Top Ten Value Picks in Eagles’ History
The Eagles’ front office and coaches have been riddled with the labels of in-ability to draft, a lack of development from the prospects they do draft and issues with some coaches having more “pull” than others. That hasn’t always been the case though. The Eagles have been able to find some hidden late round gems, develop them into everyday starters (at the very minimum), and even transform some into Hall of Fame inducted players. With the draft less than a week away, I’m going to attempt to rank the best VALUE picks the Eagles have ever made and give my rationale as to why.
Being this is a value ranking, some may not agree on this but some of the best to ever suit up in midnight green are not going to be in my top ten specifically because, where they were drafted and what number overall. First and foremost, let’s discuss some honorable mentions.
Brian Dawkins (round 2, 61st overall) is obviously the first. The nine-time pro-bowler, four-time all-pro, Hall of Fame safety played 13 seasons and 182 games with the Birds before he was abruptly given his walking orders. Dawkins was best known for his hard hitting, momentum shattering plays but he was one of the best all-around safeties of all time. Dawkins racked up 132 pass defenses, 32 forced fumbles, 16 recoveries, 21 total sacks, 914 combined tackles, an additional 723 solo tackles and 45 tackle for losses. An incredible, Hall of Fame inducted career but given his draft position, just an honorable mention on this list.
Hometown hero, Brian Westbrook (round 3, 91st overall) is an additional eye-popping honorable mention. The two-time pro-bowler, 2007 First Team All Pro running back played eight seasons and 107 games with the Eagles between 2002 and 2009. Westbrook managed to rack up almost 6,000 rushing yards, 3,790 receiving yards and had a combined 66 touchdowns with his time in Philadelphia. In his lone all pro campaign, Westbrook led the lead in yards from scrimmage with 2,104 yards. Westbrook was even selected as the 2001 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his outstanding efforts in the Philadelphia community. Brian Westbrook is an inductee into the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame but still not one of the best “value” picks in Eagles’ history. Now, let’s get to the top ten.
- Jeremiah “The Axe Man” Trotter – Middle Linebacker – Round 3, Pick 72
The first thing that may be said about Trotter is, “well, he was picked before Westbrook so how is that a value pick.” Simple, Trotter provided more value throughout the time of his career. The Axe Man played eight seasons and 116 games for the Jim Johnson led, Eagles defense and was one of the most productive and consistent tacklers on the team. Trotter was a key cog in a defense that helped turn the tide from a horrible 5-11 1999 season into a playoff team that finished the season 11-5 and helped end the reign of the Cowboys in the NFC East. In his two stints with the Eagles, Trotter was a four-time pro-bowler that racked up 696 combined tackles and 565 solo tackles. In addition to this, The Axe Man added 59 tackles-for-loss and managed to be selected as a first-team all-pro linebacker in 2000 which lands him at number ten on this list.
- Trent Cole – Defensive End – Round 5, Pick 146
Before people say he wasn’t an Eagles draft pick, you’re correct. Trent was acquired for James Thrash in a trade with the Washington Redskins prior to the conclusion of the 2005 NFL Draft. However, the two-time pro bowler came into the league as an unknown out of The University of Cincinnati. Little did Eagles fans know, he would be one of the most productive edge rushers of the 2000’s. Throughout his time in midnight green, Cole racked up 85.5 sacks, 560 combined tackles, another 436 solo tackles, 124 tackles for loss and 149 QB hits. In addition to these stunning stats, Cole was recognized by his peers on the NFL Top 100 list twice, coming in at 73 in 2011 and 57 in 2012. Cole’s 85.5 sacks are good for second in franchise history in the statistic. All this for James Thrash? Not a bad trade off.
- Tom Brookshier – Cornerback/Defensive Back – Round 10, Pick 117
The 1953 10th round pick played 7 seasons and 76 games for the Birds. However, his career was less than conventional. Brookshier did not play in the 1954 or 1955 season but came back with a vengeance on defense. Over the course of his time in Philly, he helped transform a team that finished 3-8-1 in 1956 to a world champion team in 1960. In his 7 seasons with the Eagles, Brookshier managed to be a two-time pro bowler and was selected to the First Team All-Pro team in the world championship 1960 season. With 20 career interceptions and eight fumble recoveries, Brookshier helped transform an abysmal group in the defensive backfield into one that brought home a title over Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, giving Lombardi his lone playoff loss in his coaching career. Unfortunately, during this era, tackles were not a collected statistic so all we have are his turnovers collected.
- Charlie Johnson – Defensive Tackle – Round 7, Pick 175
The 3-time pro bowl nose tackle for the Eagles was one of the most disruptive run-stopping defensive linemen in the NFL. Drafted out of the University of Colorado, Johnson was an unknown commodity to the Philadelphia Eagles front. Over the course of his five seasons with the team, Johnson managed to be selected for three pro-bowls, first-team all pro honors in 1980 and 1981, and was a part of the defensive front that helped bring the Eagles to the cusp of championship honors in the 1981 Super Bowl appearance. Mostly known for his ability against the run, Johnson managed to tally six sacks in limited pass rushing opportunities. In addition to this, Johnson racked up four interceptions, seven fumble recoveries and a name forever planted in Eagles history.
