The 25 Best Draft Picks in Philadelphia Eagles History

WesAnalyst IOctober 26, 2011

The 25 Best Draft Picks in Philadelphia Eagles History

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    The perception in Philadelphia is the Eagles can't draft worth a lick.

    It's probably not too far off, but there were some great finds over the years including several Hall of Famers and a a few NFL Champions.

    Only players who were drafted appear on the list, so don't hold your breath for Pete Retzlaf, who was drafted by the Lions but played his entire career for the Eagles.

    And players who were acquired as undrafted free agents won't be on here either. It is a shame, because Andre Waters would be in the top 10.

    The only semi-exception was Reggie White. He was acquired via the supplemental draft in 1984.

No. 25: DeSean Jackson

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    2008 Draft, 2nd Round, 49th Overall, WR California

    Love him or hate, DeSean Jackson has turned into one of the premier playmakers in the NFL.

    He may disappear in big games and his production may fluctuate, but he still manages to open up things for everyone else on offense because defenses fear him.

    Jackson also ended a long stretch of failed draft picks at wide receiver, which included Freddie Mitchell, Billy McMullen and Na Brown. It also put to be the notion about the Eagles not going after a player who had some baggage coming out of college.

    Fans gave the front office a lot of trouble about passing on Warren Sapp and Randy Moss because each had issues with marijuana. Reports circulated about Jackson and the illegal drug use as well, but it didn't stop the Eagles from taking him.

No. 24: Tom Brookshier

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    1953 Draft, 10th Round, 117th Overall, CB Colorado

    Don't let the 10th round fool you. Back in 1953 there were 30 rounds in the draft but only 12 teams in the league.

    At 117th, Brookshier would be the equivalent to a mid-fourth round pick in the current NFL draft.

    The Eagles eventually landed a two-time Pro Bowler who also earned a first-team All-Pro selection during Philadelphia's NFL Championship season of 1960.

    On a side note: For those of you who live in Philadelphia, you can credit this man for helping 610, now 94.1 WIP, become what it is today. He hosted the morning show with Angelo Cataldi and transformed sports talk radio into an opportunity for fans to vent their ever-growing frustrations with Philadelphia sports.

No. 23: Mike Quick

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    1982 Draft, 1st Round, 20th Overall, WR North Carolina State

    Mike Quick caught 10 passes during his rookie year in 1982 and then exploded to earn five-consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl and the distinction of earning All-Pro honors twice.

    All of it seemed to go to waste, as the Eagles never recorded a winning season during Quick's dominant run.

    As Quick's career declined Ron Jaworski gave way to Randall Cunningham, and players like Cris Carter, Fred Barnett and Calvin Williams pushed Quick out the door.

    Quick was an explosive downfield receiver who was more than capable of scoring a touchdown anywhere on the field. He demonstrated his big-play ability in 1985, when he caught a 99-yard touchdown pass from Jaworski in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons.

No. 22: Bobby Taylor

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    1995 Draft, 2nd Round, 50th Overall, CB Notre Dame

    From 1978-1994 Herman Edwards and Eric Allen held down the right cornerback position. It was one less worry on defense, and they allowed those around to play at a higher level.

    When Allen left the team after the '94 season, a rookie named Bobby Taylor was asked to step up.

    Taylor only made it to one Pro Bowl, but he teamed up with Troy Vincent to give the Eagles a pair of the best cornerbacks in the NFL for nearly a decade.

No. 21: Trent Cole

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    2005 Draft, 5th Round, 146th Overall, DE Cincinnati

    Somewhere along the line Andy Reid tried drafting small, quick defensive ends. It usually backfired— except for this pick.

    Trent Cole racked up eight sacks in his rookie season and began to prove his worth as a pass rusher.

    In the midst of his seventh season with the Eagles, Cole has climbed to third on the franchise's sack list with 60 sacks.

No. 20: Jeremiah Trotter

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    1998 Draft 3rd Round, 72nd Overall, LB Stephen F. Austin

    Drafting Jeremiah Trotter was one of the last good deeds by Ray Rhodes.

    It allowed Andy Reid to inherit a legitimate middle linebacker capable of making plays while also scaring the living hell out of opponents.

    Who knows where the defense would have been without Trot, because Reid certainly was not doing anyone any favors by drafting linebackers like Quinton Caver, Barry Gardner and Matt McCoy.

