Every NFL team has made their share of poor draft decisions. It’s unavoidable, and a staple of every offseason; someone is bound to make a blunder in their evaluation of a notable prospect. For the Philadelphia Eagles, however, these mistakes have come in droves at times, and they’ve often struggled with their rookie acquisitions in many different eras. Call it bad luck, or just an inability to consistently read college talent, but Philly has had to bear the brunt of some pretty ugly draft selections over the years.
Of course, they’ve made their share of quality draft picks as well. Just because there are some notable failures doesn’t mean that the Eagles haven’t gotten some equally great returns in their selections. But without a doubt, the bad ones are just more fun to analyze, because we’re talking about some all-time terrible draft busts here. If the player didn’t bust out entirely, oftentimes they just ended up being mediocre, and the Eagles ended up passing on a productive player to get them. Whatever the case may be, there’s no shortage of bad Eagles draft picks over the years, so let’s take a closer look at them.
Ranked below are 15 draft mistakes the Philadelphia Eagles should STILL be embarrassed about.
15. Freddie Mitchell
In an effort to get new franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb some potent receiving weapons, the Eagles selected Mitchell in the 1st round of the 2001 draft, and expected him to be a force on the outside of the field. Instead, Mitchell turned in mediocre performances time and time again, and the team was left without a go-to receiver for McNabb.
Mitchell would only for 4 seasons in the league, all with the Eagles, and he never turned the corner and was able to improve his game. Other than being the one who made the reception on the legendary “4th & 26” play against the Packers in the playoffs, his career bordered on horrific. A poor return on a 1st round pick.
14. Jerome McDougle
The Eagles have whiffed on many a defensive end over the years, and McDougle is one of the most noteworthy examples. In order to bolster the pass rush, Philly selected him in the 1st round of the 2003 draft. Figuring that the highly-touted McDougal would be a star playing alongside interior lineman Corey Simon, the outlook was very positive.
However, it didn’t take long for McDougle to prove that he had absolutely no business on an NFL field. For his entire four-year career he registered a paltry 3 sacks, and was never the full-time impact player that the team expected him to be. This is a bad pick in general, but at 15th-overall it’s nothing short of cringeworthy. Unfortunately, the Eagles weren’t done missing on defensive linemen in their drafting endeavors.
13. Nelson Agholor
Granted, Agholor’s career isn’t finished yet, but there hasn’t been a worse ranked receiver in the league over the past two seasons. In Chip Kelly’s only draft where he was calling all the shots (2015), he took Agholor in the 1st round out of USC, and he was projected to lead the receiving corps, who had just lost Jeremy Maclin earlier in the offseason.
Agholor’s quest to get to the top of the depth chart never really got going to begin with. He consistently dropped passes, and was clearly affected by the mental side of the game more than anything else. Add on to that some costly penalties, and terrible in-game awareness, and Agholor is on the fast track to a lackluster career. He’ll have an opportunity to turn it around this season, but he’s running out of time.
12. Kenny Jackson
More wide receiver troubles for the Eagles in the draft. Jackson was taken at 4th-overall in the entire 1984 draft. It was a pick that should have turned around the fortunes of the struggling Eagles at the time, but instead Jackson never materialized into a great NFL player. If he had, the duo of him and Pro Bowler Mike Quick could have been devastating to opposing defenses.
Jackson certainly wasn’t as bad as some other players on this list, but considering the talent that the Eagles could have acquired with such a high selection, he has to be viewed as a massive failure, especially given the fact that future Pro Bowlers like Bill Maas and Wilber Marshall were still available. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but squandering such a great opportunity has cost the Eagles over the years, and this one is exception.
11. Trevor Laws
A 2nd-round selection, and another mishap on the defensive line, the Eagles expected Laws to make the transition as a starting tackle. Instead, season-after-season, Laws remained on the bench, until it became abundantly clear that he was nothing more than a career depth player.
The Eagles got rid of him after four years, and he only played one more lone season with the Rams before retiring. Even as a 2nd rounder, Laws was a massive disappointment, as most picks in that range are expected to be contributing starters. It wasn’t in the cards for Laws, and he was just another in a long line of Eagles draft failures from this era.
10. Jaiquawn Jarrett
Jarrett always had his supporters, given that he was a local product out of Temple University, and at the time the Eagles desperately needed safety help. He was a 2nd-round pick, and most people agreed that he had the potential to be a key contributor on the defense for years to come. However, it was a disaster from the beginning, and Jarrett never became a serviceable NFL starter.
He was let go after just two years in Philly, and the Eagles had successfully botched yet another pick. The pick was criticized in the aftermath because of the Temple connection, and fans claimed that the Eagles had just thrown a bone to the local school, and selected Jarrett for that reason. That may not have been the case, but many reacted negatively because of it.
9. Kevin Kolb
The Eagles never truly had an exit plan to get themselves out of the McNabb era at quarterback, and Kolb the was the first in many missteps regarding it. In the 2007 draft, Philly traded up with the Dallas Cowboys of all teams in order to acquire Kolb in the 2nd round. It was then clear that McNabb’s days as the franchise quarterback were numbered, and that Kolb was slated to eventually take his place.
