Philadelphia Eagles: Grading Each First-Round Draft Pick of the Andy Reid Era

Manav Khandelwal@@KhandymanSportsAnalyst IIJune 26, 2012

Philadelphia Eagles: Grading Each First-Round Draft Pick of the Andy Reid Era

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    If you are a Philadelphia Eagles fan, then it is no secret that Andy Reid has never been the best drafter. 

    From trading out of the first round in two straight years to reaching for obscure talent, he's cost Philadelphia a lot of talent over the 14 drafts he's conducted.

    If it weren't for a couple of great picks here and there—LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson in the second round, for example—the hatred for Reid would be even greater than what it already is.

    But when you look at his picks closely, and especially the first-round ones, you see some nuances that you'd miss while skimming the surface. A first-round pick needs to have two things, longevity and game-changing ability, and Reid has done a decent job getting both.

    With that in mind, here are grades for each of Reid's first-round picks.

1999: Donovan McNabb (QB)

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    Donovan is one of the most hated athletes in this city, but why? Sure, he never won a Super Bowl and that frustrates many, but the fact that he kept us on top of the standings year after year with subpar receivers is incredible.

    Not only is he the top passer in franchise history when it comes to yards (32,873) and touchdowns (216), he led the team to one Super Bowl, five NFC Championship games and eight playoff appearances. He even had over 100 wins as a starter, good for third-best in that span, while appearing in six Pro Bowls.

    The job of a first-round draft pick, especially a quarterback, is to lead his team to sustained success. That is exactly what McNabb did while using the players around him to the best of his ability.

    If the Eagles had gone ahead and taken the guy right before him in the 1999 draft, Tim Couch, this team would never have gone to a Super Bowl and definitely wouldn't be one of the most successful franchises of the last decade.

    In other words, McNabb was a success.

    Grade: A+

2000: Corey Simon (DT)

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    Corey Simon was an unfortunate story for the Eagles. Even though they could have had perennial Pro Bowlers like Brian Urlacher and John Abraham after Simon, they made the right pick at the time. They needed a defensive tackle who could stand his ground and rush the passer.

    Simon didn't disappoint. After he set the Eagles rookie sack record with 9.5 sacks, he proceeded to accumulate 211 tackles and 32 sacks in a five-year span. He was one of the team's best defensive players and allowed defensive coordinator Jim Johnson to send in the hounds—blitzers, hounds, same thing—late in games. Simon even made the 2003 Pro Bowl.

    Then the contract problems arose. The Eagles were unwilling to give Simon a long-term deal, and so they put the franchise tag on Simon. When they were unable to trade him, they lifted the tag and allowed him to sign with the Colts.

    Even though he struggled late in his career, it can be assumed that if he had stayed on with his old team, it is likely the good production would have continued. It wasn't a bad draft pick, but the way he left the team was peculiar.

    Grade: A-

2001: Freddie Mitchell (WR)

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    If it weren't for "4th and 26", Freddie Mitchell would've probably been the worst draft pick of all time.

    Even though it seemed that Mitchell was having a "great training camp" every offseason, No. 84 never panned out. In 63 games as an Eagle he only caught 90 balls for 1,263 yards and five touchdowns. All of those are less than Wes Welker's 2011 numbers alone.

    Some say that Mitchell was never really given an opportunity, but the real problem was scouting. Mitchell just couldn't dominate NFL cornerbacks like the guy taken five picks later, Reggie Wayne.

    Grade: C- 

2002: Lito Sheppard (CB)

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    Lito Sheppard is celebrated as one of the better cornerbacks the Eagles have ever had, and it was unfortunate that he fell into Jim Johnson's doghouse in 2008 because the Eagles would've had the best corner trio in the NFL—along with Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown.

    Here's a full scouting report of Sheppard (through ESPN via thejetsblog), but in short he was a great press cover corner who had great instincts. He sometimes made bonehead moves on vertical routes, but was for the most part able to lock down the opposition's top receiver.

