The 10 Biggest Draft Busts in Philadelphia Eagles History
The Philadelphia Eagles have had their share of failed draft picks throughout the franchise’s history. The team has never won a Super Bowl, which could be the result of poor selections in the draft. Whether it was the first overall selection in Eagles history or a 26-year-old firefighter, there are countless choices that have plagued the city over the years.
The Andy Reid era included some of the more well-known players, as Reid missed on Freddie Mitchell, Jerome McDougle and the aforementioned Danny Watkins.
There’s no way to know if hitting on one of these players would have resulted in a Super Bowl championship. But these won’t be selections that Eagles fans look back on with fond memories.
Some of these are victims of injuries, which are difficult to avoid. Others are victims of off-the-field issues, which have derailed some terrific collegiate prospects. And then some have just failed to grasp the intricacies of the game at the NFL level.
As first-round picks are graded on a heavier scale, each of the 10 biggest draft busts in Eagles history was taken in the first round of his respective draft.
10. Danny Watkins
Fortunately for Danny Watkins, there’s still time to get his name off this list. That is, assuming the Philadelphia Eagles don’t draft Eric Fisher and slide Todd Herremans inside to right guard.
Watkins has been benched twice in two seasons. He’s already 28 years old with just 18 career starts to his name. He is a poor pass-blocker and an average run-blocker who commits too many penalties.
It would cost the Eagles $2.14 million of dead money, but if Chip Kelly doesn’t view Watkins as a good fit in his system, he could be a training camp casualty.
9. Jon Harris
His name has long been forgotten by Philadelphia Eagles fans, but Jon Harris was one of the more disappointing draft picks of the last 20 years.
The defensive end, selected 25th overall in 1997, collected two sacks in two seasons before he was released. Fortunately for Harris, he was only the second-worst defensive end the Eagles picked in the first round that decade.
8. Bernard Williams
After starting 16 games as a rookie left tackle in 1994, Bernard Williams never played another snap in the NFL. He was suspended for the beginning of ’95 for testing positive for marijuana in the offseason, and eventually failed 15 drugs tests in all.
It took Williams five years to get his life back on track before he finally settled down and enjoyed a productive career in the CFL. While it’s terrific for Williams that he was able to break the drug habit and play professional football, it was a wasted first-round draft pick for the Philadelphia Eagles.
7. Michael Haddix
Michael Haddix was an absolutely disastrous first-round selection as a running back. Despite being taken eighth overall, Haddix scored just three touchdowns in 120 career NFL games. He holds the all-time record for the lowest yards per carry average (3.0) among a running back with at least 500 carries.
In eight seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers, Haddix never averaged more than 3.5 yards per carry. He went the final six seasons of his career without scoring a rushing touchdown. And the longest carry he ever had went for 21 yards.
That’s not production worthy of a top-10 selection.
6. Jerome McDougle
The Philadelphia Eagles traded up in the 2003 NFL draft to grab Jerome McDougle, a pass-rushing specialist out of the University of Miami. McDougle was supposed to thrive in Jim Johnson’s blitz-heavy defense that already included Corey Simon, Jeremiah Trotter, Troy Vincent, and Brian Dawkins.
McDougle saw action in just eight games as a rookie as a reserve end, picking up no sacks. Over the next five seasons, he played in just 29 of a possible 80 games. He made no starts, registered a grand total of three sacks and zero forced fumbles and was mercifully released in the 2008 training camp.
5. Antone Davis
The Philadelphia Eagles actually traded two first-round draft picks to move up and select Antone Davis eighth overall in 1991. Davis was thought to be a prototypical left tackle at the NFL level, although he never came close to reaching elite status.
Davis’s rookie season was mired by a lengthy holdout and numerous penalties that even led to his benching. He suffered a knee sprain in Year 2 and a shoulder injury in Year 3. By Year 4, the Eagles slid Davis inside to left guard. After 1995, the Eagles allowed Davis to walk in free agency.
4. Mike Mamula
Mike Mamula was a productive defensive end at Boston College who saw his stock rise after an extremely productive scouting combine. The NFL’s ultimate workout warrior, Mamula ran a 4.58 40-yard dash, bench-pressed 225 pounds 28 times, had a vertical jump of 38" and even scored a ridiculous 49 out of 50 on the Wonderlic test.
The Philadelphia Eagles thought they had the next Reggie White when they picked Mamula seventh overall.
Mamula wasn’t as bad as Jerome McDougle, but he never came close to fulfilling his potential. He registered 31.5 sacks in six underwhelming seasons, never hitting double digits in any campaign.
3. Freddie Mitchell
Freddie Mitchell was supposed to be a playmaking weapon for Donovan McNabb. The 25th overall pick in the 2001 draft, Mitchell joined a receiving corps that had featured the immortal Charles Johnson and Torrance Small the previous year.
Mitchell didn’t play any role his first two seasons and had just a limited impact as a slot receiver in 2003 and 2004. Mitchell eventually talked his way out of Philadelphia, beginning when he pretended he didn’t know the names of the New England defensive backs before the Super Bowl.
When safety Rodney Harrison caught more passes (two) than Mitchell, it was the end of Mitchell in Philly.
What’s interesting about Mitchell is that he’s actually remembered for some of the more legendary plays in Eagles history. He caught the 4th-and-26 pass. He caught the 60-yarder after McNabb’s 14.1 second scramble. And he did score two touchdowns in the 2004 NFC Divisional Playoffs.
But that’s not enough to offset 90 total catches in four years.
2. Leroy Keyes
Leave it to the Philadelphia Eagles to find out a way to mess up the O.J. Simpson sweepstakes. At 0-11, the Eagles were in prime position to select Simpson first overall in the 1969 NFL draft.
The Eagles then won two of their final three games, dropping to the third selection in the draft. That gave Philadelphia a halfback named Leroy Keyes. Keyes played one disappointing season at running back before making an unsuccessful transition to strong safety.
His career numbers included a 3.0 yards-per-carry average, three touchdowns and eight interceptions.
1. Jay Berwanger
There are no NFL stats to Jay Berwanger’s name, which is an absolute shame. The Philadelphia Eagles selected him first overall in the first-ever draft, but Berwanger never played a game.
In fact, he never tried to play a game. Berwanger and the Eagles couldn’t agree upon a salary, and Berwanger chose to participate in the Olympics instead. He later worked briefly as a sportswriter and then as a manufacturer of plastic car parts.