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February 07, 2017

Ranking the Eagles' draft classes since 1999, Part I

Eagles NFL

Over the next three days, we'll be ranking the Eagles' draft classes going back to 1999, or Andy Reid's first year with the team. Today we'll start with the worst, counting down from 18 to 13.

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.

Jimmy Kempski/for PhillyVoice

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.

Next up: 12 to 7

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