PHILADELPHIA — Eagles head coach Chip Kelly should demand the airlines pay him a commission for all of flights between Oregon and Philadelphia that his draft choices will be taking.
When Oregon defensive end Taylor Hart’s name was called in the fifth round of Saturday’s NFL Draft, he became the seventh player with ties to the Ducks program and ninth from the Pac-12 Conference on the Eagles’ roster.
Wide receivers Will Murphy, Jeff Maehl, linebackers Casey Matthews and Josh Kaddu, and defensive end Brandon Bair join Hart and third-round choice, wide receiver Josh Huff, with connections to Kelly’s days as Oregon head coach.
Meanwhile, tight end Zach Ertz and quarterback Matt Barkley, chosen in last year’s draft, played against Kelly’s Ducks in the Pac-12 Conference.
In spite of all of the familiarity with those players, Kelly said Saturday that when it comes to guys he has ties with, he leaves the ultimate decision in the hands of his assistants in the draft room. Still, he likes the idea of coaching a known commodity.
“It helps,” Kelly said. “One of the things I do, because I’m so close to it, is I leave it to [wide receivers coach] Bob Bicknell [in the case of third-round-choice; Huff] and our personnel guys and say, ‘All right, you guys go take a look and tell me what you think of them because I already have my opinion.’
“It was the same thing with Taylor. We let everyone weigh in on him. He was [defensive coordinator] Billy Davis’ top guy also and I know [defensive line] coach [Jerry] Azzinaro [former Oregon defensive line coach] knows about him. But let’s leave it to some other guys to give us their opinion on him. They agreed. We all agreed.”
At 6-foot-6 and 267 pounds, Hart likely will play defensive end in Davis’ scheme after starting every game (53) over the past three seasons. Hart finished his senior season with 64 tackles and took home second-team All-Pack 12 honors.
Still, some will look at Kelly’s reliance on selecting players that he has a familiarity with as a crutch. But it’s a charge he dismissed.
“We’re taking the best players in our opinion,” Kelly said. “There are still a lot of Oregon players out there, but they’ve won a lot of games over the past couple years.
“There are some top programs that will continue to produce top quality players. We’ve drafted a lot of LSU players and we’ve drafted Stanford players. We took guys from Louisville and they had three players taken in the first round. We’ll take the best player, and just because we have a familiarity and someone wants to say ‘That’s a concern,’ that’s OK. I’m not not going to take one just because someone says something about it.”
Follow Matt Lombardo on Twitter: @MattLombardo975