While the off-season is busy for those adjusting to life in the NFL, it’s a bit slow for those of us who cover it. That means that sometimes, a little research is necessary to come up with good ideas…and I think this is one of them.
You know how every draft pick gets labeled as “the next Player X,” or gets unfairly compared to guys who were drafted in years past?
Well, I’m going to fall into that latter category with this year’s Eagles draft picks.
I’ve looked back over the last 10 years at every player picked in the 13 spots where Philadelphia drafted last month. There’s a few greats, a ton of washouts, and even a couple of current or former Birds in the list.
So if guys like Keenan Clayton, Mike Kafka, and Charles Scott turn out to be the next anybody or the best selection at their spot, these are some of the potential comparisons.
After all, you never know where you’ll find a value or a diamond in the rough—like, say, Tom Brady, who was picked at No. 199 in 2000, smack in between current National Football Post writer Matt Bowen and eventual CFL washout Sherrod Gideon.
2000-2009 counterparts: Redskins DE/LB Brian Orakpo (pictured), Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart, Redskins DT Adam Carriker, Raiders DE/LB Kamerion Wimbley, Saints OT Jammal Brown, Bills WR Lee Evans, Patriots DE Ty Warren, Ravens WR Donte Stallworth, Bills DT Marcus Stroud, Falcons DE John Abraham
I included all 10 of those guys because it’s hard to choose the “best.” Even the “busts” have turned out to be decent NFL players.
Okay, Wimbley kind of sucks and Carriker missed all of last season, but you get the point.
Graham is looked at as a potentially similar player to Orakpo, except he’ll be on the line as opposed to coming off the edge as a rush linebacker.
But if he matches Orakpo’s rookie production (11 sacks and 50 tackles), he’ll be a steal.
As for the rest…well, Stewart ran for 1,000 yards last season, Brown is a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle, Warren has been an anchor of two Super Bowl Champions, and John Abraham is a three-time All-Pro who set the Falcons’ single-season sack record in 2008.
So yeah, even if he’s one of the worst players on this list when all is said and done, Brandon Graham will still be a pretty damn good NFL player.
2009 Counterpart: Broncos CB Alphonso Smith
“Best” Counterpart: Cowboys C Andre Gurode (2000)
Other Notables: Saints T Jon Stinchcomb (2003) Texans DT Shaun Cody (2005, Detroit), Chargers S Eric Weddle (2007, pictured)
Bust-a-roonie: LB Teddy Lehman
Well, Allen will forever be known as the guy the Eagles got straight up for Donovan McNabb.
Even worse, he was picked in the same spot as some of the best at their position in the NFL.
In 2009, Gurode was an NFC Pro Bowler for the fourth straight season and also made his second All-Pro Team.
Weddle—who was considered a huge reach when the Chargers took him at No. 37—has cracked the top echelon of safeties in the league, according to many, and is a versatile bruiser who has notched 262 tackles, four picks and a handful of deflections in his career.
Then there’s Stinchcomb, also a Pro Bowler last year for the defending champion Saints, and guard Travis Claridge – the Falcons’ pick in 2000 who had four good seasons in Atlanta before a knee injury killed his career; sadly, he passed away in 2006.
As for bust Lehman…give me five years and he may be replaced by Smith, who did nothing as a rookie in Denver. But Lehman, who was one of the best linebackers in the nation at Oklahoma, had a great rookie year with Detroit before falling off the face of the Earth.
Injuries and inconsistency killed his career to the point that he spent 2009 in the UFL, although he now has another NFL chance after being signed by Jacksonville this spring.
2009 Counterpart: Vikings CB Asher Allen
“Best” Counterpart: Retired (49ers) LB Jeff Ulbrich (pictured)
Other Notables: Ravens OT Marshal Yanda, Ravens S Tom Zbikowski, Saints TE David Thomas
Bust-a-roonie: WR Marquise Walker
No. 86 isn’t a bad spot to be drafted.
After all, the “top” guy, Ulbrich, was a fairly productive linebacker for nearly a decade. He was a starter for the Niners for his first few years, before injuries and Patrick Willis eventually caught up to him.
Ulbrich retired last December after a severe concussion, but will be in the league in 2010 as an assistant in the Seahawks organization.
