Any Eagle fan is sure to remember that fateful day in 1999 when the commissioner took the stage and said, “With the second pick in the NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select…Donovan Mc-BOOOOO BOOOOO!” Well, five NFC championship appearances and one Super bowl catastrophe later the Eagles are still right where they started: searching for their first Lombardi Trophy. As that chapter in franchise history has closed, Eagle’s fans have a new hope, a new savior, and a new supporting cast leading them in to 2011.
Oddly enough, though, the heart of this young squad is not comprised of super-talented, high ranking first round draft picks. As it turns out, much of this team’s hopeful future now rests heavily on the shoulders of the Eagles’ second round selections over the past four seasons.
DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Kevin Kolb, Nate Allen and Trevor Laws were all second-day hits for Andy Reid dating back to 2007. All of those names – not counting Laws -are crucial in establishing continued success for the franchise. DeSean Jackson is already a pro bowler, one of the most dangerous players in the NFL. LeSean put up ridiculous numbers last season, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and leading the Eagle’s with 78 receptions to go along with a combined 9 touchdowns on the year.
Nate Allen showed poise before getting hurt at the end of the season, but has high expectations and will need to be a defensive leader in this upcoming season. And then there’s Kevin Kolb. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the way his career has gone down so far, and although it may not work out for Kolb in Eagle green, he surprisingly holds more trade value than any Birds quarterback in recent memory, which the Eagles will likely exploit as soon as the opportunity arises.
While the second round talent has put the Eagles in a position to be great for years to come, the first round has not been quite as kind to the Eagles. Part of the reason is because the Eagles traded their first round picks in 2007 and 2008, but last season’s first round pick Brandon Graham – after starting at left end in September and racking up three sacks and two forced fumbles – was lost due to injury in December, leaving the Eagles faithful uncertain about his future. In 2009, the Eagles snatched up Jeremy Maclin, who could very well be the most talented player on the offense, leading the team with 10 touchdowns last season and catching 70 passes (2nd behind McCoy). Other than Maclin, however, the Eagles have had nothing substantial to show for the opening round since picking up Lito Sheppard in 2002.
Why the lack of first round success? Well, Graham is still unproven, Brodrick Bunkley has been subpar at best for a first rounder, and the same goes for Mike Patterson, another DT selection for the Eagles – who have not fared well in finding superior talent at that position. Shawn Andrews is a complete lunatic who does not even enjoy playing football (signing his brother Stacy couldn’t even keep him happy), and Jerome McDougle was shot (self-explanatory). Whether it’s the pressure that comes with being a first-round pick, or the increasing pressure on a coaching staff to start their first picks on day one, teams around the league have had poor statistical success in finding long-term talent in the top tier of the draft. The Eagles, unfortunately, are no different.
With the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft, Eagles fans can still hold out some hope that a top-notch player will be there for the taking. Maclin gives us hope. But if history proves anything, look for the Eagle’s biggest contributions to come out of the second round, number 54 in this year’s draft.
Other notable second-round gems: Sheldon Brown, Michael Lewis, Winston Justice, Todd Pinkston.
Today’s story is courtesy of ITI’s newest correspondent, Ryan Thompson. Ryan is a broadcast major at Penn State.