The NFL Draft is just a couple of weeks away. We all sit around making up lists of players we want. You try to imagine certain guys wearing midnight green and scoring a touchdown or flying off the edge to sack the quarterback. Or for Eagles fans, a linebacker making a form tackle near the line of scrimmage. It is just fun to think of the new players the team might get and how they could work out.
I decided to put together a list of players I want the Eagles to avoid. These guys were stars in college and have good NFL talent. This isn't a bunch of scrubs that the team will automatically avoid anyway. These are talented players that you can't dismiss casually.
First up is cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Let's start with the most obvious fact: he was kicked out of Florida. Do you know how bad a star football player has to be for the Gators to say "hit the bricks, pal"? There was a new coaching staff in place and Jenkins thinks he would have played at Florida in 2011 if Urban Meyer had remained coach. That overlooks the fact he did enough to make the new staff want him gone. Coaches want good players. The only way someone is getting the boot is if the issues are serious and/or ongoing.
The primary culprit with Jenkins is marijuana. Apparently he was the SEC version of Cheech and Chong. To his credit, playing corner with a bong in one hand is pretty difficult. Okay, I exaggerate a little bit, but we just found out this week that after transferring to North Alabama Jenkins continued to smoke weed. I guess getting kicked out of Florida and significantly affecting your draft value wasn't as important as the next bong hit.
Jenkins has shown a pattern of choosing weed over football. That bugs me a lot. Michael Irvin and the rest of the degenerate Cowboys of the mid-90's partied as hard and wild as you can possibly imagine, but it never interfered with football. Between the white lines, those guys were all business. Then they went to the motel and snorted some other white lines. Irvin and the Boys chose football first. Partying only came after their business was taken care of on the field.
Jenkins is the second best cover corner in the draft (to Morris Claiborne...and some might choose Jenkins as the best pure cover guy) and yet Jenkins seems unlikely to go in the first round. What happens when you give a pothead a million bucks? Not good things. Rarely does a young man in Jenkins situation take his new found wealth and then give up his troubled ways. I stood next to Jenkins after Senior Bowl practices in Mobile and listened to him talk to reporters. I did not get good vibes. He seemed like the typical athlete/politician trying to say what people want to hear and hoping they'll buy it. I didn't.
The shame of this all is that Jenkins would be a good pick at 15. He could come in and be the slot corner for a couple of years. He could then slide outside and replace Nnamdi Asomugha. Jenkins has return specialist experience and talent. He could take some reps as the punt returner and compete for the kickoff returner spot. He would be a terrific addition to the Eagles. The team is going to meet with him to try and make sure they are comfortable with their assessment of him. I truly doubt anything he says will put him in play at 15. I wouldn't even have him on my draft board, but the Eagles could be tempted if he is available in the middle of the second round. I just don't trust him so I'd pass entirely.
The Eagles have had a private workout with tight end Orson Charles, the star from Georgia. He's another guy I want the team to avoid. Charles did recently have a DUI, but he didn't hide from the situation. He acknowledged it. Apparently he went out for his 21st birthday and didn't have proper transportation lined up. That's not the reason I want the Eagles to avoid him. I don't think Charles is a bad guy. He simply made a one time mistake.
My issues with Charles are on the field. He is a very good player, but he's not what the Eagles need. Charles is just 6-2 and a-half. Only two tight ends at the Combine had shorter arms than him. At his pro day his vertical jump was just 30.5 inches. Charles isn't a guy who will go up in the air and play the ball up high. He is a limited red zone threat. Charles caught just 10 touchdowns in three years. Compare that with Dwayne Allen, a tight end from Clemson who is similarly ranked to Charles. Allen had eight touchdowns in 2011. He excels at playing the ball in the air and is very good in the red zone.
Charles can be a good tight end for some team, but I just don't like him for the Eagles. He is a good blocker and athletic receiver. Think of him as a better version of Clay Harbor. If the Eagles desire to take a tight end early, get someone that can help in the red zone.
Was it all that long ago that linebacker Vontaze Burfict was the flavor of the month? His YouTube highlights had many fans clamoring for the Eagles to take him early. Burfict has gone downhill since then. To use an old joke, he hit rock bottom and then pulled out a shovel and started digging. Burfict has significant character questions. His on-field play became erratic, at best. His Combine and pro day workouts were flat out awful.
Some fans have now jumped on the "let's take Burfict late in the draft" bandwagon. No way. Avoid this guy like the plague. Burfict has NFL size. He has NFL ability. He has a junior high school head. I don't mean that he's dumb. I have no idea about that. He's emotionally immature. There is an old saying that tough times don't develop character, they reveal it. Burfict should have been the team leader on a talented Arizona State squad.