As for the rest of the names there, Allen has a real shot at starting on the corner for the Vikes next year, Yanda is currently the starting right guard for the Ravens, Zbikowski may start the season as their strong safety, and Thomas was a key offensive contributor for the Saints’ Super Bowl run last year.
Then there’s Walker, who was a high school All-American in New York who set numerous NYSPHSAA records before moving on to Michigan—where he broke several school receiving records.
Unfortunately, being drafted by Jon Gruden’s Buccaneers was the highlight of his career; he’s apparently a big fan of the booze, and has more DUIs (three) than NFL games played (zero).
Last anyone knew, he had been cut by the AFL’s Orlando Predators (who were coached by Chucky’s brother, Jay Gruden) and faded into obscurity.
Can’t win them all, right?
But if Te’o-Nesheim comes close to being any of the defensive guys listed in this slide, the Eagles can only be thrilled.
Eagles Picks: Kentucky CB Trevard Lindley (105), Oklahoma LB Keenan Clayton (121), Northwestern QB Mike Kafka (122), Missouri State TE Clayton Harbor (125)
2009 Counterparts: Bears DE Henry Melton (105), Bills TE Shawn Nelson (121), Texans TE Anthony Hill (122), Falcons DE Lawrence Sidbury (125)
“Best” Counterparts: Lions S Ko Simpson (105), Broncos RB Correll Buckhalter (121), Cowboys RB Tashard Choice (122), Steelers CB Ike Taylor (125, pictured)
Other notables: FA FB Justin Griffith (121), Saints OT Jermon Bushrod (125), Packers LB Brady Poppinga (125), FA CB Jason David (125)
Bust-a-roonie: QB Jesse Palmer (125)
I put these four guys together to make a point: The fourth round is pretty much where “name value” becomes less important than system value.
Not that good system players aren’t always important, of course, but at the beginning of what is now Day 3, you can find a lot of good players who aren’t crazily hyped.
It doesn’t often happen right away, as the 2009 class proves; that group is more notable for getting the swine flu (Hill’s fate last fall) than anything they did on the field.
But Simpson was the Bills’ starting strong safety for three seasons, Buckhalter has been a great No. 2 RB when he can stay healthy, Griffith has been a very good fullback for three teams over the last seven seasons, and Choice is easily the best “No. 3” back in the league, who could probably start for a handful of teams.
And just look at No. 125: Taylor is entrenched as a starting corner on a two-time Super Bowl Championship defense, Poppinga is a very serviceable linebacker for the Packers, and the Saints’ offense missed nary a beat when Bushrod stepped in for an injured Jammal Brown last year.
Did anyone know who most of those guys were in college? Maybe...but they definitely knew Palmer, whose high college profile (he was Florida’s QB in between Doug Johnson and Rex Grossman) far exceeded any NFL “talent” he had.
That’s why Buckhalter, Taylor, Griffith, and LB Brandon Short (among others drafted in the fourth round earlier this decade) are still in the league and Palmer is handing out roses and helmet stickers these days as a former Bachelor contestant and current ESPN analyst.
If it wasn’t for that, he’d be just another Samie Parker, Onterrio Smith, or Stefan LeFors—good college players from “name-brand” schools that never really caught on in the NFL despite a supposed “pedigree.”
What will the future have in store for Lindley, Clayton, Kafka, and Harbor? Hopefully for the Eagles, it’s more than a flower and a pedigree.
Eagles Picks: Clemson DE/LB Ricky Sapp (No. 134), Florida WR RIley Cooper (No. 159)
2009 Counterparts: Chargers (now Giants) RB Gartrell Johnson (134), Eagles T Fenuki Tupou (159)
“Best” Counterpart: Falcons FB Ovie Mughelli (No. 134)
Other Notables: Ravens LB Antwan Barnes (No. 134), Bears DE Mark Anderson (159, pictured)
It won’t be hard for Ricky Sapp or Riley Cooper to instantly become the best picks at their position in the last decade.
Oddly, the Eagles have had the No. 159 pick three times in the last four years, but the previous two—Tupou last year and S CJ Gaddis in 2007—have never seen an NFL snap.
Sadly, that’s a trend among the positions as a whole.
