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Chip Kelly gets pragmatic about the draft


I don’t know Eagles coach Chip Kelly very well, but I like him. I like him in part because he’s willing to explain things for what they are, not for what anyone wants us to think them to be.

When it comes to the draft, Kelly has pulled back the curtain on the notion, as perpetrated by the media draft machine, that there’s some sort of code that magically can be cracked. There’s not; it’s all a crapshoot and anyone who tries to tell the audience otherwise is dumb or lying.

You don’t know how it’s going to pan out,” Kelly said Friday when discussing his team’s first-round pick, linebacker Marcus Smith, via “Just going through the analytics of it, 50 percent of first-round picks don’t make it. That’s through the history of time.”

With all due respect to the efforts of draft experts (real or self-titled) to make the process into something that can be figured out, Kelly realizes that the process is inherently impossible to solve.

“When you draft someone in the sixth round and you say, ‘Hey, we got a steal,’ my first question is, why didn’t you take him in the fifth, then?” Kelly said. “If you’re so smart and you knew what you knew and you knew everything about the draft and you knew the guy was going to be an All-Pro -- the people who brag about, ‘We got a sixth-round pick and he became an All-Pro player’ -- then the first question is, well why didn’t you draft him earlier if you were so smart? A lot of times you don’t know.”

That logic can be used against plenty of teams, including the Eagles themselves. Last year, when quarterback Nick Foles developed into an unlikely star after being a third-round pick in 2012, G.M. Howie Roseman explained what the Eagles saw at him.

So why didn’t they take him in the first or second round then? If they’re so smart and they knew what they knew and they knew everything about the draft and they knew the guy was going to be an All-Pro, then the first question is, well why didn’t they draft him earlier if they were so smart?

In an industry where people have a clear motivation to make things so much more complicated than they really are, Kelly keeps it simple. It’s refreshing and it’s authentic and it’s honest.

No one knows what a college football player will do in the NFL until he’s in the NFL. And many factors influence the outcome, from the player’s ability to overcome physical and mental adversity to the player’s work ethic to the player’s character to the team’s coaching staff to the team’s resources for developing players to the other players on the team to the systems used.

But if enough people understood that, the draft wouldn’t be viewed as a mountain that fans can climb with the assistance of the Sherpas who are paid to talk incessantly about prospects for five months. And plenty of those guys would have to find work that actually carries with it accountability for being flat-out wrong.