Biggest draft steals in Philadelphia Eagles history

We tip our caps to some of the Eagles' biggest draft steals in franchise history.
Harold Carmichael, Philadelphia Eagles
Harold Carmichael, Philadelphia Eagles / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Once upon a time, someone asked me a very wild question. If you had been good enough to play in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles, would you have rather ended your career as a Super Bowl Champion or a Pro Football Hall of Famer if it wasn't in the cards for you to do both? Wait! What?

First of all, my brain isn't sophisticated enough to ponder such questions, but I have to admit that the question remained on my mind for a while. Now, granted... As stated earlier, I wasn't good enough to do either. My playing days ended after high school. Who would have thunk? A career in journalism was calling, but just for kicks, here's an answer.

Many men will win Super Bowls. Many of those men will be forgotten, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame is an exclusive fraternity, so yeah... I think I would have rather landed in Canton.

Over time, we have seen the Eagles draft a ton of prospects. Some proved to be among the greats. Some flamed quickly. Some joined the ranks of football's immortals.

What's fun is seeing the underdogs do so. 'Draft-day steals' are called steals for a reason. This is their story, one about Pro Football Hall of Famers AND underdogs. And, it seems right to craft it in a city that built a statue for a fictional boxer.

Here's a tier for the more recent Eagles draft-day steals who are among the best the franchise ever selected.

Everyone on this list isn't in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but doggone it (as Brian Dawkins would say), every one of them ought to be.

Did that sound biased?

Jason Kelce, 6th-round selection, 2011

This list isn't a list if Jason Kelce isn't on it. Philly selected two offensive linemen in 2011 before taking the G.O.A.T. in Round 6. Danny Watkins was a first-rounder. Julian Vandervelde was added in the fifth. As hard as that is to believe, even now, we saw it happen, so we can attest as witnesses.

Jason isn't just one of the greatest draft-day steals in Eagles history. He's one of the best draft-day steals in NFL history. His spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is secure.

Trent Cole, 5th-round selection, 2005

Trent Cole was a fifth-round selection in the 2005 NFL Draft. No, for real... We verified this more than once. This is a story people should reference when saying the draft isn't an exact science.

He went on to become a member of the PFWA All-Rookie Team that year. He was a two-time Pro Bowler (2007, 2009), a Second-Team All-Pro in 2009, and is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame.

Here's the kicker. Like Kelce, he played for the Cincinnati Bearcats while at the NCAA level. How's that for 'amazing'?

Brian Westbrook, 3rd-round selection, 2002

Brian Westbrook was truly a 'do-it-all' tailback. He ran with conviction. He had hands like a receiver, and if, for whatever reason, an opposing special teams unit booted the ball to him, they soon learned that was an error in judgment.

Brent Celek, 5th-round selection, 2007

How about a Cincinnati Bearcats triple play? All of Brent Celek's 11 NFL seasons were played in the Midnight Green. His final game was Super Bowl LII. We all remember how that turned out, right?

Yep! Brent is an Eagle through an through.

Jordan Mailata, 7th-round selection, 2018

As soon as Jordan Mailata, a former rugby player that didn't know how to put his helmet on when he arrived, worked his way into two contract extensions after being selected in the seventh round, his spot on this list was secure.

He hasn't been named to any Pro Bowl rosters yet. That will come, and we expect more brilliance in the future.

A tier for the days when the NFL Draft looked much different than it does now

Yes friends... We had to mention the immortals... Now, here's the thing. When we said 'third-round draft choice' back when some of these guys were playing, that probably meant they were among the first 30 prospects or so that were taken. Guess what? We don't care. A fourth-rounder is a fourth-rounder is a fourth-rounder, and we had to give the legends their flowers.

Here's a look at some other draft-day steals even though many mentioned would probably be second or third-rounders today.

Pete Pihos, 5th-round selection, 1945

Pete Pihos was the 45th player taken in 1945's draft, so, these days, he'd be a second-rounder. Back in the olden days, he was a fifth. Still, when a guy who wasn't taken in Round 1 earns six First-team All-Pro nods and six Pro Bowl nominations in nine seasons (all of which were in an Eagles jersey), he deserves his spot on the NFL 1940s All-Decade Team and his spot in Canton.

Sonny Jurgensen, 4th-round selection, 1957

Yes, we know Sonny Jurgensen is best remembered as a Washington quarterback, but he was drafted in Round 4 of the 1957 NFL Draft albeit 43rd overall. He was part of Philly's 1960 NFL Championship-winning team, and he earned First-Team All-Pro honors in 1961 after leading the league in TD passes.

Yep. That earns him a spot on this list.

Wilbert Montgomery, 6th-round selection, 1977

Being the 154th selection in 1977 meant you were a sixth-rounder. Let's just say investing some confidence in Wilbert Montgomery paid off in a major way for the franchise.

He played eight seasons in Philadelphia and claimed the franchise rushing yards record until LeSean McCoy decided to take that crown for himself. Wilbert will never be enshrined in Canton, but he is in the Eagles Hall of Fame, as he should be.

Tommy McDonald, 3rd-round selection, 1957

Today, had everything worked out the same way that it did in 1957, Tommy McDonald would have been one of the final two prospects selected in Round 1. Instead, he was a third-rounder.

Still, with all due respect to LeSean McCoy, this is the best player to wear the Number 25 jersey in franchise history. A receiving crown (1961), two First-Team All-Pro nominations (1959, 1960), three Second-Team All-Pro nods (1959, 1961, 1962), five of six total trips to the Pro Bowl (1958–1962,1965), and an NFL Championship (1960) highlight his seven seasons in Philly.

Clyde Simmons, 9th-round selection, 1986

Clyde Simmons was an NFL forced fumbles co-leader in 1995 and the NFL sacks leader before that (1992). Two First-Team All-Pro nods (1991, 1992) and two Pro Bowl nominations (1991, 1992) highlight his resume, one he began crafting as a ninth-round selection in 1986. He was the 233rd player taken that season.

Harold Carmichael, 7th-round selection, 1971

An NFL Man of the Year (1980), this two-time Second-Team All-Pro (1973, 1979) found his way onto four Pro Bowl rosters (1973, 1978–1980) and the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team. That is pretty cool to fathom when Harold Carmichael's NFL story began by being a seventh-rounder in the 1971 NFL Draft. He was the 161st player taken.

Bill Bradley, 3rd-round selection, 1969

The 69th player taken in the 1969 NFL Draft, Bill Bradley, a third-rounder, earned two First-Team All-Pro nods (1971, 1972), three Pro Bowl nominations (1971–1973), and led the NFL in interceptions during the 1971 and 1972 NFL seasons. He's a member of the Eagles Hall of Fame, as he should be.

Honorable mention: Jalen Mills, 7th-round selection,

Jalen Mills isn't the caliber of player of some of the guys on this list, but he was a former seventh-rounder who instantly won over his teammates. Sure, he'd bite on the double move now and again, but his teammates always felt a little better and played harder when he was on the field.

Yes, friends... The Green Goblin is cool with us.

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