The NFL Draft plays a huge role in teams throughout the league improving their current rosters. There are two draft strategies that teams often use to fill the holes on their respective teams, and sometimes these techniques help shape how the locker room atmosphere will turn out. The two techniques teams usually instill in their thought processes are drafting for a team need or drafting for the best player available. Both strategies have their flaws, for example drafting for a need sometimes requires a team to reach on a player that otherwise would not be selected so high in the drafted.
The Philadelphia Eagles have had their fair share of reaches in the past few drafts. The Eagles have been fortunate to have stability the past 15 draft rooms and this is largely based on the fact that they have only had three head coaches during this time span. Looking back at drafts can always make someone wonder what if. When looking back at a draft class there is often times where a player selected later outperformed the player that you pledge your allegiance to, and a good example of this is when the Browns traded down in the draft this year when they could’ve had a franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz.
Here’s who the Philadelphia Eagles should have drafted with their first selection in the last 15 drafts:
15 2002 - Lito Shepard
Original Pick: Lito Shepard
Lito Shepard turned out to be a great selection for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles had been in dire need of a cornerback, and the days of Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent were coming to an end. The city of Philadelphia has always recognized and associated their football team as having a tough hard nosed defense. Shepard provided the Eagles with a reliable Pro Bowl corner for six years before he was traded to the New York Jets in 2008. During his time in Philadelphia he was named to the first team All Pro in 2004, and also made multiple Pro Bowl appearances in his six years with the team.
Since his departure the Eagles have failed to be able to replace his production to this present day at the corner back position.
14 2003 - Calvin Pace
Original Pick: Jerome McDougle
The Eagles were in need of a defensive end, and no NFL team can ever have too much depth along the defensive line. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they drafted a complete bust in Jerome McDougle. McDougle gave the team little to no production, and the Eagles passed up on many quality players that could have made an impact on the team back in 2003 and beyond. One of those impact players that could have played either outside linebacker and/or defensive end was Calvin Pace. Pace struggled in his first couple of seasons in the NFL, but was he moved to outside linebacker and in 2006, he recorded 106 tackles and six and a half sacks.
The Eagles seemed to always struggle with developing stout linebackers, and Pace would have provided much more depth at linebacker or defensive end than McDougle ended up providing.
13 2004 - Shawn Andrews
Shawn Andrews was an excellent selection for the Philadelphia Eagles, and for a while he was considered one of the best offensive guards in all of football. Injuries derailed the end of his career. Andrews was selected to the Pro Bowl three times, and was named an All Pro during 2006 and 2007. Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook benefited greatly from having such premier run and pass blocking from their starting guard in Andrews. After 2008, Andrews could not return to the level of great play he had displayed early on his career due to multiple injuries causing him to miss substantial time.
The Eagles cut ties with their former Pro Bowl guard in 2010, and the New York Giants attempted to convert him into a left tackle.
12 2005 - Lofa Tatupu
Original Pick: Mike Patterson
The Eagles selected the big defensive tackle from USC Mike Patterson. Patterson was never able to pan out with the team, and had a few health scares while with the team. His play was not all that bad, and he seemed like he would become one of the better defensive tackles in football after a positive rookie year. The Eagles were also weak at the linebacker position after the 2004 NFL season, and they should’ve taken Lofa Tatupu with their first round selection. Tatupu was a dynamic defensive specimen for the Seattle Seahawks who made three Pro Bowls during his career. He played for the Seahawks until 2010 when injuries prematurely ended his stellar career.
The Eagles had stiffs such as Stewart Bradley and others manning the linebacker spots while Tatupu was dominating.
11 2006 - Andrew Whitworth
Original Pick: Brodrick Bunkley
The Eagles were looking to boost the middle of their defensive line, but also were in need of replacing their aging offensive line. Brodrick Bunkley was a major bust for the Eagles who never produced what is expected from a first round pick. Andrew Whitworth would have been a better replacement on the offensive line than their second round selection of Winston Justice. Justice struggled with protecting Donovan McNabb from getting sacked, and could not hold down a starting spot for very long with the team.
Whitworth on the other hand is still playing and has been named to the first team All Pro three times throughout his career. He has also been a pro bowler twice, and was named to the Pro Bowl after the 2015 season.
10 2007 - Lamar Woodley
Original Pick: Kevin Kolb
The Eagles thought they were getting a liable predecessor to Donovan McNabb when they selected Kevin Kolb with their first selection in the 2007 NFL draft. The Eagles finally were ready to give Kevin Kolb his moment in 2010, but in his first game he got hurt and Michael Vick stepped in and took his job from him. Injuries caused Kolb to never reach his full potential. The Eagles notably have been devoid of much talent at the linebacker position throughout the 2000s, and in 2007 the Eagles had a chance to select Lamar Woodley over Kolb.
Woodley would end up having and outstanding career for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Woodley was very good at sacking the quarterback, and during his career he was able to accumulate 304 tackles and 57 sacks.
9 2008 - Calais Campbell
Original Pick: Trevor Laws
The Philadelphia Eagles did not possess a first round pick in 2008, but with their first selection they took Trevor Laws from Notre Dame. During his time with the Eagles, Laws was mostly a backup and special teamer who failed to prove to the coaches that he was worthy of being a starter. He was a major bust, and failed to live up the high expectations the Eagles had for him. Just a few moments later, Calais Campbell was selected by the Arizona Cardinals. Campbell is a destructive force on the defensive line, and his game was a couple notches higher than Laws' performance. Calais Campbell is still a member of the vaunted Arizona Cardinals defense and he has gotten 458 total tackles and 48.5 sacks in his career.