    Unfortunately, Reid found a way to screw up and didn't spend the money on Trotter. With Trotter gone, the Eagles were exploited at linebacker in the 2002 and 2003 NFC Championship games.

    When Trotter came back to Philadelphia after a two-year hiatus with Washington, the Eagles went to the Super Bowl.

    Terrell Owens got a lot of pub for helping the Eagles get there, but many could argue Trotter was equally important.

No. 19: Bob Brown

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    1964 Draft, 1st Round, 2nd Overall, OL Nebraska

    When you go this high in the draft, there are some lofty expectations. Odds are the player turns into a bust and the fanbase never forgets about.

    In the case of Bob Brown, he turned into a Hall-of-Famer and everyone forgets who he is.

    Part of it is due to him playing five years with the Philadelphia Eagles, two years with the Los Angeles Rams and three years with the Oakland Raiders.

    In Philadelphia he was named a Pro Bowler and All-Pro three times.

No. 18: Tra Thomas

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    1998 Draft, 1st Round, 11th Overall, OL Florida State

    Once again Rhodes was around for a key piece to be passed onto Andy Reid.

    This time Rhodes drafted a left tackle who lasted 11 seasons with the Eagles. Thomas tossed in a clunker or two against Michael Strahan and got called for a false start a little too often, but it was well worth it.

    He only missed 10 games in 11 years and offered stability, which is something Eagles fans are praying to come their way along the offensive line.

    Reid's repeated failure to draft an offensive tackle makes this 1998 selection look better each year.

No. 17: Eric Allen

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    1988 Draft, 2nd Round, 30th Overall, CB Arizona State

    Forget about Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

    Eric Allen was better than all of them when he was an Eagle.

    He was a playmaker who had a knack for picking of pass and turning them into touchdowns, and he was capable of delivering punishing hits when players came in his area.

    He went to five Pro Bowls, was named an All-Pro once and had 34 picks in seven seasons as an Eagle.

No. 16: Jerome Brown

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    1987 Draft, 1st Round, 9th Overall, DT Miami (FL)

    In the late '80s, Philadelphia was building on of the greatest defenses of all time.

    It started up front with Reggie White moving back to defensive end after he played defensive tackle during the '86 season. The only way Philadelphia could move White is if they had a reliable option at defensive tackle.

    Who better to take than a loud-mouth renegade from Miami named Jerome Brown?

    He was part of the Miami Hurricane football teams that turned college football upside down. He was a relentless pass rusher from the middle of the line, and he allowed White to showcase his true talents.

    Sadly, Brown never reached his potential on or off the field, as he was killed in a car crash in the summer of 1992.

No. 15: Randall Cunningham

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    1985 Draft, 2nd Round, 37th Overall, QB University Nevada Las Vegas

    The 1985 NFL Draft can easily be considered the worst quarterback draft class of all time.

    Bernie Kosar went 29th overall and was the only quarterback to go off the board in the first round. The Philadelphia Eagles made Randall Cunningham the second quarterback taken in the draft eight picks later.

    Despite the lack of depth Philadelphia found the future replacement for Ron Jaworkski, who are the time was the only quarterback to bring the franchise to the Super Bowl.

    All Cunningham did was change the way quarterbacks played the game.

    He had an a cannon for an arm, and he wasn't scared to take off and run if things broke down. It produced plenty of highlights, and it helped Cunningham win the 1990 Pro Football Writers MVP.

    None of it led to postseason success, though. Some point the blame in Buddy Ryan's direction, while others think the scrambling quarterback wasn't smart enough to read defenses.

    Regardless of your opinion, drafting a game-changing quarterback when the draft pool was shallow is impressive.

No. 14: Brian Dawkins

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    1996 NFL Draft, 2nd Round, 61st Overall, DB Clemson

    Can someone get Ray Rhodes on the phone? Maybe he's the key to turning things around in Philly.

    This is yet another draft pick inherited by Andy Reid from the Rhodes era.

    Dawkins was only a couple years removed from Wes Hopkins and Andre Waters striking fear into the hearts of opponents. He represented Waters' No. 20 proudly, as he brought the same tenacity and toughness to the defense.

    The future eight-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro arrived at a low point in franchise history and was a key piece in turning things around.

    He never put up big numbers, but when anyone watched him play, there was a sense he made every player on the field better. He did it through blitzes, stuffing the run, offering help over the top, or knocking the stuffing out of someone.

