As the NFL draft draws closer and closer, one cannot help but anticipate who their team will take at each pick. As my team is the Eagles, this year’s draft is incredibly important, as it could potentially fill holes that would make my team a Super Bowl contender.
Andy Reid, having coached the Eagles for twelve seasons, has had his share of both good and bad draft picks. As Eagles fans await his decisions this year, this is a slide show that highlights the five best and worst picks he has made in his tenure here.
While Quintin Mikell was not a draft pick, I have decided to include undrafted players on my list of great picks.
Mikell was not selected in any of the seven rounds of the draft, but Andy Reid decided to take a chance on him and give him a spot on the 53-man roster. It proved to be a wise decision.
Mikell would emerge as a standout special teams contributor. He would work his way up to become a solid starter at strong safety and his coverage abilities have been excellent.
Despite his stone-hard hands, Mikell’s impact on the team now cannot be denied and—with the departure of Brian Dawkins after the 2008 season—Mikell has also helped to fill the void in leadership on the defense.
He will be missed should the Eagles choose not to re-sign him for the 2011 season.
Of course, Jamaal Jackson was also an undrafted free agent. However, I am sure even Andy Reid himself did not realize the impact of the pick that he would be making.
Jackson would emerge from an undrafted free agent struggling to find a place on the roster to the undisputed starting center and an anchor on the offensive line for many years. With consistent play and strong leadership, his impact was fully realized when he tore his ACL right before the 2010 postseason, which contributed greatly to both disasters suffered at the hands of Dallas.
Jackson has struggled to stay healthy since and if he can get back on track, the Eagles are in good shape. If not, center may be another position that the Eagles may have to invest in this offseason.
As the only Pro Bowl defensive end taken in the 2005 NFL Draft, few today would guess that Trent Cole was taken as far back as the fifth round.
At the 146th pick, Andy Reid passed on Erasmus James, Marcus Spears, Dan Cody, Vincent Burns, Chauncey Davis, Chris Canty and David McMillan to select Cole. What a great pick it would turn out to be!
Today, Cole is easily the best out of that group. He is arguably the best defensive player on the entire Eagles roster and the team depends heavily upon his sacks and quarterback pressures to slow down opponents.
Cole is also young and can be expected to contribute to this Eagles defense for years to come.
Similar to Trent Cole, Andy Reid passed on running backs T.J. Duckett, DeShaun Foster, Maurice Morris, Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts to select Brian Westbrook in the third round at 91st overall. Out of all of those players, only Portis would come close to Westbrook’s production.
Westbrook would go on to become a franchise back, being lethal in the return game and one of the most explosive players in recent NFL history. He would be selected to two Pro Bowls, one All-Pro and become a fan favorite in Philadelphia.
What should also be kept in mind is that until Terrell Owens came along, Westbrook was the only playmaker Donovan McNabb had in his arsenal of “weapons.” Without Westbrook, the Eagles surely could never have made all the postseason and conference championship appearances that they did.
Therefore, Westbrook is the second-best pick ever made under the Andy Reid era. With the first of course being…
You can love him or you can despise him, but not a single Eagles fan can deny Donovan McNabb’s production and what he has done for this football team.
Taken second overall, Eagles fans everywhere were disgusted that their new young coach Andy Reid had passed on the opportunity to take Ricky Williams. Williams had a productive career, but none today would say that he should have been picked over McNabb.
And in fact, out of the six quarterbacks taken in the first three rounds—McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Akili Smith, Cade McNown, Brock Huard and Tim Couch—only McNabb and Culpepper would have productive careers. And between McNabb and Culpepper, McNabb has also clearly had better career.
With a strong arm and an incredibly agile body, No. 5 carried his Philadelphia Eagles team to the postseason eight out of 10 seasons as the starter. Under No. 5, the Eagles made five NFC Championship appearances (four of which were consecutive), one Super Bowl appearance and five NFC East Division crowns (four of which were also consecutive) with virtually no standouts at wide receiver, save the 2004 and 2009 seasons. He is also the Eagles' all-time passing leader in every single category.
Reid was right not to cave in to public pressure when his career may have been on the line and was rewarded with a player who will, in my mind, be a Hall of Famer when all is said and done. This decision, therefore, is the best draft pick ever made under the Andy Reid era.
Yet, it is time to move on to the next category: The worst picks of the Andy Reid era...
