In today's trip back in time analyzing the best picks round-by-round of the Reid era, it's time to rank the best third-round picks. This is determined based on what these players did in their time with the Eagles even though one of the players on this list made a big impact after leaving the team. With that in mind, here are the top three third-round picks of the Reid era.
3. Linebacker Stewart Bradley, 2007In his first season as the starting middle linebacker in 2008, Bradley registered 151 tackles, a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery for the league's third-best defense in terms of yards and fourth-best when it came to points. The 6-4, 258-pound Bradley is very athletic for his size and has the strength to play attacking, downhill football. He is also cerebral enough to be a leader in the middle of the defense. Bradley was recognized after that 2008 season as a player on the rise and looked at as a possible Pro Bowl linebacker for the next season. However, the 2009 season was a wash for Bradley due to an ACL injury. He attacked the rehab and was back on the field for the start of the 2010 season. Bradley worked out the kinks early in the season and appeared to be back in top form midseason after two 12-tackle performances (vs. Atlanta, vs. Indianapolis). But as the postseason approached, Bradley dislocated his elbow in the Week 14 game in Dallas and did not play for the rest of the season. Bradley is still very much in the mix for the Eagles' future despite not being signed for next season. If Bradley can get back to his 2008 form, the Eagles defense will take a step forward next year under new coordinator Juan Castillo. Former linebacker Chris Gocong, a starter on the strong side for three seasons, also earned consideration for the No. 3 spot.
2. Defensive end Derrick Burgess, 2001Burgess picked the ideal time to play his best football with the Eagles. As the Eagles marched towards their first Super Bowl appearance in a quarter of a century, Burgess sacked Michael Vick twice in the NFC title game to help the Eagles come out with the win. Burgess' playoff performance, which also included a sack in the Super Bowl, was on the opposite end of a six-sack rookie season. However, those two good seasons sandwiched two injury-plagued seasons where Burgess played in just one game. The Eagles decided not to compete with the massive contract offer from Oakland the following offseason. Burgess had 27.0 sacks over the next two seasons with the Raiders, including an NFL-best 16.0 in 2005.
1. Running back Brian Westbrook, 2002He was too small. He was prone to injury. He played at Villanova. He would never be anything more than a third-down back. Yes, Westbrook heard all of those things, but persevered to become arguably at one point the league's most dangerous and explosive player. He made a name for himself as one of the league's premier punt return specialists in 2003 with two scores including the game winner at the Meadowlands against the Giants late in the fourth quarter. He took over as the team's feature back in 2004 and accumulated over 1,500 yards from scrimmage en route to Pro Bowl honors that year.
But it was in 2006 where Westbrook became the focal point of the offense and took his game to a new level. He had 1,916 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns as he helped the Eagles win their last five games and the NFC East title that season. The following year, Westbrook led the league in yards from scrimmage with 2,104 and scored 12 touchdowns to earn first-team All-Pro honors and a second trip to Honolulu. After his Eagles career concluded following the 2009 season, Westbrook ranked third in franchise history with 68 touchdowns, second in rushing yards, third in receptions, first in touches and first in total yards from scrimmage. Not bad for someone who was too small, too injury-prone and on top of that from a small school.