8 2009 - Jeremy Maclin
Original Pick: Jeremy Maclin
The Eagles had an excellent 2009 NFL draft when they were able to get two franchise corner stones in Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy. Maclin was the Eagles first selection, and he was a great weapon for the Eagle offense. Under Andy Reid, Maclin was a great number two receiver alongside DeSean Jackson, and he became even more explosive once he became the number one receiver threat for the Chip Kelly coached squad during the 2014 NFL season.
During that 2014 campaign Maclin hauled in 1,318 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. This was his last year with the Eagles before getting a big five year contract from the Kansas City Chiefs, and in Kansas City he has continued his ability to gain yards at a high rate for his team.
7 2010 - Earl Thomas
Original Pick: Brandon Graham
The Eagles struggled to replace the great Brian Dawkins, but they had an opportunity to bolster the safety position on their team by adding Earl Thomas. The Eagles shocked their entire fan base by trading up in the draft one spot ahead of the Seattle Seahawks, who needed a safety themselves. When Roger Goodell read Brandon Graham as the Eagles' selection, most could not believe the stupidity of the move, and the Seahawks predictably got their guy in Earl Thomas.
Graham struggled early on his career but has played a lot better as of late. Earl Thomas has made it to the Pro Bowl five times, and been named to the first team All Pro four times. Earl Thomas could have elevated the Eagles' secondary to a much higher level during the end of Andy Reid’s tenure and the three year Chip Kelly tenure.
6 2011 - Muhammad Wilkerson
Original Pick: Danny Watkins
The Eagles made a surprising selection towards the back end of the first round when they drafted a former fire man in Danny Watkins. Watkins was 25 years of age when he was drafted, which is older than the normal incoming rookie about to enter the NFL. The Eagles unfortunately found out that Watkins was not as good as they thought he was, and the otherwise stout offensive line had a hole at the guard spot due to Watkins' inabilities.
The Eagles had an aging Trent Cole on their roster and could have replaced him by drafting the local kid in Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson was a star at Temple, and since being drafted he has been named to the second team All Pro twice and the Pro Bowl once.
5 2012 - Fletcher Cox
Original Pick: Fletcher Cox
Since being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012, Fletcher Cox has been arguably the most dominant defensive tackle in football. He was just named NFC defensive player of the month for the first month of the 2016 NFL season, and it does not seem like many offensive guards can handle his ferocious play. Cox has been named to the second team All Pro twice and been named to the Pro Bowl once.
His recent success on the field has led to him getting the highest guaranteed money of $60 million for a non-quarterback in NFL history. If he continues to play at such a high level, and the Philadelphia Eagles continue their surprising 2016 season, Cox could finally be named to the first team All Pro.
4 2013 - Lane Johnson
Original Pick: Lane Johnson
The top half of the 2013 NFL draft was very underwhelming with talent, and three of the first four players selected were offensive tackles. The Eagles were in need of an offensive tackle to pair up with Jason Peters and eventually replace him. Lane Johnson was taken fourth overall by the Eagles, and since being drafted he has proven to be worthy of being selected so high. Chip Kelly made a lot of poor player personnel decisions as coach of the team, but the selection of Lane Johnson was not one of them.
He is arguably the best offensive lineman on the team. Johnson has done everything right on the field but off the field he has been suspended twice for using performance enhancing drugs.
3 2014 - Kelvin Benjamin
Original Pick: Kelvin Benjamin
Many of the NFL draft experts thought that the Eagles would select either a wide receiver or a cornerback with their first round selection. Marcus Smith ended up being selected by the Eagles, and the fans were not all that happy with the pick. Many people thought that Smith would be drafted in the second or third round, not in the first round. The Eagles passed on an excellent wide receiver in Kelvin Benjamin who would have made the departures of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin easier to manage.
Smith has not even started a game during his time in the NFL, but Benjamin was able to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in his rookie season with the Carolina Panthers. He seems to have picked up where he left off this season after a bad ACL injury in 2015.
2 2015 - Eric Kendricks
Original Pick: Nelson Agholor
It is too early to accurately judge if Nelson Agholor is a bust or not, but he has certainly underachieved since being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. Many people thought the Eagles would select Agholor, which makes the fact that he is underperforming even more disappointing. The Eagles would have been better off drafting linebacker Eric Kendricks, who is the brother of Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks, and would have given the Eagles a more suitable replacement for Demeco Ryans. Kendricks was able to accumulate 92 total tackles and four sacks in his rookie season. These are impressive numbers for a rookie linebacker, and the Eagles are starting veteran Stephen Tulloch because they currently have no depth at the linebacker position.
1 2016 - Carson Wentz
Original Pick: Carson Wentz
When the order for the 2016 NFL draft was first determined the Philadelphia Eagles were tabbed with having the 13th pick in the draft. Howie Roseman, the Eagles general manager, was not satisfied with this position, and traded two of the team’s defensive starters in order to move up to the eighth pick in the draft. Roseman then moved draft picks to the Cleveland Browns to move up to the second pick in the draft.
The Eagles selected Carson Wentz a quarterback who played his college football at the FCS level at North Dakota State. The Eagles took a huge gamble on Wentz, but through three games he looks like the franchise quarterback the team has been missing since Donovan McNabb was traded away.
Obviously it's way too early to determine if anyone else should have been drafted instead of Wentz.