NFL Nation: Tony Hunt

Draft Watch: NFC East

March, 17, 2011
3/17/11
12:00
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NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: draft rewind -- examining the past five drafts.

Dallas Cowboys

Best choice: Mike Jenkins, CB, first round (2008). The Cowboys have selected 40 players over the past five drafts. Jenkins is the only one to earn Pro Bowl honors. Check back in a couple seasons to see whether receiver Dez Bryant has joined him. Doug Free, a fourth-rounder in 2007, made a run at this distinction after emerging as a solid starting left tackle in 2010. Jenkins suffered through a down season and needs to bounce back.

Worst choice: Bobby Carpenter, LB, first round (2006). The Cowboys got very little from Carpenter and their 2006 class overall. Carpenter started three games for Dallas in four seasons with the team. The Cowboys traded him to St. Louis before the 2010 season in a deal that brought them penalty-prone tackle Alex Barron.

On the bubble: Felix Jones, RB, first round (2008). By bubble, we’re not talking about job security, but rather about Jones’ status as a player seeking to realize more of his potential. The weight Jones added last season might have slowed him. He has the talent to take the next step. Improved play from the offensive line would help.

Washington Redskins

Best choice: Brian Orakpo, OLB, first round (2009). Two Pro Bowl appearances in two seasons make Orakpo the clear choice for Washington among the 33 players drafted since 2006. Some of the others are productive, of course, but none has earned Pro Bowl honors.

Worst choice: Chad Rinehart, G, third round (2008). Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly made this a three-way race. The Redskins have used only nine choices in the first three rounds of the past five drafts. I wasn’t going to single out later-round picks as disappointments. Rinehart suffered a broken fibula during his second season. He had a DUI arrest shortly after Mike Shanahan arrived as head coach. The Redskins released Rinehart before last season.

On the bubble: Kevin Barnes, CB, third round (2009). Barnes has only two starts, but he finished strong last season after getting a look at safety. Barnes picked off a pass against Jacksonville to set up the winning field goal in overtime. A sign of things to come?

Philadelphia Eagles

Best choice: DeSean Jackson, WR, second round (2008). Jackson is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Making two Pro Bowls in three seasons is particularly impressive for a receiver. Lots of receivers put up good numbers, but few can match Jackson in the big-play department. He is a game-changer.

Worst choice: Tony Hunt, RB, third round (2007). Hunt was a curious selection because he didn’t seem to fit the Eagles’ offense. The team tried Hunt at fullback before releasing him during the 2008 season. Hunt has recently resurfaced in an Austrian league. Seriously.

On the bubble: Kevin Kolb, QB, second round (2007). Kolb enters a crossroads season with the Eagles after losing the starting job to Michael Vick. It was nothing personal -- Vick simply outplayed him. Will the Eagles trade Kolb or keep him around?

New York Giants

Best choice: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, seventh round (2007). Bradshaw broke out with 1,235 yards and eight touchdowns last season. That was terrific production for any back, let alone one selected with the 250th overall choice. Bradshaw lost five fumbles in the first 10 games of the season, however, and lost his starting job.

Worst choice: Sinorice Moss, WR, second round (2006). Moss started only two games and caught three touchdown passes during four seasons with the Giants. A hernia injury sidelined Moss last season, and the team released him. He has not played in a game since 2009. The Eagles signed Moss earlier this offseason.

On the bubble: Aaron Ross, CB, first round (2007). Ross has only two starts with no interceptions over the past two seasons, a sharp downturn from his first two seasons. Injuries have played a leading role in Ross’ diminished production. A hamstring injury bothered him in 2009. Plantar fasciitis was a problem last season. He needs to get healthy.

Draft Watch: NFC East

February, 24, 2010
2/24/10
2:00
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NFC Busts/Gems: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Busts and late-round gems.

Dallas Cowboys

From a bust standpoint, let me offer up the '09 draft class. But that's not completely fair because the class was pretty much wiped out by injuries last season. The one unquestionable gem is USC kickoff specialist David Buehler. Some of us laughed when the Cowboys spent a sixth-round pick on a player who wasn't supposed to compete for the place-kicking job. But Buehler led the league in touchbacks and participated on the punt and kick return units. Another gem is 2008 fourth-round pick Tashard Choice. When offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has gotten him on the field, Choice has produced in a big way. In 2008, he appeared to be the most complete back on the roster at times. From a bust standpoint, go back to the '07 draft and look at third-round pick James Marten out of Boston College. You could tell pretty quickly that Marten wasn't a player. And in the fourth round of that same draft, the Cowboys got cute in taking former University of Washington quarterback Isaiah Stanback to play wide receiver. Stanback was a shoulder injury waiting to happen and he didn't take advantage of numerous opportunities.

