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February 12, 2017

Ranking the Eagles' draft classes since 1999: The full series

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Last week, we ranked the Philadelphia Eagles' drafts since 1999, in a three-part series. For the purposes of putting all three parts in one convenient place, here it is in its entirety.

18) 2011

Warning: Do not look directly at this draft class, or your eyeballs may commit suicide.

Round Player Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 1Danny Watkins OG 
 2Jaiquawn Jarrett 
 3Curtis Marsh CB 
 4Casey Matthews LB 
 4Alex Henery 
 5Dion Lewis RB 
 5Julian Vandervelde OG 
 6Jason Kelce 
 6Brian Rolle LB 
 7Greg Lloyd LB 
 7Stanley Havili FB 
 TOTAL11 picks  

This was easily the worst draft class of the last 18 years, and it wasn't even close. If I could have ranked it lower, I would have. The first five picks, in particular, were incomprehensibly bad:

1) Danny Watkins: This was perhaps the dumbest pick in two decades. Watkins was already 26-years old when the Eagles drafted him (he turned 27 during his rookie season) on a team at the time that was legendary for letting players walk once they got into their 30's. 

For context, Tyron Smith was taken in the same draft class. Smith is younger, as in right now, than Danny Watkins was when the Eagles took him. He was also transitioning to guard, a non-impact position that he didn't even play in college.

2) Jaiquawn Jarrett: At the time, the Eagles had two glaring needs, guard and safety. They reached massively for each in the first two rounds, as both Watkins and Jarrett are already out of the NFL. This was the lockout year, meaning that the draft came before free agency. Ideally, you would try to fill your glaring holes in free agency, then add the best available players in the draft. The Eagles took the reverse tact. They reached for need in the draft, then signed all the "best" players in free agency, and the results were disastrous.

3) Curtis Marsh: Marsh was a developmental pick. He didn't develop. I remember when the Eagles and Patriots had joint practices before the 2014 season, and Tom Brady attacked Marsh unmercifully both during practice and in the ensuing preseason game. It was one of the rare times I actually felt bad for a player. Well, not so much that I did this during the preseason game:

4) Casey Matthews: Matthews just wasn't a very gifted football player athletically, and to this day, has the worst measurable spider chart I've ever seen from a draft prospect. The below chart shows Matthews' measurables vs. all inside linebackers competing at the NFL Combine since 1999:


What does that chart show? It shows that Matthews was short, light, weak, and slow, with T-Rex arms and Burger King hands. But he was a great dinner conversationalist, or so Juan Castillo imagined.

5) Alex Henery: My goodness. Eagles fans should thank God that Cody Parkey replaced Henery prior to the 2014 season. In fairness, to this day, my Henery-Parkey gif remains my favorite contribution to the Universe:

All told, the Eagles had 11 picks. They did take Dion Lewis and Jason Kelce, which were good picks, although Kelce is likely to be released this offseason and they traded Lewis for Emmanuel Acho.

17) 2014

Ah, 2014, one of the ambiguous "Was it a Chip pick or a Howie pick" years... 

Round Player Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
Marcus Smith OLB 
Jordan Matthews WR 
Josh Huff WR 
Jaylen Watkins CB/S 
Taylor Hart DE 
Ed Reynolds 
Beau Allen DT 
TOTAL 7 picks  

Marcus Smith has 23 career tackles and four sacks. Otherwise, the 2014 draft yielded one quasi-starter in slot receiver Jordan Matthews, who has become the go-to receiver for the Eagles out of sheer necessity. Otherwise, the Eagles have already cut four of the above players, although Jaylen Watkins and Taylor Hart eventually migrated back the team later. And Josh Huff, of course, was arrested for DUI, possession of a handgun, possession of a magazine filled with hollow-point bullets, and possession of marijuana, while driving over the Walt Whitman Bridge.


16) 2015

This one, however, was all Chip.

Round Player Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
Nelson Agholor WR 
Eric Rowe CB 
Jordan Hicks LB 
 JaCorey ShepherdCB 
Randall Evans CB 
Brian Mihalik DE 
TOTAL 6 players  

The 2015 class, along with the 2001 class, were the smallest, with only six players drafted. In this case, not even two years later, only two players remain from this class. Jordan Hicks is a stud in the making, which is the only redeeming positive from this group. Meanwhile, Nelson Agholor is already a bust that the team would probably like to move on from, but can't.

15) 2003

The Eagles' 2003 undrafted free agents were far better than their actual draft picks.

