Philadelphia Eagles' Strongest Draft Since '02

Sean SingerCorrespondent IApril 30, 2009

Back in 2002, the Eagles selected Brian Westbrook with the 91st pick in the NFL draft.

The "Wizard of Westbrook" was drafted after the birds had already snagged Lito Sheppard, Michael Lewis, and Sheldon Brown, respectively.

Seven years later, the Eagles have struck gold again.

After Knowshon Moreno was selected with the 12th pick by the Denver Broncos, the ideal choice was no longer on the board.

While Donald Brown (Uconn) and Beanie Wells (Ohio St.) would have both been available for the birds at pick 21, there was a dynamic wide receiver hanging around that had no earthly business being left at 19. Perhaps fearing that the lowly Lions would draft their guy, the Eagles traded up two spots and selected Jeremy Maclin.

Make no mistake, the Eagles had no intention of drafting a wide receiver in the first round. The glaring need was at running back and Andy Reid, Tom Heckert & Co. are typically hesitant to use any early round picks on wide-outs.

The strong production of DeSean Jackson as a rookie may have played a role in their decison to draft Maclin, but the simple fact is that exceptional talent fell right into the birds nest.

After crazy old Al Davis shocked some and reinforced Bay Area common knowledge by drafting Darrius Heyward-Bey based purely on speed, Niner fans laughed their way up the Crabtree and the Maclin slide commenced (the Texans may truly regret passing up the chance to line up Maclin on the other side of Andre Johnson).

The Eagles wisely shredded the script and instantly improved their offense, making it more explosive and dangerous.

Maclin averaged 10.9 yards per touch in his two seasons at Missouri. In other words, every time he touched the ball from scrimmage, he gained the equivalent of a first down. He had 102 pass receptions last season and averaged 7.4 yards on rushing attempts the past two years. Toss in his kick returns and he was the NCAA leader in all-purpose yards in both 2007 and 2008 (info compliments of Ray Didinger).

While Maclin was a great choice, the Eagles still had to address their need at running back.

Once again, luck rolled right down Broad Street. LeSean McCoy, widely regarded as one of the top five RB's available and projected by many experts to go early in the second round, was still there for the birds at 53. The fact that they grabbed McCoy in the second round made the Maclin pick all the more brilliant.

For the first time in recent memory, the Eagles spent their first three picks on skill positions. In the third round, they selected tight end Cornelius Ingram, whom many experts thought could have been a late first/early second rounder had he not suffered an ACL injury. If his recovery goes well, we could be talking about three straight steals, all at skill spots on the football field and brand new weapons for Donovan McNabb.

Perhaps the craftiest moves of the Eagles' 2009 Draft involved two veteran players.

Trading for OT Jason Peters was unquestionably a great move, considering the departure of Tra Thomas and the Pro Bowl-caliber Peters.

Combined with the addition of Stacy Andrews and the return of Shawn Andrews (not to mention the benefits towards the mental health of Shawn that the two moves will hopefully have, something that no doubt was considered before pulling the trigger), the Eagles could have one of the top three or four offensive lines in all of football.

Don't underestimate the impact of the Ellis Hobbs move, either. In 2007, the New England Patriots went undefeated in the regular season, eventually losing in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. Who were the Pats starting corner backs that year? Oh yeah, that's right—Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs.

The two stellar secondary players are now reunited in Philly. If the Eagles can somehow squash the beef with Sheldon Brown, they will have one of the best CB trios in the NFL.

My guess is Sheldon will quit bitching once the season starts and get down to business. If Sean Jones can live up to his contract and Quentin Mikell maintains the level of play he performed at last season, look out.

After coming within one game of the Super Bowl in 2008, the Eagles improved their team tremendously on draft day.