The Importance of Scouting: A Look at the Philadelphia Eagles' Draft Busts

Haran KnightCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2009

There was a sports saying I heard a few weeks ago that was in the lines of, "If you make decisions based on what the fans want, you'll soon be sitting with the fans."

That's the mantra that the Philadelphia Eagles have lived by during the Andy Reid era.  From the moment he used his very first draft pick on Donovan McNabb, the relationship between the Eagles front office and the fans has been volatile to say the least.

According to the fans, the Eagles are more interested in revenue than winning championships.

While it is true that the birds have gone almost half a century without any sort of NFL championship, it's hard to say that a team that has reached their conference championship five out of their last eight seasons an organization uninterested in winning.

The Eagles' business-like/long-term approach is increasingly frustrating without a Lombardi Trophy in Southeast Pennsylvania. What people fail to realize is the "win now" approach puts an organization at risk to become the next Oakland Raiders.

Al Davis was notorious for signing big name veterans well into their 30s (Rich Gannon and Jerry Rice are the main two) and make them a winner. While that approach got them a Super Bowl appearance in 2002, they've had a top 10 pick in the draft ever since (with the exception of 2005, when they had the No. 23 pick). 

The highest the Eagles picked by default (without trading up) since 2000 was No. 14 in 2006.

The bigger problem with the Eagles isn't their approach. It's the players that they have selected in the process.

When your approach is very similar to that of the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers(collective winners of five Super Bowls this decade), you have to point at pieces the Eagles attempted to fit into the puzzle.

While it's understandable that the draft is can be a crap shoot, it's extremely difficult to excuse the failures the Eagles have had in the draft, especially the early rounds.  Not only do a lot of these busts not make it with the Eagles, they usually end up out of football entirely.

What makes it worse is that most of the failed selections have had a player of the same position picked after him that has had a far more productive NFL career at this point.

Each year has an example.



Barry Gardner**-OLB, No. 35 overall pick (career 161 tkles, 2 sck, 3ff).      

OLB selected after Gardner: Mike Patterson*, No. 36 pick-Colts(career 745 tck, 19 sck, 15 int)



Todd Pinkston**-WR, No.36 overall pick (career 184 rec, 2816 yds, 14 TDs) 

WR selected after Pinkston: Jerry Porter**, No.47 pick-Raiders (not a stud but he doubled Pinkston's stats)



Freddie Mitchell**-WR, No. 25 overall pick (career 90 rec, 1263 yds, 5 TDs)               

WR selected after Mitchell: Reggie Wayne*, No. 30 pick-Colts(career 576 rec, 8179 yds, 51 TDs, eventually took No.1 WR spot from future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison).



Arguably the best draft in Eagles history. First four picks: Lito Sheppard-CB, Sheldon Brown-CB, Michael Lewis-SS, Brian Westbrook-RB



Jerome McDougle**-DE, No. 15 overall pick (career 2 tkles; and to think, the Eagles traded up for this guy).                                                                                     

DE selected after McDougle: Calvin Pace*, No. 18-Cardinals (not much better, but unlike McDougle, Pace has vastly improved the last two seasons).


L.J. Smith*-TE, No. 61 pick(career 231 rec, 2525 yds, 18 TDs. Recently signed w/Ravens)                                                                                                   

TE selected after Smith*: Jason Witten, No. 69 pick-Cowboys (career 429 rec, 4935 yds, 25 TDs. The main difference is Witten's a much better blocker).



The Eagles traded up to get Shawn Andrews with the No. 16 pick. When healthy, he's a perennial Pro Bowler. The bust pick was in the 3rd round when the Eagles selected DB Matt Ware**.

There weren't any DBs worth noting picked after Ware, but LB/DE Shaun Phillips* (San Diego Chargers) was available.



Can't really say there were any true bust in this draft.  Reggie Brown was actually the best available receiver in this draft and still is. The Eagles had to address the position because this was when T.O. started his post Super Bowl drama. But, then again looking in the third round round...

Ryan Moats**-RB, No. 77 pick.                                                                        

Available RBs after Moats: Marion Barber* AND Brandon Jacobs*.



Winston Justice*-OT, No. 39 pick (Playing for USC got Justice plenty of exposure. Unfortunately, his weakness in pass protection wasn't noted. Should've never been anointed Tra Thomas' heir).                                                                            

OT selected after Justice: Marcus McNeill*, No. 50-Chargers (A two time Pro Bowler,  started every game he's played in since drafted).



Tony Hunt**-RB, No. 90 pick (This was supposed to be the coveted "power back" to help in short-yardage situations. He ended up out of football less than two seasons later).                                                                                                          

RB selected after Hunt: Michael Bush*, No. 100-Raiders (Bush was coming off an injury, but before that he was a first-round prospect.  He could've been a project similar to how the Eagles did with CB Jack Ikegwonu and OT King Dunlap in the 2008 draft).



Too early to call any of these selections a bust.


The bottom line is the scouting team has to do a much better job. Too many of the Eagles current holes are because of too many early round prospects that just didn't pan out for the NFL let alone the Philadelphia Eagles.


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