Eagles Draft History: Why the 2002 Draft Was the Best of Andy Reid's Career

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Eagles Draft History: Why the 2002 Draft Was the Best of Andy Reid's Career
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Throughout his 12 years with the Philadelphia Eagles, Andy Reid has established himself as a pretty good drafter. He usually makes solid decisions with his first and second round picks and has shown a knack for turning a fourth or fifth round pick into a starter, or even a star, like Trent Cole.

In 2002, Reid turned in easily the best draft of his entire career. In fact, no draft he's ever done has come close.

With his first four picks in the 2002 NFL draft, Andy Reid selected four of the most dominant players the Eagles have had in the past ten seasons. 

Cornerback Lito Sheppard was selected with the 26th pick of the first round. Sheppard played with the Eagles for seven seasons, starting from late in 2003 to 2007. 

In his five seasons as a starter, Sheppard earned two Pro Bowl selections. He was named a First-Team All-Pro in 2004, when he intercepted five passes and returned two for touchdowns, including a 101-yard interception touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football. 

In 2006, Sheppard provided two of the biggest interceptions in Eagles' regular season history. With 32 seconds remaining in the game, and the Eagles clinging to a 31-24 lead against the Dallas Cowboys, Sheppard intercepted a poor pass from Drew Bledsoe and returned it 102 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.

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Later in the season, he intercepted a pass in the end zone with under a minute remaining with the Eagles clinging to a 27-24 lead against the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football. The victory propelled the Eagles to a five-game winning streak and an unlikely NFC East division title.

With the 58th pick in the second round, Reid selected safety Michael Lewis. Lewis was the worst of the first four draft picks by Reid in 2002. All he did was start for three and a half seasons, earn a Pro Bowl selection in 2004, and average 70 tackles a season. 

He intercepted eight passes, returning one 84 yards for a touchdown against the Washington Redskins in 2006. He also picked up five sacks. After the 2006 season, he joined the San Francisco 49ers.

Cornerback Sheldon Brown was selected with the 59th pick, one pick after Michael Lewis. He was the most consistent player in the Andy Reid era, starting all but one game from the 2004 season until the end of the 2009 season. 

Brown never appeared in a Pro Bowl but he probably should have. He wasn't flashy, he was just remarkably consistent. He scored five touchdowns with the Eagles, including an 83-yard interception against the Atlanta Falcons in 2009. Twice he scored touchdowns in back-to-back games, something no Eagles defender has ever accomplished. 

Villanova running back Brian Westbrook was selected with the 91st pick, late in the third round of the 2002 draft. Westbrook became arguably the most explosive playmaker the Eagles have had since Steve Van Buren. He earned Pro Bowl selections in 2004 and 2007, set the franchise record for yards from scrimmage in 2007, and provided one of the most memorable plays in Eagles history to win a game against the Giants in 2003, returning a punt 84 yards with just 1:16 remaining. 

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Westbrook accumulated almost 10,000 yards from scrimmage and 68 touchdowns with the Eagles. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry throughout his career, never falling under four. He also caught 426 passes with the team, including a franchise record of 90 in 2007.

All four players have since moved on from the Eagles although, to their credit, all four are still in the National Football League. 

The combination of Lito Sheppard, Michael Lewis, Sheldon Brown, and Brian Westbrook made for the best draft in Andy Reid's 12 seasons. It ranks as one of the best drafts any NFL team has had in the last decade. The big four combined for 27 seasons, 302 starts, and five Pro Bowl selections with the team. Most importantly, they helped the Eagles become the NFC's top team in the 2000s. 

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