15 Biggest Draft Day Misses in Philadelphia Eagles History
The draft is the biggest and most important way for an NFL franchise to build a successful team. Everybody knows that.
When a team has a draft like the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers, who selected four Hall of Fame players, that squad is set for the next few years. In the Steelers' situation, the franchise won four Super Bowls in the next six years, cementing itself as one of the great NFL dynasties.
Likewise, when a team misses on a very important draft pick like the Oakland Raiders did in 2007 when they selected JaMarcus Russell first overall, it sets the franchise back several years. In Oakland's case, the Raiders haven't had a winning record since its 2002 Super Bowl season.
For the Eagles, unfortunately, there have been many, many draft misses throughout team history. The first round is littered with players who were supposed to become cornerstones of the franchise yet did exactly the opposite.
The following 15 slides will highlight, in reverse chronological order, the 15 biggest draft day mistakes in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Warning: It's not pretty.
2011: Drafting for Position Instead of Best Player Available
The Eagles had a few glaring weaknesses on their team heading into the 2011 offseason, notably right guard, safety and cornerback. And, not coincidentally, those are the positions the Eagles selected in the first three rounds of the 2011 draft.
Drafted 23rd overall, Danny Watkins was a disaster from day one. He held out of training camp, was benched at the beginning of his first and second year and was released during the 2013 offseason.
The same thing happened to the Eagles with their next two picks. Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, who had drawn comparisons to Brian Dawkins because of his hard-hitting style of play, started just two games as a rookie, collecting 14 tackles and no interceptions. He was released before the start of his second year, becoming the highest-drafted player from the 2011 draft class to be released. Third-round cornerback Curtis Marsh has zero starts, five tackles and zero interceptions during three years with the Eagles.
All three players were drafted much higher than they should have been. Watkins was a borderline first-round talent whose age (26) should have served as a red flag to many teams. Jarrett was homegrown and drafted at least two rounds too high. And Marsh was a converted college running back who was drafted as a project but ultimately failed to pan out.
2010: Brandon Graham over Earl Thomas
This is the poor draft choice that current Eagles fans may never recover from.
The Eagles could have drafted Earl Thomas in 2010, a safety out of Texas, who would have immediately filled one of the team’s biggest needs. Instead, they drafted Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham. Although considered a safe pick at the time, Graham is well on his way to becoming a major bust, as he’s collected just 78 tackles and 11.5 sacks in four seasons.
Meanwhile, Thomas is probably the second-best player for the best team in the NFL. He's a physical, playmaking safety who has earned Pro Bowl selections in each of the last three years and All-Pro berths in the last two.
Put Thomas on the Eagles now and the Eagles would not even be considering going after Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward.
2003: Trading Up to Acquire Jerome McDougle
Jerome McDougle is one of two first-round picks drafted during the 2000s who never started a game in his NFL career.
There two reasons for this: He couldn’t stay healthy, and he couldn’t produce when he was on the field.
McDougle missed eight games as a rookie in 2003 with ankle, knee and hip injuries. He missed a game in 2004 with an irregular heartbeat and four more with a sprained knee. He was shot in the stomach during the 2005 offseason and missed the entire year after complications from surgery. He missed two games in 2006 with fractured ribs. And he missed the entire 2007 season with a torn triceps. The Eagles released him after five seasons.
During those five seasons, he missed 47 games due to injuries and collected exactly three sacks.
The nadir of McDougle's struggles may have been when he committed a pair of 15-yard penalties (facemask and unsportsmanlike conduct) in the final minutes of a 23-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2006.
It really can’t get worse until you remember that the Eagles also traded up 15 picks in the first round to acquire McDougle. The player drafted after McDougle was a safety named Troy Polamalu, who earned Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2010 and has been the best player on the Steelers for about a decade.
2001: Freddie Mitchell over Reggie Wayne
Freddie Mitchell might be the most hated player in Philadelphia Eagles history.
The Eagles drafted the UCLA receiver in the first round in 2001, five picks before the Indianapolis Colts selected future Hall of Fame wide receiver Reggie Wayne. From 2004 to 2012, Wayne averaged 92 catches, 1,240 yards and seven touchdowns per season. During his entire career, Mitchell caught 90 passes for 1,263 yards and five touchdowns.
He had difficulty learning the playbook as a rookie. He was demoted to the team's fourth receiver before the 2002 season and caught just 12 passes that year.
And he talked his way out of Philadelphia following a disastrous outing in Super Bowl XXXIX in which he caught just one pass after calling out the New England Patriots’ defensive backs before the game.
Forget about his 4th-and-26 catch in the 2003 playoffs to beat Green Bay. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. This guy couldn’t play, and he made it worse by giving himself nicknames or praising his hands for being so great.
He deserves a special place in the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Shame. Oh, and he was also once ranked as the 37th-worst player in NFL history.
1997: Drafting Jon Harris in First Round
Jon Harris was projected as a third- or maybe second-round draft pick in 1997. The Eagles decided to use their first-round draft pick on the Virginia defensive end.
Harris epitomizes the second half of the Ray Rhodes era. He started eight games in two seasons, collecting just two sacks, before the Eagles released the first-round bust before the 1999 season.
1995: Falling Victim to Mike Mamula's Dominant Combine
The first workout warrior in NFL history, Mika Mamula fooled the Eagles into selecting him with the seventh overall pick in the first round. He had originally been projected as a third-round pick, but he practiced each drill hundreds of times until he could run a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash and bench 225 pounds 26 times. He also scored a 39 on the Wonderlic test, the second-highest total in league history.
Mamula actually turned in a respectable career, collecting 31.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles in five seasons before he was out of the NFL by age 27.
