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The 10 Best Draft Picks in Philadelphia Eagles History

Bryn SwartzSenior Writer IIIApril 3, 2013

The 10 Best Draft Picks in Philadelphia Eagles History

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    New Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has the difficult task of deciding which player is worth the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft. He could go with a quarterback, an offensive tackle or a defensive player.

    Whoever he selects will hopefully have the same effect on the team as Donovan McNabb did when the Eagles picked him as the second pick in the 1999 draft.

    While the Eagles have had more than their fair share of swings and misses in the draft, they've definitely struck gold multiple times, including a number of picks near the top of the first round.

    The following slides will address the 10 best draft picks in the history of the Eagles, in reverse order. 

10. Clyde Simmons, 9th Round (233), 1986

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    Clyde Simmons was selected in a round of the NFL draft that doesn't even exist anymore.

    The former 233rd overall pick, Simmons earned two Pro Bowl selections at defensive end, teaming with Reggie White, Jerome Brown and Mike Golic to form arguably the most dominant defensive line in the National Football League.

    His 19-sack year in 1992 is one of the most productive years ever by a defensive end. He recorded more than 90 tackles in five different seasons, including a career-high 135 in 1989. 

9. Brian Westbrook, 3rd Round (91), 2002

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    Brian Westbrook's peak was short and sweet, but for two seasons, he was arguably the best running back in the NFC. 

    Westbrook's 2,104 yards from scrimmage in 2007 set a franchise record. He scored double-digit touchdowns four times and averaged 4.6 yards per carry during his Eagles career. 

    He also developed a reputation as one of the most explosive return men in the league. His 84-yard game-winning punt return with just over a minute remaining in an October matchup against the New York Giants propelled the Eagles into a nine-game winning streak.

    Perhaps the most underrated aspect of Westbrook's career was his lack of fumbling, as he coughed up the ball just 12 times in 1,889 touches. 

8. Trent Cole, 5th Round (146), 2005

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    Other than Donovan McNabb, Trent Cole is the most impressive draft pick from the Andy Reid era.

    The former fifth-round draft choice established himself as a star by his third season, when he collected a career-high 12.5 sacks. Cole has topped double-digit sacks in four years, with a pair of Pro Bowl selections. 

    Following a career-worst three sacks in 2012, it will be interesting to see whether he revives his career under new head coach Chip Kelly. 

7. Randall Cunningham, 2nd Round (37), 1985

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    It's not Randall Cunningham's fault that he never received proper coaching. After all, Buddy Ryan was a defensive genius who would tell Randall to go out there and "make three or four big plays and let the defense take care of the rest."

    Had Andy Reid been coaching Cunningham, the player nicknamed the Ultimate Weapon could have been one of the most effective quarterbacks in NFL history.

    As it is, Cunningham won a Most Valuable Player award in 1990, throwing for 30 touchdowns and adding 942 yards and five scores on the ground. He took the Eagles to the postseason four times, despite playing with one of the weakest running games and offensive lines in the league. In fact, Cunningham was the team's leading rusher from 1987 through 1990.

    In 1998, Cunningham threw for 34 touchdowns, posted a 106.0 passer rating and led the Minnesota Vikings to a then-record 556 points scored, showing how effective he could be with proper coaching (and a dominant wide receiver).

6. Seth Joyner, 8th Round (208)

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    Other than Chuck Bednarik, Seth Joyner might be the best linebacker in Eagles history.

    The former eighth-round draft pick spent eight seasons in a Philadelphia uniform, earning a pair of Pro Bowl selections. He roamed the middle of the field for a defense that regularly ranked among the most feared in the NFL. 

    Joyner collected 37 sacks and 17 interceptions in an Eagles uniform. He also recorded more than 100 tackles for six consecutive seasons. 

5. Donovan McNabb, 1st Round (2), 1999

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    No, Donovan McNabb did not capture a Super Bowl title during his 11 seasons in Philadelphia. And yes, he's hurting his reputation by making a fool of himself on Twitter recently. 

    That doesn't change anything that happened during his Eagles career.

    McNabb is the best quarterback in Eagles history. He earned six Pro Bowl selections and finished second in the MVP voting in 2000, his first full season in the NFL. He took the Eagles to the postseason seven times, including five trips to the NFC championship game and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIX.

    Had he been surrounded by a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver during his career, the former No. 2 overall draft pick may have ended his career with a championship ring. 

4. Tommy McDonald, 3rd Round (31), 1957

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    Tommy McDonald spent just seven years in Philadelphia but established himself as arguably the most dominant wide receiver in franchise history.

    The last man to play without a facemask, McDonald either led the NFL in touchdowns or reached double-digit scores in five straight seasons. His best season came in 1961 when he caught 64 passes for 1,144 yards and 13 touchdowns, one of the all-time great seasons by a receiver in league history at that point.

3. Brian Dawkins, 2nd Round (61), 1996

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    One of the most popular players in franchise history, Brian Dawkins was selected in the second round of the 1996 draft by Ray Rhodes.

    Dawkins went on to become the leader of the defense for the next 13 seasons, as he earned eight Pro Bowl selections and tied Eric Allen and Bill Bradley for the most interceptions (34) in an Eagles uniform. 

    He turned in a slew of unforgettable plays on defense, including an interception of Brett Favre in overtime of the 2003 divisional playoff game and a devastating hit on Alge Crumpler in the 2004 NFC championship game victory. 

2. Steve Van Buren, 1st Round (5), 1944

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    Steve Van Buren is the greatest offensive weapon in franchise history, and it's really not that close.

    The fifth overall pick in the 1944 draft, Van Buren played the biggest role in turning the Eagles into one of the most successful teams of the late 1940s. He scored the only touchdown in the team's 1948 NFL championship victory against the Cardinals and rushed for a playoff-record 196 yards in the 1949 NFL championship game, also a victory. 

    Van Buren led the league in carries, yards and touchdowns in the same season three times. He retired with career records for rushing yards (5,860) and rushing touchdowns (69). 

    The explosive halfback was also one of the best return men of his era, averaging 26.7 yards per kick return throughout his career, including three touchdowns. 

1. Chuck Bednarik, 1st Round (1), 1949

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    The pressure was on Chuck Bednarik when he was drafted with the first overall pick in the 1949 draft. He didn't disappoint, as the hard-hitting linebacker became the best player in franchise history.

    Bednarik played 14 seasons, leading the Eagles to a pair of championships. He was widely regarded as one of the most devastating hitters in NFL history, knocking future Hall of Fame running back Frank Gifford unconscious during a crucial November game in 1960. He also tackled Packers running back Jim Taylor on the 8-yard line in the final seconds of the '60 championship, preserving the victory.

    The last man to play both offense and defense, Bednarik is one of the most versatile players in NFL history. 

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