Eagles, Kelly take players he knows, bolster D
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Familiarity and defense were a theme for the Philadelphia Eagles in the draft.
Chip Kelly loaded up on players he recruited and coached against while bolstering a defense that ranked 29th in the NFL last year. He also added a pair of wide receivers for his high-flying offense that set several franchise records.
The Eagles concluded Day 3 of the draft by selecting two defensive backs and two defensive linemen. They also traded running back Bryce Brown to Buffalo for a future pick.
The defending NFC East champions kicked off Saturday by taking Florida defensive back Jaylen Watkins with the first overall pick in the fourth round (No. 101). Oregon defensive lineman Taylor Hart was their next choice in the fifth round. Hart is the second player reuniting with his former coach, joining wide receiver Josh Huff, who was Philadelphia’s third-round choice Friday night.
Kelly was 46-7 in four years at Oregon before replacing Andy Reid in Philadelphia and leading the Eagles to an NFC East title in his first season last year.
“We’re taking the best players and that’s how we’ve always looked at it. They’ve won a lot of games the last couple years,” Kelly said about drafting former Ducks.
The 6-foot-6, 280-pound Hart had 16 sacks while playing end and tackle in four years in college. He projects as an end in Philadelphia’s 3-4 scheme.
Hart said Kelly told him: “We’re putting the family back together.”
The 5-foot-11, 194-pound Watkins can play cornerback or safety.
“One of the things that led us to this pick is his versatility because he has played both,” Kelly said. “Extremely high football intelligence. Could be the quarterback of the defense because of his football intelligence.”
Watkins is the older half-brother of Sammy Watkins. The Clemson wide receiver was selected by Buffalo with the No. 4 overall pick.
“We’re very close. Today is a very big day for our family,” Jaylen Watkins said. “I texted him before he went on stage and he just texted me and he’s probably going to call me now. We’re both excited for each other. We can’t complain about anything that happened this year for us.”
After taking Watkins and Hart, Kelly joked the team was alternating picking players from Oregon and Florida because general manager Howie Roseman is a Florida alum.
Kelly stuck with players he knows by taking Stanford safety Ed Reynolds with the team’s second pick in the fifth round (No. 162). Reynolds played against Oregon in the Pac-12.
Reynolds, 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, missed the 2011 season because of a torn ACL. His father, also Ed Reynolds, was a linebacker for New England and the New York Giants from 1983-92.
“Big, physical, extremely intelligent,” Kelly said. “He really loves playing football. Physical, hard-nosed. What you’re looking for.”
Watkins and Reynolds bolster a position the Eagles entered the draft looking to upgrade.
The Eagles swapped seventh-round picks with Buffalo in this year’s draft and took Washington nose tackle Beau Allen with their final pick at No. 224. Kelly recruited Allen and coached against him at Oregon.
“He’s a true nose tackle. He’s got a good understanding of our defense,” Kelly said.
For Brown, the Eagles got a conditional draft pick — either a fourth-rounder next year or a third-round selection in 2016.
The Eagles took Watkins and Hart with picks acquired from Houston. They chose linebacker Marcus Smith in the first round (No. 26) after trading down four spots and getting a third-round pick from Cleveland. They selected wide receiver Jordan Matthews in the second (No. 42).
Asked to sum up his draft, Kelly said: “Honestly, I have no idea. Everybody says, ‘We got everybody we wanted.’ No one knows.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_RobMaaddi