As the Eagles prepare to draft second in the first round of Thursday’s 2016 NFL Draft, it’s a perfect time to look back at all the first-round picks Philadelphia has made in the Jeffrey Lurie era.
Lurie purchased the Eagles on April 6, 1994, just 20 days before that season’s NFL draft. They chose offensive tackle Bernard Williams in the first round that year, then took defensive tackle Bruce Walker and running back Charlie Garner in the second round. Garner’s selection came just four picks before the Dallas Cowboys selected Larry Allen.
A lot has changed since 1994. Rich Kotite was fired after that season, replaced by Ray Rhodes who, himself, was fired four years later. Andy Reid took over in 1999 until he was replaced by Chip Kelly in 2013. Now, as the Eagles prepare for the 2016 draft with Doug Pederson as head coach—just the fifth time drafting in the top 10 in the Lurie era—it’s worth looking at some of the biggest hits and misses of the first round.
Here is every Eagles first-round draft choice since Lurie purchased the team, ranked from worst to best.
1997 – 25th pick – Jon Harris – DE
The Eagles traded back three picks with the Cowboys in the 1997 draft to take Harris. The Virginia alum played just two seasons in the NFL—he was traded from the Eagles to the Packers in 1999, but never played—starting eight games and registering two sacks.
1994 – 14th pick – Bernard Williams – T
The first pick of the Lurie era, Williams started every game his rookie season at tackle before smoking himself out of the NFL. Literally. From Paul Domowitch in the Daily News on April 5, 2001:
After his promising rookie season, Williams would never play another game for the Eagles, or anyone else in the NFL. Shortly after reporting to training camp in July 1995, the league gave him a six-game suspension for failing to complete a drug-treatment program after testing positive for marijuana. Three months later, he was suspended again, this time for one year.
He tried to apply for reinstatement in the spring of ’96, but couldn’t convince the league he had stopped using marijuana. He still hadn’t gone to a drug-treatment facility, and hadn’t been tested since his suspension.
2014 – 26th pick – Marcus Smith – LB
The jury is still out on Smith, but in two seasons, he has suited up for just 21 games, registering a total of 1.5 sacks and three tackles. It could be worse, maybe. The Eagles moved back to 26 from 22 that year, where the Browns drafted Johnny Manziel.
2011 – 23rd pick – Danny Watkins – G
Watkins was the first pick of the 2011 draft for the Eagles, the same year the team took Jason Kelce in the sixth round. Watkins was 26 years old when he was taken out of Baylor, lasting just two seasons in Philly, and in the NFL.
2007 – Traded out of the first round
The Eagles missed out on safety Brandon Meriweather late in the first round of the 2007 draft, so they traded out of the first, giving the Cowboys the 26th pick which they used on Anthony Spencer, in order to take Kevin Kolb and Stewart Bradley.
2003 – 15th pick – Jerome McDougle – DE
McDougle was the cornerstone of a terrible draft year for Philadelphia. Another bust, McDougle played just 33 games with the Eagles, starting none, and registering a total of 29 tackles and three sacks in three seasons.
Troy Polamalu was taken one pick after McDougle in the 2003 draft.
2001 – 25th pick Freddie Mitchell – WR
Mitchell came to Philly with much fanfare, but despite thanking his hands for being so great, the rest of him, frankly, wasn’t. He played just four seasons in the NFL before washing out completely, catching 90 balls and scoring five touchdowns.
1995 – 7th pick – Mike Mamula – DE
The most maligned pick in Eagles history, Mamula was a workout king who was taken seventh overall in 1995, Lurie’s second draft as owner. Compared to some other first rounders, though, he wasn’t awful, playing for five seasons with the Eagles, registering 31.5 sacks and 156 tackles in 77 games.
2015 – 20th pick – Nelson Agholor – WR
Agholor’s first season was less than extraordinary, catching 23 balls on 44 targets and scoring just once in 13 games. A universally lauded draft selection, it’s unfair to call him a success or a bust at this point, as his second season—and first under Pederson—will be key to seeing what the Eagles have.
2006 – 14th pick – Brodrick Bunkley – DT
Bunkley was never a star, but he was a serviceable defensive tackle for some good Eagles teams from 2006-2010. He played 76 games for Philly, starting 52, and clogged up the middle of the field, allowing others on the defense to rack up the stats. He did record 111 tackles and six sacks before moving on to Denver for one year and New Orleans for three.
2010 – 13th pick – Brandon Graham – DE
Graham was taken 13th overall in 2010 and it took him until his sixth season to become a regular starter, playing in 80 games but starting just 23 for the Eagles. He re-signed for four years with the Eagles last off-season, and has 23.5 sacks and 138 tackles, 37 assisted, in his Eagles career.
Earl Thomas was taken one pick after Graham. Jason Pierre-Paul was the pick after that. Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant went ten picks later.
