In 2016, the Eagles moved up twice in the first round of the NFL Draft to select Carson Wentz, trading their 2017 first round pick in the process.
When the league announced the 2017 NFL Draft was coming to Philadelphia, everyone — fans, television networks, the NFL — held out hope the Eagles would find a way to get that first round pick back. Thankfully, the Minnesota Vikings required the services of Sam Bradford, the Eagles fleeced the Vikings, and the team ended up just two picks behind where they would have been had they kept this year’s first rounder all along.
In advance of the 2016 draft, we ranked every first round pick the Eagles have made since Jeff Lurie purchased the team. No matter what the experts, pundits and football gurus try to tell you, it’s too early to tell what the Eagles have in Wentz, so it’s silly after just one year with a new head coach in a rebuilding offense where his selection should rank. Wentz was a good quarterback for a rookie, but by season’s end he was at most the third-best rookie — and the fourth-best quarterback — in the division (fifth-best if we include Tony Romo). With Dak Prescott becoming an instant star in Dallas, Wentz wasn’t even the best rookie quarterback in the division last year.
And still, Wentz’s potential is through the roof, and Eagles fans hope what he showed in Year One barely scratched the surface of his ability.
The expectations for this year’s first round pick will be understandably lower. With the 14th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles will select…a good NFL player.
Maybe, if they get a little lucky, they’ll nab a great player. And while the success of this year’s draft is more predicated on what the Birds do the entire draft — the team has had better success in the second round than the first over the years — there is far always attention paid to first round picks. Heck, they get their own night now, as Thursday’s draft is just for the first round.
And so, here’s a little history of the Eagles and the first round. Let’s see if this year’s pick begets a Hall of Famer, a bust, or if they trade out of the first round altogether.
Philly’s NFL Draft History
Did you know, the first NFL Draft ever was in the swanky downtown Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia? Did you also know thst the first draft was two rounds longer than it is now? Two years later, the draft was TWENTY ROUNDS long. This, from ProFootballHOF.com:
Prior to the inaugural National Football League draft in 1936, players were free to sign with any club. This tended to make the stronger teams even stronger and created much disparity in the NFL. On May 19, 1935, the league owners adopted a plan for a college player draft. Proposed by Bert Bell, the Eagles owner and future NFL commissioner, the plan called for teams to select players in inverse order of their finish the previous season.
The first draft had nine rounds and was increased to 10 in 1937. It was expanded to 20 rounds in 1939. Adding a twist to the procedure in 1938 and 1939, only the five teams that finished lowest in the previous season were permitted to make selections in the second and fourth rounds.
The Eagles, as a franchise, had nine total wins in the three seasons (!!!) before the 1936 draft. They won one game in 12 tries that next year, and two in 11 games the following year, before winning five games in 1938. The next four years, the Eagles won a combined six games. So, yeah, the draft did a whole lot of good for Bell and the Birds.
Philly has actually hosted the draft 16 times in the past, including once at the Philadelphia Racquet Club, six times at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel and eight times at the Warwick Hotel.
Eagles first rounders by position
Since 1936, the Eagles have made 70 first round selections in the NFL Draft and 48 of them have been offensive players, to just 22 on defense.
The most drafted position in the first round has been running back, as the combination of running back, halfback, fullback and — in the olden days — just ‘back’ have been selected 18 times in the first round. Remember that stat if Christian McCaffrey or Dalvin Cook get selected in the first round.
- Running Back (Halfback, Fullback, Back) – 18
- Offensive Line – 14
- Defensive Line – 11
- Pass Catchers (Wide Receiver, Tight End, End) – 11
- Linebackers – 6
- Defensive Backs – 5
- Quarterbacks – 5
The Eagles have selected 14 offensive linemen in the first round — eight tackles and six guards. They’ve never taken a center in the first round.
Eleven defensive linemen have been taken in the first round by Philly, including six defensive tackles and five defensive ends. To round out the defense, six linebackers and five defensive backs have been taken in the first round by the Eagles.
The Eagles have selected just five wide receivers in the first round, and 11 pass catchers in total, including tight ends and ends.
Five quarterbacks — Wentz, Donovan McNabb, John Reaves, Frank Tripucka and Davey O’Brien — were first rounders with the Eagles. Not exactly a Hall of Fame-caliber lineup under center.
Eagles first rounders by pick number
Right now the Eagles are slated to pick 14th, but considering they moved twice last year and this year’s pick wasn’t even originally theirs, there is a half-decent chance they end up moving up or down in this year’s draft. Here’s a look at where they’ve picked historically:
- Top pick – 3 times
- Top 2 pick – 9 times
- Top 5 pick – 21 times
- Top 10 pick – 41 times
- Top 15 pick – 52 times
- Top 20 pick – 58 times
- Drafted outside the Top 20 – 12 times
One pick, two pick, no picks, who picks
While the Eagles have made 70 first round picks, they’ve only drafted in the first round in 67 drafts, making multiple first round picks three times. In 1949, the Eagles took Chuck Bednarik with the first overall pick, then drafted Tripucka with the ninth pick. One guy ended up an Eagles legend. One guy, did not.
In 1973, the Birds took tackle Jerry Sizemore third overall, then took tight end Charlie Young with the sixth pick. That same year, a young Ron Jaworski was drafted in the second round by the Rams.
In 1993 the Eagles took Lester Holmes and Leonard Renfro with late first round picks. Holmes played a few years on the offensive line, with 46 of his 102 games comes with the Eagles, while Renfro was out of the league before the end of the 1994 season.
In 14 drafts the Eagles didn’t make a first round pick, which hasn’t been all bad, as some of those traded first rounders (in a few cases multiple first rounders) got the Birds the likes of Norm Van Brocklin, Roman Gabriel, Bill Bergey and Jason Peters.
The Eagles at No. 14
Let’s assume for now the Eagles keep the 14th pick on Thursday. They’ve selected 14th in the first round six times before.
- 2006 – Brodrick Bunkley – DT
- 1994 – Bernard Williams – T
- 1972 – John Reaves – QB
- 1968 – Tim Rossovich – LB
- 1961 – Art Baker – FB
- 1950 – Bud Grant – E
Reaves played 16 games for the Eagles over three years, starting seven. Rossovish played four seasons with the Birds, starting 48 of 55 games. Baker was taken in the first round by the Eagles in the 1961 NFL Draft and in the third round (19th overall) by the Bills in the AFL Draft. He played two years for the Bills.
Grant played two seasons for the Eagles in the early 1950s, and per Pro-Football Reference, had 997 yards on 56 catches in his second (last) season. He then went on to a legendary coaching career. The Eagles did actually pick one more player 14th. Chuck Newton was selected 14th in 1939, but the fullback was taken in the second round. He played 12 games over two years, scoring once.