    He played 13 years in Philadelphia and is a stone-cold lock for the Hall of Fame.

No. 13: Seth Joyner

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    1986 Draft, 8th Round, 208th Overall, LB Texas El Paso

    No one will argue Seth Joyner was a better player than Brian Dawkins. But he was a better draft pick in terms of value.

    Joyner fell to the eighth round, was selected to two Pro Bowls with the Eagles and became one of the integral pieces to the Gang Green defense.

    He ranks second in the franchise with 875 tackles, and according to Joyner's website,, he was named the Player of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 1991.

No. 12: Harold Carmichael

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    1971 Draft, 7th Round, 161st Overall, WR Southern

    Harold Carmichael was a physically imposing presence at 6'8'', and he was able to use it to his advantage.

    He was a favorite target of Ron Jaworski and a key piece to the 1980 NFC Championship team.

    His 589 receptions, 8,798 receiving yards, 79 receiving touchdowns, and 180 games played as a receiver are all franchise records.

No. 11: Charlie Johnson

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    1977 Draft, 7th Round, 175th Overall, DT Colorado

    The Eagles slowly built momentum in the '70s, and Charlie Johnson was a key piece to the team's success.

    Throughout his five-year career with Philadelphia, Johnson found himself playing nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. Johnson went to the Pro Bowl from '79-'81 and was named an All Pro in '80 and '81.

    The noteworthy year, of course, was 1980, which marked the first time Philadelphia went to the Super Bowl.

No. 10: LeSean McCoy

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    2009 Draft, 2nd Round, 53rd Overall, RB Pittsburgh

    No one wanted to admit Brian Westbrook was running out of gas and breaking down.

    Andy Reid refused to live in denial and tried to find a replacement for one of the greatest running backs in Eagles history.

    Reid struck pure gold.

    How can you tell the pick was great?

    First, McCoy showed how productive he can be as a running back and a receiver out of the backfield.

    Second, no one complained about Westbrook being let go. If there wasn't a viable replacement for Westbrook, fans would have gone nuts about his departure.

    Think it's false?

    Just look at how badly fans want Brian Dawkins to come back. If someone could have stepped in to fill the void, no one would talk about him returning. The problem is finding a player capable of stepping into such a role.

No. 9: Brian Westbrook

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    2002 Draft, 3rd Round, 91st Overall, RB Villanova

    Brian Westbrook was one of the best players in college football in 2002. It doesn't matter that he played for D-II school Villanova. He was capable of doing more things and doing it better than most.

    Look back at the Heisman voting. Carson Palmer won it, followed by Brad Banks, Larry Johnson, Willis McGahee, Ken Dorsey and Byron Leftwich.

    It wasn't exactly a rich NFL Draft that year. To prove it, William Green was the first running back to go off the board. He was taken by the Browns with the 16th overall pick.

    To the Eagles' credit, they passed on Maurice Morris, Ladell Betts and DeShaun Foster.

    What they got was one of the most versatile and best running backs in the NFL and one of the greatest backs in franchise history.

    It's still shocking few teams saw his value.

No. 8: Pete Pihos

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    1945 Draft, 5th Round, 41st Overall, SE Indiana

    Pete Pihos found himself on the 1948 and 1949 NFL Championship teams, and he used it as a springboard to become a Hall of Famer.

    He made the Pro Bowl over the final six years of his career and was an All-Pro five times throughout his career in Philadelphia.

    He never put up great numbers until his final three years as a pro.

    During that time he led the NFL in receptions three times, receiving yards twice and receiving touchdowns once.

No. 7: Clyde Simmons

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    1986 NFL Draft, 9th Round 223rd Overall, DE West Carolina

    Clyde Simmons nearly went undrafted before he turned into the ultimate complement for Reggie White.

    As White took on double teams, Simmons beat his man one-on-one and picked up 76 career sacks as an Eagle, which ranks second in team history.

    In 1992 Simmons led the NFL in sacks with 19 and earned his second-consecutive Pro Bowl and All Pro honors.

    Without Simmons, life would have gone in Philadelphia, but to think he didn't add to White's career is foolish. White never came close to the totals he put up in Philadelphia, and some of that has to be credited to Simmons.

No. 6: Wilbert Montgomery

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    1977 Draft, 6th Round, 154th Overall, RB Jackson State, Albilene Christian

    Wilbert Montgomery was an absolute steal considering how late he went in the 1977 Draft.