The reason Shawn Andrews is on this list is not due to a total lack of production. Actually, Shawn Andrews has certainly contributed to this football team with his Pro Bowl appearances.
However, the knock on Shawn Andrews is that despite being a good player in Philadelphia, he failed to live up to expectations and achieve his full potential. His entire career was plagued by injuries which began as early as his rookie season, where staying healthy could have arguably been enough for the Eagles to win the Super Bowl.
Most recently, he was lost for the majority of the 2008 season with depression and landed on injured reserve for the 2009 season after the Eagles signed his brother Stacy Andrews in what was possibly an attempt to raise his spirits.
An offseason of YouTube videos that led many fans and sportswriters to question his dedication to football would forever stain his legacy with Eagles fans. The Birds would part ways with him and he is currently a member of the New York Giants.
Shawn Andrews was incredibly talented, as few offensive linemen possessed his combination of size, strength and agility. Unfortunately, he failed to be the anchor on the right side of the line that the Eagles envisioned him to be and the Eagles still struggle to fill the void that he left there to this day.
Taken in the second round at 55th overall, to say that Quinton Caver failed to live up to expectations would be a gross understatement.
Caver failed to find a spot on the Eagles roster and was on the team for a grand total of one season. His only useful asset was his contribution on special teams.
While there were few star players at his position that the Eagles missed out on, the Eagles did miss out on the opportunity to select Pro Bowl players Travis Henry and Shaun Rogers, who surely would have had more to contribute than Caver.
Additionally, with wide receiver still entirely devoid of talent, the Eagles missed out on the opportunity to select Steve Smith, which would come back to haunt them in the 2004 NFC Championship against Carolina.
The main facts that absolve Pinkston are that there were few standout wide receivers taken after him in the draft and that he sadly was the most productive wide receiver McNabb had to throw to before the Terrell Owens trade.
However, it’s hard to imagine that the Eagles could not have acquired superior talent elsewhere, as Pinkston earned nicknames such as “Alligator Arms” and “Alligator Body” for his incredibly inconsistent hands and his reluctance to take hits.
As the “go-to receiver” on the Eagles, his most productive season came in 2002, when he caught 60 balls for 798 yards and seven touchdowns. These are respectable numbers for an average receiver, but mediocre at best for a No. 1 receiver and one taken so high in the draft.
No list of Eagles busts would be complete without mentioning the infamous Jerome McDougle.
Andy Reid decided to trade up 15 rounds, giving up his 30th and 63rd overall picks, to snag McDougle. However, talented as McDougle was, his entire career was full of injuries and lack of production.
Over four seasons, he recorded a laughable three sacks and was a complete bust.
What’s sad is who the Eagles could have nabbed at 15th overall. With Troy Polamalu, Dallas Clark, Nnamdi Asomugha, Anquan Boldin, Lance Briggs and Jason Witten still on the board, I’m sure Andy Reid gets ulcers just thinking about this pick he made.
And finally, the biggest bust in the entire Andy Reid era is none other than Freddie Mitchell.
“Fred-Ex”—what he named himself—was actually quite the opposite of his admittedly clever nickname. Other than the 4th-and-26 play and McNabb’s 14-second scramble, Mitchell failed to deliver on the vast majority of occasions.
Despite his big mouth, in four seasons with the team Mitchell did not have a single season where he caught more than 35 balls and recorded 500 yards.
Receivers like “Fred-Ex” were why the Eagles made it a top priority to acquire Terrell Owens, whose 77 receptions, 1,200 yards, 15.6 yards per catch and 14 touchdowns in 2004 alone were more respectable than Mitchell’s entire career statistics of 90 receptions, 1,263 yards, 14 yards per catch and five touchdowns.
Of course, the worst part with any bust is not just the player’s lack of production, but the talent that the organization had failed to select in his place.
With McNabb’s lack of playmakers being a significant reason for his failing to win Philadelphia a Super Bowl, the Eagles missed out on the opportunity to give him Reggie Wayne, Chad Ochocinco and Steve Smith, who would all go on to become the best receivers in the league for years to come.
A selection of either of them could also have prevented the locker room drama that resulted from the McNabb-Owens feud (Ochocinco, despite a big mouth, has yet to divide a locker room).
With all that in mind, Freddie Mitchell is undoubtedly the biggest bust in the Andy Reid era and only now—with the Eagles having receivers like DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin—have the Eagles finally recovered from this poor pick.