Round Player Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 1Jerome McDougle DE 
 2L.J. Smith TE 
 3Billy McMullen WR 
 4Jamaal Green DE 
 6Jeremy Bridges OG 
 7Norman LeJuene 
 TOTAL6 players  

Gross. Jerome McDougle got shot, L.J. Smith was soft, and the rest of this group did nothing for the Eagles.

This draft class would have been ranked lower, if not for one of the more impressive undrafted free agent hauls you'll ever see. That offseason, the Eagles were able to add Quintin Mikell, Jamaal Jackson, Greg Lewis, Sam Rayburn, Rod Hood, and Reno Mahe as UDFAs.

14) 2004

The 2004 class had two good players who had careers that ended up being too short, and then nothing else.

 RoundPlayer Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 1Shawn Andrews OG 2 (1 All-Pro) 
 3Matt Ware CB 
 4J.R. Reed 
 4Trey Darilek OG 
 5Thomas Tapeh FB 
 6Andy Hall QB 
 6Dexter Wynn CB 
 7Adrien Clarke OG 
 7Bruce Perry RB 
 7Dominic Furio 
 TOTAL10 players  2 (1 All-Pro) 

At one time, there was an argument that Shawn Andrews was the best guard in football. However, injuries and depression derailed his career. And then there was the forgotten J.R. Reed, who really looked like he might become a good player his rookie season, but then he suffered nerve damage when he injured himself jumping a fence during the 2005 offseason. Because, of course he did.

13) 2007

Donovan McNabb would have rated this as the worst Eagles draft.

Round Player Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 2Kevin Kolb QB 
 2Victor Abiamiri DE 
 3Stewart Bradley LB 
 3Tony Hunt RB 
 5C.J. Gaddis 
 5Brent Celek TE 
 6Rashad Barksdale CB 
 7Nate Ilaoa FB 
 TOTAL8 players  10 

In 2007, the Eagles were able to land a long-term starter in Brent Celek, a rare good late-round pick. Stewart Bradley also showed some serious potential before he tore his ACL during "Flight Night." And then there was Kolb, who got concussed in his first game as the team's unquestioned starting quarterback in 2010, losing his job to Michael Vick and never getting it back. At least the Eagles were able to flip Kolb for a quasi-starting corner (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and a second-round pick.

But on the whole, as you can see... bleh.

12) 2010

So many picks, so little value.

 RoundPlayer Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 1Brandon Graham DE 
 2Nate Allen 
 3Daniel Te'o-Nesheim DE 
 4Trevard Lindley CB 
 4Keenan Clayton LB 
 4Mike Kafka QB 
 4Clay Harbor TE 
 5Ricky Sapp DE 
 5Riley Cooper WR 
 6Charles Scott RB 
 7Jamar Chaney LB 
 7Jeff Owens DT 
 7Kurt Coleman 
 TOTAL13 picks  17 

Brandon Graham has become a good NFL starter, but the reality is that the majority of the Eagles' fan base expected the pick to be Earl Thomas once the Eagles traded up, and they were right that he should have been. I mean, not to beat that to death or anything, but it should be noted. As for Nate Allen, he is arguably the best defensive back the Eagles drafted since 2002, which is mind-blowingly sad.

Otherwise, there is so much about this draft that brings back weird memories, such as:

  1. Remember when Ricky Sapp used to tweet "Family Guy!" like 30 times per week?
  2. Remember when the Eagles traded Charles Scott for Jorrick Calvin, the guy who unintentionally/hilariously ran around in the end zone trying to kill time on a kickoff even though the clock doesn't start until you come out?
  3. Remember when Keenan Clayton was going to be the safety/linebacker hybrid before it was en vogue, but he stunk?
  4. Remember when Daniel Te'o-Nesheim tested really well on that dumb "SackSEER" metric, and then proceeded to have five career sacks?
  5. Remember Mike Kafka's rag arm?
  6. Remember when Brian Baldinger said Jamar Chaney was "already one of the best linebackers in the NFL after his first start?" Lol.
  7. Remember when Riley Cooper went on a racist rant at a Kenny Chesney concert? And when he was quietly the reason the Eagles lost in the playoffs against the Saints when he dropped an easy pass over the middle with acres of open field in front of him?

Ah, memories.

11) 2001

The 2001 and 2015 drafts had the fewest number of picks over the last 18 years, with six.

Round Player Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 1Freddie Mitchell WR 
 2Quinton Caver LB 
 3Derrick Burgess DE 
 4Correll Buckhalter RB 
 5Tony Stewart TE 
 5A.J. Feeley QB 
 TOTAL6 picks  

Freddie Mitchell had 90 career receptions. By comparison, Nelson Agholor has 59 after two seasons, although I doubt Mitchell cost the team two touchdowns because he wasn't lined up correctly, and then, obviously, there was 4th and 26.

