Starting the Sunday The Inquirer began a five-day series looking at the Eagles' greatest needs heading into the NFL Draft and how Andy Reid fared in his 12 previous years drafting at five specific positions. We started with the offensive line. Here's a brief evaluation of Reid's record of drafting at that spot:
For years, the Eagles had a reputation for selecting too many offensive linemen early in the draft. Problem was it wasn’t true. Only once in his dozen years drafting has Reid selected an offensive lineman in the first round (see: Shawn Andrews, 2004). And the Eagles haven’t addressed that position earlier than the fourth round since they grabbed Winston Justice in the second round of the 2006 draft. Reid and company prefer to load up on linemen lower in the draft or via undrafted free agency in the hopes of finding a few gems they can develop. It’s worked at times, but not as often recently and as a result the unit has lacked a flat-out stud.
Todd Herremans (4th round, 2005) – He’s probably deserved a Pro Bowl nod at least once over the last five years. Currently the left guard is the line’s most consistent performer.
Andrews (1st round, 2004) – Yes, he earned a couple of Pro Bowl invites as a guard, but there were pre-draft signs that the “Big Kid” was emotionally still a child. His drawn-out descent crippled the Eagles for two seasons.
Justice (2d round, 2006) – It took two seasons, but Justice erased a dreadful first career start against the Giants when he stepped in for the injured Andrews at right tackle. He has one year left, though, to prove he was worth a second round pick.
At the time of the draft, getting Justice in the second round was considered a steal. So, too, was plucking guard Max Jean-Gilles out of Georgia in the fourth round. Both offensive linemen, though, turned out to be nothing spectacular. Which is OK. They each have given the Eagles a number of starts.
The class overall was graded among the best immediately post-draft. Five years later, that opinion appears to be an overstatement. There isn’t a star among the eight players chosen, although the Eagles have received valuable contributions from six. Brodrick Bunkley was named a starting defensive tackle by his second season and has held down the middle of the line along with Mike Patterson for many seasons since. But his production has waned. Chosen in the third round, Chris Gocong was a fish in need of a 3-4 defense. The Eagles hoped he solve their strong-side linebacker needs, but he never quite fit and was traded last off-season.
Jason Avant has been about all you can ask from a fourth round wide receiver. As the Eagles third wideout, Avant has increased his production in each of his five seasons. Linebacker Omar Gaither started in the middle as a rookie and in each game in his second season. Cat-like instincts made up for being neither big nor fast, but Gaither’s days as an Eagle are numbered.