Dec 092011
USC QB Matt Barkley

Could USC QB Matt Barkley end up with the Eagles?

Pretty much the only thing left to look forward to in this lost debacle of an Eagles season is next year’s draft.  So let’s do that.

Of course, right off the bat the problem with this exercise is that the same people who currently run the front office are the same ones who have created this current mess.  Their decision-making ability is suspect, at best.  Still, let’s forget for a minute that this is the case and work strictly in hypotheticals.  Specifically speaking, let’s look at what could be a real possibility come the 2012 draft — the Eagles using their likely-high draft position to address the future at quarterback.

As it stands right now the Eagles will have a top ten pick in the draft and there could be up to four potential franchise quarterbacks available.  With Michael Vick being a beat-up 32 this summer, not to mention his inability to read defenses or pick up the blitz, his propensity for throwing red zone picks, and the league pretty much figuring him out (plus his potential for engaging in atrocious acts that will get him banned for life), the Eagles will need to seriously consider taking advantage of their draft spot to secure the future at the most important position in the sport.

The Eagles have huge needs at other positions, especially linebacker and safety, but it’s hard to pass on the ability to draft a franchise quarterback when the one you have matches those traits described above.  Ideally this would be the last top ten pick the Eagles have for a while so they need to act.  And with the Eagles specifically designing the injury-prone Vick’s mirage of a “$100 million contract” to allow them to get out of it after 2012, it makes perfect sense to make a run at a hopefully championship-level starter for the next decade.

The current Eagles front office have already demonstrated their commitment to the position so it’s not a stretch to speculate on their thinking here.  Head coach Andy Reid’s first pick was Donovan McNabb, as Reid knew the Eagles needed a true franchise quarterback (despite everyone else wanting Ricky Williams) used the second pick in the draft to make it happen.  Later on, Reid drafted McNabb’s intended replacement, Kevin Kolb, far earlier than anyone expected.  And now with Vick demonstrating that he’s just not the long-term answer, the forward-thinking front office needs to starting thinking about right now.

Here’s a look at the best quarterbacks that project to be available this coming April:

Andrew Luck, Stanford – the best quarterback prospect to come out since the player he’ll likely end up replacing — Peyton Manning.  The guy is smarter than most, has great size and a big arm, and is a natural leader.  Plus, for a big man he has very decent mobility.  The perfect quarterback to build a franchise around, plus he has the ability and intelligence to be able to play right away.

Matt Barkley, USC – The phenom-prospect out of high school has improved each year in college and is poised to go in the top five of the draft, just like the quarterback Barkley compares to both physically and skills-wise and who he replaced at SC — Mark Sanchez.  That comparison to Sanchez, who has both excelled and struggled with the Jets, may have some people looking down on Barkley, but it’s hard to ignore the guy’s talent.  But since he’s a junior who could choose to return to school (unlike Sanchez), it’s no guarantee Barkley comes out.  If he doesn’t he would likely have the inside track on both the Heisman and becoming the first pick in 2013.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor – This guy will remind people of Donovan McNabb, just without the limp personality and propensity for worm burners.  RGIII is a great athlete with speed and agility, but he also has a strong arm and fantastic touch downfield.  He’s also very intelligent.  The best part though is that unlike McNabb, Griffin is accurate as well (73% completion rate this season).  It would be appropriate for the Eagles to go this route and get the guy they should have got with McNabb way back when.  The only drawback right now is that, like Barkley, Griffin is a junior who could decide to return to school.  If they both stay in school this entire scenario is pretty much shot, though it would make for a fun Heisman race.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma – Jones is tall and talented, with a solid arm and good accuracy.  While a more traditional pocket passer without a lot of mobility, Jones is a very smart player and a natural leader.  Definitely a potential frachise-type prospect though he may benefit from watching and learning for a bit.

The talent falls off a bit from there, with probably no other prospect grading out in the first round.  So that’s four potential franchise signal callers that could be had in the top 10-15 picks.  With Vick almost guaranteed to be around for 2012 due to that contract, the Eagles can draft for the future and allow the rookie to sit back and take it all in for at least a year.  And with Vick’s inevitable injuries and missed time, there will likely be multiple opportunities to throw the new guy into the fire for a bit to get him a taste of life in the NFL.  It’s how Kolb himself became a hot name on the market, and that same approach should work well for developing a guy they actually end up keeping.

