I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of hearing about the flops the Eagles have picked in the 1st Round of the NFL Draft. That was then, this is now.
The subject of 1st-Round Failure is a prickly wound that never heals for some franchises. I guess we’re one of them. The scab is picked fresher today because of the recent reminder by the Ravens organization of how bad a 1st Round pick Matt Elam turned out to be. For those of you who don’t know, Elam was busted while driving in Miami over the weekend for possession of 4.5 ounces of weed, some oxycodone and allegedly some “reckless driving.”
Elam, a safety, was a 1st-Round pick by the Ravens out of Florida in 2013.
I don’t think the Eagles ever had a 1st-Round bust as blatant (or literally a bust) as this guy.
Elam has been one of the most disappointing first-round picks in Ravens franchise history. He was benched from the starting lineup in the middle of the 2014 season after struggling to cover receivers deep and missing tackles. Elam played on special teams last season after being designated to return off injured reserve.
“We are aware of the arrest of Matt Elam,” the Ravens said in a statement. “Matt is not in our plans for the 2017 Ravens.”
That’s an extreme case of a total flame-out by a 1st-Round prospect. Elam had and has emotional problems that go far beyond the scope of an NFL football-IQ evaluation.
Our underachievers in Eagles 1st-Round Phailure History are more benign.
There’s a smart football fan site called Sportsters which puts our Eagles 1st-Round draft record over the past 20 years into a more understanding light. Here’s a summary of their rankings of the Worst Eagles 1st-Round picks since 1995, and an explanation of why they were never as bad as Matt Elam in many ways—From Mike Mamula to Carson Wentz, the following is a ranking of the Philadelphia Eagles’ last 20 first round draft picks going from Worst to Best:
20. DANNY WATKINS – 2011
It is hard to fault the Eagles for taking him at 23rd overall (in the 2011 NFL Draft) due to the hype surrounding him out of Baylor University, but all the Eagles had to do was look at his numbers from the combine to know that he was not worthy of a first round pick. Not only that, but Watkins was also 26 years old at the time of his drafting, which was the oldest first round selection since 1971!
The quick backstory of Danny Watkins is that he decided to forego college to become a junior firefighter. At 22 years old, he enrolled at Butte College to study fire sciences. After being convinced to play for the football team and succeeding, Watkins transferred to Baylor where he played well enough in his two years there to be projected as an early NFL draft pick.
This is easily the worst pick that the Eagles made in this ranking and could be the worst first round pick that they have ever made. Danny Watkins ended up playing only one season for the Eagles (and only one other season in the NFL). He was released by the Eagles during training camp in 2013. Watkins found a home with the Miami Dolphins, but that home quickly went up in flames as he was reportedly back to being a firefighter in Frisco, Texas just a few months after his one-year contract with the Dolphins expired.
19. JON HARRIS – 1997
Jon Harris is a very close second worst first round pick to Danny Watkins, but he just sneaks in ahead of him on this list. Harris was drafted by the Eagles 25th overall in the 1997 NFL Draft out of the University of Virginia. Harris was only able to manage playing two seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles because after the 1998 season, the Eagles traded him to the Green Bay Packers for a player named John Michels.
While Harris was not quite as dreadful as Watkins, he was terrible in his own right. The two seasons he played for the Eagles were the only two seasons where Harris ever saw the field. His career stats in 24 games were: eight games started, two sacks, and one fumble recovery. Those statistics are not the worst this league has ever seen from a first round draft pick, but they are darn close.
18. JEROME MCDOUGLE – 2003
Jerome McDougle had a lot of promise coming out of the University of Miami. To select him 15th overall in the 2003 NFL Draft, the Eagles had to trade up 15 spots to get him (traded with San Diego). Unfortunately for the Eagles, McDougle struggled mightily with injuries. He was only able to play in eight games during his rookie season and 11 in the 2004 season. In the summer before the 2005 season, just four days before he was scheduled to arrive at the Eagles’ training camp, McDougle was shot in the abdomen. While the team doctors told him that he would be able to return for the season, McDougle experienced complications from the surgery and was forced to miss the entire 2005 season.
In the 2006 preseason, he sustained broken ribs and was forced to miss the first two games of the season. In the first preseason game of 2007, McDougle tore his triceps and so, was forced to miss the entire season. Before the 2008 season, the Eagles waived him, after which he was signed by the New York Giants. McDougle went on to play in four games for the Giants.
While Jerome McDougle was probably the correct pick at the time for the Eagles due to his immense talent in college, he ended up being an extremely injury prone/unlucky player. Regardless of the reasons, McDougle ended up being a bad first-round pick, playing in only 37 career games.
17. FREDDIE MITCHELL – 2001
Freddie Mitchell was the 25th overall selection in the 2001 NFL Draft out of UCLA. While “FredEx,” as he called himself, was a pretty explosive player at UCLA, he failed to translate that type of play to the NFL. While Mitchell was never awful, he was never really good. Even though it felt like Mitchell played for the Eagles forever, he was actually only on the team for four seasons. After the 2004 season, Mitchell was waived by the Eagles. Speculation for his release was due to his idiotic comments prior to and following the Eagles’ Super Bowl XXXIX loss against the New England Patriots.
While Freddie Mitchell was again, never a terrible player, he never showed anything resembling the worthiness of his first round selection. His career only consisted of 90 catches for just over 1,200 yards and five touchdowns. For any receiver that plays four seasons that is bad, but for a first-round pick? Maybe after second thought he was a terrible player.
Mitchell is now serving a 37-month sentence in prison for tax fraud.
16. MARCUS SMITH II – 2014
While Marcus Smith is still a work in progress, he should have never been selected in the first-round. To be specific, Smith was taken 26th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft out of the University of Louisville. When the Eagles took him in 2014, Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman pleaded with fans to give him a chance to develop. While Smith has seen the field more often this past season than his previous two, he still has not become worthy of his first-round selection at all. In three seasons with the Eagles, he has played in 36 games, started none, amounting in 14 tackles, and just a trio of sacks.
While fans are still crossing their fingers and praying that the Philadelphia Eagles organization did not waste another first-round pick, it would appear that Marcus Smith II may be gone after this season.
15. MIKE MAMULA – 1995
Mike Mamula was actually a very underrated player. While he was held to only five seasons due to various injuries, when Mamula did play, he was some force to be reckoned with. After being selected seventh overall by the Eagles in the 1995 NFL Draft (traded up with Tampa Bay) out of Boston College, Mamula went on to amass 209 tackles, 31.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, and one interception, all in 77 games played. While those are not the greatest statistics in the world, they are pretty impressive. It is unfortunate that Mamula falls to 15th on this list, but he was selected over Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.
So, while Mike Mamula was not a bad player, he was just not durable enough to be considered a good first-round pick. It also hurts to know that the Eagles traded the Buccaneers the pick that earned them Warren Sapp, but we will leave the past in the past.
OKAY, I can’t do this anymore. It’s too melancholy.
Suffice it to say, here are the rest of the Sportster’s rankings by name only—in descending order from Worst to Best: