Looking back at Eagles drafts: Ranking the first round picks of Andy Reid era

Now that I’ve analyzed each of the Andy Reid era drafts individually, I’m going to look at them more holistically and see how he did in specific areas. Today, I’ll be looking at his successes and failures with his first round picks. Surprisingly, he was pretty good with top picks, although expectedly, there were some clunkers. Here are some quick stats on his first round selections when he was a coach, from 1999-2012:

Important Notes

-Total first round picks: 12 (5 offense, 7 defense)
-Years without a first round pick: 2007, 2008
-Years with multiple first round picks: none
-Players remaining on team: 2

I have to say, this was actually extremely difficult to do. I didn’t realize how many solid players Reid picked until I grouped them all together and was forced to rank them. The biggest problem with a lot of these guys, which makes them hard to rank against certain other guys, is they were very good for a short period of time, then were gone from the team. I could say that for nearly half of these guys, making it difficult to accurately analyze how they did. Much of this rankings could be debated, and I might not even have the same rankings if I were to do this a month later, but here’s what I came up with:

1. QB Donovan McNabb (1999)

No matter what, McNabb is easily the number one pick Andy Reid ever made. There’s no room for discussion here. He led this team for a very long time at the most difficult position in football, taking them to only their second Super Bowl in franchise history. He consistently led them to the playoffs and battled through injuries, putting up franchise records left and right. He is criticized far too often for what he did for Philadelphia. He had faults and came up short a lot, but he was still an excellent player, and the best first round pick of the Reid era.

2. DT Fletcher Cox (2012)

Already, I am not too sure about putting Cox this high. Maybe I’m a little biased because he’s still on the team, but the main reason I put him this high is potential. While most of these other guys are long gone from the team, Cox is (hopefully) just starting his career in Philadelphia. He’s already one of the best 3-4 defensive tackles in the league. It may seem a bit unfair to list him so high based on potential, but considering what he’s also already done in just three years in the league, I could see this being Reid’s second best first round pick. But again, that’s up for debate still.

3. G Shawn Andrews (2004)

Before you go crazy, hear me out for putting Andrews this high. Andrews is the only player other than McNabb on this list to make multiple Pro Bowls. In fact, after being injured his whole rookie year, he made the Pro Bowl the next three years, as well as the All-Pro team twice. His career was severely shortened by a host of problems that I won’t get into now, but Andrews’ accomplishments for the Eagles in just a few years surpassed what almost anyone else here did. If he lasted longer on the team and stayed healthy, he was on track to be one of the best offensive linemen they’ve ever had. But due to the shortened career, I can’t put him any higher than third.

4. WR Jeremy Maclin (2009)

Maclin was a great receiver, but with him also, it seemed like his career could’ve been even more special had they kept him around. The money was an issue though, and they let him go. Regardless, Maclin had a career year last year as the starting wide receiver, which actually was one of the best years for a WR in franchise history. He was also valuable as a starter when DeSean Jackson was around, as well as a returner. Maclin was a complete player. His 2014 season alone is enough to put him high on this list, which is why he reached the fourth slot.

5. CB Lito Sheppard (2002)

Sheppard had a similar situation to Maclin in that he didn’t play a full career in Philadelphia, having one amazing year and a lot of other good ones. Sheppard’s 2004 season where he made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team was obviously his best, and he even had some great ones after that. Unforuntately, he kind of got lost in the shuffle and was traded while he still had value. Still, his performance while he was with the team was great.

6. DT Corey Simon (2000)

Simon’s career was cut short largely due to his own fault. His 2003 Pro Bowl season was great, but then he refused to sign the franchise tag that the Eagles put on him and they let him go, where he never did anything productive in the NFL again. He was a great pass rusher for a defensive tackle. It’s really a shame he didn’t last on the team longer, but he got too heavy and greedy for them.

7. DT Mike Patterson (2005)

Patterson may be listed pretty low on this list, but he was still a very solid player, and actually lasted longer on the team than any player here except McNabb. He’s the definition of the kind of guy you want in the first couple rounds. His eight seasons were all productive, and was actually cut short due to the brain surgery he had after the 2011 season.

8. Brandon Graham (2009)

It really wouldn’t be fair to put Graham any higher than this, even though he has been pretty good and underrated his career in Philadelphia. Graham has never really been a starter, making it difficult to see his full potential, but they re-signed him this offseason with the intention of starting him at outside linebacker. Graham had a very productive season in 2014 and is one of the most efficient players on the defense. Graham has a chance to move up on this list if he excels in his new role.

9. Brodrick Bunkley (2006)

This is where the first round picks start to decline a bit. Bunkley wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t great by any means. He was average. If they had spent a third or fourth round pick on him, I could’ve been happy with his production for what they spent. He never really did anything wrong, he just didn’t excel either. He only started for three full seasons though, which is just not good enough to earn tons of praise.

10. WR Freddie Mitchell (2001)

Mitchell was a bad pick, there’s really no way around it. He was a loudmouth, he caused problems all over the place, and is now in jail. That’s not really the kind of guy you want to brag about having on your team. But, his famous catches on “fourth and 26” and McNabb’s classic 14.1-second scramble against the Cowboys are enough to not put him at the bottom of this list.

11. G Danny Watkins (2011)

Looking back on it, there’s really no reason why Watkins should have been a first round pick. He was old, cared more about firefighting than football, and just not that talented. Yet, the Eagles still drafted him in the first round. He luckily only lasted two seasons on the team before being released, but that alone throws up the sign “huge bust” without question.

12. DE Jerome McDougle (2003)

Still though, there was someone worse than Watkins: McDougle. He was horrible. He was terrible. He was even shot at. And they traded up for this guy! He could barely get on the field due to injuries, and when he was on the field, I’m sure people were hoping he was back on the sidelines. He ended up missing more games in his career than ones he played in. That’s bad enough. Also, as a supposed great pass rushing defensive end, he had three sacks in his stint with the Eagles. That’s terrible. He’s definitely the worst pick of the Reid era.

After analyzing all the first round picks. I realize I was often a little too harsh in my individual draft analyses when talking about first round picks. I often called it “rare” to see Reid select a good player in the first round, but he actually picked good players there more often than not. Guys like McNabb, Cox, Maclin and Andrews were all great picks. Only two of these guys are still on the team, one of which I listed in the bottom half here, but he was still pretty good when picking in the first round.

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