There are enough posts going around concerning the 2009 draft, so I thought I'd go a different route and analyze the top Eagles draft picks from 1984 to 2008. Of course, they didn't always use their first-round picks, so I'll just go with the players they picked first in the last 25 drafts...enjoy this little trip down Iggles memory lane.
1984- Kenny Jackson, WR, Penn State: Kenny was drafted # 4 overall, and spent seven total seasons with the Birds, from 1984-88 and from 1990-91 (he spent the 1989 season with the Houston Oilers). He finished his pro career with 126 receptions for 2,170 yards and 11 touchdowns. Highly touted in both high school and college, Jackson enjoyed limited NFL success.
1984 Supplemental Draft- Reggie White, DE, Tennessee: I think we all know how this turned out. He started his pro career playing for the Memphis Showboats of the long-since-defunct USFL. He then signed with the Eagles, where he spearheaded the "Gang Green" defense en route to becoming the league's top pass rusher. Because of the cheapness of then-owner Norman Braman, Reggie became a free agent in 1993, signing with the Green Bay Packers, with whom he eventually won Super Bowl XXXI. He wrapped up his legendary career with the Carolina Panthers. In his 17 seasons, he was sent to the Pro Bowl 13 times, was a 12-time All-Pro selection, won NFL defensive player of the year 2 times, was named to the 75th Anniversary Team, as well as the 1980s and 1990s All-Decade Teams. He racked up 198.5 career sacks, which was the most all-time until he was surpassed by Bruce Smith. Reggie, nicknamed the "Minister of Defense," is widely regarded as the best defensive end of all time. Sadly, the good Minister passed away in 2004 from cardiac arrythmia. He was elected to the Hall of Fame two years later. The Eagles retired his number 92 in 2005, and today a memorial banner stands high for all to see, above the west end zone at the Linc.
1985- Kevin Allen, OT, Indiana: Allen ended up being a huge bust for the Eagles; he was drafted 9th overall and played one season for Philly. He reported to camp in 1986 and tested positive for cocaine. Not long after, he was charged with sexual assault and spent three years in prison. The NFL banned him afterward. Former head coach Buddy Ryan once said of Allen, "Kevin Allen is a good football player...if you want someone to stand around and kill the grass." He definitely places high in the running for the worst-ever first-round pick by the Birds.
1986- Keith Byars, RB, Ohio State: Byars played FB and TE at times for Philly, being a terrific rusher, blocker, and pass-catcher out of the backfield. He played for the Birds from 1986-1992 and even wound up making the Pro Bowl as a Dolphin in 1993. In 13 seasons, fan favorite Byars rushed for 3,109 yards, caught 610 passes for 5,661 yards, returned 5 kickoffs for 94 yards, and scored a total of 54 touchdowns. Today, Byars is an analyst for New York Football Weekly and coaches a JV team in Boca Raton, FL.
1987- Jerome Brown, DT, Miami (FL): This was a man that could have become an all-time great at his position. Drafted 9th overall, Brown brought a sense of boisterousness to the team, as well as tremendous talent. He played 76 games for the Birds, from 1987 to 1991. He was selected to the Pro Bowl twice (1990-91), was named All-Pro twice (90-91) and amassed 29.5 sacks and 3 interceptions during his tenure. Tragically, Jerome was killed when he lost control of his car and crashed at high speed in the summer of 1992. He was only 27. The Eagles retired his number 99 before the first game of the '92 season, and thus was started the oft-repeated rallying cry, "Bring it home for Jerome."
1987 Supplemental Draft- Cris Carter, WR, Ohio State: This is another "oh-what-could-have-been" story. Carter signed with the Eagles and saw limited action in his rookie season, but he caught on the next year,catching 39 passes for 761 yards and 6 TDs. He did well again the following year, catching 45 passes for 605 yards and 11 TDs. However, he was cut by Buddy Ryan before the 1990 season, and later admitted that a serious cocaine and alcohol addiction was the cause. He was claimed off waivers by the Vikings...and the rest is history.
1988- Keith Jackson, TE, Oklahoma: One of the more popular players in Eagles lore, Jackson was drafted 13th overall and had a prolific NFL career. In his rookie year, he caught 81 receptions for 869 yards and 6 TDs, which up until last year were the highest totals ever for a rookie Eagles receiver (DeSean Jackson surpassed him). He played with Philly from 1988-1991 and in an 9-year career was selected to the Pro Bowl 5 times. He finished his career with 441 receptions, 5,283 yards, and 49 TDs. He is still one of the most celebrated tight ends in Eagles history.
