Since everyone seems to be doing a 'the decade in review' post these days, I'll give it a try too. Drafting well is critical to a team's success, so let's take a look back at hits and misses. I'll break it into three categories: first round (where I expect a starter and hope for a star), rounds 2-3 (where I expect a contributer and hope for a starter), and rounds 4-7 (where I'll take whatever I can get). I'm not going to worry about trades, just about whether the players they selected with the picks they had panned out -- trying to separate out player evaluation from draft pick valuation. I'm also not going to include the most recent picks where I don't think we know the answer yet.
Since this ended up absurdly long and I'm too lazy to edit it down, I'll give a Cliff's notes version here:
- First round of the draft has consistently produced players who produced very well, but no long-term superstars
- Second and third rounds of the draft have consistently produced contributors and a few studs; the team has exceeded expectations from these picks to a huge extent and that's where the team was built
- The back half of the draft was all but irrelevant over the first half of the decade, but the team has done much better there more recently which has helped lay the foundation for the future
Round 1: High expectations met
The Eagles have been very good with their first round pick over the last decade. They've had seven first-round picks, and five of them have or will eventually make the Pro Bowl (assuming Patterson and Bunkley will get a nod before their careers end). None that I can call a home run (yet?), but lots of hits.
Corey Simon (6th overall, 1 Pro Bowl). The way things ended with Simon still have me bitter, but he was a huge factor in the dominance of the defense that carried the team through the first half of the decade. This spot was a pretty easy place for them to draft -- the next three picks were Thomas Jones, Plaxico Burress, and Brian Urlacher, and the next DT was Chris Hovan, so they were destined to pick a good player whichever way they went. Still, full credit for hitting on this pick.
Lito Sheppard (26th overall, 2 Pro Bowls). A lot like with Simon, the front office gets full marks for grabbing a guy who performed at a high level for a half-decade but the lack of longevity makes it not quite a home run. Unlike with Simon, I have no regrets about the way this one ended -- Lito just wasn't that great any more and I don't blame him for struggling to accept the demotion. And considering the next few picks were Mike Rumph, Jerramy Stevens, and Marc Colombo (who is fine now but missed his first three years with injury)...I'm very happy to have gotten Lito here.
Shawn Andrews (16th overall, 3 Pro Bowls). This looks like it might be another guy who gave a few years of high-level production, but we'll see. And like with Simon and Sheppard, there's some bitterness out there about him, but he's played three seasons and made three Pro Bowls, and I have a hard time complaining about that. The next three picks were DJ Williams, Will Smith, and Vernon Carey, for comparison.
Mike Patterson (31st overall) + Broderick Bunkley (14th overall). Like the rest of the world, I'm lumping these two together. The Eagles are 8th in rush yards per game allowed and 7th in yards per carry allowed this year while starting guys like Gocong and Mays at LB; I think that says it all. And the guys picked after them were Logan Mankins, David Baas, Brodney Pool, Tye Hill, Jason Allen, and Chad Greenway. The next DTs taken were Sione Pouha and John McCargo. I have no regrets here.
When the Eagles missed on their first round picks, they did it in style. Freddie Mitchell (25th overall) always looked explosive with the ball in a way that the Eagles desperately needed, but getting him the ball was hard to do. For me this would have been only a moderately disappointing pick if not for the what-might-have-been factor -- the next WRs taken were Reggie Wayne, Quincy Morgan, and Chad Johnson. Jerome McDougle, on the other hand, never looked explosive in any situation -- and I'm shocked looking back at the stats to find out that he actually played in a full 33 games for the Eagles. He did manage three sacks in those games, so, uh, I guess that's something. Just to rub it in a little more, the next pick was Troy Polamalu.
Rounds 2-3: The key to the Eagles success
I reviewed every first-round pick because they're so important, but I won't do that through the whole draft; let's just highlight the hits and misses. In rounds 2-3, I'm hoping to get a starter, but this is where the Eagles have really exceeded expectations in this decade.
- Sheldon Brown, whoopee!
- Brian Westbrook, whoopee!
- Stewart Bradley, whoopee!
DeSean Jackson, whoopee!
Those four names probably speak for themselves, but jut to remind you what you might typically expect from a pick in this range, here are the guys taken after them: Anton Palepoi, Ryan Denney, Antwaan Randle El, Marques Anderson, Terrence Metcalf, Chris Hope, Andy Alleman, Aaron Rouse, Tony Hunt, Calais Campbell, Malcolm Kelly, Quentin Groves. If that doesn't give you some perspective, I don't know what will.
At this level, I consider it a decent pick if they get a guy who starts for a few years. By that measure, the Eagles did pretty well -- Todd Pinkston, Bobbie Williams, Derrick Burgess, Michael Lewis, LJ Smith, Reggie Brown, Winston Justice, and Chris Gocong have all been capable starters for the Eagles. There are some guys on that list you might not love, but they've all been significant contributors.
Quinton Caver, Billy McMullen, Matt Ware, Matt McCoy, Ryan Moats, Tony Hunt, Victor Abiamiri, Bryan Smith. There are some big misses, to be sure, but that's unavoidable. If you aren't impressed by the Eagles list of home runs/hits/misses in these rounds, think about where you'd rank the Cowboys 2nd and 3rd round picks from this decade: Dwayne Goodrich, Quincy Carter, Tony Dixon, Willie Blade, Andre Gurode, Antonio Bryant, Derek Ross, Al Johnson, Jason Witten, Julius Jones, Jacob Rogers, Stephen Peterman, Kevin Burnett, Anthony Fasano, Jason Hatcher, James Marten, and Martellus Bennett.
Rounds 4-7: A tale of two half-decades
In the first half of the decade, this span was a complete waste. A few of them got a little bit of playing time, but would the team have been any different if we'd never seen Gari Scott, Thomas Hamner, John Frank, John Romero, Correll Buckhalter, Tony Stewart, AJ Feeley, Scott Peters, Freddie Milons, Tyreo Harrison, Raheem Brock, Jamaal Green, Jeremy Bridges, Norman LeJeune, JR Reed, Trey Darilek, Thomas Tapeh, Andy Hall, Dexter Wynn, Adrien Clarke, Bruce Perry, or Dominic Furio? Not much -- collectively that whole group started about 20 games for the Eagles (16 of them from Tapeh, who was not exactly irreplaceable).
But over the second half of the decade, it's been a different story. This team would have been much worse without Sean Considine (17 starts), Todd Herremans (50 starts and counting), Trent Cole (68 starts and counting, 1 Pro Bowl and counting), Max Jean-Gilles (11 starts), Omar Gaither (35 starts), Jason Avant (14 starts), Brent Celek (26 starts). That kind of success in the bottom half of the draft is a huge bonus -- many teams won't get that much production from their first day draft picks over a five-year span -- and really helps set the team up for success going into the next decade.