The top three are Mughelli—an All-Pro in Baltimore in 2006 who has become the lead blocker for Michael Turner and company in Atlanta—and two rotational guys.
Anderson has 12 sacks as a rookie in 2006, but has only 9.5 since and is simply a piece in the Bears’ system, while Barnes is a nickel backer best known for laying out Sav Rocca last year.
Otherwise, there’s nothing of note.
Johnson at least played in 10 games for the Giants last season, but only recorded 13 carries—all of which came late in blowouts. But while the rest have famous names (like 2002’s choices, DE John Taylor and S Andre Lott) or cool ones (Stanford Kegler and Jeb Huckeba, anyone?), they don’t have much of a career.
That’s why from here on out I won’t choose a bust; too many of these guys were “chances” as it was.
Eagles Picks: LSU RB Charles Scott (200) and Mississippi State LB Jamar Chaney (220)
2009 Counterparts: Giants/Lions/Vikings CB DeAndre Wright (200), Bills CB Ellis Lankster (220)
“Best” Counterparts: FA QB Brooks Bollinger (200), Vikings TE Jeff Dugan
Other Notables: Eagles LB Joe Mays (200, pictured), Retired G Rick DeMulling (220)
Again, for Charles Scott and Jamar Chaney to be the best of their bunches won’t take much.
The highlight of these two spots is Bollinger, who started nine games for the Jets in 2005 and amassed 2,226 yards over six seasons for three teams before heading to the UFL—where he led the Florida Tuskers to the championship game and won the league’s inaugural MVP Award.
Dugan, meanwhile, doesn’t have gaudy stats (23 catches, 161 yards, 3 TD in six seasons), but is one of the best blocking tight ends (and sometimes H-Back) in the NFL.
The rest? Yeah.
Mays is notable because he’s an Eagle, and that’s it. DeMulling was the Colts’ starting RG from 2002-2004 and had a decent seven-year career, but Dugan gets the nod because he’s still in the league.
Otherwise, there’s not much here, although the younger class could shine in time; Lankster played a lot of nickel CB for the depleted Bills last year, Broncos S Josh Barrett (No. 220 in 2008) saw time in 14 games last year, and Saints LB Marvin Mitchell (No. 220 in 2007) started a pair of games for the Super Bowl Champs last year.
Oh, and Sherrod Gideon, who I mentioned in the open? Yeah, pick No. 2000 in 2000 got the Texans zero receptions and the player a one-way ticket to Canada—where he still wasn’t that good.
Eagles Picks: Georgia DT Jeff Owens (243) and Ohio State S Kurt Coleman (244)
2009 Counterparts: Redskins/Lions WR Marko Mitchell (243), 49ers DE Ricky-Jean Francois (244, pictured)
“Best” Counterparts: FA DT Ethan Kelly (243), Falcons FB Jason Snelling (244)
Other Notables: CFL G Tony Palmer, FA RB Noah Herron (244), FA TE Tim Massaquoi (244)
Dear Jeff Owens and Kurt Coleman: Good luck.
That’s pretty much the letter of the law down here, as there ain’t much at all lurking at Nos. 243 and 244 in recent times.
Snelling is the needle in the haystack. It took a ton of injuries in Atlanta for him to get a chance to carry the ball, but he ran with that chance to the tune of 613 yards and four touchdowns last season.
While he’s still stuck behind Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood, he’s shown that he can be a legitimate option in the league.
Last year’s guys? Mitchell had four catches as a Redskin and was released earlier this month (and then signed by Detroit), while Francois—who was the MVP of the 2008 BCS Championship Game and is best known for saying he was going to “take out Tim Tebow” later that year—was only active for two
games late in the 49ers’ season.
Beyond those three, we have nothing. Seriously.
Half of the guys have never seen an NFL snap, and the ones who have were barely more than roster depth.
Herron was probably the best of the bunch, running for 271 yards in two seasons as a backup for the Packers before a stint in the UFL this past year.
As for Palmer and Massaquoi, they’re notable for their family, really; Palmer is a cousin of former MLB star Joe Carter, while Massaquoi’s cousin is Browns receiver Mohammad Massaquoi.
Could be worse, I suppose, as they could be Joey LaRocque, Dominic Furio and Shyrone Stith—guys with cool names but nothing much else.