. As we all know, the 2010 Philadelphia Eagles won the division and made the playoffs. In 2011 the Eagles were second to last in turnover differential at negative 14. Michael Vick, Vince Young and Mike Kafka threw a whopping 25 combined interceptions and the defense only had 15 interceptions. In 2012 the Eagles were tied for last in turnover differential at negative 24. Michael Vick and Nick Foles threw a combined 15 interceptions and the defense only had eight interceptions. The Eagles record has closely correlated with their turnovers, as their turnover differential got worse so did their record.

Now,  is that common sense? Absolutely. But I’m not sure that people realize just how much defensive turnovers, like interceptions, correlate with winning football games (link).

Interceptions
Correlation to Victory (reg. season): 151-42 (.782)
Correlation to Victory (postseason): 6-2 (.750)
Total Correlation: 157-44 (.781)

We’ve long said that interceptions are the most important single play in sports. The way they correlate to victory pretty much proves it. We call it the CHFF Interception Ladder. We need to update it. But short version: each INT decreases your chances of winning by about 20 percentage points.

This is the only indicator we track that looks only at the impact of a single play (or several of them in a game) and its Correlation to Victory is phenomenal.

Put another way: you throw INTs, you lose football games. Simple as that. You throw more interceptions than the other team, you lose nearly 80 percent of all NFL games.

We did not look at fumbles, because it seems that fumbles are random acts with a low Correlation to Victory. Interceptions are function of the quality of QB play, defense, scheme, coaching, etc. However, we should track fumbles in the future just to prove they’re random (or maybe refute our own expectations).

Take for example the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles. The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles turned the ball over 38 times and 25 of those turnovers were in the opponent’s territory:

If you assume that all of those spots are field goal attempts and assume league field goal percentage average for each of the ranges they fall in, I am getting:
- 3 that were less than 30 yards (96.3%) → 8.6 points
- 7 that were 30 – 39 yards (86.8%) → 18.2 points
- 8 that were 40 – 49 yards (74.0%) → 17.7 points

If you assume that those 18 turnovers would have been only field goals for the 2011 Eagles cost the Eagles approximately 44.5 points. And that’s being pretty conservative in my assumptions I think. Every takeaway takes points off of the board for the opponent, potentially shifts the momentum of the game and gives our offense more chances to score. And again, that’s assuming the Eagles didn’t proceed with the ball at all and ended up kicking field goals. The Eagles lost 44.5 points and that’s a bare minimum estimate.

The Eagles have added a handful of secondary players this offseason who have combined for 12 interceptions in the past two seasons. That isn’t much of an upgrade in the playmaking department as Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie combined for 15 interceptions the past two seasons. The need for playmakers in the back half of the defense is just as prominent as ever.

So you drafted Ziggy Ansah…

In the United States, football is king. Sixteen of the twenty most watched sporting events were football games in the first half of 2012 [1] and that was only with a few bowl games, the last week of the regular season and the NFL playoffs. The football dominance over that list only increased with the inclusion of the 2012 regular season. Superbowl XLVII between the Ravens and the 49ers was the most watched television program in the history of the United States, breaking the record it set the year before [2]. Football is the juggernaut and everything else is a sideshow, our enthusiasm for football is overflowing and the rest of the world is slowly catching on.

Since 2005 the NFL has hosted games in Mexico City, Toronto and London and the international fan base is growing rapidly because of it [3].

But the figures are promising. According to the NFL, there is a fan base of 11 million in the UK, which represents a 32% increase in the last two years. More people are playing the game at amateur level too.

Television numbers are also on the rise, with Sunday games showing a 154% increase in viewers, while the amount of people watching the showpiece Super Bowl has gone up by 74% since 2006.

One of the side effects of the ever-expanding NFL is that top level athletes are coming out of the woodwork from all around the world to try their hand at NFL football. In last year’s draft there were five foreign born players drafted (the most ever): Tyrone Crawford, Phillip Blake, Christo Bilukidi, Jack Crawford and Markus Kuhn. This year, there might be just as many foreign born players drafted in the first round alone. Bjoern Werner, Margus Hunt, Jesse Williams, Menalik Watson and Ezekiel Ansah are all potential first round picks. And in the later rounds the NFL can choose between Tom Wort of England and Lawrence Okoye who also hails from the land of crumpets and tea (that’s right, right?).

