The Eagles “lost” their last vestige from that group by seeing Nelson Agholor sign with the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency.
Let’s take a look back at Chip Kelly’s first and only draft class while fully in charge of the Eagles’ player personnel department.
1 (20) - Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
The Eagles drafted Agholor during the same offseason they allowed Jeremy Maclin to leave in free agency. There was thought he could be a direct Maclin replacement.
Pros:— Patrick Wall (@ByPatrickWall) May 1, 2015
- Good route runner
- Valuable punt returner
- Defeated Jeremy Maclin and is now legally named Jeremy Maclin pic.twitter.com/hKS9brXMMQ
That wasn’t the case, though. Agholor really struggled to contribute during his first two seasons with just 59 combined reception for 648 yards and three touchdowns. The Eagles made him a healthy scratch for one game after a disastrous performance against the Seattle Seahawks in 2016.
The Eagles essentially gave up on Agholor as an outside receiver and moved him into the slot ahead of the 2017 season. It turned out to be a great move as Agholor had 62 receptions for 768 yards (12.4 average) and eight touchdowns en route to a Super Bowl victory. Agholor led all Eagles wide receivers in the Super Bowl game itself with nine for 84 yards and multiple first down conversions.
It looked like Agholor had finally shed the bust label and was about to take another step forward in 2018. He looked great in the offseason but then injuries forced him out of being a full-time player in the slot. Agholor posted similar volume stats to 2017 but his efficiency metrics were down and he just didn’t pass the eye test in the same way.
The Eagles made a predictably unwise decision to keep Agholor at his $9.4 million salary in 2019 despite having time to get out of the fifth-year option before it became fully guaranteed. Agholor ended up grading out as the worst receiver in the NFL after making a number of game-losing errors. The Eagles enjoyed some of their best offensive success late in the year when he was out with a knee injury.
As previously noted, Agholor left the Eagles this offseason to sign a mere $1 million contract with the Raiders. It was in the best interest of both him and the Eagles to move on from each other. Perhaps he’ll thrive with a fresh start ... but I wouldn’t bet the house on it.
Pro Football Focus
2019: 124th out of 124
2018: 74th out of 108
2017: 35th out of 107
2016: 103rd out of 104
2015: 101st out of 101
2019: 66th out of 66
2018: 78th out of 84
2017: 32nd out of 86
2016: 88th out of 94
2015: 83rd out of 88
2 (47) - Eric Rowe, CB, Utah
The Eagles liked Rowe enough to trade up for him. Rowe showed some promise as a rookie outside of getting absolutely victimized by Calvin Johnson on Thanksgiving in Detroit. New Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wasn’t quite as enamored with the Kelly regime holdover, though. The sense here is that Schwartz didn’t like Rowe’s quiet demeanor in contrast to someone like Jalen Mills’ unshakable confidence.
Despite being a high draft pick, Rowe was playing late into preseason games and was then traded to the New England Patriots prior to the 2016 season. The Eagles ultimately received a 2018 fourth-round pick for Rowe, which they sent to the Miami Dolphin in exchange for Jay Ajayi ahead of the 2017 NFL trade deadline. Ajayi was a valuable contributor to Philly en route to their Super Bowl win.
Rowe, meanwhile, did win two Super Bowls with the Pats in 2016 and 2018. He played in 13 games and made nine starts during those two seasons combined. New England let Rowe walk in free agency during the 2019 offseason and he signed a one-year with the Dolphins. Miami then signed Rowe to a three-year extension one day after the Dolphins upset the Eagles in Miami. More than a coincidence, perhaps?
3 (84) - Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
When the Eagles drafted Hicks, a common fan reaction was: “Who?!” He was the least popular pick of the class here on BGN with only a 55% approval rating.
It didn’t take long for Hicks to prove his doubters wrong. Injuries forced him into a starting role sooner than expected and he handled it well. He proved to be a ball magnet with three fumble recoveries, three passes defensed, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and one defensive touchdown in just five starts. Hicks would unfortunately go on to suffer a season-ending injury, which underscored his durability issue coming out of college.
