2020 Hindsight: Philadelphia Eagles First Round Draft Picks (2010-19)

Philadelphia Eagles first round draft picks from 2010 through 2019 told the story of the franchise. There were highs and lows in this decade that Philly’s beloved NFL team has never seen before. The front office also fired two coaches and made historically terrible trades in the same decade that they won an NFL title. A net win, but the path to success was a bumpy road to victory. How their early draft picks turned out dictated these successes and failures on the field.

Carson Wentz, Fletcher Cox, and Nelson Agholor were keys to Philly’s drive in winning the city’s first-ever Super Bowl. Two defensive ends drafted in the first round (Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett) combined on the most clutch play in modern franchise history. The homegrown players that became stars will never have to buy drinks in Philly ever again because of how that game ended.

Other top picks? Not so much. There were a handful of busts that rank among the worst draft picks in Eagles history. For better or for worse, here is every Philadelphia first rounder from 2010 through 2019:

Eagles First Round Picks (2010-19)

Andre Dillard, T, 22 (2019) – Eagles fans will never know if Andre Dillard would shake off his first-year struggles after a little seasoning and a complete offseason of training. No one should second guess the logic behind drafting the heir apparent to Jason Peters. Having Dillard and Lane Johnson as bookend tackles would protect the franchise quarterback and give a youthful boost to the team’s most successful unit for the next decade. Instead, shaky rookie play, an incomplete offseason, and a biceps injury in his second season make 2021 a critical year for the lineman.

2018 – No First Round Pick

Derek Barnett, DE, 14 (2017) – Edge rushers are a fickle thing. You can never have enough to pressure the quarterback and their metrics make it a tough position to measure.

The return on Derek Barnett has been uneven so far. He is frequently hurt, but he entered the 2020 season with the fourth-most sacks of any defensive end drafted in 2017. Barnett is not a bust, but he has also not been what the Eagles hoped for when they selected the player who broke Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee. 

Carson Wentz, QB, 2 (2016) – The Eagles made star-aligning moves to trade up and draft a franchise quarterback in 2016. It was undoubtedly the right type of decision for a franchise that had yet to find a long term signal caller since Donovan McNabb. Carson Wentz has played like an elite QB at times. He would likely have finished as the league’s MVP in 2017 if he had not sustained an injury against the Los Angeles Rams. He has also not improved critical areas of his game five seasons into his career.

Questions persist over how elite the North Dakota product is, something that makes the 2016 NFL draft the ultimate what if. The Cowboys were able to select their franchise signal caller in the fourth round. By not having to trade up, they were able to give Dak Prescott the ability to compete with high-end talent around him. There is no doubt that the Eagles picked a good quarterback in Wentz. Only the future will be able to tell which QB taken in 2016 was the best and that may ultimately be settled in a tally of Super Bowl rings.

Nelson Agholor, WR, 20 (2015) – Nelson Agholor did not consistently play like a first round pick out of USC. His Eagles career, however, peaked at the right time. The wideout earned a Super Bowl ring on the strength of a career-best eight touchdowns in 2017.

In addition to performing well against the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, the wide receiver will best be remembered for being the subject of the greatest Philly fan burn of all-time. It takes a hell of a city to have someone scold a player moments after catching a baby from a flaming building.

Marcus Smith, LB, 26 (2014) – This pick did not work out for the Eagles, but it is not fair to Marcus Smith to label him as a first round bust. The consensus opinion the day after the draft was that Chip Kelly reached to pick a player who had outperformed lesser competition in the AAC. In short: Chip Kelly was bad at drafting and that can’t fall on a player selected well over his mid-round slot position.

Key players taken in the round following Smith’s pick include DeMarcus Lawrence, Davante Adams, and Jarvis Landry.

Lane Johnson, T, 4 (2013) – He was a question mark after testing positive for performance enhancing substances in 2016, but Lane Johnson is one of the team’s two best first round picks of the 2010s.

The Eagle tackle has been a force when he is on the field. He was a consensus first team all-pro pick in 2017. Johnson has already been named to three Pro Bowls. The two tackles selected ahead of Johnson (Luke Jockel, Eric Fisher) in 2013 have combined for one Pro Bowl.

Fletcher Cox, DT, 12 (2012) – Fletcher Cox is not only the best first round Eagles pick of the decade, but Andy Reid’s parting gift to the franchise might be their best draft pick of the 2010s as well. There are lower round gems like Jason Kelce and Jalen Mills who might represent better value for their draft position, but Cox is a different story.

No one can question the merit of having a lineman who terrorizes defenses and can change games at will. Cox has already made five Pro Bowls and ranks high on the franchise’s leaderboards in sacks and quarterback hits. If he has a strong finish to his career, Cox may have his number retired and be a candidate for Canton.

Danny Watkins, 23, G (2011) – Normally a 26-year-old Canadian fireman would make a colorful story for a late round pick. It is the type of story a sports columnist dreams of on draft day.

Danny Watkins, however, was selected by Andy Reid in the first round. Watkins failed to click on the field and resumed being a firefighter three years after his selection. The knowledge that ace defensive end Cameron Jordan was tapped by the Saints with the next pick does not ease the pain of one of the worst first draft picks in Eagles history.

Brandon Graham, 13, DE (2010) – The Eagles had 13 draft picks in 2010 and none would create a happier memory than Brandon Graham. The Michigan product overcame a slow start over the first years of his career to become one of the most beloved players in Eagles history.

Graham has over 50 career sacks and 100 quarterback hits, yet only one locks his place in Philly lure. His strip sack of Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII was a true clutch moment that allowed the Eagles to fend off the Patriots in a 41-33 thriller. Graham might not have his number retired by Philadelphia, but he is destined for the Eagles Hall of Fame.

Eagles Draft Analysis

Eagles first round draft picks from 2010 to 2019 did not produce their projected value as often as fans would like, but hit more often than they missed. Had a few more picks gradually developed or emerged as steady professional football talent like Brandon Graham, the organization would have been in a much better position. This is a trend that continues in the later rounds of recent drafts and forced the team to build through free agency. The end result of this constant whiffing are salary cap issues and injuries.

The most telling thing about Philadelphia Eagles draft results from 2010 through 2019 is that so many people have had a hand in it. Perhaps NFL front offices are less stable than their NBA and MLB counterparts, but Andy Reid, Howie Roseman, Chip Kelly, and “football guy” Joe Douglas have all helmed various drafts and wound up with own mixed results.

This should not surprise anyone, but Reid still has the best results of anyone in the group. The two best coaches in modern Eagles history are Dick Vermeil and Andy Reid. Even though neither tenure in Philadelphia did not end well, both men still were able to draft and develop players at a high level.

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