Extra Points: Eagles Drafts Have had Mixed Results
Like the Phillies' batting order so far this season, the Eagles have had a few hits and a few more swings and misses in the NFL Draft.
They struck out on their first attempt, selecting University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger number one overall in the 1936 Draft at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. On paper, it seemed like a good pick. Berwanger won the inaugural Heisman Trophy a few months earlier. There was no NFL Combine in those days, but the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder reportedly ran a blazing, 5.0-second 40-yard dash at the U of C's Pro Day. That's glacial compared to the sub-4.4's run by today's draft prospects until you consider he was sprinting on a cinder track while wearing high-topped cleats that weighed about three pounds apiece. Berwanger was such an outstanding overall athlete that he barely missed qualifying for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin in the decathlon.
Rumor has it he also scored well on the first-ever Wunderlic Test, which was developed earlier that year by E.F. Wunderlic - when E.F. Wunderlic talks, you listen - and then beat Eagles rookie coach Bert Bell in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Alas, Berwanger never played a down for the Eagles. Bell, who was also the Eagles' owner, balked at Berwanger's asking price of $1,000 per game. There was a rumor that Berwanger would not report to training camp at Temple University - the Eagles' first two camps in franchise history were held in Atlantic City (1933-34) - unless Bell met with his agent, Drew Rosenhaus' great-great-grandfather.
Bell countered by trading Berwanger's rights to the Chicago Bears in exchange for tackle Art Buss. When Bears owner George Halas also failed to meet his salary demands, Berwanger took a job with a rubber company in Chicago and later became a multi-millionaire as owner of a plastics manufacturing company before passing away in 2002 at age 88.
Bell liked the deal so much that he pulled off a similar swap in 1937, drafting center Sam Harris - who placed fourth in the shot put in the '36 Olympics - and shipping him to the Bears for defensive end Bill Hewitt and $4,000. That started a trend of wheeling and dealing that has continued through the decades. Think Howie Roseman in the 1930's.
The Eagles' subsequent first-round picks have ranged from busts to those who deserve to have a bust in Canton.
Running back Steve Van Buren (1944), center/linebacker Chuck Bednarik (1948) and tackle Bob Brown (1964) are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Other drafts produced standouts such as tackles Jerry Sisemore (1973) and Tra Thomas (1998), wide receiver Mike Quick (1982), tight end Donovan McNabb (1999), and current players defensive end Brandon Graham (2010), defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (2012) and tackle Lane Johnson (2013).
Others didn't pan out. The Eagles drafted Purdue running back Leroy Keyes No. 3 overall in 1969, two picks after the Bills took O.J. Simpson at No. 1. The Steelers used the No. 4 pick to take North Texas State defensive lineman Mean Joe Greene. Quarterback John Reaves (1972), tackles Kevin Allen (1985) Antone Davis (1991) and Bernard Williams (1994); defensive ends Jon Harris (1994) and Marcus Smith (2014), wide receiver Freddie Mitchell (2001); and guard Danny Watkins (2011) disappointed for various reasons.
Williams enjoyed an impressive rookie year, but essentially refused to stop smoking pot. Watkins' career also went up in smoke in a manner of speaking. He preferred fighting fires to blocking pass rushers.
Quarterback Carson Wentz is another story.
The Eagles are scheduled to pick 15th and 18th on Thursday, marking the third time in the last 50 years they've had two first-round picks. They are batting .500 in those situations. In 1973, they grabbed Sisemore and tight end Charle Young and both became standouts. Twenty years later, guard Lester Holmes and defensive tackle Leonard Renfro were first-rounders. Neither lasted long, though Holmes had a couple decent seasons with the Raiders.
Various mock drafts have linked the Eagles to college standouts like wide receivers Drake London (USC), Chris Olave (Ohio State), and Jameson Williams (Alabama); cornerbacks Andrew Booth Jr. (Clemson) and Trent McDuffie (Washington) and defensive tackle Jordan Davis (Georgia).
I'd be OK with any of those guys. Just make sure they don't want to be firemen.
EAGLES FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PREDICTION: Jordan Davis (15th) and Drake London (18th).
NOTES: Three players from Cape-Atlantic League schools are expected to be taken in the later rounds of the draft, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday. Florida A&M safety Markquese Bell (Bridgeton High School), Rutgers wide receiver Bo Melton (Cedar Creek) and Rutgers running back Isaih Pacheco (Vineland) are projected to be picked between the fourth and seventh rounds.
They will attempt to join Jacksonville running back Ryquell Armstead (Millville) and Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Austin Johnson (St. Augustine Prep) on NFL rosters. Defensive tackle Abdullah Anderson (Absegami), defensive lineman Jack Crawford (St. Augustine) and guard Jamil Demby (Vineland) are currently free agents.