But the most tantalizing raw foreign talent is surely the aforementioned Ezekiel Ansah. Among players at the combine, Ansah tied William Gholston for most passes batted at the line. He was third in percentage of tackles for two yards or less. And amongst the top pass rushing prospects Ezekiel Ansah had the most sacks and pressures per snap. In just his third season playing any sort of football, Ansah had 49% of his 62 tackles came within 2 yards of the line of scrimmage. All of those numbers are courtesy of @JPStats on twitter.

This guy is so new to football but he’s already creating an impact on the field and he took over the senior bowl where he won the “Most Outstanding Defensive Player” award, seven tackles (six solo), 1.5 sacks (for 13 yards), 3.5 tackles for loss (for 24 yards), a pass breakup, and a forced fumble. Ezekiel Ansah is raw, that is undeniable (depending on what you mean). But for someone so raw he displays a sense of awareness well beyond his years.

Name

Height

Weight

Arm Length

10 Yd. Split

Vert. Jump

3 Cone Drill

Ezekiel Ansah

6’5” 271 35 1/8” 1.62 34.5”

7.11

Jason Pierre-Paul

6’5” 270 34 ¾” 1.65 30.5

7.18

Aldon Smith

6’4” 263 35 3/8” 1.66 34”

7.19

Chandler Jones

6’5” 266 35 ½” 1.66 35”

7.07

Quinton Coples

6’5” 284 33 ¼” 1.63 31.5”

7.57

JJ Watt

6’5” 290 34” 1.64 37”

6.88

Carlos Dunlap 6’5” 278 34 5/8” 1.61 31.5

7.21

A Team Building Theorem

Peyton Manning

Peyton is not the rule, he’s the exception.

Building a winning football team isn’t about focusing on certain spots, there is no special forumla. There is one formula that, in my opinion, is the only winning forumla there is: acquire the best football players you can and things will take care of themselves*. That seems super simple, right? Elementary, my good man! But, apparently not in the silly season we call the NFL offseason.

*this is completely dependent on having a competent coaching staff and/or Peyton Manning

Once the calendar flips to March, every single NFL pundit, fan and scout lose their minds over one position: Quarterbacks. They go crazy. The QB spot is like a drug, almost like the dopamine of sport. Everyone looooves the QB and that is under selling it. This thirst for the QB position, this desperation, leads to mistakes. It’s how Mark Sanchez got drafted fifth overall. It’s how Kyle Boller and Rex Grossman went in round one and it’s how teams give up bounties for guys like Matt Cassel, Kevin Kolb and Alex Smith.

This, in a nut-shell is what the overriding football theory is at this point:

It essentially boils down to this: Pass the ball and make the other QB uncomfortable and that’s how you win games. But I don’t think that’s the case. To make my argument, I’m calling upon four case samples as evidence: the Detroit Lions, the San Diego Chargers, the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks.

The Detroit Lions:

They’ve got a #1 pick lined up as their QB and he’s quite good. Matt Stafford has thrown for 9734 yards and 61 touchdowns the past two seasons. They have potentially the most talented WR to ever play the game lining up on the perimeter in Calvin Johnson. They’ve invested three top-two-round picks in pass catchers in four years. And as far as making QBs uncomfortable, they’re pretty set with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley who they spent top-13 picks on and prior to losing him to NFL free agency, they had Cliff Avril as well.

By football theory standards, the Detroit Lions should be the crown jewel of the football world. In my eyes the Detroit Lions poke a pretty big hole in the “pass the ball and rush the passer” theory. They haven’t done anything despite following the new-wave football model to a T. The reason I bring up the Detroit Lions is this: Winning football games isn’t as simple as passing the ball and rushing the passer and having a great QB with a great passing game doesn’t just magically win you games. Which brings me to the next point in my argument: the San Diego Chargers.

The San Diego Chargers:

philip_rivers_009Philip Rivers is funny, isn’t he? In 2009 and 2010 Philip Rivers threw for 8964 yards, 58 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. In 2011 and 2012 Philip Rivers threw for 8230 yards, 53 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. His yards and touchdowns decreased by 9.1% while his interceptions increased by 15.9%. His team also won seven fewer games in the same two year span.

So what happened? Did Philip Rivers the QB get worse? Because it appears the decline of the Chargers and Philip Rivers closely correlates with the mass exodus of talent from their roster. From the start of 2009 to the start of 2012 season the Chargers lost Ladanian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles, Mike Tolbert, Vincent Jackson, Kris Dielman, Marcus McNeil, Antonio Cromartie and Shawne Merriman amongst others.