New York Giants

They'll be talking about the '07 draft for years. The Giants have four starters from that class and they found the ultimate gem in seventh-rounder Ahmad Bradshaw. The former Marshall running back had some off-the-field issues that caused him to plummet in the draft, but he was a valuable part of the Giants' march to the Super Bowl in '07. The Giants also landed cornerback Aaron Ross (first), wide receiver Steve Smith (second) and tight end Kevin Boss (fifth) in that draft. And don't forget about starting safety Michael Johnson (seventh). That's the draft that put new general manager Jerry Reese on the map. In '08, the Giants were able to land starting safety Kenny Phillips late in the first round and Terrell Thomas late in the second. Phillips appeared to be on his way to stardom but a season-ending knee injury in '09 has tempered those expectations. Thomas was forced into a starting position in '09 and performed admirably. We're still waiting to find out what mid-round picks Bryan Kehl and Jonathan Goff turn out to be. Those guys aren't really gems or busts. The verdict's still out on 2009 second-round pick Clint Sintim. Certainly not a bust, but he needs to show something this season. And for all the time we spent bragging on Cal Poly wide receiver Ramses Barden, the guy couldn't get on the field. If he can't get on the field in 2010, he'll be trending toward bust status. North Carolina State running back Andre Brown had gem potential, but he suffered a season-ending injury in training camp.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles found two gems in the '07 draft. Stewart Bradley is a quality starting middle linebacker who was selected in the third round and the Eagles took Pro Bowl-worthy tight end Brent Celek in the fifth round. The two players have become close friends and they're a huge part of the Eagles' future. In fact, Philly has already signed Celek to a contract extension. From a bust standpoint, the Eagles wasted a pick on Penn State running back Tony Hunt in '07. It's hard to believe that they took Hunt in the third round. And it's not as if Victor Abiamiri has been some type of standout second-round pick. Obviously, we're still waiting to see what becomes of the Eagles' top pick in '07, Kevin Kolb. In '08, the Eagles landed DeSean Jackson in the second round. But two picks before Jackson, they selected defensive tackle Trevor Laws. So there's your boom and bust scenario. The rest of that class is pretty forgettable. Fourth-round selection Quintin Demps has been serviceable, but I wouldn't refer to him as a hidden gem or anything. From the '09 class, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy were excellent value picks. They should both be a huge part of the offense for several years. Moise Fokou was a gem in the seventh round. He has the potential to be a special-teams standout and he eventually cracked the starting lineup, although that was predicated by a string of injuries. Still, it's obvious the Eagles like Fokou. He's constantly around the ball.

Washington Redskins

The '07 draft was pretty much a waste of time. The Redskins barely had any picks, but they did manage to select safety LaRon Landry sixth overall. The tragic loss of Sean Taylor meant that Landry had to become the main man at safety. He wasn't ready for that type of responsibility and he's never really lived up to his immense potential. We'll see if Jim Haslett can help him reach the next level. In the second round of the '08 draft, the Skins took wide receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. Neither player has really distinguished himself, although Thomas took some important steps in '09. Kelly won the starting job coming out of training camp, but he didn't do anything with it. Sandwiched between those two picks was former USC tight end Fred Davis. He came on strong in '09 once Chris Cooley was lost to injury. It looks like Davis will be a player. Thomas and Kelly could go either way. Unless there's a dramatic change this offseason, third-round pick Chad Rinehart will be a bust at guard. Seventh-round pick Chris Horton was a great story early in 2008, but his star has faded a bit. Until he reclaims his starting safety spot, it's hard to call him a gem. The '09 draft was another one-hit wonder. It looks like first-round pick Brian Orakpo will be a perennial Pro Bowler. He's an excellent pass-rusher and I think he'll flourish in Haslett's 3-4 scheme. No one else in the class stood out.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The Eagles continued to retool their offense by selecting Pittsburgh running back LeSean McCoy. I think the Eagles immediately targeted McCoy when Knowshon Moreno went to the Broncos at No. 12 overall. Being able to stay at No. 53 and still get a quality back is a win for the Eagles. The Eagles have struck out with backs such Ryan Moats and Tony Hunt in the third round, but McCoy should be a much better fit. He's an instinctive runner with really soft hands.

