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Five Years Later, Revisiting the 2007 NFL Draft

Apr 3, 2012, 1:50 PM EDT

A look back in the '07 NFL Draft, when the Eagles shocked fans with the selection of Kevin Kolb. What does that move mean for the franchise today?

It’s fitting the Eagles would make an unexpected move with a certain fourth-round draft pick they acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

You see, there’s a lot of history with that fourth-round pick, the same fourth-round pick that was swapped for new middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans last month. The Bucs sent that pick to Philadelphia last year as part of a draft-day deal to move up 12 spots to select Luke Stocker 104th overall. Of course, the 104th pick in 2011 originally belonged to the Washington Redskins, but had been exchanged in the original Donovan McNabb trade. Though as shocking as the day was when the Eagles sent their franchise quarterback to a division rival, it never could have happened without the biggest draft day surprise of the Andy Reid era.

When the Eagles traded out of the first round in 2007, the move was met with groans. When the trade was completed with the selection of a little-known quarterback from the University of Houston hours later, the reactions ranged from head scratching to rage. To this day, some still can’t understand how the front office could pass on a talent like Anthony Spencer — and let the Dallas Cowboys have him no less — to take some small-school QB nobody ever heard of.

Yet, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that move eventually became the catalyst for the management completely altering the face of this organization. After all, how could the Eagles have moved on from McNabb were it not for Kevin Kolb? In franchise lore, the two will be forever connected.

We get the sense there are still a lot of folks who to this day think Kolb was a terrible move. It was the first of back-to-back trades out of the first round for Philadelphia, giving the front office a reputation for dropping down when they’re really twice as likely to trade up. They dealt the 26th selection to the Cowboys, allowing a division rival to jump ahead of them and select Spencer, a double-digit sack artist going to Honolulu every January in the minds of most Birds fans. They passed on boat loads of other great players to take Kolb, who sat the bench for three years, flamed out as the franchise quarterback in one week, and now plays for Arizona — so obviously it was all a waste.

Except it wasn’t. You can grade the Kolb selection using two methods: what they got, and what they didn’t get.

What they didn’t get is easy. They didn’t get Spencer, a would-be defensive end in the Eagles 4-3 who has never had more than six sacks in an NFL season. They didn’t get any of the non-descript players who went between picks 26 and 36, out of which the only Pro Bowl-caliber players to emerge were a pair of O-linemen — which at the time was not a position of need. They didn’t get any of the quality players who were off the board the next time the Birds were up after choosing Kolb either, though obviously the team thought a quarterback was the best player available.

What they got is a little more abstract. Kolb only started seven games in an Eagles uniform, yet that doesn’t begin to define his legacy here. By 2010, the team was comfortable enough with Kolb as their starting quarterback (and Michael Vick his backup) that they were able to trade McNabb, who suddenly looked old and ineffective in consecutive losses to Dallas to end their ’09 campaign. Without the replacement Andy Reid and the coaching staff had been grooming to take over for three seasons, can the club ever seriously consider dumping Donovan?

When you look at it like that, the Kevin Kolb pick nets all of this:

#26 overall (Spencer) in ’07 for
a 2nd (Kolb), 3rd (Stewart Bradley) and a 5th (C.J. Gaddis) in ’07

Donovan McNabb for
a 2nd (Nate Allen) in 2010 and a 4th (traded to TB) in ’11

A 4th to Tampa Bay (Stocker) in ’11 for
a 4th (Casey Matthews) in ’11 and a 4th (DeMeco Ryans) in ’12

Kevin Kolb for
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd (#51) in ’12

Not a bad haul. Three of the above players could be starting on the Eagles defense this season — Ryans, Allen, and Rodgers-Cromartie. Matthews may become a serviceable backup, and they have Arizona’s second-round pick left, which could be another player, possibly even currency to either trade up or acquire more picks later/in the future. Maybe this isn’t exactly what the front office intended when they chose Kolb, but one way or the other, he became an asset to the team.

Most of all, more than a collection of players, what it meant was a fresh start for the franchise. The Eagles dumped a ton of veterans along with McNabb, making 2010 something akin to a rebuilding year. It didn’t take Mike Vick long to usurp the starting job from Kolb, but that never could have happened if he had spent another season buried third on the depth chart, used only as an occasional Wildcat option.

So while Kevin Kolb didn’t work out in the conventional sense of a successful draft pick who contributes to the same team over multiple years — and to be fair, who knows if he would have or not given more than one half of football to prove himself — it was still as important a pick as the Eagles have made since taking Donovan McNabb in 1999.

Drafting Kevin Kolb changed the landscape in Philadelphia like no other NFL player in a long time. From that standpoint, you have to admit the 2007 Draft worked out quite well.

Notable Hits: Brent Celek (5th)
Notable Misses: Victor Abiamiri (2nd), Tony Hunt (3rd)

Final Grade: B

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