What’s my point? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Philip Rivers has slipped as his supporting cast has made their way out of San Diego. The supporting cast matters more than you think unless you’ve got a rare QB like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Rivers is a good QB, they spent a high pick on him and they gave him a coaching staff tailored to him and it didn’t translate into wins.

The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks

These two teams have created some serious buzz in the past two seasons. The 49ers have been to one superbowl and two NFC Championship games. And the Seattle Seahawks have had a rapid ascension that ended with a last second loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs last season. Both teams appear to be destined for big things in the coming seasons, but here’s the kicker: their starting QBs are second and third round picks, respectively. Last season Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson combined for 4932 yards, 36 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 904 rushing yards and 9 rushing touchdowns. That sort of production and efficiency is astounding from young QBs, but they weren’t highly regarded when they entered the league as day two picks. So, what gives? They have fantastic supporting casts and schemes that fit them, they landed in perfect situations.

As talented as Kaepernick and Wilson are, would they be as successful if they were in Oakland and Jacksonville? Absolutely not. Would they still be good for those franchises? I’m sure they could be but they certainly wouldn’t be enjoying the early success they’re currently enjoying if those defenses weren’t putting them in position to win games, if they weren’t handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore, if they weren’t standing behind Russell Okung and Max Unger and Joe Staley and Anthony Davis and they didn’t have great coaches. Just like Philip Rivers is struggling without Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles and Marcus McNeil.

So what?

Build a foundation.

If you’re a bad team and a QB just happens to be the best player on the board (Colts, Redskins etc.) then good for you, the starts aligned and you’re in a great position to build a team. But more often than not, the QB isn’t going to be the best player left on the board and you end up reaching for a guy because traditional wisdom says that finding a great QB is like finding the golden god of football to come and save your team.

Finding great passers like Matt Stafford, Robert Griffin III and Matt Ryan is really, really hard. Finding great QBs who are great passers but also elevate the level of play around them like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and soon-to-be Andrew Luck is even harder. If you’re not careful, you’ll get caught with quarterback-goggles (the NFL equivalent of beer goggles) and end up chasing ghosts.

For a vast majority of teams that don’t have the luxury of drafting the Andrew Luck-s and RGIII-s of the world it’s a matter of manufacturing good QB play and developing passers. By drafting the best player available (assuming it works out) you’re building a foundation. A foundation that gives the QB you decide to take a chance on the best chance at succeeding. So when the Eagles draft “Joe Rugged, Trench Player from ‘Really Tough School’” this Thursday know that it’s going to improve the roster and help give whatever QB we trot out on Sundays a better shot at winning.

Note, this is a team building theory. This theory applies to teams that are building because as a a team gets more and more successful and the needs become more particular the drafting methodology should definitely shift towards more of a need based system in my eyes. But for a team like the Eagles that doesn’t have many long term solutions on the roster, the only theory that applies is the “Best Player Available” theory.

It’s a simple concept that a lot of smart people forget in April.

So you drafted Matt Elam.

Matt Elam
Typically I’ve only highlighted round one targets with this little series of posts but Matt Elam is a guy that I feel really strongly about and would absolutely love at the top of round two. He’s a personal favorite of mine.

Everyone knows Cris Carter, the hall of fame wide receiver who played the vast majority of his career as a Viking, but did you know he had a son in the draft? Duron Carter is taking the Bryce Brown road. Carter reportedly hated school and it led to him being a part of four programs in four years: Ohio State, Coffeyeville Community College, Alabama and Florida Atlantic University. Gil Brandt says reliability is a huge question and Carter only compounded the problem when he missed the regional combine with the flu. People that know Duron seem to believe that the younger Carter is riddled with a sense of entitlement and his twitter bio, “Like father like son I’m destined to be great, it’s in my blood”, doesn’t do much to dispel that. Carter doesn’t lack talent, he wouldn’t have been given so many opportunities if he did. So what is Carter’s problem? He doesn’t appear to have the “stuff”. He says he loves the game but he hasn’t overcame anything, he hasn’t been through the grind and he hasn’t shown the desire and hunger to be great.

Why do I mention Duron Carter in a Matt Elam piece? Because I want you to realize just how different they are. While Carter goes from school to school and Matt Elam is sacrificing his body in the SEC, it’s not just a difference in temperament and circumstance. Matt Elam’s story and background are the complete antithesis to those of Duron Carter. Elam’s story, what’s he been through, really lends itself to the fire and intensity Matt Elam has on constant display between the sidelines.