- Seth Joyner – Linebacker – Round 8, Pick 208
No stranger to the population of Philadelphia, Seth Joyner was a part of some of the best defenses Eagles fans have ever seen. Over the course of his eight seasons with the Birds, Joyner managed to RACK up the stat sheet. Being known for his overall versatility on defense, Joyner picked off 17 opposing passes, while also forcing 21 fumbles and recovering eight of his own. Of his 875 tackles in midnight green, Joyner tallied 37 sacks in route to two pro bowl selections, two first-team all pro selections, and even being recognized as Sports Illustrated’s 1991 Defensive Player of the Year. Although Joyner departed for greener pastures in 1995, he forever remains one of the most valuable picks the Eagles front office has ever made.
- Wilbert Montgomery – Running Back – Round 6, Pick 154
The versatile running back and kick returner played eight seasons and 100 games for the Philadelphia Eagles. Drafted in 1976 out of Abilene Christian University, Montgomery was used mostly as a kick returner and change-of-pace back in his rookie season, tallying only 45 rushing attempts for 183 yards. However, over the course of the next four seasons, Montgomery managed to rush for 4,912 yards, averaging a staggering 4.52 yards-per-carry. Over his eight seasons in Philadelphia, Montgomery rushed for over 6,500 yards and added an additional 2,447 receiving yards, solidifying himself as a multipurpose running back that was well before his time. Montgomery managed to be selected to two pro bowls in his time with the team and stands second, behind only LeSean McCoy, on the teams all time rushing leaderboard.
- Harold Carmichael – Wide Receiver – Round 7, Pick 161
One of the tallest receivers to ever bless The Vet, Carmichael was not so quickly one of the best value picks the Eagles ever made. Drafted as a tight end out of the Southern University, Carmichael was seen as a “project” that would require extra assistance. Well that extra assistance was provided by the likes of Jerry Williams and Ed Khayat who transformed an unpolished tight end and wide receiver in 1971 and 1972 into a receiver who led the entire NFL in receptions, yards and yards per game in 1973 which earned Carmichael the first pro bowl, of four, in his career. Carmichael ended his career in Philadelphia with just shy of 9,000 receiving yards and 79 receiving touchdowns, which are both the franchise records by no small amount. All this culminated for Carmichael in 2020 when he was selected to be inducted into the centennial class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- Andre Waters – Safety – Undrafted Priority Free Agent
Before the likes of Brian Dawkins, Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown were patrolling the defensive backfield for the Birds, Andre Waters was one of the stalwarts of the secondary. An Undrafted Free Agent out of Cheyney University, had a slow transition into the NFL before bursting onto the scene in 1986 with six interceptions, two fumble recoveries and 129 total tackles. Although not a ballhawk, Waters became one of the most consistent, hard hitting tacklers not named Brian Dawkins. Over the course of his ten year career in Philadelphia, Waters racked up 15 interceptions, three forced fumbles, and 910 total tackles, and was a pivotal part of the NFL’s leading defense in the 1991 season. Unfortunately, at the age of 44, Waters ended his own life, which was said to be from depression that was developed as a side effect of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Waters’ brain was donated to be researched in the case against concussions in the NFL, and was highlighted in the 2015 film “Concussion.”
- Clyde Simmons – Defensive End – Round 9, Pick 223
In the 1986 draft the Philadelphia Eagles took a chance on Simmons, out of West Carolina, in the 9th round of the NFL Draft, and what a chance it turned out to be. Not initially bursting onto the scene until 1988, Simmons posted eight sacks in route to a 1989 campaign that saw him rally to 15.5 sacks. Over the course of his eight seasons in Philadelphia, Simmons racked up 12 forced fumbles, 10 of which he recovered, 76 sacks and 720 tackles. The two-time first team all pro defensive end led the NFL in sacks in the 1992 season in route to the second of his two pro bowl seasons. Simmons’ 76 career sacks as an Eagle are good for third all time in franchise history in that category.
- Reggie White – Defensive End – SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT Round 1, Pick 4
After the draft had come and gone, Reggie White did not hear his name called. However, a franchise altering pick came in the 1985 Supplemental Draft. At the 4th selection, Philadelphia selected Reggie White, defensive end, from The University of Tennessee. Little did Eagles fans know, he would later be known as “The Minister of Defense.” Over his eight seasons in Philadelphia, Reggie was selected to pro bowls in every single season except for his rookie year and was selected as a first-team all pro in six consecutive seasons spanning from 1986 to 1991. In addition to this, White led the NFL in sacks in consecutive seasons in 1987 (21) and 1987 (18). In 121 games played in Philadelphia, The Minister of Defense managed to force 18 fumbles (4th in franchise history), 11 recoveries (8th in franchise history), 124 sacks (a franchise record), and 794 total tackles (4th in franchise history). Although Reggie left The Nest for, what he said was, God call to him, he certainly left a lasting impression on the Eagles’ organization and the entire NFL as a whole, as he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
So, there it is, my top ten picks of value that the Eagles have ever made as a franchise. These late round selections can be completely franchise altering for decades or even for a short time. The thing that isn’t known is, can Howie and the gang hit on these late round picks in the years to come like the Eagles’ front office has in the past. Thank you all for reading. Go Birds!
Mandatory Photo Credit: AP Photo/Bill Cramer