In the 2010 draft the Eagles traded up to 13th overall, and infamously selected Brandon Graham, a good player with a lot of bad luck.
Graham showed promise as a rookie, before he tore his ACL in Week 14 and was lost for the season. In 2011, Graham was still recovering from that injury, and he only played 56 snaps the entire season. In 2012, Graham played well when he got his opportunities, but DL coach Jim Washburn wrongly insisted on giving Jason Babin the lion's share of the snaps. In 2013, the Reid regime was out, the Kelly regime was in, and with the team moving to a 3-4, Graham was forced into a defense that did not suit his skill set.
In that 2010 draft, Graham was of course drafted ahead of Seahawks All Pro safety Earl Thomas and Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul.
After the 2011 season, Eagles fans lamented the fact that the Eagles could have had Jason Pierre-Paul, who racked up 16.5 sacks and routinely made impact plays during the Giants' Super Bowl run. Since that season, Pierre-Paul has batted various injuries, and may never be the same player again. You no longer hear "The Eagles should have drafted Jason Pierre-Paul."
Instead, Eagles fans now say "They should have drafted Earl Thomas." a 3-time All Pro player who has emerged as one of the best safeties in the NFL. Making matters worse, safety has of course been a glaring weakness since the Brian Dawkins left for Denver in free agency.
Thomas talked about watching the draft four years ago. "I remember it like it was yesterday," said Thomas. "Nobody forgets draft day, and how many teams passed up on you. I remember when the Eagles traded up, (and watching) the clock winding down, I think somebody was saying 'Earl Thomas is coming off the board right here,' but I think they picked Brandon Graham. After that, Seattle called."
Drafting well isn't just about getting the best players. It's also about putting those players in the best position to succeed. Four years into his NFL career, Earl Thomas has unquestionably been the better player, but Brandon Graham has not had the luxury of good health and an ideal fit.
Somewhere there's a parallel Universe where the Eagles took Earl Thomas, who was set up for failure in the Wide 9 by having to play deep half while also having "B-gap" responsibility, while Brandon Graham is coming off his 3rd double-digit sack season. And in that parallel Universe, Eagles fans are saying "We should have drafted Brandon Graham."
That is of course assuming Derrick Morgan isn't the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Yesterday I asked Seahawks punter Jon Ryan if Donnie Jones was the MVP of the Universe, or just of the NFL.
Ryan patronized me, Donnie Jones, and Eagles fans around the globe by saying, "Donnie Jones is a great punter." So today, I gave Ryan another chance to redeem himself. Our conversation:
Jimmy: "We talked yesterday, and you didn't answer my question, so I'm going to ask you again."
Jimmy: "Is Donnie Jones the MVP of the Universe, or just the NFL."
Ryan: "He might be the MVP of the Universe."
Jimmy: "He might be?"
Ryan: "He had a great year."
Still an unacceptable answer. I guess I'll see you tomorrow, Ryan.
On a positive note, Ryan noted Jones' left-footedness, and considered it an advantage. "You see a lot of returners have a problem with that left-footed spin, said Ryan. He has a weird left-footed spin that totally feels a lot different for returners. We have a special JUGS machine that simulates a left-footed spin (so we can prepare) for left-footed punters. I think it's definitely harder to track that ball. The returners are used to right-footed punters. The ball moves a lot, left to right, or right to left, and with the left-footed guys it moves totally different."
It's noteworthy that the Eagles signed Jones in free agency, and brought in LSU punter Brad Wing as an undrafted free agent in Chip Kelly's first year in Philly. A strong argument could be made that Chip prefers lefty punters.
Jones is a free agent, and Ryan said he hopes Jones is in Philly for a long time. Ryan also had a message for the Eagles... "Pay the guy."
Pay the guy, indeed, Mr. Ryan.
Way back in June, my daughter successfully predicted who would win the NFC East this year.
For those of you you are gamblers, she also made a Super Bowl prediction.