1989- Jessie Small, LB, Eastern Kentucky: Small was the Eagles' first pick of the '89 draft (2nd round, 49th overall); he had a short and unspectacular career in Philly, from 1989 to 1991. In those seasons, he totaled only 3.5 sacks and never started a full 16 games. He played one additional year with the Cardinals before retiring.
1990- Ben Smith, CB, Georgia: Smith was drafted 22nd overall, and had a decent rookie season; he started 13 games and tallied 3 interceptions with 91 tackles. He sputtered out afterward ,however, only spending 3 more seasons in Philly before moving on. His career ended in 1996 with Arizona.
1991- Antone Davis, OT, Tennessee: Davis is considered to be a draft bust; the Eagles traded their 1st round pick in the 1992 draft to move up to get him at the 8th overall pick, and he never became the dominant tackle they hoped he would be. He played for the Eagles during some pretty rough years, from 1991-1995, before spending the last two years of his career in Atlanta.
1992- Siran Stacy, RB, Alabama: Because the Eagles had traded away their first round pick in this draft, they were relegated to selecting Stacy in the 2nd round with the 48th overall pick. He played in one game with the Eagles and was released at the end of the season. He tried out for the Browns, but did not make the team due to off-field troubles. He later gained some notice in NFL Europe as a member of the Scottish Claymores. Unfortunately, in 2007, Stacy was involved in a horrific accident which resulted in the loss of his wife and four of his five children.
1993- Lester Holmes, OT, Jackson State: In their ongoing search for a dominant o-lineman, the Eagles took Holmes 19th overall. He didn't pan out like they hoped. He played at right guard for 4 seasons before moving on to Oakland and later to Arizona.
1994- Bernard Williams, OT, Georgia: Another year, another o-lineman bust. Williams was taken 14th overall and showed promise at left tackle, starting all 16 games as a rookie. However, this would be his only season in the NFL, as he was banned after failing numerous drug tests. He later tried his hand in the XFL, AFL, and CFL.
1995- Mike Mamula, DE, Boston College: Some call Mamula one of the worst busts in Eagles history after being taken 7th overall, but I think he's far from it. True, he did not become the second coming of Howie Long, but in his 5-year career (all of them in Philly), he totaled 156 tackles and 31.5 sacks. But, unfortunately, what he is most remembered for in Philly is his infamous behavior at a bar in West Chester. Witnesses say it was a...fly-opening experience?
1996- Jermane Mayberry, OT, Texas A&M-Kingsville: Jermane was picked 25th overall and played a couple positions along the line before settling in at right guard. He was a solid player during his tenure in Philly, even making it to the Pro Bowl in 2002. He is remembered best for his charitable work with underpriveleged youths in the Philadelphia area.
1997- Jon Harris, DE, Virginia: Harris is generally considered to be a first-round bust after being taken 25th overall, playing only two seasons in Philly, and tallying only 2 sacks and 37 tackles.
1998- Tra Thomas, OT, Florida State: Finally, Ray Rhodes scored on a first-round draft pick. The massive Thomas was taken 11th overall, and was an extremely reliable warhorse during his career in Philly, which, as we all know, recently came to an end. From 1998-2008, Thomas started almost every game at left tackle and was selected to the Pro Bowl 3 times. We wish him the very best in Jacksonville.
1999- Donovan McNabb, QB, Syracuse: With the 2nd overall pick in the draft (and the first of the Andy Reid era), the Eagles finally drafted a player around whom they could build a franchise. He did not take long to become a premier quarterback, and since he took over, he has become the Eagles' all-time leader in wins, pass attempts and completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns. Specifically, he has thrown for 29,320 yards and 194 touchdowns for an overall rating of 85.9. Still, some have argued that he is injury-prone and cannot win the big game. Others have argued that he hasn't had the offensive weapons to do so. Whatever others may say, however, there is no denying that the 5-time Pro-Bowler is the best QB in Eagles history and one of the best in the league for the last 10 years.
2000- Corey Simon, DT, Florida State: Corey was generally considered to be the nation's top prospect at DT in this draft; he was a finalist for the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy. The Eagles took him 6th overall, and he produced, though not consistently at the elite level everyone had hoped for. He was good enough to make the Pro Bowl in 2003, though. After the 2004 season, he could not work out a long-term deal with the team, and wound up signing with the Colts as a UFA. He played the entire 2005 season in Indy, but without much success. Injury cost him the 2006 season, and he was eventually let go. Tennessee signed him in August 2007, but he decided to retire two months later due to the toll injuries had taken on his body.
