The NFL draft begins tonight, and the Eagles currently have the 21st pick in the draft. Since 2010, the Eagles have had some slam dunk picks in the first round, such as Fletcher Cox and Lane Johnson, but they have also made some notable mistakes. Let’s rank every Eagles’ first-round pick since 2010.
9. Danny Watkins, Guard
Drafted: 2011, 21st overall
This pick never really made any sense for the Eagles. After playing the 2010 season in the CFL, the former Baylor product, Danny Watkins, decided to enter his name into the draft at age 26. As the oldest player taken in the first round that year, Watkins never materialized for the Eagles. Watkins was a significant liability at right guard and got cut from the team after two seasons. He was out of the league by 2013.
8. Marcus Smith, Defensive End
Drafted: 2014, 26th overall
This pick was bad at two levels: one being Marcus Smith himself and the other being the fact that Chip Kelly actually drafted him. Projected to be a mid-round pick, Chip Kelly took Smith way too early, and he was never productive on the field. In three seasons with the Eagles, Smith only recorded four sacks while never playing more than 21% of the team’s defensive snaps in a season. Smith later had stints with Washington and Seattle but did not play in 2019. His NFL career is likely over.
7. Nelson Agholor, Wide Receiver
Drafted: 2015, 20th overall
Let’s turn this draft pick into a hypothetical. You’re an Eagles fan, it’s 2015, and the team just selected Nelson Agholor. I tell you that Agholor will be on the team for five seasons. In four of those seasons, he will be highly unproductive and lose your team games on multiple occasions. However, in the one great season, he’s going to be one of the best slot receivers in the game and will help your team win the Super Bowl, including a big Super Bowl performance. Honestly, 2015 me signs up for that in a heartbeat.
Therefore, is it unfair to put Nelson Agholor in the bust category? Looking at his numbers, Agholor’s production was nowhere near what was expected out of him as a first-round pick. In three of his five seasons, Agholor had under 40 catches, and 365 yards. By the end of last season, it was clear it was time for both sides to move on. That being said, I’ll finish this section by mentioning his nine catch, 84-yard performance in Super Bowl LII.
6. Andre Dillard, Offensive Tackle
Drafted: 2019, 22nd Overall
Andre Dillard certainly has the potential, but it’s way too soon to decide on him just yet. After Howie Roseman traded up in the draft to get him, Dillard sat the bench for most of his rookie season behind Jason Peters. On limited snaps at left tackle he looked good, but struggled in his only start at right tackle while trying to stop Jadeveon Clowney. With Jason Peters gone, Dillard projects to be the Eagles’ week one starting left tackle in 2020.
5. Derek Barnett, Defensive End
Drafted: 2017, 14th overall
Heading into his fourth NFL season, it’s still unclear what to make of Derek Barnett. He’s shown signs of being a great pass rusher at times, but he also makes careless penalties that put the Eagles’ defense in bad positions. Barnett played well during his rookie season and had a crucial fumble recovery during Super Bowl LII on the strip-sack of Tom Brady.
However, since his rookie season, Barnett hasn’t been consistent. He was limited to just six games in 2018, and underwhelmed for much of 2019 as well. Heading into the final year of his rookie deal, 2020 is very much a make or break season for Derek Barnett. It will be interesting to see if he can take that next leap forward in his game because that would go a long way for Jim Schwartz’s defense.
4. Brandon Graham, Defensive End
Drafted: 2010, 13th overall
Now we get to the Eagles’ most successful first-round picks in recent memory. All four of these guys are vital pieces to the Eagles’ team, and their order could have been shifted. However, coming in at the four spot will be ten-year veteran, Brandon Graham. Through the first five seasons of his career, many labeled Graham a bust. From 2010 to 2014, Graham only logged 17 snaps while only starting 17 games. However, Graham finally turned the corner in 2015 and found a groove as an inside linebacker in Chip Kelly’s 3-4 system.
Since moving back to a defensive end in the 4-3 defense under Jim Schwartz in 2016, Graham has flourished. Over the last four seasons, he has recorded 74 quarterback hits to go along with 24.5 sacks. His best season came in 2017 when Graham had 9.5 sacks, along with 14 quarterback hits. And of course, he also had the biggest strip-sack in Philadelphia Eagles’ history against Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII. Heading into his age 32 season, Graham has two years remaining on his current contract.
3. Carson Wentz, Quarterback
Drafted: 2016, 2nd Overall
For all the scrutiny surrounding his injury history, Carson Wentz’s talent is there. After a solid rookie season, Wentz was playing at an MVP level in 2017 before suffering a torn ACL. Everyone knows what happened next: Nick Foles won a Super Bowl, and with it, destroyed Eagles’ Twitter forever. With due respect, look at what Foles has done with anyone outside of Philly. Squat.
After his 2018 season ended early due to a back injury, Wentz was finally able to play 16 games for the first time since his rookie season. With an atrocious set of receivers, Wentz played great down the stretch of the season, leading the Eagles to a playoff berth after a 5-7 start. In the first quarter of his first playoff game, Jadeveon Clowney speared him in the back of the head, knocking him out of the game. Not his fault, merely unfortunate. Going forward, Wentz should continue to get better for 2020, and GM Howie Roseman needs to get him some receivers.
2. Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle
Drafted: 2013, 4th Overall
Lane Johnson: Chip Kelly’s only good first-round selection as the Eagles’ GM. While Marcus Smith and Nelson Agholor weren’t good selections, Johnson has been one of the best right tackles in the NFL since coming into the league. A starter from day one, the Oklahoma product has made the Pro Bowl every season since 2017.
For the most part, Johnson has been able to stay on the field. He’s played 15 or 16 games in four of his seven NFL seasons. However, he missed four games in 2014 and 10 games in 2016 due to suspensions for PEDs. Another suspension for PEDs would cost Johnson at least 16 games, and put the team in a tough spot. However, if he can remain on the field and stay productive, he’s worth every penny of his recent four-year 72M extension.
1. Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle
Drafted: 2012, 12th Overall
Slam dunk pick for Philly in what was otherwise a 2012 draft class filled with a lot of busts. Since 2012, Fletcher Cox has only missed three games while playing at an elite level on Philadelphia’s offensive line. Cox has made the Pro Bowl every year since 2015 and has been the staple of Philadelphia’s elite run defense. In total, Cox has recorded 48 sacks, 121 quarterback hits, and 11 forced fumbles since his rookie season.
Cox’s best season came in 2018, where he recorded 10.5 sacks to go along with 34 quarterback hits. However, Cox wasn’t as dominant in 2019 as he battled a nagging calf injury for much of the season. With Cox having three years left on his six-year 103M contract, the Eagles will need him to return to his dominant self in 2020. At full strength, Cox is up there with Aaron Donald and Chris Jones as the best defensive tackles in the NFL.
It will certainly be interesting to see who Howie Roseman selects in the first round of the draft tonight. With a desperate need at receiver, the Eagles may try to trade up and select CeeDee Lamb from Oklahoma. Either way, it should be very entertaining to watch.
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