Lawlor: An underrated draft haul that transformed the Eagles

The 2019 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday night. The moves the Eagles make will shape the future of the franchise. Let's look back less than a decade ago to understand just what the draft means.

The Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2017. You can argue that all started back in April 2010, when the team took Michigan pass rusher Brandon Graham in the first round. The Eagles took Mississippi State star Fletcher Cox in the first round of 2012. In 2013, they selected Oklahoma standout Lane Johnson with the fourth overall pick.

Those three first-round picks delivered an impact pass rusher, an elite defensive tackle, and arguably the best offensive tackle in the league. Stop and think about that for a second. What a fantastic trio of picks.

The Eagles traded up for both Graham and Cox. Those players were worth everything it cost to move up. They are proof that there can be a real difference in the quality of picks against the quantity of picks.

Let's dive further into the 2010-13 draft classes. The Eagles got more than just that amazing trio.

The Eagles used a sixth-round pick in 2011 on an undersized center from Cincinnati. Jason Kelce turned out to be one of the best late-round picks in team history. He is a two-time All-Pro and is one of the most athletic centers in recent memory. He's also a great team leader and gave the greatest speech in Super Bowl parade history.

The 2012 draft produced Vinny Curry, Mychal Kendricks, and Nick Foles, all who started in Super Bowl LII. Foles, as I'm guessing you remember, was the MVP. Foles threw the winning touchdown pass to Zach Ertz, who was the Eagles' second-round pick in 2013. Ertz followed that up by setting the NFL record for receptions by a tight end last year.

The Eagles had a pretty great haul of players from 2010-13. That four-year span laid the foundation for the Super Bowl. You had a pair of dynamic players for both the offensive and defensive lines. A lot of teams would kill for that.

Things didn't stop there.

In 2014, the Eagles added valuable role players in Jaylen Watkins and Beau Allen. Both of them started games in 2017. They helped the Eagles overcome some tough injuries. Draft picks don't have to become starters to be valuable.

The 2015 class delivered a couple of playmakers in Nelson Agholor and Jordan Hicks. Agholor got off to a slow start, but he's been terrific the past two seasons. He led the Eagles with nine receptions in Super Bowl LII. Hicks missed the game due to injury, but started 40 games for the Eagles and was a playmaking linebacker.

2016 was another monster year for the Eagles. They paid a heavy price to move up to the second overall pick, but Carson Wentz was absolutely worth it. He is the kind of franchise quarterback that all 32 teams dream about. Big. Strong. Athletic. High character. Driven. He's also incredibly talented. The sky is the limit for Wentz.

The Eagles got another starter when they took Isaac Seumalo in the third round. Wendell Smallwood has been a role player since he was taken in the fifth round. The Eagles added another pair of players who started in the Super Bowl. They selected Halapoulivaati Vaitai in the fifth round and Jalen Mills in the seventh. Those two have started 42 combined games so far in their careers. That is temendous value in the late rounds.r

It is harder to judge the past couple of drafts because not much time has passed. Derek Barnett looks like he will be a very good player. He was part of some huge plays in the 2017 postseason. He also got off to a strong start in 2018 before getting hurt. Dallas Goedert and Avonte Maddox had strong rookie seasons and look like they could be impact players.

The future is wide open for Jordan Mailata, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Nathan Gerry, Mack Hollins, and Josh Sweat. They are all gifted athletes who have flashed big-time ability. It will be fun to see how they develop over the next year or two.

I haven't even mentioned the undrafted free agents. History has shown that plenty of UDFAs become starters, some even stars. The Eagles got big contributions in the Super Bowl win from Corey Clement and Trey Burton. Neither guy was drafted, but they didn't let that stop them.

Clement has developed into a valuable role player for the Eagles. He offers impact as a runner, receiver, and returner. Burton will go down in history for his role throwing the touchdown in the Philly Special.

The Eagles are in an enviable position as they head into the upcoming draft. They already have a championship-level roster in place. Most teams are trying to get to where the Eagles are right now. Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas are looking to find even more talent, so they can make a good roster great. If they are able to do that, the Eagles could be a special team for the next several years.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. You can also find his work at IgglesBlitz.com where he is the site's editor.

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