McNabb departed after the 2009 season, but Kolb never was able to string together any good performances in the 7 starts that he made for the team. He was highly erratic as a thrower, and couldn’t elevate the offense the way many thought he could. His failure sparked a long line of Eagles quarterback who tried to fill McNabb’s shoes, including Mike Vick, Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez and Nick Foles. Only recently with the selection of Carson Wentz do they appear to be back on track with the position.
8. Josh Huff
As a 3rd-round pick, maybe Huff was never expected to be an All-Pro-level receiver. However, his career hasn’t materialized into a good one, and to make matters worse, the Eagles passed up on reliable pass-catchers in Donte Moncrief and John Brown with the Huff selection in 2014. Either one would have been a far better selection, yet the Eagles were stuck with Huff for a few seasons.
That was before Huff suffered an arrest during the 2016 season and was subsequently cut from the team. So, he was unproductive on the field, and a liability off of it. Definitely a botched pick from the Eagles, and a cringeworthy one considering that there were multiple very good receivers still on the board.
7. Jon Harris
The Eagles were an absolute mess in the late-’90s just before Andy Reid came in, and Harris was a microcosm for their failures. He was supposed to be an elite pass rusher; someone who could anchor the defensive line and give Philly a true threat on every play. Harris was taken 25th overall, and most people were initially happy with the selection.
However, Harris’ starts were few and far between, and his sacks were even more sporadic. He was so inept as a starter that he only lasted two seasons in Eagles green, never to play in the NFL again. He was just a massive draft bust that was typical for the Eagles at the time, completely unproductive and just a waste of a pick all together. Harris was dead weight.
6. Siran Stacy
As a 2nd-round pick, Stacy was expected to be a go-to runner out of the backfield for the Eagles in 1992. The results didn’t even come close to that. He was cut after just a single season for the Eagles, and never played in the NFL again. Forget about Trent Richardson, this was the real start of the cliche regarding the failure of Alabama running backs in the NFL.
So yeah, this was another terrible pick by the Eagles, and one that they frankly could have used at the time, as it would be another three seasons until they landed the services of Ricky Watters in free agency. No doubt about it, Stacy was a bust, and a wholly underachieving player considering his draft position.
5. Danny Watkins
This one cuts close for Eagles fans because it happened so recently. Watkins was the team’s 1st round selection in 2011, and was seen as an immediate plug-and-play starter on the offensive line. Watkins had a ton of support going into the draft that year, and was easily seen as one of the best players at his position.
In the end, Watkins just didn’t love the game of football to the degree that he needed to in order to succeed at the pro level. He went on to become a fireman, which evidently was his true calling. The play on the field was mediocre at best, but even if Watkins had been an All-Pro, he still would have likely walked away from the sport.
4. Brandon Graham
There’s no questioning the fact that Graham is a fine player, and a cornerstone of the Eagles defense right now. But not many people would have passed up on the opportunity to acquire Earl Thomas instead, if hindsight comes into play. In the 2010 draft that’s exactly what happened though, and Philly selected Graham, and passed up a perennial All-Pro safety at a time when they desperately needed it.
Graham is easily the best player on this list, but that’s still a tough pill to swallow for the Eagles. Thomas is a once-in-an-era type of player, and Graham is just a very good defensive end. Maybe not a fair fight on Graham’s end, but if the Eagles could have this one back, they’d probably end up with Thomas instead.
3. Michael Haddix
There is no bigger running back bust in Eagles history than Haddix. Taken at 8th-overall, he was selected to cement the backfield for the Eagles into a formidable unit that could wear teams out on a weekly basis. His numbers never approached the necessary level in order to be worth the draft pick, and the offense suffered as a result.
Amazingly, Haddix made it an entire five seasons before he was let go in 1988. The drafting of Keith Byars had made his presence in the backfield largely irrelevant, and the team could finally put the failed 8th-overall selection behind them. Haddix was a disappointment on all levels.
2. Mike Mamula
Mamula’s failure with the Eagles admittedly is relative, because he was expected to be the kind of game-breaking pass rusher that could define an entire defense. As a 7th-overall pick in 1995, people had reason to expect it, and he wasn’t going to get any breaks from the fanbase. In his five years with the team, Mamula’s numbers weren’t awful, but they definitely didn’t live up to the hype that was constructed around him.
In the end, he turned out to be a middling NFL pass rusher for his limited time in the league. He was the kind of player you would expect to be taken in the 3rd or 4th round, taking on a more secondary role. But Mamula was drafted to be a game-breaker, and he didn’t live up to it. Because of this, he has a special contempt in the minds of Eagles fans everywhere.
1. Marcus Smith
As Chip Kelly began to gain more and more power from Howie Roseman and the rest of the Eagles brass, the draft picks and acquisitions on the team began to get considerably worse. Kelly may not have had the final say in drafting Smith, but he definitely was a key contributor into the decision. And what a terrible pick it was.
Smith was a 1st-round selection in 2014, and a head-scratcher, because many people thought that he would drop to the Eagles in the 2nd round. Instead, they took a reach on him, and have regretted it ever since. Smith is barely hanging on to the roster, has never been a full-time starter, and has failed in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defensive scheme. In short, it’s been an awful return on the 1st-round investment; a pick that left Eagles fans everywhere baffled as to why the front office took Smith in the first place.
As it’s been shown above however, that’s sometimes par for the course in Philadelphia.
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