The Eagles' quarterback shuffle.

The Eagles' quarterback shuffle.

Dan Levy

Beware the Bust: Ranking NFL Draft classes when the Eagles looked for QBs

Since Donovan McNabb in 1999, the Eagles have drafted a quarterback six times. Almost all the quarterbacks available have been total busts.

While the NFL is still in recovery mode from the blockbuster trade between the St. Louis Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans on Thursday, locally, pundits have focused on how this impacts the Philadelphia Eagles and their master draft plans.

The Rams—the same organization that dealt Sam Bradford for Nick Foles and a second round pick last off-season—made a trade with the Titans for the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, giving up their first rounder this year and next year, as well as both second rounders (thanks Eagles) and their third round pick this year.

There has been talk the Eagles were in the mix to move up to No. 1 themselves, as they clearly eye a quarterback of the future in this draft. Simply put, teams don’t mortgage their future to move up to No. 1 unless it’s for a quarterback.

There’s some logic to move up to the top spot, as many draft gurus expect the Cleveland Browns, despite signing RGIII, to take a quarterback with the second pick. With the Cowboys looming at No. 4, the Eagles were working on moving ahead of them to take the guy they wanted.

This, from Will Brinson at CBS Sports, explains what the Eagles could still do to secure that quarterback, but a move like this would be impossible to pull off until the night of the draft.

Let’s say the Rams take [Jared] Goff, who the Browns prefer, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora.

The Browns are then in a position to call the Eagles, who reportedly like [Carson] Wentz (and have Sam Bradford/Chase Daniel on the roster to bridge the gap while he develops), and see about making a deal that sends Philly to No. 2 in exchange for picks and the No. 8 pick.

The best thing about the Eagles trade with Miami this off-season, other than shedding the dead weight of Byron Maxwell’s contract and Kiko Alonso’s dead leg, was that the Birds moved up five spots to No. 8 in the draft without trading any additional draft picks. After losing the 2016 second-rounder to the Rams last year, picks are at a premium for Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson. Giving what’s left to Cleveland for a quarterback doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless this pick is a lock to become a franchise cornerstone, especially after seeing how the market has been set by Tennessee.

And here’s another thing to consider: The Eagles have had very little success drafting a quarterback in the last 15 years. Almost none.

It may not be the team’s fault, though. Since taking Donovan McNabb with the second overall pick in 1999, the Eagles have drafted a quarterback six times. In most of those drafts—especially in the years the team was looking for McNabb’s replacement, not his back-up—almost all the quarterbacks have been total busts.

In other words, in the drafts when the Eagles have taken a quarterback, most of the quarterbacks have sucked.

Two years after McNabb was drafted, the Birds took A.J. Feeley with the 155th overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. That year, Michael Vick was taken first overall and Drew Brees went to San Diego at the top of the second round. The other quarterbacks taken that draft: Quincy Carter, Marques Tuiasosopo—both second rounders—Chris Weinke, Sage Rosenfels and Jessie Palmer in the fourth, Mike McMahon and Feely in the fifth and Josh Booty and Josh Huepel in the sixth. Vick and Brees were good starters, and Brees a future Hall of Famer after leaving San Diego for New Orleans, but the rest of that draft class was a disaster.

In 2004, the Eagles took a guy in what’s considered the best QB class since ’83 (a year the Eagles also took a QB in the 12th round, btw). Andy Hall was never Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers. Other quarterbacks taken that year included first-round bust J.P. Losman, Matt Schaub, Luke McCown and a bunch of schlubs like Andy Hall.


If you ask people to name the worst quarterback draft class of the last dozen years, the debate may be between 2007 and 2013, with maybe a few pundits suggesting 2010. The Eagles drafted QBs in EACH of those years.

In 2007, the Birds famously moved out of the first round to take Kevin Kolb in the second, the first clear sign that the team was looking for an eventual replacement for McNabb.

That was the year JaMarcus Russell was taken first overall, perhaps the biggest bust in NFL history. It was also the year Brady Quinn, another bust, had his green room free fall. Kolb went next in that draft, just before a run of mediocre signal callers in John Beck and Drew Stanton. Trent Edwards was taken in the third round, and—stop me when you’ve heard of any of these names—the other quarterbacks taken in the 2007 draft were Isaiah Stanback, Jeff Rowe, Troy Smith, Jordan Palmer and Tyler Thigpen.

Was the 2010 draft class worse?

It probably wasn’t, no, but that year still reads like the street signs in Bust City. Sam Bradford went first overall (and Tim Tebow went 25th) in the first round. Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy were taken in the second and third before the Eagles rolled the dice on Mike Kafka in the fourth round.

Other quarterbacks taken that year were John Skelton, Jonathan Crompton, Rusty Smith, Dan LeFevour, Tony Pike, Levi Brown, Sean Canfield and Zac Robinson. Yeesh.

The 2012 NFL Draft will go down as one of the best in Eagles history, as the team took Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry in the first two rounds, before nabbing Nick Foles with the 88th overall pick in the third round.

That year was hardly a thin quarterback draft, but it was a weird one.

Andrew Luck was taken first overall in 2012, one pick ahead of Washington wunderkind turned exiled enigma Robert Griffin III. Ryan Tannehill—not a bust, but not a star—was taken eighth by Miami and Brandon Weeden—a total bust—was taken 22nd by Cleveland. Brock Osweiler went in the second round to Denver and Russell Wilson went in the third, just 13 picks before Foles.

Kirk Cousins was taken with the 102nd pick in that draft and Ryan Lindley, B.J. Coleman and Chandler Harnish rounded out the quarterbacks drafted that year. There are some real franchise signal callers from that draft, but other than Luck, it’s not who anyone expected.

The next year was the last time the Eagles drafted a QB in any round, as Chip Kelly went with value by nabbing Matt Barkley in the fourth round of the 2013 draft.

So far that draft is an enormous disaster for teams that took a quarterback. EJ Manuel went in the first round to Buffalo. Geno Smith went in the second round to the Jets. Mike Glennon went in the third round to the Buccaneers. Barkley went to the Eagles. Also taken in the fourth round were Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson and Landry Jones, who may be the best guy on the list. There were no other QBs taken until the seventh round that year, where four were picked, but none have done anything of note in their short careers.

Which leads to this year, where the Eagles are looking at Goff or Wentz or maybe Paxton Lynch out of Memphis at some point in the draft. If Goff is the man for the Rams, will the Eagles do what they need to get up to No. 2 for Wentz?

Will Wentz be worth it?

Historically, the answer is no. And sure, all of this evidence is merely anecdotal, and the Eagles taking a quarterback in the 2016 draft doesn’t mean the entire draft class will be pocket-passing busts. It’s just that in most years, the quarterbacks are. And in the years the Eagles decided to take a quarterback, they almost always were.

The unknown is part of the fun of the NFL Draft. We all mock the Rams today, but if the first overall pick becomes a Super Bowl-winning Hall of Famer, the trade could be worth the risk.

That said, this is Philly, where we’ve grown tired of bad drafts and worse trades.

If the Eagles trade up to No. 2, they better be sure they’re getting a player worth the risk, as the second overall pick in the draft has been a bit of a crapshoot over the years, and neither Goff nor Went nor Lynch are by any means a consensus top-5 player, especially with what the Eagles will have to give up to get there.

As for quarterbacks, 17 have been picked second overall in the history of the NFL Draft, most recently last season when Marcus Mariota went second to Tennessee. The last quarterback to go second overall before that was Robert Griffin III. The last before him…Donovan McNabb.

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