He had some issues with picking up the blitz, but I think his lateral quickness and his experience in a pro-style offense will help his cause. Chris Wells would have been a poor fit in Philly because he is a power back who relies on angle blocking. McCoy should do really well in a zone blocking scheme like the Eagles use. I think the Eagles have picked up two explosive players on the first day and they used another first-round pick to land an elite left tackle. All in all, a pretty solid day for the Eagles.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

 
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  The Eagles might be better off waiting until the middle rounds to pick a running back. Shonn Greene is one possibility.

As we prepare to finalize the Beast draft board, which oddly enough looks almost exactly like Todd McShay's, something keeps bothering me. Yes, I know that Eagles fans and their local reporters have all but assured us the club will take a running back in the first round, but I'm still not buying it.

Maybe it has something to do with the Eagles not taking a running back in the first round since Keith Byars in 1986. Or perhaps it's the fact they recently gave All-Pro running back Brian Westbrook, a third-round pick in 2002, a long-term extension. I know he turns 30 this September, but it seems a bit premature to start planning his retirement party.

Even the Philadelphia Daily News' esteemed NFL columnist, Paul Domowitch, has issued a running back guarantee in the first round, although the Eagles had two picks at the time. The thought is the Eagles will select either Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno or Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells with that No. 21 overall pick. My response to that is, "Why?"

If you don't think talented running backs grow on trees, you haven't looked around the NFC East lately. Over the last couple seasons, the Giants have had one of the best stable of running backs in the league. Starter Brandon Jacobs was taken in the fourth round out of Southern Illinois. His backup the past two seasons, Derrick Ward, was taken by the Jets in the seventh round in 2004, and he signed a four-year, $17 million contract with Tampa Bay thos offseason. And the man dubbed "Fire" in the Giants' version of "Earth, Wind and Fire," Ahmad Bradshaw, was the 250th pick in the 2007 draft.

The Cowboys are led by feature back Marion Barber (fourth-rounder), and former Georgia Tech star Tashard Choice (fourth round) appears to be an excellent complementary piece to Barber and first-rounder Felix Jones. When you throw in Westbrook, the top three running backs in the division were taken in the third round or later.

 
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  An inside look at tight end Brandon Pettigrew from Oklahoma State.

And if we're being too provincial, let's take a look at a team like the San Diego Chargers that has hit on backs like Michael Turner (fifth round) and Darren Sproles (fourth round). I could bring up the ultimate second-day guy in Terrell Davis, but this is starting to feel like overkill. (Priest Holmes anyone?)

So, explain to me again why the Eagles have to take a running back in the first round Saturday? In my mind, it would be a luxury pick, which is OK if you don't have a specific need at any position. But I happen to think the Eagles would be foolish to call Brent Celek their No. 1 tight end and just move on down the road -- especially with a potentially elite player such as Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew sitting there. There, I've said it. I would take Pettigrew before either of the top running backs (Moreno and Wells). You might even be able to trade down a spot or two and still end up with Pettigrew.

In his latest seven-round mock draft, Todd McShay has Wells going to the Chargers at No. 16 overall and Moreno going to the Eagles at No. 21. I think most Eagles fans would be pleased with that result, but I think the Eagles would be better off taking someone like Iowa's Shonn Greene in the third round. Both Moreno and Greene have excellent instincts and would be good fits in the Eagles' zone running game. I've talked to scouts who've said that Wells would be much better suited in a power running game that features more angle blocking. And if you don't like my man Greene, take a look at LeSean McCoy in the second round. I just don't see a huge separation between the first-, second- or third-round running backs. Now if you want to refute some of the things I'm saying, check out this Bob Brookover story in the Philly Inquirer.

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Though management hasn't admitted as much, perhaps the Eagles are a little gun shy about waiting on a running back this year because of their recent past. Spending third-round picks on Ryan Moats in 2005 and Tony Hunt in 2007 didn't exactly work out -- and so far the Lorenzo Booker experiment (acquired in a trade) isn't faring much better. Maybe they think it's time to end the 23-year streak of not taking a back in the first round.

In my mind, the Eagles are better off waiting at running back. This time of year, I talk to a lot of scouts. But sometimes it's important to talk to the men who are actually going to coach these players. I wanted to know why running backs seem to have an easier time making the transition to the NFL than other position players -- and why you can find so many of them throughout the draft.

"I think it's because that's where you put your best athletes," said the Jets' new running backs coach, Anthony Lynn. "The running back position is more instinctive than any of the other spots. That's something you can't coach. You either have it or you don't. And for whatever reason, the guys who have it aren't confined to the top of the draft."

If the Eagles stay at No. 21 Saturday, they'll have a decision to make at running back. My suggestion is that they stick to tradition -- and wait.

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