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February 09, 2017

Ranking the Eagles' draft classes since 1999, Part III

This week, we'll be ranking the Eagles' draft classes going back to 1999, or Andy Reid's first year with the team. On Tuesday, we started with the worst, counting down from 18 to 13. Read that one at your own peril. On Wednesday, it got slightly better in Part II

Today we'll count down from 6 to 1 in Part III.

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. The 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.

Jimmy Kempski/for PhillyVoice

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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