Friday was an interesting day for Eagles fans. Even though they had to trade up to take him, Chip Kelly and the Eagles got great value when they selected defensive back Eric Rowe with the 47th overall pick in the second round. Twitter became a party, and countless fans who had badly wanted Rowe joined together in absolute glee.
That all changed in the next round, though, when the Eagles’ third round pick scrolled across the ESPN2 ticker. It read “LB Jordan Hicks, Texas”. Many fans had never heard of the former Longhorn. Others googled his name to find that he was projected by most experts as a late round pick with a history of injuries. What was once joyful comradery had turned into quick, unanimous uncertainty and widespread anger. Well I’m here to tell you that everything is going to be okay.
I’m a pessimist. As a football coach and a talent evaluator, I constantly find myself being harder on players than other coaches and evaluators around me. I backhand compliments. I illuminate mistakes. I’m not always proud of it, but it’s who I am as a person and as a coach. And…
I’m a fan of Jordan Hicks, even in the third round.
Here’s my personal scouting report on Hicks that I filed in early April:
LB Jordan Hicks- 6’1 236 lbs.
Notes: I am bullish on Hicks. Intelligent player. High character player in all facets of the game. Plus talent as a tackler. Above average burst. Average anticipation and instincts. Must improve on shedding run blockers. Past injuries while at Texas are a concern. Projection: Fifth round
Yes, I did give Hicks a fifth round grade, and I based it entirely on his injury history.
But my good friend Trey Bader (@eaglesgeek on Twitter) said it best last night in a rhetorical manner as we were discussing day-three targets for the Eagles: “You think Chip Kelly cares about injuries?” No, he doesn’t. Kelly has showed a continued willingness to add and promote players who have a history of injuries. And if you take injuries out of the equation, Jordan Hicks is an absolute stud.
According to sports-reference.com, Hicks totaled 231 total tackles in 42 games while at Texas. He also compiled 20.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and two interceptions during his college career.
The production is somewhat expected, though, when you take a look at Hicks’s measureables. Here’s a look his spider chart, which shows how he compared to the other linebackers who participated in the 2015 NFL Combine:
Hicks was average in the 40-yard dash (4.68) and he only did 12 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. It’s evident, however, that Hicks moves extremely well. In fact, his 60 yard shuttle, 20 yard shuttle, 3 cone drill, broad jump, vertical jump, and 10 yard dash all rank higher than the 80th percentile when compared to fellow linebackers in the 2015 NFL Draft.
When viewed holistically, Hicks’s pSPARQ score of 134.2 places him in the 87.5 percentile amongst ALL CURRENT NFL linebackers. His athletic comparisons include Ryan Shazier, Mychal Kendricks, and DeMeco Ryans.
Excited yet? If not, does this nugget Pro Football Performance help?
If you’re still skeptical, it’s likely because you question the value of taking Hicks in the third round. That’s fair. Most Eagles fans wanted the team to take Adrian Amos, Brett Hundley, Danielle Hunter, or Henry Anderson with pick 84. And while I wasn’t expecting to see Hicks’s name scroll across the screen as the pick was announced, the Eagles weren’t the only team targeting the linebacker in the third round. In reply to a negative tweet from Eagles beat writer Geoff Mosher, NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport suggested that Hicks would have been selected with the very next pick had the Eagles passed on him:
Then, after the Eagles officially announced their newest addition, Chip Kelly suggested that the decision-makers within the organization actually felt like they got a solid amount of value by drafting Hicks in the third round:
Bottom line: After being drafted by an organization that does not discriminate against players who have a history of injuries, Hicks has the opportunity to excel. He’ll undoubtedly be a solid presence in the locker-room, and scouts across the board described him as an intelligent, high-character player. From all accounts, Hicks exemplifies the “culture” that Chip Kelly so often speaks of. While the Eagles are currently stacked in depth at the inside linebacker position, Mychal Kendricks is reportedly on the trading block and DeMeco Ryans likely will not be in the team’s plans following the 2015 season. With Emmanuel Acho and Brad Jones contributing to the Eagles primarily on special teams, Hicks can develop as a rotational player during his rookie season before competing for a starting job in 2016.
I leave you with Hicks’s highlight video. It’s well worth a watch.
Follow Sidelines and Headlines creator Ray Butler on Twitter: @RayButlerII