Life was good for a while in 2011. The Sun Devils were 6-2 in late October. The defense had only given up more than 30 points to Missouri and USC. The schedule was favorable. They had a chance to go to the Pac-12 title game and possibly the Rose Bowl. Burfict wasn't having a great year, but was solid. For some reason, the wheels fell off. ASU lost five straight cames. The defense gave up 29 points or more in each game. Burfict's play got sloppy enough that the coaching staff benched him a couple of times. When the going got tough, Burfict and the Sun Devils fell apart.
I think Burfict can make it in the league, but he needs a few things. He needs to play in a downhill system where he can attack the line of scrimmage. He needs a good head coach. He needs a veteran defensive coordinator who can work with him. He needs a veteran linebacker who can work with him. Andy Reid is a good coach, but he's an offensive guy. I don't think he'd be great help as a mentor to Burfict. DeMeco Ryans could help Burfict out, but Ryans is new to the Eagles and will be learning things on his own. I don't know that giving him a major project like Burfict would make much sense. There simply are too many variables for Burfict to be an Eagles target.
ASU has another polarizing player, quarterback Brock Osweiler. He is a junior who had a breakout season in 2011. He had very limited experience, but played well enough to finish 11th in the country in total offense. Osweiler threw for 4,036 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2011. He came from nowhere to be a star player.
It was a bit of a surprise for Osweiler to declare for the draft. Most people think you need two years of starting experience to succeed in the NFL. Osweiler could have really helped himself by staying in school for 2012. Unfortunately things got crazy for ASU after the bad end to the season. Coach Dennis Erickson was fired and the staff changed. This upset Osweiler and led him to go pro.
A lot of people are high on Osweiler. They like his arm, size, and potential as a pocket passer. I am not among these people. I see a physically talented passer, but I don't see a good quarterback. Intangibles play a huge part in quarterback evaluation. In my mind, Osweiler is severely lacking in this area. He started for one year in a spread offense. He was the key player on a team that ended with a five-game losing streak. The offense did score points in the games, but there were some key moments when the offense didn't deliver the big play. Just looking at final stats can be very deceiving.
Osweiler is a project. He needs to learn about the mechanics of passing, how to read defenses, how to run an offense, and also how to be a leader. He's too emotional. Maybe that changes in the NFL, but you never know. I didn't think the decision to turn pro showed cool, level-headed thinking. Seemed more like an emotional decision. Not a good sign to me. I don't think Osweiler is a good fit for the Eagles as a quarterback. He's not so talented that you take him and force the issue. Let him go somewhere that wants tall pocket passers.
Any of you who read my weekly notes over at ScoutsNotebook know that I wrote a ton of good things about Devon Still during the regular season. He was terrific for the first 10 or so games of Penn State's season. In the last few weeks the Nittany Lions faced big, strong offensive lines in Nebraska, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. Still's level of play dipped. Was it the change in competition or the Joe Paterno chaos getting to him?
Still is a talented prospect and likely will go in the first round. There is no chance the Eagles take him at 15. If Still somehow slides to the mid-second, I don't want the Eagles to go for him. Jim Washburn needs a certain kind of player. He needs guys that are relentless when it comes to getting after the quarterback. He needs guys that are physically tough and mentally tough. Washburn is tough on his players. His theory is something along the lines of "If you can't handle my coaching, how the heck are you gonna handle life on the field when a couple of big uglies are blocking you?".
Still was very productive this year, but if you study the tape you see that he is far from relentless. Still has a bad habit of not fighting through double teams. When blocked, he tended to let up and just watch the play. That won't cut it in the NFL. If two blockers are on you, you must fight to get by them. Even if they keep you blocked, make them work hard to do it. Washburn wants his players to go all out every snap. He rotates them quickly to keep them fresh. There is no need to pace yourself. Too often, it looked like Still was pacing himself at Penn State.
There is a question with Still about whether he's best suited for 3-4 end or 4-3 tackle. He's big enough for either spot. He certainly has NFL talent. Still must start to play with more of an edge. I was really bothered by him skipping the Senior Bowl. That showed a lack of competitiveness that I think has hurt his draft value. He's now being talked about as a late first/early second round guy. Back in January the questions were about him going in the Top 10. He was the top defensive tackle. Now he's not in the top three or four. While Still can succeed in the NFL, I think he would be a poor fit for Washburn's system. Let's hope the Eagles pass on him.