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Eagles Are Unpredictably Predictable in First Round

Apr 10, 2012, 12:19 PM EDT

The Eagles like to move around a lot on draft day, especially in round one, but you can get a pretty good sense of what position they might go after by looking at who they've selected in the past.

One word that doesn’t quite describe the Eagles in the first round of the NFL Draft under Andy Reid is predictable — yet, somehow, that’s also exactly what they are.

They’ve traded into the top 20 four times since 2003, while moving out of the first round entirely in back-to-back drafts in ’08 and ’09. Since 2006, they have only stuck with their original pick once — last year with Danny Watkins — and just three times in the last nine drafts. You can never be sure when they’re coming or going, or who it is they might be targeting.

Then again, when you look back on all of those recent drafts, they have dropped a fairly big hint as to what they might be targeting in the first round. Some Eagles draft trivia, and perhaps insight, after the jump.

Six of the Eagles’ last seven first-round draft picks were linemen — two offensive, and four defensive linemen. The only exception was Jeremy Maclin in ’09, who wound up tumbling out of the top 10, and all the way down to 19, where the Eagles traded up two spots to land him.

If you include top selections that were not made in round one, the addition of Trevor Laws in 2008 bumps the Birds up to seven linemen — five on defense — chosen first over the last 10 drafts.

Unfortunately, one reason they’ve had to draft so many linemen is because quite a few of them have not panned out, particularly over the long haul.

Jerome McDougle (15h in ’03) and Shawn Andrews (16th in ’04) are both out of the league, though for vastly different reasons. McDougle is the epitome of a bust, a defensive end who achieved no measurable success in the NFL. Andrews at one point may have been the best guard in the NFL, but injuries, and perhaps off-field issues, shortened his career.

Mike Patterson (31st in ’05) and Brodrick Bunkley (14th in ’06) formed the starting combination at defensive tackle for three seasons. Together they dug a deep trench against the run, but were not so much a factor rushing the quarterback. Patt obviously remains a steady hand for the club, but Bunk was moved last summer to make room for the more versatile Cullen Jenkins.

The jury is still out on their two most recent picks, Brandon Graham (13th in ’10) and Watkins (23rd). Graham tore his ACL and required microfracture surgery toward the end of a promising rookie season, and basically missed all of last year while recovering. Watkins wasn’t able to crack the starting lineup right away in 2011, but eventually moved in to his spot at right guard, and played well enough there is reason for optimism.

The 47th pick and top choice for Philadelphia after trading their first rounder to the Carolina Panthers in ’08, Trevor Laws never amounted to much at all, and remains an unsigned free agent as of this writing.

Even before Andy Reid controlled the Eagles personnel universe, the Birds used the sixth overall selection on Corey Simon in 2000. For five seasons, Simon was a force in the middle, a Pro Bowler even — the kind of talent that’s a bit easier to locate in the top 10, where the team has not chosen since — but his weight was an issue, which played into contract negotiations that went awry. Simon was allowed to walk, and he would appear in 17 more NFL games over three seasons before calling it quits.

The odds could be in favor of the Eagles taking yet another lineman this month. Clearly they believe that’s where the value is, staying true to the timeless philosophy that football games are won up front.

Even after adding Demetress Bell to replace an injured Jason Peters, the front office might try to play it safe on the offensive line in Achilles’s aftermath.

Defensive line is even more likely. Patterson is still a questionable fit in Jim Washburn’s wide nine, and the backup tackles are all signed through this season only. At end, Graham making a full recovery is no guarantee, and the rest of the talent behind Jason Babin and Trent Cole is questionable.

Even if it’s not a lineman, there still could be clues as to the direction the Eagles are headed. The only other positions where first rounders have been used during the Andy Reid era are cornerback, wide receiver, and quarterback.

Lito Sheppard was selected 26th in ’02, followed immediately by safety Michael Lewis and corner Sheldon Brown in the second round. There aren’t many other examples of the Eagles taking corners high, but they’ve spent big money in free agency on Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha, so it’s been a consistent focus.

Besides using a first on Maclin in ’09, Freddie Mitchell was chosen 25th in ’01. The Eagles also took DeSean Jackson two picks after Laws in ’08, and have used seconds on Reggie Brown, Todd Pinkston, and tight end L.J. Smith in the recent past.

Finally, besides using the second overall selection in the ’99 draft on Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb was the club’s first choice in ’07, trading out of the first round to scoop him up at 36.

Running back, linebacker, and safety are the only prevalent areas where a first round pick has not been utilized — though all three have been given the attention of multiple second and third round picks.