    In seven seasons and 93 games, Sheppard amassed 18 interceptions, 253 tackles and 69 passes defended. He also went to two Pro Bowls and was named to the All-Pro team in 2004.

    Sheppard was definitely a good pick, especially since he was taken very late in the first round, and he helped Jim Johnson maintain a good defense for over seven years.

    Grade: A-/A 

2003: Jerome McDougle (DE)

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    Whether McDougle had the talent to be a Trent Cole-type defensive end doesn't really matter any more. The fact is that he missed 47 regular season games in the span of five years and registered less tackles in his career than Cole had in 16 games last season.

    In fact, McDougle barely averaged one tackle per game. In 33 games he had 35 tackles and only three sacks. The Eagles didn't necessarily make a bad decision at draft time, just bad decisions regarding his health after he was drafted.

    The most frustrating part of it was the fact that future Hall of Fame defensive backs Troy Polamalu and Nnamdi Asomugha were drafted after him; just imagine where this team could be if Polamalu had been standing next to Brian Dawkins instead of Michael Lewis for all those years. One simply shudders at the thought.

    Grade: F  

2004: Shawn Andrews (OT)

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    Shawn Andrews might have had personality and focus-related issues, but while the man was healthy and on the field he was a menace.

    Andrews and long-time Eagle Jon Runyan formed one of the best right guard/right tackle duos in all of football. After missing his rookie season due to injury, Andrews was named to three straight Pro Bowls and two straight All-Pro teams. He was one of the best guards in the game.

    Depression issues and injuries caused Andrews to struggle mightily between 2008-2010, and after the 2010 season he was released by the team.

    If Andrews had been able to sustain his incredible production for one or two more years than he did, this pick would definitely earn an A+, but one part of being a good first-round pick is sustaining production and he wasn't able to accomplish that.

    Even so, Andy Reid managed to find a diamond in the rough with this pick. 

    Grade: A

2005: Mike Patterson (DT)

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    When I think of the word "serviceable"—which is defined as "fulfilling its function adequately" (via Apple dashboard dictionary)—I think of defensive tackle Mike Patterson.

    The man has never been to any Pro Bowls or won any major awards, but he's been the Eagles starting defensive tackle for six years and has played pretty well since he was drafted. He's always been an above-average inside rusher while his run defense has been steadily improving over the years.

    Patterson has accumulated 332 tackles, 15.5 sacks and has recorded eight fumble recoveries over seven seasons. He holds the longest fumble return for a touchdown in franchise history—98 yards against the 49ers—and is the longest-tenured defensive tackle on the roster.

    Patterson probably didn't warrant a first-round pick, but at No. 31 the Eagles got something that has lasted a long time; that merits something.

    Grade: B+

2006: Brodrick Bunkley (DT)

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    For the second year in a row, Andy Reid targeted a defensive tackle, but this time he came up completely empty.

    The Eagles thought that the Florida State product would be able to hone his skills and possibly become a top-of-the-line inside rusher as well as a shutdown run defender. Neither happened.

    Instead, the Eagles were forced to watch mediocrity play out for nearly five full seasons before they finally pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Bunkley to Denver.

    Here are some players taken after Bunkley in the first round (via Wikipedia) that the Eagles could have had: MLB Chad Greenway (2011 Pro Bowler and NFL's leading tackler in 2010), CB Antonio Cromartie (2007 All-Pro), DE Tamba Hali (Two-time Pro Bowler), C Nick Mangold (Four-time Pro Bowler), WR Santonio Holmes (Super Bowl MVP), etc.

    The Eagles could have fixed so many holes—linebacker, defensive end (across from Trent Cole) and wide receiver. But no, they went with a workout warrior who struggled from the start.

    Grade: D+  

2007: None

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    The Eagles broke the cardinal rule of drafting: They traded away their first-round selection to their archrival Dallas.