As for the rest, Burgess was a really good player, although he did most of his damage with the Raiders. Buckhalter was an underrated complementary back, and the Eagles were able to flip A.J. Feeley into a second-round pick from Miami.

But rounds 1 and 2? Ugh.

10) 2006

This was a very difficult draft class to place.

Round Player Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 1Brodrick Bunkley DT 
 2Winston Justice OT 
 3Chris Gocong LB 
 4Max Jean-Gilles OG 
 4Jason Avant WR 
 5Jeremy Bloom WR 
 5Omar Gaither LB 
 6LaJuan Ramsey DT 
 TOTAL8 picks  21 

When you look at this draft class, there's not one single player where you would say, "That was a really good pick." Mayyyybe Jason Avant in the fourth round? What this class did have was a lot of players who were contributors, but were JAGs. 

Also, if the Patriots drafted Jeremy Bloom, he'd already be in the Hall of Fame. OK, maybe not. It's tough to beat out Morten Andersen.

9) 2000

One player was good early in his career, and one was good later after he was gone.

 RoundPlayer Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 1Corey Simon DT 
 2Todd Pinkston WR 
 3Bobbie Williams OG 
 4Gari Scott WR 
 6Thomas Hamner RB 
 6John Frank DE 
 6John Romero 
 TOTAL7 picks  19 

Corey Simon was an awesome player for the Eagles at the start of his career, registering 9.5 sacks as a rookie, and 32 sacks over his first five years. And then he got fat and lazy, went to Colts, then the Titans, and he was out of the league at 30. Meanwhile, Todd Pinkston was an OK No. 2 receiver and a down-the-field threat, but most remember him for being bullied for 60 minutes in the NFC Championship Game by Ricky Manning Jr.

Bobbie Williams started 136 games over his career, but only 12 with the Eagles.

8) 2013

Three good players with the first three picks:

Round Player Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 1Lane Johnson OT 
 2Zach Ertz TE 
 3Bennie Logan DT 
 4Matt Barkley QB 
 5Earl Wolff 
 7Joe Kruger DE 
 7Jordan Poyer CB/S 
 7David King DE 
 TOTAL7 picks  

Johnson, Ertz, and Logan are all legitimate NFL starters, who should all go on to have long NFL careers, as long as Lane can lay off the peptides.

And, of course, there was the legendary Matt Barkley, who appeared in three games, threw no TDs and 4 picks, had a QB rating of 44.6, challenged a beat writer to some kind of odd quarterback man test, and then was traded to the Cardinals:

7) 2016

A franchise quarterback!

Round Player Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 1Carson Wentz QB 
 3Isaac Seumalo OG/C 
 5Wendell Smallwood RB 
 5Halapoulivaati Vaitai OT 
 6Blake Countess CB/S 
 7Jalen Mills CB 
 7Alex McCalister DE 
 7Joe Walker LB 
 TOTAL8 picks  

A couple months ago, we projected the futures for the Eagles' 2016 draft class, and really, for the purposes of ranking last year's class among the rest, projecting is all we can do. I see two legitimate starters in Carson Wentz and Isaac Seumalo, with some other contributing pieces. Obviously, the team will look to build around Wentz.

If Wentz can carve out a career like Donovan McNabb, this class would be ranked where the 1999 class is, which you'll see in Part III of this exercise. If Wentz can win a Super Bowl, it would obviously immediately vault to No. 1.

6) 2012

Major short-term results, disappointing long-term returns:

 RoundPlayer Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
Fletcher Cox DT 
Mychal Kendricks LB 
Vinny Curry DE 
Nick Foles QB 
Brandon Boykin CB 
Dennis Kelly OT 
Marvin McNutt WR 
Brandon Washington OG 
Bryce Brown RB 
TOTAL 9 picks  12 

After the 2013 season, this draft class looked amazing:

  1. Nick Foles had just thrown 29 TDs vs. 2 INTs.
  2. In his last four games (including the playoffs), Mychal Kendricks had 32 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 INTs.
  3. Brandon Boykin had 6 INTs playing less than 50 percent of the snaps.
  4. Through his first two seasons, Bryce Brown had 878 yards and a 4.6 yards per carry average as LeSean McCoy's backup.
  5. While he didn't have big numbers, Fletcher Cox was very clearly developing into a beast on the interior of the defensive line.

