The Eagles caught most observers off-guard in 2009 when they traded up to take Jeremy Maclin with the 19th overall pick.
This was a franchise that had seemingly hit a home run with DeSean Jackson the previous year, after failing to adequately address the wide receiver position for much of Andy Reid's tenure (aside from Terrell Owens, of course).
Three years later, Maclin has proven to be the most versatile wide receiver on this team and appears ready to take another step forward in 2012.
Six wide receivers were taken in the first round of the '09 draft. The Raiders took Darrius Heyward-Bey at No. 7, and the 49ers took Michael Crabtree at 10. After Maclin went at 19, the Vikings took Percy Harvin with the 22nd pick, the Giants landed Hakeem Nicks at No. 29, and Tennessee picked Kenny Britt at 30.
Here's a look at how Maclin has stacked up to his peers:
* It should be noted that Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace, a third-round pick that year, leads the class with 3,206 yards and is tied with Nicks with 24 touchdowns.
Among the first-round picks, Nicks has been the most productive of the group. And if there were a re-draft, he'd almost certainly be the top selection.
There's more to Harvin's numbers than what's listed above. He has 587 rushing yards and has averaged 6.9 yards per carry. Harvin's also scored seven times as a runner/returner.
Maclin's overall numbers stack up well to his peers. He's averaged 58.8 receiving yards per game, and last year, despite the health scare in the offseason, he averaged 66.1, a career best. Perhaps his biggest strength, at least as it pertains to the Eagles' offense, is Maclin's versatility. He tied DeSean Jackson for the team lead with 15 catches of 20+ yards. He also led the Eagles with eight red-zone receptions, including four touchdowns.
Sometimes, we assume receivers need to be tall to be productive in the red zone, but that's not always the case. At 6-0, Maclin had 11 red-zone grabs, including seven for touchdowns, in 2010.
Here's how Maclin's first three years compare to Jackson's:
Jackson, obviously more of a big-play threat, has the edge in yards and yards-per-catch. Maclin has the edge in catches and touchdowns, although it must be noted that Jackson has scored seven more times on runs/returns.
Other than the health scare, Maclin hasn't had any distracting issues like Jackson (throwing the ball at Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, getting suspended against the Cardinals). But as a first-round pick, he also received a richer contract than Jackson when he entered the league.
Looking ahead, Maclin is signed through 2013. It is reasonable to expect him to turn in a career year in 2012, eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the first time and be a big part of the Birds' red-zone offense. If those projections are close to on point, the Eagles and Maclin could be talking contract extension after the season.
You can follow me on Twitter or become a fan of Moving the Chains on Facebook.