    With the No. 26 selection they gave away what they could've used to get solid wideout Robert Meachem, All-Pro tackle Joe Staley to help replace Jon Runyan, defensive end Anthony Spencer—who the 'Boys actually drafted—or All-Pro guard Ben Grubbs to help replace Shawn Andrews.

    But no, instead they traded out of the first round to add a project quarterback—Kevin Kolb—and an average linebacker—Stewart Bradley. Neither played more than four seasons with the team and both now play for the Arizona Cardinals

    Grade: N/A

2008: None (Again!)

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    The Eagles again traded out of the first round, this time through a trade with the Carolina Panthers.

    Even though they didn't go after any first-round players, not many have ended up as stars. The only first-round Pro Bowlers who were still on the board when the Eagles would've selected were running back Chris Johnson and cornerback Mike Jenkins—both of whom play positions at which the Eagles excelled at in 2008.

    Reid got himself a Pro Bowler nonetheless when he picked DeSean Jackson in the second round, even if the rest of the draft class turned out to be busts.

    Grade: N/A

2009: Jeremy Maclin (WR)

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    Finally, after several years of drafting solely for need, the Eagles went ahead and took the best prospect off the board.

    Jeremy Maclin was coming off of an All-American sophomore year at Missouri where he played against some of the best teams in the country and was the perfect option at wide receiver.

    Since then he's held the No. 2 spot in the corps opposite DeSean Jackson and has played pretty well. If it weren't for injury concerns last year, Maclin might have even led the team in receiving and gotten a Pro Bowl nod. In three seasons he's recorded 189 receptions, 2,596 yards and 19 touchdowns (stats via ESPN).

    Maclin still has a bright future ahead of him, and if the Eagles re-sign him after 2012, they'll have one of the best wideout duos in the NFL.

    Grade: A-

2010: Brandon Graham (DE)

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    This one hurts that much more because Jason Pierre-Paul, 2011 All-Pro defensive end, was selected two picks later by the rival New York Giants.

    Graham has done nothing but disappoint in his two years in town. Not only have injuries limited him to only 16 games of game action, but he's only recorded 17 tackles and three measly sacks.

    Reports are, however, that the 24-year-old is "returning to form". He's healthy for the first time in months and has gotten the spring back into his step. If he can shape up and rush the passer like he did early in his rookie season, then the Eagles could have a solid rotation player for now and a starter for the future.

    Until then, he can still be labeled as a "bust". 

    Grade: C+

2011: Danny Watkins (OG)

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    The Eagles surprised the world when they selected Danny Watkins—a 26-year-old rookie who had planned to become a firefighter until just four years ago—with the 23rd overall pick in last year's draft.

    Things got even rockier when Andy Reid benched his first-round pick in favor of veteran Kyle DeVan. Watkins couldn't learn the play book fast enough, Howard Mudd was having a tough time teaching the youngster how to block in the NFL and he had played left tackle in college.

    Then everything changed. Something clicked in Watkins' head and he was finally given a chance to prove himself when Kyle DeVan was benched after four dismal performances. Watkins wasn't exactly the next Ben Grubbs or Carl Nicks out there, but he showed promise and is the team's right guard of the future.

    There is nothing to suggest that Watkins is going to be a superstar in the league, but like Mike Patterson, he will most likely be a long-lasting, successful lineman that might even be named to a Pro Bowl or two.

    If that happens, this pick could be rated higher, but for now it seems it was just average.

    Grade: B

2012: Fletcher Cox (DT)

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    Fletcher Cox is the fourth and final defensive tackle on this list, but from what we've seen so far this offseason, he is going to be the best.

    Cox brings versatility to the defensive line. Not only can he rush from the under tackle position, but he's taken snaps at defensive end as well. He'll be a force from the start, using his great explosiveness and quick hands to shed blockers and get into the backfield.

    Not only does he buck the trend of taking need over value in the draft, but he is one of most talented players Andy Reid has every drafted. 

    Grade: A

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