The Philadelphia Eagles' 10 Defining Draft Moments

TCorrespondent IIIApril 11, 2009

17 Apr 1999:  Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles holds up his Eagles jersey during the NFL Draft at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. Mandatory Credit: Ezra O. Shaw  /Allsport

Historically, franchises are built through the draft.  However, with each pick there is a level of uncertainty that will only be relieved by the prospect's performance on the field.  Some turn into studs, others become busts.  Here are the top ten defining moments by the Philadelphia Eagles on draft day.

10. 2002: Lito Sheppard drafted in first round, Sheldon Brown in second round

At the time of these selections, cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor had established themselves as cornerstones of the Philadelphia secondary.  With the 26th and 59th selections respectively, Sheppard and Brown proved to be more than adequate replacements in 2003 when a rash of injuries left the Eagles secondary depleted. 

Since becoming full-time starters, Sheppard and Brown evolved into Pro Bowl caliber corners.  Until the 2008 season in the case of Sheppard, these selections solidified the Eagles secondary.  The 2002 draft has produced the highest quality of talent in the Andy Reid era, not only with the picks of Sheppard and Brown, but also in the case of the third moment in this countdown.

9. 2008: Trading down with the Carolina Panthers and selecting DeSean Jackson in the second round

The move to trade down by the Philadelphia Eagles was not a surprising one judging by their recent draft history, but this recent pick could prove to hold huge dividends based on his rookie season. 

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson was selected with the 49th overall pick in the 2008 draft.  This dynamic wideout proved to be a great weapon in the Eagles offense in his rookie season.  Jackson became an instant hit with his ability to return punts, an aspect of special teams this team was sorely lacking. 

The young receiver out of the University of California had his rookie moments as well, most notably on the big stage of Monday Night Football when he dropped the ball before crossing the goal line in a premature touchdown celebration.  Mental miscues aside, Jackson has shown that he has the talent to be top talent in the league for years to come.

8. 2003: Eagles select LJ Smith, Cowboys select Jason Witten

With the 61st pick in the 2002 draft, the Eagles selected tight end LJ Smith from Rutgers University.  However, the contrast here is that eight picks later in the third round, the Dallas Cowboys drafted tight end Jason Witten. 

Initially, the comparison was irrelevant.  Smith shined in limited action in his rookie season tallying 27 receptions and 321 receiving yards with 2 touchdowns.  Witten had relatively the same numbers with 35 receptions for 347 yards and a touchdown. 

However, from there Witten became a formidable receiving tight end in the same division with the likes of Jeremy Shockey of the Giants and Chris Cooley in the NFC East during this period. 

Smith peaked statistically in 2005 with 61 receptions for 682 yards and three touchdowns, but compared to Witten averaging 917 yards and 78 receptions a year since 2004, Witten is the better selection in hindsight.  Smith has since been released by the Eagles and left with the promise he once had.

7. 1996: Eagles select Jermane Mayberry

In the first round of the 1996 draft, the Eagles selected Texas A&M-Kingsville guard Jermane Mayberry with the 25th overall selection.  What makes this selection questionable in hindsight is the 26th overall selection that year, Ray Lewis. 

Mayberry was a serviceable offensive lineman, but, by comparison, one cannot help but imagine what a defense of Ray Lewis manning the middle linebacker spot along with the likes of safety Brian Dawkins would have been like.  Granted, Jeremiah Trotter was selected two years later and proved to be a great middle linebacker for this team for a number of years. 

However, given the choice would one pick a Jeremiah Trotter in his prime or a Ray Lewis, who has become the face of the Baltimore Ravens franchise and defense since first putting on the pads.  Difficult choice between the two in hindsight, but one cannot argue with Lewis' tenacity and of course the all important ring he has to show for it.

6. 1969: Eagles select Leroy Keyes over Mean Joe Greene

The story of Eagles fans throwing snowballs at Santa Claus is very infamous.  The root of the story lies in the prospect of the team losing just one more game to solidify the top pick in the 1969 draft in order to select running back OJ Simpson.  Well much to their dismay, the Eagles pulled one out that fateful day. 

Fast forward to draft day, the Eagles selected running back Leroy Keyes with the third overall selection.  Keyes was indeed a bust by comparison to Simpson with 361 rushing yards and three touchdowns in his only productive season for Philadelphia.  However, there is another part to this storied tale that neglects to be mentioned. 

The fourth selection in 1969 belonged to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who used it to draft none other than defensive tackle Mean Joe Greene.  The sting of losing out on a hall of famer like OJ Simpson was not enough, the Eagles bypassed another one in Greene. 