But Hicks bounced back in 2016. He played all 16 games and logged a whopping 11 passes defensed in addition to five interceptions. Pro Football Focus graded him out as the league’s best coverage linebacker.
2017 should’ve been the year where Hicks became rightfully recognized as an NFL star. But that didn’t happen since he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury just seven games into the campaign. Hicks continued to be plagued by injury in 2018 as he missed four games and generally looked less effective (zero interceptions, zero forced fumbles).
The Eagles allowed Hicks to sign a four-year, $34 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals in free agency during the 2019 offseason. Some believe the Eagles should’ve kept him after seeing him play all 16 games and log 150 total tackles with the Cards. As someone who was often higher on Hicks than others, I disagree with that assessment. Injuries have seemingly sapped his coverage ability; he ranked 42nd out of 58 linebackers in PFF’s coverage grade category last year. Plus there’s this:
It's interesting to me that Jordan Hicks has played literally every defensive snap for the #Cardinals. Per #NextGenStats he's allowed an 86.4% catch rate to tight ends and has allowed the most yards to TEs among all NFL linebackers. I mean at some point help the guy out!— Out of Context James Koh (@JamesDKoh) December 5, 2019
The Eagles got a 2020 fourth-round compensatory pick for Hicks leaving.
I’ll always lament that Hicks couldn’t stay healthy and continue to be the Cowboys Killer that he was early in his Eagles tenure. I’ll always remember he essentially ended Tony Romo’s career.
6 (191) - JaCorey Shepherd, CB, Kansas
Shepherd was widely considered a “steal” when he fell to the Eagles in the sixth round. The Kansas product looked pretty great in OTAs. Shepherd’s early success prompted the team to trade away Brandon Boykin and install Shepherd as the primary slot corner. That plan blew up when Shepherd suffered an ACL tear in training camp. That was the beginning of the end for Shepherd, who was out of the league by 2017. Bummer.
6 (196) - Randall Evans, CB, Kansas State
Evans’ NFL career amounted to one special teams snap. That’s it. He’s been playing in the CFL since 2018.
7 (237) - Brian Mihalik, DE, Boston College
The Eagles didn’t even bother keeping Mihalik on their practice squad for his rookie season. He clearly stunk as a 3-4 defensive end.
After previously having success converting former Eagles 3-4 defensive end Alejandro Villanueva to offensive tackle, the Pittsburgh Steelers took a similar chance on Mihalik. It wasn’t a crazy bet given his elite athletic profile.
Mihalik got hurt in Pittsburgh and eventually landed with the Detroit Lions before bouncing back to the Steelers ... and then the Lions again. Mihalik actually made two startss at offensive tackle for Detroit in 2017 before landing a backup job with the New York Giants in 2018. Mihalik has since been out of the NFL.
Undrafted free agents
The Eagles kept Raheem Mostert on their practice squad until the Miami Dolphins signed him away. Mostert spent time with four other teams before really breaking out with the San Francisco 49ers in 2019.
Philly native Rasheed Bailey was a fan favorite and some Eagles fans were made he wasn’t retained. He never ended up making an NFL regular season roster, though. Bailey did just win a Grey Cup championship with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL earlier this year.
Eric Tomlinson and Denzel Rice are still hanging on as fringe players in the NFL. Do you even remember those names? (As a truly sick person, I do.)
Kind of a weird draft class to evaluate.
It easily could’ve been a lot better. The fact that none of the players are on the team anymore isn’t a great look.
But the class wasn’t totally worthless. Agholor was a valuable contributor when the Eagles won a Super Bowl. And the Rowe pick helped get Ajayi, another important Super Bowl piece. Hicks has had a pretty good career for a third-round selection.
Ultimately, Kelly’s first and only draft class failed to produce a long-term building block. The memories of his time in Philly further fade as time passes and his connections to the organization dwindle.