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Eagles History of Picking in Top-Six

This April the Eagles will be selecting a draft pick in the top-six for the 25th time in their history (9th time since the AFL-NFL merger which created 26 teams). Their history in the top-six can be described as rocky. They have picked plenty of players who went on to become enshrined in their Hall of Fame (and even the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio), but they have also selected quite a few players that barely made any impact in the league. There are even a few players they selected that never ended up playing a single game in an Eagles uniform.


Here's a breakdown of the previous 24 Eagles who had the pressure that comes with being one of the top picks in the draft:

2016: QB Carson Wentz (2nd overall)

Wentz is currently 4th in franchise history in completions (1,562), passing yards (16,811), passing touchdowns (113), 4th quarter comebacks (9), game-winning drives (10) and has the second-best QB Rating (89.2). His play was instrumental in the team earning its first Super Bowl victory, and has led the Eagles to two division titles since 2016.


2013: OT Lane Johnson (4th overall)

Johnson has played the sixth-most games by a tackle in Eagles history. His three Pro Bowl selections, one All-Pro selection, and Super Bowl ring speaks for itself. There is no question he's a future Eagles Hall of Famer


2000: DT Corey Simon (6th overall)

Simon had a pretty solid NFL career, playing in 95 total games (78 with the Eagles). His 32.0 sacks in midnight green are the third-most in franchise history.


1999: QB Donovan McNabb (2nd overall)

McNabb quarterbacked the Eagles through one of their most successful eras. He is the franchise leader in almost all major categories: completions (2,801), passing yards (32,873), passing touchdowns (216), game-winning drives (22), and QB wins (92). He didn't get the Super Bowl trophy fans desperately wanted, but his #5 is retired and is recognized by a vast majority as the best quarterback in franchise history.


1984: WR Kenny Jackson (4th overall)

Jackson was an Eagle for a long time (92 games) but they certainly didn't get the production they were hoping for when they made this early pick. He finished his Eagles career with just 122 receptions for 2,139 yards and 11 touchdowns.


1973: T Jerry Sisemore (3rd overall)

Sisemore suited up for 156 games with the Birds, which are the 11th-most in franchise history, and the second-most by a tackle. For his consistency and reliability, he was rewarded with two Pro Bowl nominations and is in the Eagles Hall of Fame.

1971: DE Richard Harris (5th overall)

Harris only spent three years in Philadelphia, playing in 39 total games. After leaving Philly he spent four more years in the NFL with Chicago and Seattle, adding another 54 games played.


1970 LB/TE Steve Zabel (6th overall)

Zabel had versatility and played on both sides of the ball, but after a two year experiment at tight end he shifted full focus at linebacker. He carved out a five-year career in Philadelphia (60 games) before eventually playing in 64 more games with New England and Baltimore.


1969 RB/DB Leroy Keyes (3rd overall)

Keyes started out at running back for the Birds (three rushing touchdowns his rookie year), but he then converted to safety. He was even better in the secondary, grabbing eight interceptions in just two seasons. Those three seasons were the only ones he spent in Philadelphia. After those 45 games in Philly, he joined the Kansas City Chiefs and played just three games with them in 1973 and never played a NFL game again.


1966: OL/DL Randy Beisler (4th overall)

Beisler played on both sides of the line. He played just three seasons in Philadelphia (36 games) before having a long career in San Francisco. He finished his NFL career with 118 games played with the Eagles, 49ers and Chiefs.


1964: T Bob Brown (2nd overall)

Brown spent five years with the Eagles (64 games), and in those seasons he was voted an All-Pro and Pro Bowler three times each. He eventually played 62 more games with the Rams and Raiders. He made the 1960s All-Decade Team, and is currently enshrined in both the Eagles Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


1963: G Ed Budde (4th overall)

The AFL's Kansas City Chiefs selected Budde 8th overall in their draft, and even though the Eagles selected Budde with the 4th overall pick in the NFL draft, Budde went on to spend his entire 14-year career with the Chiefs. He was a 2x AFL champion, a Super Bowl champion, a 2x Pro Bowler, and is in the Chiefs Hall of Fame.