2001- Freddie Mitchell, WR, UCLA: Call him what you want; "FredEx," "The People's Champ," whatever. The fact of the matter is that the former 25th overall pick was a complete bust, albeit an entertaining one. In four seasons with the team, he never had more than 35 receptions or 500 receiving yards. He scored a paltry 5 TDs in his career and had only 90 total receptions for a little over 1200 yards. Still, he liked to talk. The best thing he ever did for the team, besides leave, was making the catch on the legendary "4th and 26" play that allowed the Eagles to win a nailbiting playoff game against the Packers in January 2004. Freddie's moved on since, and despite trying out for several teams, it looks as though "The People's Champ" is done in the NFL.
2002- Lito Sheppard, CB, Florida: Lito, we hardly knew ye. It looked as though the Eagles had themselves a bona fide shutdown corner emerging in 2004 when the 26th overall pick nabbed 5 INTs, returned 2 for TDs, and was selected for the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro Team. However, 2005 turned out to be the first of what amounted to a bunch of injury-plagued seasons in Philly. That said, no one will forget his prowess as a Cowboy Killer; in 11 career games against Dallas, he has 8 interceptions...and who can forget that one INT that Drew Bledsoe threw him in 2006...he returned that sumbitch 102 yards for the score and the win. He made a lot of timely INTs, and was a 2-time Pro Bowler, but the injuries and complaints about his contract were his undoing; the team replaced him with Asante Samuel (which worked out just fine, thank you). Lito, as we are all aware, was recently traded to the Jets. No hard feelings, buddy.
2003- Jerome McDougle, DE, Miami (FL): Here's an indication of McDougle's ability to compete in the NFL: he's a first-round pick (15th overall) that has never, EVER started a game. Not once. He's got 3 sacks to his credit, and is currently searching for his third team. He is most famous for being shot in a robbery attempt in the summer of 2005. It's a shame that he peaked in college; he was good at Miami.
2004- Shawn Andrews, G, Arkansas: When he's healthy, Andrews may be the best guard in the NFL. He's massive, yet he has incredible athletic ability. He is also a very instinctive player, and will often run upfield to level punishing blocks on anyone stupid enough to get in his way. The former 16th overall pick has started every game he has played, and became a stalwart on the o-line from the beginning of his career. He has been sent to the Pro Bowl 3 times (2005, 2006, 2007), and was an All-Pro in 2006. He has had some issues of late, with back problems and a bout with depression. Hopefully, he has made strides against both, and with his older, equally huge brother Stacy joining him, he looks to return to form next season.
2005- Mike Patterson, DT, Southern Cal: Mike ( taken 31st overall) has quietly had a good career for the Birds, even though he doesn't inspire many oohs and aahs. He has racked up an impressive 205 tackles and 9.5 sacks in 4 years, and if he stays healthy, he should remain a solid player.
2006- Brodrick Bunkley, DT, Florida State: Mark my words: Brodrick Bunkley could be a future Pro Bowler. He's shown tremendous run-stopping ability and sheer athleticism, plus he's as strong as an ox. His numbers don't look astronomical yet, but with time the former 14th overall selection could develop into an All-Pro.
2007- Kevin Kolb, QB, Houston: The Eagles traded out of the first round this time, and made what was easily the most controversial pick (2nd round, 36th overall) of the entire draft. Eyebrows around the league were raised as for the first time since he took the reins, it looked as though McNabb was going to have some competition. Of course, two years later, he's still the man, but Kolb is being groomed for the top spot by Andy, who hopes to continue the success he had coaching Brett Favre and then Donovan. What we've seen of Kolb so far hasn't been pretty, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt; being thrown to the lions the way he was against the Ravens last season isn't an adequate indication of how his career will progress. Time will tell.
2008- Trevor Laws, DT, Notre Dame: Once again, the Birds traded out of the first round, this time taking another DT first. It's no secret that Andy loves big ol' hogs on both the offensive and defensive lines, but there's more to Laws (2nd round, 47th overall) than meets the eye. He's extremely athletic and quick for his size, and he's shown that he can be effective off the bench. I wouldn't be surprised if he challenges for a starting spot in training camp.
There's your history lesson for the day. Look it over and decide: top five picks? Bottom five? What's your opinion?