    With Montgomery in the backfield, the Eagles had a versatile back who was capable of using his speed to catch passes and turn the corner on the outside and was powerful enough to run between the tackles.

    In 1979 Montgomery led the NFL with 2,006 yards from scrimmage.

    Montgomery's 6,538 career rushing yards still ranks first in franchise history.

    His most memorable run came against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship game.

No. 5: Tommy McDonald

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    1957 Draft, 3rd Round, 31st Overall, FL Oklahoma

    Tommy McDonald was the Cris Carter of his day—all he did was catch touchdowns.

    From 1958 to 1961, he played in 48 games and scored 47 touchdowns. That's fantasy football production at its finest.

    His consistent ability to find the endzone helped the Eagles win their last title in 1960. And in the Championship against the Packers, guess what McDonald did?

    Yep, he hauled in a 35-yard touchdown. McDonald finished the day with three receptions for 90 yards and a score.

No. 4: Reggie White

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    1984 Supplemental Draft, 1st Round, 4th Overall, DE Tennessee

    Following a brief stint with the Memphis Showboats of the USFL, Reggie White entered the NFL Supplemental Draft. Philadelphia picked White up with the fourth-overall pick and laid claim to drafting the greatest defensive end to ever play the game.

    White wasn't a rare find like Clyde Simmons or Chuck Bednarik, but it's hard to ignore him being on the list considering everything he did when he arrived in Philadelphia.

    As an Eagle he never registered less than 11 sacks and he averaged 15.5 sacks over eight years. He was also a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and a six-time All-Pro.

    He was the driving force behind the 1991 defense, which many consider the greatest defense in NFL history.

    White mastered techniques such as the "club" and "rip" on the field, and he also paved the way for free agency off the field. In 1993 White left Philadelphia for Green Bay because God called him to do so.

    The decision to part ways with Philadelphia ripped the hearts out of the fans, but no one blamed White. All of the hatred was directed at former owner Norman Braman, and it wasn't soon after until the Eagles began to collapse and the team was sold to current owner Jeffrey Lurie.

No. 3: Donovan McNabb

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    1999 Draft, 1st Round, 2nd Overall, QB Syracuse

    Individual statistics are not needed to place McNabb this high on the list.

    Go back to the 1999 NFL Draft and look at the plethora of apparent talent at quarterback and running back.

    The Eagles could have taken Ricky Williams, which is who the fans wanted—and the real reason why fans booed. They could have taken Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper, Cade McNown or sold the farm to trade up for Tim Couch.

    Andy Reid held his ground, avoided the busts and drafted Donovan McNabb.

    Over the next decade-plus the Eagles transformed into a winning franchise. Fans were always left wondering what could have been, but we should all be grateful Reid didn't go with one of the land mines that ultimately exploded and hurt their franchises.

    To turn a losing franchise into a winner is tough, but the fact he never won a Super Bowl prevents him from moving up any higher.

No. 2: Chuck Bednarik

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    1949 Draft, 1st Round, 1st Overall, LB/C Pennsylvania

    Chuck Bednarik did everything.

    He lined up as center on offense and linebacker on defense, and he nearly killed Frank Gifford (see picture). Bednarik was also a member of the 1960 NFL Championship team, which handed the legendary Vince Lombardi his lone playoff loss.

    He played all 14 seasons with the Eagles and is arguably the greatest player in franchise history.

    Bednarik walked into a relatively good situation and found a way to bring the Eagles back to the top of the NFL. The next player on this list brought the Eagles up from nothing and doubled up Bednarik's Championship count.

No. 1: Steve Van Buren

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    1944 Draft, 1st Round, 5 Overall, QB Louisiana State University

    The Eagles never had one winning season before the 1944 NFL Draft, and that came when the Eagles and Steelers teamed up to become the Steagles for the 1943 season.

    After Philadelphia drafted Steve Van Buren the Eagles registered only one losing season and won back-to-back NFL Championships in 1948 and 1949.

    One of the biggest pieces to the championship puzzle was Van Buren.

    He was an incredible halfback who led the league in rushing attempts, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns four times each.

    He was a five-time All Pro and was eventually enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.

    No one on this list, not Reggie, Chuck or Tommy, can claim to winning multiple championships in Philadelphia and earning a place in the Hall of Fame.