1958: FB/DB Walt Kowalczyk (6th overall)

Kowalczyk ended up playing a backup role both on offense and on defense. He spent just two seasons in Philly before being traded in 1960 to the Detroit Lions for Jerry Reichow.Kowalczyk was out of the league by 1961.


1956: LB Bob Pellegrini (4th overall)

Pellegrini was a contributor on defense, picking off seven passes in 59 games as an Eagle. He was also on the 1960 NFL Championship squad. He left the Eagles after 1961 and played his final four years down in Washington.


1952: HB Johnny Bright (5th overall)

Bright spurned the NFL, electing to play for the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League. The reason why Bright chose the CFL over the NFL was because of his ethnicity and prior: "I would have been their (the Eagles') first negro player. There was a tremendous influx of Southern players into the NFL at that time, and I didn't know what kind of treatment I could expect." Bright was previously assaulted in his collegiate career.


1949: LB/C Chuck Bednarik (1st overall)

Not much needs to be said about Bednarik. The last of the '60 minute men' is often argued as the best Eagle in franchise history. He won two championships in Philadelphia, an 8x Pro Bowler, a 6x All-Pro, named to the 1950s All-Decade Team, and is enshrined in both the Eagles Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His #60 is retired in Philadephia.


1944: HB Steve Van Buren (5th overall)

Van Buren is long-considered to be the greatest running back in franchise history. His running abilities resulted in two championship for the Eagles in the 1940s, and was named to the All-Decade Team for his play. When he retired he was the Eagles' all-time leading rusher, and held the record for 25 years. Put that together with five All-Pro selections, and you have not only an Eagles Hall of Famer but also a Pro Football Hall of Famer. His #15 is retired in Philadelphia.

1943: FB/LB Joe Muha (2nd overall)

Muha was the Birds starting fullback for four of his five seasons and a two-time All-Pro selection. He never played for another NFL team after his 56 games in Philadelphia, but he was able to win two NFL Championships before leaving.


1942: HB Pete Kmetovic (3rd overall)

Even though Kmetovic was drafted in 1942, he didn't start his NFL career with Philadelphia until 1946. He played only five games with the Birds before joining the Detroit Lions in 1947. He was out of the NFL after the 1947 season.


1940: HB George McAfee (2nd overall)

McAfee's rights were immediately traded to the Chicago Bears in exchange for Russ Thompson and Milt Trost. McAfee was a Hall of Famer in Chicago, while Thompson (11 games) and Trost (seven games) each played one season in Philadelphia. This is probably one of the worst trades in franchise history.


1939: QB Davey O'Brien (4th overall)

The Eagles drafted the Heisman Trophy-winner to become the franchise quarterback. He started out great, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in 1939. He played well again in 1940, but the Eagles had a 2-19-1 record in those two seasons. He was offered a pay raise, but instead elected to retire after the 1940 season. He went on to become a FBI agent.


1938: HB Jim McDonald (2nd overall)

McDonald never played with the Eagles. He joined the Detroit Lions in 1938 and played just two seasons there, picking up a career total of 80 yards.


1937: FB Sam Francis (1st overall)

His rights were traded to the Chicago Bears in exchange for Bill Hewitt and $4,000 in cash. The Eagles ended up winning this trade, as Francis went on to have a mediocre career, and Hewitt earned a few All-Pro honors in Philadelphia. Hewitt is in both the Eagles Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


1936: QB Jay Berwanger (1st overall)

The Heisman Trophy-winner was the very first NFL draft pick since 1936 was the inaugural NFL Draft. Even though the Eagles selected him, they did not think they would be able to meet his reported salary demands of $1,000 per game. They traded his rights to the Chicago Bears for tackle Art Buss. Berwanger initially chose not to sign with the Bears either to preserve his amateur status to compete for a spot on the U.S. decathlon team for the 1936 Summer Olympics. After he missed the Olympics cut, Berwanger and the Bears were unable to reach an agreement on salary. He instead took a job with a Chicago rubber company and also became a part-time coach at the University of Chicago. He later expressed regret that he did not accept the Bears' offer and play pro football.


Art Buss (the player the Eagles acquired in exchange for Berwanger) went on to play two seasons in Philadelphia.

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