Is this the year Eagles finally take a player from Alabama? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The answer to the trivia question is Freddie Milons.
Maybe that finally changes later this month in the 2021 NFL draft.
Because the question is this: Who is the last player the Eagles selected out of the University of Alabama?
And it’s pretty shocking that you have to go all the way back to the fifth round of the 2002 draft before finding out it was Milons, a wide receiver who never played in a single game for the Eagles or any NFL team.
It’s not like Alabama is some fly-by-night program. Over the past 18 drafts, there have been 117 Alabama players taken in the draft. And the Eagles are the only team in the league that hasn’t taken a single one. In fact, the other 31 teams in the NFL have taken at least two Crimson Tide players each during that span. The steady-drafting Baltimore Ravens lead the way with nine Alabama players drafted.
Here’s a look at the breakdown of those 117 Alabama players drafted since 2003:
It’s pretty shocking.
While Alabama fans certainly claim Jalen Hurts, whom the Eagles took with the 53rd pick in last year’s draft, he doesn’t count. Sure, Hurts was a good player at Alabama but the Eagles took him after his season at Oklahoma and there’s no telling if they would have taken had he not shown off his talent in Lincoln Riley’s offense.
We bring this up less than a month before the 2021 NFL Draft kicks off because three of the most popular choices for the Eagles’ No. 12 pick come from Alabama: WR DeVonta Smith, WR Jaylen Waddle and CB Patrick Surtain II.
In fact, those were three of the names included as I put together a list of 10 potential candidates for that pick after the Eagles traded down from 6 to 12.
Is the lack of Alabama players by design or is this simply a coincidence? It’s hard to say. If there’s something keeping the Eagles from drafting players from Alabama, it’s not stopping the rest of the NFL. In fact, of the 117 Alabama players drafted since 2003, 33 of them have been taken in the first round.
The Eagles have just one player on their current roster from Alabama: OL Ross Pierschbacher. But they have had success with some Bama players during the last couple decades. Evan Mathis and DeMeco Ryans come to mind -- but they obviously didn't draft either of them.
As a reminder of how good Alabama has been in the last 18 years, the school has a record of 196-47 in that span. And since Nick Saban took over in 2007, the Crimson Tide have a 170-23 record with six national titles.
Since 2003, the year after their last Alabama pick, the Eagles have selected 151 players. According to Stathead, of those 151 picks, just 21 have been from the SEC (13.9%). That’s below the league-wide average of 17.2%.
But there seems to be a decent chance that Smith, Waddle or Surtain II could change all that. Smith was the Heisman Trophy winner and despite his smaller frame is coming off a tremendous season. Waddle hurt his ankle in 2020 but if he hadn’t, he was on an incredible pace and might have won the Heisman himself. And then there’s Surtain II, who comes from a football family and is the most polished cornerback in this draft class.
Any of those three would be a fine first-round pick to end this drought for the Eagles.
In their entire history, the Eagles have selected just 14 players from Alabama and nine of them were drafted before 1957. While the Eagles are in an 18-year drought without drafting an Alabama player, it’s not the longest drought in franchise history. The Eagles drafted tackle Al Ellett the 27th round in 1956 and didn’t draft another player from Alabama until Mark McMillian in the 10th round in 1992.
McMillian was one of four Alabama players drafted by the Eagles in the 90s and the only one since then was Milons in 2002. So with less than a month before this year’s draft, Milons is still the answer to the trivia question.
We’ll see if that changes soon.
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