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May 05, 2015

The Eagles are screwed at OL: Part II

Eagles NFL
050515JasonPeters Matt Rourke/AP

Jason "The Big Anomaly" Peters

As we covered at length yesterday, the Eagles' biggest mistake of the 2014 offseason (and perhaps also the 2013 offseason) may eventually turn out to be their failure to bring in quality talent along the offensive line

If anything, I thought I was going a long way to state the obvious in that article, which is, (cups hand in front of mouth for better acoustics)... 


Feedback from that piece has not been received well. If you disagree with things I wrote, *you're dumb and I hate you.

We summed up the Eagles' short-term and long-term issues on the OL like so:

• In the short term, the Eagles will be in decent shape if everyone stays healthy. If they don't stay healthy, they'll be counting on undrafted free agents and marginal NFL roster-worthy players to provide their depth along the OL. It has the strong potential to cost them games, like it did in 2014.
• In the long term, the Eagles don't have much to be excited about on their bench in terms of future starters, which is obviously not ideal, seeing as they have three positions where they will need replacements in the immediate future. Replacing three starters on the OL in a short amount of time is extremely difficult, and even IF the Eagles are able to find quality replacements, it'll take time for the new unit to develop rapport, which again, is not easy. Had they added young talent to the mix, those young players could be developed and acclimated to the Eagles' offensive scheme, with an eye toward inserting them in as starters in 2016 or 2017. Instead, the Eagles are going to have to replace a bunch of starters along the OL simultaneously when the older guys experience an inevitable decline.

The above conclusions were backed by a mountain of supporting facts, which again, felt like overkill to make a seemingly obvious point.

I'll address the two most common rebuttals I've received over the last two days:

1) Jason Peters was undrafted and Jason Kelce was a sixth-round pick. Great linemen can be had in later rounds.

This is true. Jason Peters was originally an undrafted free agent of the Buffalo Bills, although the Eagles traded a first-round pick, a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick to acquire him. And yes, Jason Kelce was a former sixth-round pick. So yes, good offensive linemen can certainly be had in later rounds. This is true of literally every position in the NFL. Name a position, and I'll give you a really good undrafted free agent who has had success in the NFL.

In 2014, there were 30 offensive linemen who received at least one All-Pro vote. The following is a list of those players, and where they were drafted:

Player Position Round Overall 
 Joe Thomas, BrownsOT 
 Trent Williams, RedskinsOT 
 Lane JohnsonOT 
 Tyron Smith, CowboysOT 
 Ryan Clady, BroncosOT 12 
 Zack Martin, CowboysOG 16 
 Mike Iupati, CardinalsOG 17 
 Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers18 
 Kyle Long, BearsOG 20 
 Bryan Bulaga, PackersOT 23 
 James Carpenter, SeahawksOG 25 
 Joe Staley, 49ersOT 28 
 Nick Mangold, Jets29 
 Travis Frederick, Cowboys31 
 Joel Bitonio, BrownsOG 35 
 Andrew Whitworth, BengalsOT 55 
 Rodney Hudson, Chiefs55 
 Sebastian Vollmer, PatriotsOT 58 
 Ryan Kalil, Panthers59 
 Jared Veldheer, CardinalsOT 69 
 Louis Vasquez, BroncosOG 78 
 Evan Mathis, EaglesOG 79 
 Marshal Yanda, RavensOG 86 
 Jahri Evans, SaintsOG 108 
 Josh Sitton, PackersOG 135 
 Corey Linsley, Packers161 
 Ricky Wagner, RavensOT 168 
 Jason Kelce, Eagles191 
 Jason Peters, EaglesOT N/A Undrafted 
 Dan Connolly, PatriotsOG N/A Undrafted 

The final tally:

• 14 players were drafted in the first round.

• 5 players were drafted in the second round.

• 4 players were drafted in the third round.

• 2 players were drafted in the fourth round.

• 2 players were drafted in the fifth round.

• 1 player was drafted in the sixth round.

• 0 players were drafted in the seventh round.

• 2 players were undrafted free agents.

What does that all mean?

It means that just because you can get extremely lucky and find a great offensive lineman off the street like the Bills did with Peters, it doesn't mean it's likely.

Now, I already know what the next rebuttal will be, which will go something like, "But the media votes for those guys, and they are going to be biased toward first-round picks because they have no idea how to evaluate line play." OK, maybe. But if you're going to make that argument, please come armed with the names of a few undrafted free agent offensive linemen not included above that are better than the first-round picks listed.

2) 28 of the 57 offensive linemen on the Patriots, Seahawks, Packers, and Colts were undrafted. If the NFL's "final four" can fill their rosters with UDFAs on their offensive lines, so can the Eagles.

The above stat has been pointed out to me endlessly over the last day, but it makes no sense. Most NFL teams carry somewhere between 8-10 offensive linemen on their 53-man rosters. 57 offensive linemen among four teams averages out to 14.25 offensive linemen per team. So yes, if we're counting players who are either on practice squads, or other guys who will never see an NFL field during a regular season game, then yes, there is going to be a high number of offensive linemen on every single roster in the NFL.

However, the notion that those four teams are winning with undrafted free agents is nonsense. Here are the starters on those four teams, and where they were drafted.

 PlayerPosition Round Overall 
 Russell Okung, SeahawksOT 
 Nate Solder, PatriotsOT 17 
 Gosder Cherilus, ColtsOT 17 
 Anthony Castonzo, ColtsOT 22 
 Bryan Bulaga, PackersOT 23 
 James Carpenter, SeahawksOG 25 
 Max Unger, Seahawks49 
 Sebastian Vollmer, PatriotsOT 58 
 Jack Mewhort, ColtsOG 59 
 Justin Britt, SeahawksOT 64 
 Hugh Thornton, ColtsOG 86 
 Bryan Stork, Patriots105 
 David Bakhtiari, PackersOT 109 
 T.J. Lang, PackersOG 109 
 Khaled Holmes, Colts121 
 Josh Sitton, PackersOG 135 
 Corey Linsley, Packers161 
 J.R. Sweezey, SeahawksOG 225 
 Dan Connolly, PatriotsOG N/A Undrafted 
 Ryan Wendell, PatriotsOG N/A Undrafted 

Two starters on the "final four" teams were UDFAs. Not 50 percent. Two. 10 percent. And 16 of the 20 (80 percent) were at least fourth-round picks.

Please don't make me write Part III.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

*Just kidding, I love you all.