Kelly: Prospects having degree 'a big deal'

PHILADELPHIA -- It's not a requirement to have a college degree in order to be drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles.

It sure does help, though, with coach Chip Kelly's intricate system.

"I would say it's coincidence, but I believe it's a benefit though," Kelly said. "We don't look at it and say we'll take him for this. We'll take him because of the whole package. But I think it's a benefit for everybody to stay for four years. I think [cornerback] Jaylen [Watkins], I'm almost positive. I think Jaylen's another one that's a college graduate. He's graduated. So to us, that's a big deal. It's what we want. We want smart, tough, physical football players."

In addition to Watkins, Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff graduated. So did wide receiver Jordan Matthews, the No. 42 overall pick from Vanderbilt who received a degree in economics in three-and-a-half years.

"I don't think anybody can ever say ‑‑ you can never have a football team that's too smart," Kelly said. "I think it's a huge weapon when you're evaluating these guys in terms of there are so many different components that go into it, but that's a big component in terms of what you want. Because you have the ability and the flexibility to do a lot of different things if you have very, very intelligent players."

When pressed further, Kelly was even more forthcoming.

"I think it's important from the standpoint of, No. 1, intelligence is a huge part of what we're looking for in every aspect that we do, whether it's offense, defense or special teams," Kelly said. "So the fact that they have a degree is proven where they are from an intelligence factor. The other thing, it's also what is their commitment? They set goals out for themselves and can they follow through for it? A lot of people can tell you they want to do this, this and this. But look at their accomplishments. Sometimes when you look at those things, it's always a plus when you have that. Tony Dungy came to speak to our team when I was at Oregon just to speak to our players about it, and I think he had some statistics that kind of blew our mind that the two teams from 2000 to 2010 that had the most graduates were the Colts and the Patriots, and there was something to it.

"Teams that are really successful seem to have that. No. 1, I think it shows their intelligence, but I also think it shows you their commitment and people's ability to follow through with goals."

Matthews had a goal of graduating before entering the NFL.

"I graduated with an economics degree," he said. "That was really important to me because I wanted to make sure that I was completely done with school when I got to the NFL because I wanted to wake up as a professional athlete and go to bed as a professional athlete. I didn't want to have to worry about going back to school or any of that stuff. I want to be a complete football player so I didn't want any distractions off the field including school. I was glad I was able to finish that and also give that degree to my mom."