Friday, April 26, 2013
Eagles pass on Geno Smith, take Zach Ertz
By Dan Graziano
With the third pick in the second round of the NFL draft Friday, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted a new weapon for new coach Chip Kelly's offense, but it wasn't West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. It was Stanford tight end Zach Ertz, a player Kelly knows from coaching against him in the same conference while at Oregon and whose size and speed will open up a lot of things for the Philadelphia passing game.
It seems like an odd fit at first, with Brent Celek and newly signed James Casey already on the roster. But remember, the buzzword for Kelly since he arrived has been "versatility," and Celek, Casey and Ertz are all very different types of players. Ertz can line up tight, wide or even in the backfield and is most dangerous after the catch because his speed makes him hard to catch, and his size (6-foot-5, 249 pounds) makes him hard to bring down. If the goal is to create mismatches in the opposing secondary, Ertz is the type of guy who can do that. His presence, as well as the versatile Casey's, likely means Celek will be used more as a blocker, but Celek's receiving ability will make people think if he's in the game in two-tight-end sets along with one of the other two. It's possible Kelly could use sets that include all three, with Casey lined up as a fullback.
As we have been discussing at length since Kelly was hired, Kelly likely isn't looking to impose a certain offensive "system" in Philadelphia as much as keep open his options for outsmarting and outlasting opposing defenses. If his plan is to try and run more plays per game than anyone in the NFL ever has, he'll need lots of dynamic bodies he can rotate in and out of the same positions. Ertz obviously appeals as someone who can fill a few roles immediately, even if those roles are already filled by others. There should be plenty of plays to go around.
As for Smith, who continues to tumble
who knows? At this point, he could theoretically be there for the Eagles in the third round if they still want him. Or they could have their eye on another of the remaining quarterbacks in the draft, such as Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib or Matt Scott. I still expect them to take a quarterback at some point in this draft, but they don't need one to start this season, and Kelly's idea about which one he wants might not jive with the draft boards the pre-draft pundits and experts spent all those months putting together.
UPDATE: Smith is off the board, taken by the Jets four picks after Ertz at No. 39.