Unlike the prior installments of this series, there is a pretty cut and dry top three when it comes to the best fourth-round draft picks since 1999. A few years down the road, however, we could be looking at a reshuffling of the order since the Eagles took four players in the fourth round of last year's draft, all of whom – Trevard Lindley, Keenan Clayton, Clay Harbor and Mike Kafka – could end up having a big impact for the Eagles moving forward. But until then, we kick things off with one of the best stories of resilience in Eagles history.
3. Running back Correll Buckhalter, 2001
Drafted to be a complement to Duce Staley, Buckhalter made a quick impact as a rookie, rushing for 586 yards, less than 20 yards behind his overstudy. But Buckhalter was unable to follow up and prove himself as a second-year player after he tore his ACL the following spring. After an arduous rehab, Buckhalter was back on the field in 2003, this time playing, and thriving, alongside Brian Westbrook. But Buckhalter was once again cruelly deprived of putting together another healthy season, as his entire 2004 and 2005 seasons were both wiped out by tears of the same patellar tendon. But in 2006, Buckhalter played all 16 games for the first time in his career, and once again established himself as a quality No. 2 running back. With the amount of touches that Westbrook got during his prime in Philadelphia, both on the ground and in the air, the presence of a reliable backup like Buckhalter was invaluable, and well worth waiting through his injury-wiped-out seasons. All told, Buckhalter rushed for 2,155 yards in his five healthy seasons with the Eagles before he moved onto the Denver Broncos in free agency in 2009. But as tough as he was to bring down with the football, Buckhalter's strongest imprint on the Philadelphia faithful was his perseverance through tough times.
2. Wide receiver Jason Avant, 2006
From one inspirational figure to another, we move to perhaps the most sure-handed receiver Reid has ever had. Avant's story, overcoming gang life in Chicago during his youth to become one of the emotional and spiritual leaders of the Eagles, is well known by now (it helped earn him this year's Ed Block Courage Award), but that doesn't make it any less meaningful. A testament to changing one's ways, Avant joined the Eagles in 2006 and has grown to become one of the league's preeminent third-down receivers. And despite the emergence of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on the outside, Avant's role in the offense hasn't diminished, as his reception total has increased in each of his five seasons with the team – part of the reason he was awarded with a five-year contract extension following the 2010 season. On the field, Avant's willingness to take punishment over the middle and haul in the most difficult catches is what has endeared him to Eagles fans. In his five seasons with the team, Avant has 52 receptions on third-down, 45 of which (86.3 percent) have resulted in a first down.
1. Offensive lineman Todd Herremans, 2005
Little was known about Herremans when the Eagles took the product of division-II Saginaw Valley St. with the 126th pick of the 2005 draft, but six years later, we can definitively say that big Todd has outperformed the vast majority of the 21 offensive linemen taken ahead of him. In fact, only four of those linemen, Logan Makins, Michael Roos, David Stewart and Jason Brown, have accumulated more starts than Herremans' 76 to date (though Stewart and Brown each have only one more start to their credit). A collegiate tackle, Herremans first made his presence known to Eagles fans when he filled in at left tackle for an injured Tra Thomas for four games a rookie. Then, entering his second year, Herremans successfully converted to an interior lineman and won the left guard, where he's been the starter ever since. And oh yeah, don't forget that Herremans is more than a key cog in the Eagles' offensive line machine – he's also an offensive weapon, as evidence by his two career receiving touchdowns.