2013 – 4th pick – Lane Johnson – T
Johnson has started every game in which he’s played for the Eagles in his three years. He was named 2014 first-team All-NFL by Pro Football Focus. Chip Kelly’s first draft pick, it will be interesting to see how Johnson fits in Pederson’s offensive schemes, and if he becomes that cornerstone tackle the Eagles need him to be.
2005 – 31st pick – Mike Patterson – DT
Taken the year before Bunkley, and the year after the Eagles made the Super Bowl, Patterson was the latest first-rounder on this list. He played for eight seasons in Philly, starting at defensive tackle for 99 of his 115 games, and registered 255 tackles, 83 assisted, and 16.5 sacks for the Birds.
1996 – 25th pick – Jermane Mayberry – G
The Eagles had a run of offensive linemen taken early in the draft around the time Mayberry was drafted, so his selection may have been skewed by that, or the team’s general lack of success under Ray Rhodes, or the fact that Ray Lewis was taken one spot after Mayberry in the 1996 NFL Draft.
Still, he played nine years in Philly, mostly at right guard, starting 96 of his 112 games, making the Pro Bowl in 2002.
2009 – 19th pick – Jeremy Maclin – WR
Maclin would surely be higher on this list had he not missed the entire 2013 season to injury. Still, in five seasons with the Eagles he caught 343 balls for more than 4,700 yards and 36 touchdowns. He had his best season in 2014, his last with the team before joining Andy Reid in Kansas City.
2008 – Traded out of the first round again
The Eagles traded out of the first round for the second-straight year, as Carolina took OT Jeff Otah in exchange for a second, which the team traded again, plus a fourth and a 2009 first round pick. The Eagles drafted DeSean Jackson in the second round that year, then flipped Carolina’s first-rounder in a package of picks to land offensive tackle Jason Peters from Buffalo a year later.
2000 – 6th pick – Corey Simon – DT
Simon played five years in Philly after being taken sixth overall, starting every game of the 78 in which he suited up. He had 165 tackles, 45 assisted, and 32 sacks in his Eagles career, making the 2003 Pro Bowl.
2002 – 26th pick – Lito Sheppard – DB
Sheppard was taken near the end of the first round in 2002 and was clearly the best player for the Eagles to draft after Ed Reed was snatched up two picks earlier. Sheppard played seven years in Philly, nabbing 18 interceptions as part of one of the best secondaries in the NFL. He made the Pro Bowl just twice, but was named First-Team All-Pro in 2004.
2004 – 16th pick – Shawn Andrews – G
Andrews was the only offensive guard taken in the first round of the 2004 draft and the Eagles moved up to get him. He played in 50 games for the Eagles over five seasons, starting every one. Andrews had a terrible struggle with depression that shortened his career—going so far in 2013 as to blame Donovan McNabb for bullying him in the locker room—but when he was on the field, he was dominant, making the Pro Bowl twice and earning First-Team All-Pro honors in 2006.
2012 – 12th pick – Fletcher Cox – DT
As Fletcher Cox works out a new contract with the Eagles, hopefully, his agent has surely talked up his value to the team since being selected with the 12th pick in the 2012 draft. Cox has started 57 of the 63 games he’s played for the Eagles, recording 22 sacks and 162 tackles, 53 assisted, while recovering six fumbles, including one for a score.
Cox was named to the 2015 Pro Bowl in his fourth season in the league, and earned second-team All-NFL honors by the AP in both 2014 and 2015. In a draft that saw Andrew Luck go first and Luke Kuechly go ninth, Cox may end up as one of the great picks from that year as well.
1999 – 2nd pick – Donovan McNabb – QB
The last time the Eagles picked second overall they took a quarterback, and he led the team to the NFC title game four times, and the Super Bowl once. Clearly the best quarterback taken in the 1999 NFL Draft, McNabb played for 11 years in Philly, making the Pro Bowl six times and finishing his career as, surely, the best quarterback in Eagles history.
1998 – 11th pick – Tra Thomas – T
McNabb may have been the best player drafted in the first round by the Eagles under Lurie, but he wasn’t the best first round draft pick by the Eagles under Lurie. That goes to Tra Thomas, taken one year before McNabb and installed for more than a decade as the cornerstone left tackle on some of the best teams in franchise history.
Thomas was taken 11th overall in the 1998 NFL Draft at an obvious position of need for the Eagles. He started all but one of the 166 games he played for the Eagles from 1998 through 2008, and made the Pro Bowl in 2001, 2002 and 2004, earning second-team All-NFL honors by the AP in 2002, and first-team honors that year from Sporting News.
Given that Thomas was the first pick after consecutive years of Williams, Mamula, Mayberry and Harris, his selection proved even more important for the Eagles.
Fans surely hope this season provides more boom than bust for Lurie and the Eagles.