Here’s how the Eagles competition in the draft stack up, both in terms of draft position as well as the likelihood of that team needing and/or taking a quarterback high (current top 10 draft order through Week 12):

1.  Indianapolis Colts – it’s pretty much a slam dunk they take Luck.  I’m not even considering him as a possibility for the Eagles, though they do have two second round picks to play with.  But again, the possible dream-scenario of the Eagles trading up (their first and two second rounders and a franchise-tagged DeSean Jackson?) is not something I intend to delude myself with speculating on…

2.  St Louis Rams – Sam Bradford has had a nightmare season but he’s not going anywhere nor are they drafting his replacement any time soon.

3.  Minnesota Vikings – They just drafted Christian Ponder with the twelfth pick in the 2011 draft.  He’s definitely looked like a rookie since taking the starter’s job away from Donnie McDancing, but he’s also shown some nice potential.  Too much invested to replace already.

4.  Jacksonville Jaguars – Like the Vikings, they drafted a quarterback very high in the 2011 draft, specifically Blaine Gabbert with the tenth pick.  Unfortunately for them, Gabbert has looked really, really bad as a rookie, but it’s hard to imagine they dump a top ten pick after one season, despite dumping their head coach.

5.  Washington Redskins – This is the Eagles first real competition for a quarterback-not-named-Luck.  USC’s Matt Barkley would most likely be a Redskin immediately after the pick is announced for the Jags.

6.  Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton is far better than even his most blind-supporters could have expected.  Good for him.

7.  Cleveland Browns – Here’s the next threat to the Eagles plans to draft a quarterback.  With each passing week it becomes more and more clear that Colt McCoy isn’t the answer in Cleveland.  Could the Browns decide to move on and draft a replacement?  Very possible.  And now, with the Browns getting blasted by McCoy’s father for the ill-conceived move of putting him back in against Pittsburgh Thursday night after McCoy clearly suffered a concussion, a divorce at this point seems inevitable.

8.  Philadelphia Eagles – In this scenario the Eagles should have the choice of either Jones or RGIII, assuming Barkley goes next after Luck.  Those aren’t bad options though at the 8th pick it may seem the value isn’t quite right, though it’s fair for speculation at this point.  It’s also very likely that after offseason workouts and evaluations are complete that both Barkley and Griffin are considered locks for the top ten, even five, with Jones probably falling in the top 15-20 range.  So the Eagles could either look at moving up using that extra second rounder, or maybe even moving back to add more high picks to be used on filling out the team with linebackers and safeties who don’t actually suck.

9.  Miami Dolphins – At one point it looked like the Dolphins were guaranteed to secure the top pick and take Luck.  However, with Miami’s recent turnaround they have cost themselves that chance but they should still be in line to address the quarterback position.  And that’s assuming they haven’t decided to commit to Matt Moore, as unlikely as that is.  How Sunday’s game goes between the Eagles and Dolphins is going to have a big impact on both team’s draft spots.

10.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers – While Josh Freeman has regressed this season he’s not going anywhere.

The Chiefs, Seahawks, and Cardinals are also teams hovering around the top ten that could potentially take a quarterback high.

Personally, I’d like the Eagles to grab either Barkley or RGIII if they’re there, assuming of course they don’t go insane and trade the farm for Luck.  Then again, while the possibility of landing a super-prospect like Luck is incredible to imagine, hamstringing the team by stripping it of premium draft picks isn’t a great idea either.  Maybe if the team was a little more solid, but poor decisions in managing personnel have created the current state of the team so mortgaging the future for one player may not be the best of ideas.  Then again, those poor personnel decisions could be used as fuel for the argument that trading picks away for a can’t-miss prospect like Luck makes the most sense.  Not having picks prevents them from being wasted.  No simple answers here.

It’s still way early but with no playoffs to look forward to this is what we’re left with.  And despite knowing that each Eagles win sabotages these well-constructed draft fantasies, not to mention my personal distaste for the pyschopath at quarterback, it’s pretty much impossible to root for an Eagles loss this Sunday.  Go Birds!

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