The second day of the 2015 Draft brought a peculiar surprise to Philadelphia. Chip Kelly and the Eagles, needy of offensive line help, secondary depth (at the time), and other positions, selected Texas inside linebacker Jordan Hicks in the third round.
The pick left the city confused and frustrated: how would another inside linebacker help if the team had just recently acquired Kiko ALonso from the Bills. DaMeco Ryans is also due back from injury, so as it stands the Eagles have four potnetial starters for two positions. Despite what many draft experts say, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Hicks recorded 3.5 sacks and two interceptions for the Long Horns in 2014. “He’ll be a good fir for the Eagles,” sports agent Gary Glick of Synergy Sports said. Glick was close to recruiting Hicks to join his agency, Synergy Sports Incorporated, admitting he admired the linebacker’s determination: “He plays with a lot of heart, kind of like Wes Welker.” Welker, an undersized receiver at 5-9, was forced to make his living on short passing routes. There, his gritty nature allowed him to create space in the middle of the field, becoming a security blanket for Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady. Similarly, Hicks is somewhat undersized at 6-1, 235. The ideal inside linebacker is 6-2 or 6-3 and over 240 pounds, but that won’t stop Hicks, Glick noted: “If there’s a size issue, he compensates with heart.”
A playmaking linebacker like this is exactly what the Eagles have needed ever since players like Jeremiah Trotter left. Fans have clamored for such a ballhawk, admiring players like JJ Watt, Clay Matthews, and Luke Kuechly. Hicks could prove to be that type of player for the Eagles in the near future: “He’s a playmaker, always around the ball, always makes plays. Translates well to special teams, too,” Glick said. In such a crowded linebacker group, Hicks will be able to stand out early on with his special teams contributions, adding depth to what was a prolific unit a year ago. Down the road, when the Eagles have moved on from Ryans and Kendricks’ contract expires, Hicks will step aside Kiko Alonso as the centerpiece it the Eagles defense.
The selection of Hicks further spells the end for veteran Mychal Kendricks. Though Hicks is an inch below the average size of a linebacker, Kendricks stands at a mere 5-11, much too small to cover most offensive players. While Kendricks has proven to be a productive member of the front seven, Kelly will likely try to trade the former Cal linebacker when roster cuts arrive in September. Kendricks could easily net the Eagles a third round pick in 2016, effectively swapping Kendricks for Hicks (since the Eagles took Hicks with their third pick this year).
Heart, love of the game, football intelligence: it’s all there in Hicks. Whether his selection spells the end of Kendricks or Ryans remains to be seen. However, there’s no question Hicks will grow to become a fan favorite with thick skin and a Texas-sized heart.