It's bad enough that the Eagles drafted him in the first round, but it's even worse that they traded up from the 12th pick to the seventh (giving up two second-round picks in the process) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs ended up drafting defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who earned Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1999 and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
1993: Reaching for Leonard Renfro as Reggie White's Replacement
The Eagles lost star defensive tackle Jerome Brown when he tragically died in a car crash before the 1992 season. They lost future Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White before the 1993 season when he signed with the Green Bay Packers in free agency.
So they attempted to fill a void on the defensive line by selecting defensive tackle Leonard Renfro with one of their two first-round picks in the 1993 draft.
Renfro played two seasons. He never collected a sack, forced a fumble or made a big play. He was out of the NFL by age 24.
1990: Trading Up to Acquire Antone Davis
The Eagles gave away two first-round picks to move up to eighth overall in the 1990 draft, where they selected star offensive lineman Antone Davis to play right tackle.
Davis' five-year tenure in Philadelphia was an absolute disaster. He was benched as a rookie and again in his fourth season, when he moved inside to left guard.
The Eagles allowed Davis to walk in free agency after the 1995 season. He played two more seasons with the Atlanta Falcons before his career ended at age 30.
1985: Kevin Allen over Jerry Rice
Projected as a third- or fourth-round talent by most teams, Kevin Allen was drafted with the ninth overall pick by the Eagles in the 1985 draft.
He played exactly one season in the NFL. That's because the Eagles' right tackle made just four starts in a brutal rookie season. He tested positive for cocaine during training camp in 1986, was charged with sexual assault and spent the next three years in prison.
He was described by head coach Buddy Ryan as a good player if you want someone to stand around and kill the grass. In fact, one sportswriter concluded that there were exactly three players in the history of the NFL worse than Kevin Allen.
A few picks after Kevin Allen, the San Francisco 49ers took a wide receiver from Mississippi Valley State named Jerry Rice, who finished his 20-year Hall of Fame career with all-time records in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
1983: Reaching for Michael Haddix in Year of the Quarterback
Michael Haddix is the worst running back in the history of the NFL. There's no debating that. He played eight seasons, the first six with the Eagles, and averaged exactly 3.0 yards per attempt for his career.
For reasons that may never be explained, the Eagles gave him at least 48 carries every year...for six straight seasons. He never rushed for more than 21 yards on a single carry. He scored three touchdowns in six seasons, none in his final 435 carries.
And if you think that's bad, check out his rookie season. He rushed 91 times for 220 yards. That's 2.4 yards per carry. His longest run was 11 yards. The single best game of his entire career was his first, when he carried 24 times for 76 yards (3.2 yards per carry) and a touchdown.
After his dreadful six-year tenure with the Eagles, he was actually signed by the Green Bay Packers, where he played two more seasons. He set a career high for carries in his final year, when he rushed 98 times with a long of 13 yards.
His career statistics are as follows: 543 carries, 1,635 yards, 3.0 yards per carry. He scored three rushing touchdowns and fumbled 16 times.
Sportswriter Jeff Pearlman ranked Haddix as the 14th-worst player in NFL history, Personally, I find that extremely generous. There's simply no way 13 players were worse. No chance.
For what it's worth, here are some of the players drafted in the same round as Michael Haddix: John Elway, Eric Dickerson, Bruce Matthews, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino and Darrell Green.
1972: Drafting John Reaves in First Round
Taken by the Eagles in the first round of the 1972 draft, quarterback John Reaves never won a start with the Eagles. Zero. None.
Reaves started seven games during his rookie season, losing all seven. He completed just 48.2 percent of his passes, threw seven touchdowns against 12 interceptions and suffered a ridiculous 38 sacks on just 224 dropbacks.
He attempted 39 passes over the next two years in an Eagles uniform, completing 10 of them.
1969: Leroy Keyes over Mean Joe Greene
The Eagles came so close to earning the number one overall pick in the 1969 draft, which they would have undoubtedly used on Heisman Trophy-winning running back O.J. Simpson.
Instead the 0-11 Eagles managed to win two of their final three games to finish with the league's third-worst record. Instead of drafting Simpson, the Eagles took running back Leroy Keyes.
Keyes was everything Simpson was not on a football field. He finished his rookie season with 121 carries for 361 yards and three touchdowns. That's fewer than three yards per carry.
He was so ineffective as a running back that the Eagles converted him to a safety before the 1971 season. He was out of football by age 26.
By the way, the Pittsburgh Steelers, drafting one spot behind the Eagles, selected a defensive tackle named Joe Greene, arguably the best tackle in the history of the NFL and the cornerstone of the Steelers dynasty in the 1970s.
1967: Drafting Harry Jones in First Round
44 carries. 85 yards. 1.9 yards per carry. Oh...and zero touchdowns.
Those are the career numbers for Harry Jones, the running back the Eagles drafted in the first round of the 1967 draft.
1952: Drafting Johnny Bright in First Round
A dominant college football player, Harry Bright passed on signing with the Philadelphia Eagles because he didn't want to be their first black player.
The college running back/linebacker became a star in the Canadian Football League, even winning league Most Valuable Player honors in 1959.
1936: Drafting Jay Berwanger First Overall
The first pick in the first draft in NFL history, Jay Berwanger never played a single down for the Philadelphia Eagles. That's because the Eagles didn't think they would be able to meet his contract demands and traded his negotiating rights to the Chicago Bears. Berwanger and Bears head coach George Halas also couldn't come to an agreement on salary demands, leading Berwanger to end his NFL career before it started.
Instead, he became a professional sportswriter and later a manufacturer of used car parts.