Former Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly left the Pac-12 for the Philadelphia Eagles, but he’ll start the preseason with some familiar faces on the roster after drafting four players from the Pac-12 in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Half of the Eagles’ draft selections came from Kelly’s old conference, as did two undrafted free agents. Add those to the nine Pac-12ers on the roster, and social media critics had plenty of ammunition for dubbing the team “Chip Kelly’s Pac-12 All-Star Team.”
The Eagles took Stanford tight end Zach Ertz in the second round, USC quarterback Matt Barkley with the first pick of the fourth round, and Utah defensive end Joe Kruger and Oregon State cornerback Jordan Poyer in the seventh. Arizona center Kyle Quinn and Oregon defensive tackle Isaac Remington both signed as undrafted free agents over the weekend.
Landing 14% of the 28 Pac-12 players drafted this year might feel like a little bit of West Coast overkill, but it makes sense. Kelly coached against those players over the last few years (and coached Remington at Oregon). He didn’t judge them on just their Combine performances, Pro Day workouts, and game film; he’s essentially been evaluating them for the last few years.
One of the biggest surprises of the draft was the fourth-round Barkley pick, both because Barkley was still available in the fourth round, and because he doesn’t seem to fit the type of offense Kelly was known for at Oregon. After coaching against the former USC star — and losing to him back in 2011 — Kelly knows exactly what he’s getting and, hopefully, how best to use him.
Barkley is one of five quarterbacks on the roster who will compete for the Eagles’ “wide open” starting job, and one of three from the Pac-12. Second-year quarterback Nick Foles, from Arizona, started six games for Philadelphia last season and threw six touchdowns and five interceptions. Dennis Dixon, who was the 2007 Pac-10 Player of the Year at Oregon under Kelly, has only played four games in five years in the NFL, but he signed a two-year deal with the Eagles this offseason. (The favorite to start, veteran Michael Vick, played for Virginia Tech in the ACC.)
The new personnel might seem skewed toward the Pac-12, but Eagles’ draft wasn’t limited to that conference, nor did the Pac-12 pipeline just go straight to Philadelphia. The Eagles also took players from N.C. State, Boston College, LSU, and Oklahoma, most notably offensive tackle Lane Johnson, the fourth overall pick from the Sooners, while the Green Bay Packers drafted nearly as many former Pac-12 players as Philadelphia.
Like many other areas of life, though, opportunities are about who you know, and Kelly’s familiarity with his former conference surely impacted his team’s 2013 draft class. It’s also a reminder for current and future college football players to work hard, play hard, and always behave with class and dignity. College football careers are extended job auditions, and you never know which opposing coaches might someday be in a position to make your NFL dream come true.