5. 1995: Mike Mamula, workout warrior to bust

In 1995, the NFL scouting combine first became the magnet for self-proclaimed draft experts and NFL coaches alike.  It produced the original workout warrior, Mike Mamula, a defensive end from Boston College.  Mamula was drafted seventh overall that year by the Eagles based solely on his tremendous workout numbers. 

Mamula tied the record of number of 225 pound bench presses by a tackle set by Tony Boselli, set a 40 yard dash time of 4.63, and scored a 49 out of 50 on the now much maligned Wonderlic test.  Mamula's NFL career did not measure up to these lofty expectations set by his workout.  By 2000, injuries shortened his otherwise mediocre career.  To put a little more salt in the wound, defensive tackle Warren Sapp was selected five picks later by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

4. 2007: Trading down with Dallas and selecting Kevin Kolb

Coming off of a year in which he suffered a torn ACL, Donovan McNabb was dealt another blow on draft day 2007 when the Eagles selected Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb in the second round. 

The first puzzling part of the move was to trade down out of the first round with the Dallas Cowboys. Second, to use the newly acquired pick on a quarterback, a move that would almost certainly irk the incumbent signal caller. 

In 2006, the Eagles were led to the playoffs by veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia.  The frenzy surrounding Garcia's performance made McNabb expendable in the minds of many fans.  The selection of Kolb furthered this notion.  The front office obviously saw something in Kolb enough to draft him with their first pick of the draft. 

However, the move is still puzzling two years later.  McNabb has since proven that when healthy he is a top tier quarterback in this league, benching or no benching.  It is not entirely fair to pass judgment on Kolb based on the limited action he has seen in his young career. 

It remains to be seen what ramifications this pick will have on this franchise with McNabb still under contract and supposedly asking for some more reassurance that he is their man.  It remains to be seen where this front office's loyalties lie.

3. 2002: Brian Westbrook-Diamond in the rough in the the third round

Brian Westbrook, a little known running back out of Villanova, proved to be one of the steals of the 2002 draft when the Eagles selected him in the third round.  Westbrook is without a doubt the most dynamic running back in the league today. 

Reminiscent of Marshall Faulk, he can make an impact running the ball and catching it out of the backfield for sizable gains.  His elusiveness makes him one of the most dangerous backs in the game.  The selection of Westbrook capped of the most successful single draft in Andy Reid's tenure as head coach of the Eagles. 

To find two solid cornerbacks and a franchise running back in the same draft is phenomenal.  Westbrook has proven to not only be one of the steals of the 2002 draft, but one of the biggest steals in the draft's history.

2. 2001: Drafting Freddie Mitchell over Reggie Wayne

With the 25th selection, the Eagles selected UCLA wide receiver Freddie "Fred-ex" Mitchell.  Mitchell was, if not anything else, a character.  The flashy California receiver never proved to live up to his own bravado. 

His shining moment as an Eagle was in 2003 when he made the catch on 4th and 26 against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.  Mitchell lasted in the league until 2004 after being released by the Eagles. 

With the 30th selection in the same draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected wide receiver Reggie Wayne.  Wayne has averaged over 1000 receiving yards in his eight seasons with the Colts on his way to becoming Peyton Manning's number one target. 

This selection alone is why Andy Reid is afraid to make a wide receiver a first round selection.  It could one go one of two ways, a bust or a perennial Pro Bowler.  In this case, the Colts got their Pro Bowler and the Eagles had theirs blow up in their face.

1. 1999: McNabb-Ricky Williams Controversy

Yet another infamous Philadelphia story unfolded on draft day.  With the second selection, the Eagles selected Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb.  Once that announcement was made, well let's just say it wasn't pretty for the fans, team, the city, and even the man that was drafted. 

Booing McNabb on draft day has haunted the fan base ever since.  Media outlets had yet another round of ammunition to fire upon the City of Brotherly Love, which wasn't showing much of that famous love that day.  The real story behind this infamous showing of national disgust was that thirty individuals known as the "Dirty 30" made the trek to Radio City Music Hall that day expecting to see what many fans were clamoring for: the Eagles selecting Heisman trophy winning running back Ricky Williams. 

However, when McNabb's name was called instead, the rest was history.  Thus far in their respective careers, McNabb has made those thirty people eat their boos by outperforming Williams in every aspect of the game.  McNabb may still be occasionally railed against for whatever trial or tribulation his career comes across, but there is no denying that on that day in 1999, the Eagles made the smart choice.


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