Three years later, Cox is the only player from this class playing well for the Eagles. They were able to parlay Bryce Brown into a decent draft pick from the Bills, Foles became a trade piece to bring in (gags) Sam Bradford, and there's a decent chance Kendricks will be moved for a late pick this offseason.

Cox was a great pick, as he is a piece the Eagles can build their defense around, but the Eagles better hope that Vinny Curry can begin living up to the big contract he received last offseason, or this could become a one-player draft in the near future.

5) 2008

A trade back that paid huge dividends:

Round Player Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 2Trevor Laws DT 
 2DeSean Jackson WR 
 3Bryan Smith DE 
 4Mike McGlynn OG 
 4Quintin Demps 
 4Jack Ikegwuonu CB 
 6Mike Gibson OT 
 6Joe Mays LB 
 6Andy Studebaker LB 
 7King Dunlap OT 
 TOTAL10 picks  22 

The Eagles found a great player in DeSean Jackson in the second round, who the Eagles then released for absolutely nothing in return. Nice job, Chip. Otherwise, this is a list of players who either amounted to nothing, or became decent starters on other teams.

So why is it ranked so highly? Well, the Eagles traded their first-round pick to the Panthers for a package of picks that netted Trevor Laws, Mike McGlynn, Quintin Demps, and Carolina's first-round pick in 2009, which the Eagles then traded along with a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick for Jason Peters.

Peters then obviously became a star LT for the next eight years in Philly. This was the one trade-back that became a big success.

4) 2005

Two late-round gems:

Round Player Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 1Mike Patterson DT 
 2Reggie Brown WR 
 2Mike McCoy LB 
 3Ryan Moats RB 
 4Sean Considine 
 4Todd Herremans OG/OT 
 5Trent Cole DE 
 5Scott Young OG 
 6Calvin Armstrong OT 
 7Keyonta Marshall DT 
 7David Bergeron LB 
 TOTAL11 picks  30 

It seems like the Eagles hit very rarely on a late-round picks who become quality long-term starters. In the 2005 draft, the Eagles found two in Todd Herremans and Trent Cole. Add in the first round selection of Mike Patterson, and the Eagles found themselves three players with 24 combined years as a primary starter. 

3) 2009

The only two-time All-Pro in 18 years of draft picks:

 RoundPlayer Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 1Jeremy Maclin WR 
 2LeSean McCoy RB 5 (2 All-Pros) 
 5Cornelius Ingram TE 
 5Macho Harris CB/S 
 5Fenuki Tupou OT 
 6Brandon Gibson WR 
 7Paul Fanaika OG 
 7Moise Fokou LB 
 TOTAL8 picks  5 (2 All-Pros) 21 

The Eagles found some star power at the top of the 2009 draft in Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy. McCoy became the Eagles' all-time leading rusher in just six years. 

And then Chip traded him for Kiko Alonso.


2) 1999

A franchise quarterback!

Round Player Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 1Donovan McNabb QB 11 
 2Barry Gardner LB 
 3 Doug BrzezinskiOG 
 4John Welbourn OG 
 4Damon Moore 
 4Na Brown WR 
 6Cecil Martin FB 
 6Troy Smith WR 
 7Jed Weaver TE 
 7Pernell Davis DT 
 TOTAL10 picks  25 

If only they had taken Ricky Williams.

1) 2002

Many fans hated this draft initially, but...

Round Player Position Pro Bowls Years as primary starter 
 1Lito Sheppard CB 2 (1 All-Pro) 
 2Michael Lewis 
 2Sheldon Brown CB 
 3Brian Westbrook RB 2 (1 All-Pro) 
 4Scott Peters 
 5Freddie Milons WR 
 6Tyreo Harrison LB 
 7Raheem Brock DE 
 TOTAL8 picks  5 (2 All-Pros) 32 

With Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor already on the roster, the Eagles drafted cornerbacks Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown in the first two rounds, an unorthodox approach that paid off big-time. Additionally, the Birds found Brian Westbrook, who in my opinion remains the best running back in Eagles history.

All told, the Eagles found three Pro Bowl players in Sheppard, Michael Lewis, and Westbrook, and one should-have-been Pro Bowl player in Brown. Additionally, while he had success elsewhere, Raheem Brock became a long-time NFL starter.

This was the polar opposite of the worst draft over the last 18 years, which was 2011. In 2011, the Eagles reached for need, selecting Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett in the first two rounds. In 2002, they just took the best players, landing a pair of corners on an already cornerback-rich team.

The moral of the story here: Just take the best players.

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