The Eagles had quite a few options headed into the 2011 NFL Draft. Among the rookie prospects that were up for the taking were Baylor's Danny Watkins, Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod, Colorado's Jimmy Smith, and Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi. While there were more players available for the team to select, the three offensive linemen and the Colorado cornerback got the most buzz leading up to the Eagles pick that year. For most of the fanbase, the fan favorite was split between Smith and Carimi. The Eagles drafted Watkins, the Ravens took Smith three picks later and the Bears took Carimi just two spots after that.
Watkins, a then-26-year old Canadian import who was just learning the game at the time, faced lofty expectations upon being selected with the 23rd overall pick. The fanbase seemed to go through all the stages of a person who had been three months to live. The general feeling went from denial to anger to bargaining to despair and finally acceptance as the offseason played out in 2011. Watkins would then sit the first four games of the season and then closed out the final 12 games as a starter. Still, the fanbase was left wondering what could have been with Carimi or Smith.
Last season, everything seemed like a positive for Watkins. He had an extra year under his belt, he had starting experience and most importantly, he had time to learn the system. Watkins started the first six games of the 2012 season, but was then benched following weeks of poor play. He closed out the year as a barely-used utility player.
Eagles fans have grown impatient with Watkins and some would argue he is not worthy of a third chance. While former Eagles possibility, Smith, won a Super Bowl last season and is set to be a starting cornerback for the Ravens this season (taking the spot of new Eagles, Cary Williams), Watkins will be lucky to crack the offensive line rotation. That said though, Sunday's news of Carimi being shipped to the Buccaneers for what amounts to a bag of tube socks and a travel thermos (6th round pick) puts Watkins' situation in a bit more of a grey area.
Watkins has started 18 games over the last two seasons, while Carimi has been in-and-out of the Bears lineup with injuries and inconsistent play. Carimi started 14 of the 16 games he appeared in during the 2012 campaign but received terrible marks for his play at right tackle (graded 73 out of 80 eligible tackles by Pro Football Focus). The former Wisconsin lineman has now been traded for a pitiful haul of a 6th round pick that the Bears will have to wait nearly an entire year to spend. Fair to say Carimi will not be putting that down on his LinkedIn profile.
Despite his lack of efficiency, Watkins can still be salvaged. Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly have gone out of their way to say that they will give the 28-year old a fair shot. A regime could be exactly what Watkins needs, but it will be hard for him to stand out with the Eagles current lineup. Watkins may need to take a pay-cut and just be part of a rotation to make his way in the NFL, but if he cares about his career (something fans and the media have questioned), he will do it. If he chooses not to, Watkins will likely suffer the same fate as Carimi or worse.