Andy Reid: Drafting Guys for the Future, but Not as Rookies

Cody Swartz@cbswartz5Senior Writer IFebruary 22, 2009

The NFL draft is a strange and confusing event.


Sometimes a team can get three Super Bowl titles and a Hall of Fame quarterback (Tom Brady) out of its sixth round, 199th overall draft pick. Other times a team's first round pick can set a franchise back another five years (Ryan Leaf).


In a game where no one knows for certain just how good a potential draft prospect will be, it is all the more important that a head coach learn how to evaluate talent.


NFL coaches are scrutinized and critiqued for each and every move by the media, fans, and even their own players.


Obviously greater production is expected out of a team's first-round pick than the fourth. In the case of Andy Reid though, we as Eagles fans have learned not to expect much out of our first pick each year. At least not in their rookie season.


Under Andy Reid, there has been very little production out of the rookies from the draft. This past year, the Eagles didn't have a first round pick, but the top pick was defensive tackle Trevor Laws in the second round, with the 49th overall pick.


I don't think he was on the field all season. In fact, I don't even know if he dressed.


Ok, so maybe he did. And he played a little. ESPN lists Laws as having played in all 16 games, while notching 12 tackles. The Eagles website says Laws “added depth and energy to the Eagles defensive line.”


Maybe he did. I just don't remember it. Other than a fumble recovery in the 44-6 thrashing against Dallas in Week 17, Laws was pretty invisible.


The year before, the Eagles once again didn't have a first-round pick. The team's top pick (second round, 36th overall pick) was quarterback Kevin Kolb.


Kolb didn't throw a pass as a rookie in '07 (although that was probably for the best). Rookie quarterbacks never play much, especially a guy who the team never should have drafted.


Three times out of a span of four years ('03, '05 and '06), the Eagles chose defensive linemen with their first round pick: Miami's Jerome McDougle, USC's Mike Patterson, and Florida State's Brodrick Bunkley. None of the three made much of an impact as a rookie.


Bunkley barely got on the field, filling in minimal time as a reserve in 15 games while notching 13 tackles for the season.


Patterson fared better, even winning a starting job for the last four games of the season and notching 3.5 sacks for the year, but it wasn't until the following year before he became an integral part of the line.


And McDougle? Well, he recorded nine tackles and no sacks as a rookie. The only difference is that McDougle never turned into a solid Pro Bowl quality defensive lineman like Bunkley and Patterson.


The last time I can actually remember a first round pick for the Eagles being penciled in as the starter was Shawn Andrews in 2004. He broke his leg in the opener and missed the entire season.


Other Reid first round picks Lito Sheppard in '02 (13 tackles, no interceptions), Freddie Mitchell in '01 (21 catches), even Donovan McNabb in '99 – barely played in their debut season.


The one exception would be big defensive tackle Corey Simon, who was selected with the sixth overall pick in 2000. Simon started all 16 games and recorded 9.5 tackles, by far the best performance by any rookie ever drafted under Andy Reid.


The only other rookie I can remember who produced as well as Simon was DeSean Jackson, our other second round draft pick this season, who filled in admirably as the team's No. 2 receiver, catching 62 passes for 912 yards and two touchdowns, while providing a big-play threat as our punt returner (8.8 yards per return, one touchdown).


However, Jackson was given a lot of playing time early because Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown were both injured. With the receiving corps very thin, Reid went against his will and started a rookie. I wonder how much time Jackson would have gotten if Curtis and Brown had been healthy from the start.


So what is it with Reid's drafts? Other teams seem to get a lot more production out of their rookie players than the Eagles do. Is Andy Reid simply a bad drafter?


I wouldn't say that. I think he just looks to the future more than other coaches. And most of the time it pays off. Patterson and Bunkley didn't do much during their rookie seasons, but now there aren't too many better defensive tackle duos in the NFL.


Don't underestimate the importance of learning through observing. Lito Sheppard was a nickel and dime back his first two seasons before taking over for All-Pro cornerback Troy Vincent. And Sheppard made the Pro Bowl in his first year as a starter.


Shawn Andrews was an alternate to the Pro Bowl in his first season as the starter.


Reid doesn't always make the sexy picks. And as Eagles fans, we're probably not going to have too many Rookie of the Year candidates come through Philly. But give his players time, and most of them will eventually produce.