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The NFL Draft: Where the team is really built.... Hopefully

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With the NFL Draft less than a month away and considering that I plan on giving news and insights on it in the next few weeks… I thought we’d take a moment to look back at a few past drafts and illustrate just how important/bad they were for this team.

It’s pretty much standard knowledge that in the NFL good teams build through the draft. The draft is where you replenish talent that’s gotten older or left for free agency, and your depth. A few bad drafts can/will destroy a team, whereas a few good ones build a winner. With the exception of a handful of free agents(Runyan, TO, Kearse) this team's trip to the superbowl was made on the backs of it's draft picks. However, the Eagles were bit bad by the injury bug last year and their lack of depth and other holes were exposed... and their lack of consistency in the draft failed to fill those holes, not their lack of free agents.

We’ll start with the 2001 draft, which is maybe the worst draft this franchise has had under Reid. Not one player from this draft is even on the team still.
1 Freddie Mitchell WR - Do I even need to remind you what we had to do at the WR position to make up for this bust?
2 Quinton Caver LB - To this day we don’t have a decent OLB
3 Derrick Burgess DE - Had 8 sacks in 3 years and rarely was healthy enough to get on the field. Then he goes to Oakland and leads the NFL in sacks… who knew? We sunk about $30 million in Jevon Kearse to make up for this mistake
4 Correll Buckhalter RB - Technically he is on the team for now… He’s missed 2 full seasons to injury and has not once played a full year. You can’t predict injury, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was a bust.
5 Tony Stewart TE - Who?
6 A.J. Feeley QB - on the bright side, he did fetch us the 2nd round pick that turned out to be Reggie Brown…

After the 2001 debacle came 2002, which is considered one of the best drafts in Eagles history with a total 5 starting players(1 on another team now), 3 of which are pro bowlers. Lito Shepperd, Michael Lewis, Sheldon Brown, Brian Westbrook. The first 4 picks all starters to this day, 3 of which made the pro bowl. That’s as good as any team can hope for. They also picked up Raheem Brock in the 7th round, but cut him. He had 6.5 sacks last year and is a solid player for the Colts… This draft with the corners allowed us to replace the two aging free agent CBs, Vincent & Taylor. Taylor left, got a big deal and was a bust. Vincent, a favorite of Eagles fans, went to the Bills and while clearly having lost a step became decent safety. Duce Staley left a year or so later and hasn’t been able to stay healthy for a year in Pittsburgh. Perfect draft to fill needs. Very good players to step right to the holes made when we lost 2 CBs and RB.

Unfortunately things go downhill from there. 2003 was mostly a disaster. Only one player from the class of 03 starts for this team and has made any contribution at all.
1 Jerome McDougle DE - McDougle’s lack of ability to get on the field was in many ways the downfall of the defense last year. The Eagles relied on their #1 pick to fix the past rush since 03. The complete lack of a pass rush last year caused the defense to have to blitz too often, exposing them to the run and the deep ball. It also forced the Eagles to sink $30 million dollars into Darren Howard to solidify the DE spot.
2 L.J. Smith TE - Good pick, quietly his stats made him a top 10 TE last year.
3 Billy McMullen WR - no contribution, and we all know our problems at WR…
4 Jamaal Green DE - no contribution
6 Jeremy Bridges G - Has anyone even heard of this guy?
7 Norman Lejeune DB - again, who?

2004 is a bit interesting, but it doesn’t look great… but there are some bright spots and the jury is still out on others.
1 Shawn Andrews T - Played G this year after missing his rookie year. Was a pro bowl alternate… actually pretty good, we needed help on the interior of the line he provided it.
3 Matt Ware DB - Showed promise in his rookie, didn’t look great last year.
4 J.R. Reed DB - Looked like a very promising return man, but his career may very well be over due to injury
4 Trey Darilek G - very little contribution
5 Thomas Tapeh RB - Looked promising, was injured all of 05
6 Andy Hall QB - cut this year. We’ve signed 2 backup QBs in the meantime.
6 Dexter Wynn DB - See Matt Ware
7 Adrien Clarke G - Actually showed some things at LG last year. Jury is out
7 Bruce Perry RB - Showed some spark at the end of last year. Jury is out, but for a 7th rounder he looks like a nice pick
7 Dominic Furio C - who?

Last year actually seems like a strong draft. This is probably mostly due to the fact that so many of these guys got significant playing time last year. I’ll only post the relevant players here because it’s hard to call anyone a bust as a rookie…

1 Mike Patterson DT - Solid pick. Starter all year.
2 Reggie Brown WR - Great pick IMO. 2nd round pick that out performed all 5 WRs (including Matt Jones) taken in front of him.
Ryan Moats, Todd Herremans,& Trent Cole all made solid contributions last year. A lot is going to be expected of Matt McCoy who was a 2nd pick. He’s supposed to be the pick that helps solidify our LB core.

That really makes 2 solid drafts in the past 5 years. That poor drafting is what left with this team with the lack of depth that we were all treated to last year. You could never afford to sign enough free agents to fill all of those holes. That’s why the draft is so important. So while Eagles fans have been riled up for the past month at what they perceive is a lack of action and cheapness on the part of the front office, and while they’ve been predicting doom & gloom… just remember, the real barometer of this off season happens April 29.

2 Responses to “The NFL Draft: Where the team is really built.... Hopefully”

  1. Blogger BrianS 

    Good analysis. Do you have any thoughts on Modrak/Reid vs. Heckert/Reid?

    Seems like they've done a great job in Undrafted free agents under the current front office, although the '03 and '04 drafts don't look (although injuries, some of which -- like McDougle & Reed -- couldn't have been anticipated) make it look worse than it should. I'm hoping some of these guys like McDougle, Tapeh, come in and make a contribution.

    One thing that puzzles me about last year's draft class is why Matt McCoy couldn't get on the field. When it was clear after the 2nd Dallas and NYG losses that there'd be no playoffs,why not play the kid and get him some experience? Nothing lost if he comes and sucks at that point

  2. Blogger JB 

    It's hard to compare Reid/Modrak to Reid/Heckert. Reid/Modrak picked McNabb & Simon in the first round, but they were top 10 picks.However, they didn't get much else at all in those 2 years. John Welbourn may be the only guy left in football from those drafts not taken in the 1st round.

    Heckert's first year was the 02 draft which may be the best ever... I have to like what Heckert has done without having the #2 or #6 overall picks. Modrak came in with alot of great cred, but didn't spend enough time here to make a real impact.

    I think the Matt McCoy things puzzles alot of people. They spent a high pick on him after all... The feeling seems to be that he had trouble picking up Jim Johnson's system. It's not entirely uncommon for rookie LBs to take a year to figure out a more complex NFL system. Us Eagles fans saw how long it took Trotter to get on the field and be a top notch LB. Matt McCoy is a question mark right now, but if he can't pick up this defense come training camp and make some kind of contribution this year there should be serious doubts about him.

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