NFL Draft 2021: When the Eagles took the wrong guy at the right position

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Reuben Frank
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10 times the Eagles drafted wrong guy at the right position originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

It’s always fun to look back at old drafts and see who the Eagles could have drafted.

In 1983, they could have drafted Dan Marino instead of Michael Haddix. In 1985, they could have drafted Jerry Rice instead of Kevin Allen. In 1991, they could have drafted Brett Favre instead of Antone Davis.

We’re going to do that but with a twist. 

We’re only going to look at mistakes they made when a better option was available at the same position and in the same general draft vicinity. Which is really a more fair way to do this.

Every team misses big in the draft. It’s the misses where a team targets a specific position but winds up with the wrong player that really hurt.

So we went back over the last 50 years of drafts and found the 10 worst instances of the Eagles making the wrong decision about a player when they could have selected a far better player at the same position. 

(And I didn’t include J.J. Arcega-Whiteside over D.K. Metcalf just because let's be honest, you don’t want to read about that all over again. I also didn’t include late-round picks they missed on because every team misses on those.)

Tomorrow, we’ll turn this around and take a look at 10 times the Eagles got it right when there were two guys taken at the same position in the same draft range.

1970: Missing on a Hall of Fame cornerback 

This was not a good draft for the Eagles. It was bad enough that the Eagles took Oklahoma linebacker Steve Zabel with the 6th pick overall and 16 picks later the Rams took linebacker Jack Reynolds, who had a much longer career and made two Pro Bowls. But the real crime came later. The Eagles selected cornerback Ray Jones 34th overall and 19 picks later the Steelers drafted corner Mel Blount. Jones started 12 games for the Eagles. Blount became a Hall of Famer.

1971: Another year, another Hall of Fame whiff

A year later the Eagles set out to find a defensive end in the first round. They had the 5th pick overall and selected Richard Harris out of Grambling. He lasted just three years with the Eagles. Fifteen picks later, the Rams drafted defensive end Jack Youngblood, who was 1st-team all-pro five times and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.

1983: Imagine Roger Craig in an Eagles uniform?

With Eric Dickerson and Curt Warner off the board, the Eagles used the 8th pick overall in 1983 on the guy they thought was the next-best running back, Mississippi State’s Michael Haddix. Still on the board? Nebraska’s Roger Craig. Haddix’s 3.0 career rushing average is lowest by a running back in modern NFL history. Craig piled up more than 13,000 scrimmage yards in a four-time Pro Bowl career. He ranked 12th in NFL history in scrimmage yards when he retired. (Haddix ranked 530th). Craig scored 73 touchdowns. Haddix scored six.

1984: But could Louis Lipps make buffalo wings?

The Eagles had their choice of every WR in the 1984 draft with the exception of Irving Fryar, who went to the Patriots with the first pick overall (and eventually joined the Eagles 12 years later). They picked Kenny Jackson. They passed on Louis Lipps.   Jackson spent seven seasons in two stints with the Eagles, averaging 17 catches, 305 yards and 1 1/2 TDs before opening a buffalo wing restaurant in Camden. Lipps made a couple Pro Bowls for the Steelers and averaged 51 catches, 752 yards and 5 TDs per year.

1985: At least they got the conference right

The Eagles needed a left tackle and used the 9th pick overall on Indiana’s Kevin Allen, who spent more time in prison than on the football field. Allen lasted one year in the NFL and started four games for the Eagles. Lachey, taken three picks later, was a three-time all-pro for Washington and a starter on the 1991 Super Bowl championship team. Oops.

1993: You can’t be any more wrong than this

There were two defensive tackles on the board for the Eagles to choose from in April of 1993: Colorado’s Leonard Renfro and Dana Stubblefield of Kansas. The Eagles snapped up Renfro at No. 24 and Stubblefield went to the 49ers two picks later. Renfro’s NFL career lasted two starts. Stubblefield played 11 years, recorded 53 ½ sacks, made three Pro Bowls and in 1997 was a 1st-team all-pro. 

1995: They even traded up this time

What hurt the most is that the Buccaneers drafted Warren Sapp with the 12th pick that they acquired from the Eagles, who took Mike Mamula No. 7. We don’t want to pile on Mamula. He was better than you remember. Had 31 ½ sacks in five seasons as an under-sized edge rusher playing on all downs. And Mamula was an end and Sapp a tackle. But when a Hall of Famer is drafted five picks later, the comparisons are tough to avoid. 

1997: Another defensive line gaffe

Two years after the Mamula-Sapp debacle, the Eagles were still looking for a pass rusher and they drafted Virginia defensive end Jon Harris at No. 25, two picks before the Broncos took Trevor Pryce. Harris started four games in his career and had two sacks. Pryce played 14 years, made four Pro Bowls and an all-pro team and finished his career with 91 sacks.

2001: Take your pick of WRs … no not that one! 

Here are the career receiving numbers of the WRs who were on the board when the Eagles picked at No. 25 in 2001

  • Reggie Wayne: 1,070 catches-for-14,345 yards-and-82 TD

  • Chad Johnson: 766-for-11,059-67

  • Chris Chambers: 540-for-7,648-58

  • Steve Smith: 1,031-for-14,731-81

  • Freddie Mitchell: 90-for-1,263-5

Wayne, a future Hall of Famer, was taken closest to Mitchell at 25, but the Eagles could have had any of those guys. Wayne made more Pro Bowls (six) than Mitchell had touchdowns (five).

2014: And then they helped the Cowboys

The Eagles took defensive end Marcus Smith at 26 in 2014, eight picks before the Cowboys drafted DeMarcus Lawrence. Smith never started a game as a pro and had 4.0 sacks in three seasons with the Eagles. Lawrence has 45 ½ sacks for the Cowboys, and is a two-time Pro Bowler.

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