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The Eagles' long history of NFL draft busts

If you think Marcus Smith and Danny Watkins have been the Eagles' biggest draft busts you've ever seen, this story is either going to make you feel relieved or even angrier.

Updated with a minor correction.

There's no real easy way to put this, so let's just say it bluntly: The Eagles have a long history of awful draft picks.

And not just in what you might think of as the "modern" era of the National Football League. The Eagles' very first selection in the very first ever NFL Draft, held in 1936 in Philadelphia, was the very first NFL Draft bust.

Here's a look back at some of the Birds' follies and failures in drafts over the years.

1936: Jay Berwanger

That season, Jay Berwanger, a University of Chicago halfback, had won the initial Heisman Trophy, then awarded to the best player east of the Mississippi. Naturally, [Eagles owner Bert] Bell took him with the NFL draft's first-ever selection.

In all, the Eagles drafted nine players that weekend - and signed none.

Berwanger wanted $1,000 a game to come East. Bell quickly traded him to the Bears for tackle Art Buss. Chicago also failed to sign Berwanger, who never played in the NFL.

First NFL draft, held at Philly's Ritz-Carlton, went unnoticed by Frank Fitzpatrick

1969: Leroy Keyes

On and off the field, Leroy Keyes is keenly aware that the city of Philadelphia is a hard sell.

He learned his first lesson when the product he was selling was Leroy Keyes and the market he made his pitch to was a city full of defeat-weary Eagles fans, who saw him as the poor man's O.J. Simpson.

That was in 1969, the spring after the Eagles tied the Buffalo Bills for the NFL's worst record at 2-12. The two teams flipped a coin for the rights to the first draft pick, a franchise-making running back from USC who now sells cowboy boots when he's not flying through airports. The booby prize was Leroy Keyes.

Former Eagle Keyes looking for a few good students by Pat McLoone

[Of note, while that's what Pat wrote at the time, it wasn't quite accurate. The Bills finished 1-12-1 and had the first pick, while the Eagles and Atlanta Falcons finished 2-12. The coin flip was between the Eagles and Falcons. Atlanta won it and took George Kunz at No. 2.]

1983: Michael Haddix

Michael Haddix, we hardly knew you. Well, actually, maybe we knew you too well.

Haddix, the Eagles' heralded first-round draft pick (sixth overall) in 1983, signed a two-year free-agent contract with the Green Bay Packers yesterday, ending six vastly disappointing years in Philadelphia.


In 1983, drafted by then-head coach Marion Campbell out of Mississippi State, Haddix came to the Eagles bandied as an impact running back. But, though he remained on the team in a blocking back role, he never won any hearts.

Always, he was haunted by the fact that he never had come close to fulfilling the expectations everyone had for the sixth player picked in a draft filled with superstars (John Elway, Eric Dickerson, Dan Marino).

In his six years, Haddix gained just 1,189 yards on 402 carries and scored no touchdowns in the last four years. Haddix carried the ball 57 times for 185 yards this year, and caught 12 passes for 82.

Haddix lost to Packers by Tim Kawakami

1985: Kevin Allen

Before yesterday, Kevin Allen was already destined for a place in Eagles history - as a player who lost his starting job while in the hospital, as someone who managed to sleep through an entire day of training camp, as perhaps the biggest first-round bust in team history.

Yesterday was when Allen and his roommate, Scott Cartwright, were arrested and charged with raping a woman and severely beating her male companion in a Labor Day incident on the beach at Margate, N.J.

Cartwright once worked for the Eagles as an intern in the marketing department. His tenure, apparently, was uneventful. Front office employees struggled yesterday to remember anything about him.

On the other hand, Allen's selection in the first round of the 1985 draft guaranteed that he would live his professional football life in the spotlight. And that spotlight never treated him kindly - not from the moment he was drafted until the moment he was released by the Eagles on Tuesday.

Allen had a nodding acquaintance with history by Rich Hofmann

1993: Leonard Renfro

Defensive tackle Renfro, whose poor work habits and inconsistent play cost him his job more than a series of injuries in recent years, was not available for comment.

"He spent a lot of time on the injured list and things just didn't materialize," [Ray] Rhodes said. "Leonard got in some of the preseason games and did some things but I just wanted to go in a different direction."

Synder, Renfro are cut by Kevin Mulligan

1993: Lester Holmes

Right guard Lester Holmes looked like a future Pro Bowler before injuring his knee last year. But he's been a major disappointment this season. He'll be an unrestricted free agent after the season and the Eagles probably will let him walk.

Birds not strong enough to be Super, need to upgrade several spots by Paul Domowitch

1997: Jon Harris

"I have to say I was a little surprised," Harris said. "The Eagles called me in the morning and said they would try to get me; I didn't know they meant in the first round. I thought maybe I would go in the second round sometime. "

Instead, the 6-foot-7 1/2 defensive end from Virginia was the Eagles' first- round pick. After moving down three spots in a trade with the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles used the 25th pick for a player some draft experts had going as late as the fifth round.


Minutes after taking Harris, Rhodes found himself on ESPN, sparring with commentator Tom Jackson.

"Tom Jackson doesn't coach this football team," Rhodes said later. "He doesn't evaluate our talent for us. I don't care what anybody else thinks. We did a lot of research on this kid. We feel very positive about this young man.

"We had some defensive line coaches from around the league call and say they liked this pick. They said it takes a lot of guts to draft the guy you want and not worry what people might think. We'll see how all this comes out in the wash."

Eagles spring a surprise with top draft pick by Phil Sheridan

2011: Danny Watkins

At some point during the long weekend in which we didn't publish a newspaper, you probably heard and read pretty much all you cared to hear or read about Danny Watkins.

But teams don't give up on first-round draft picks after 2 years very often; the Eagles hadn't done that since they acknowledged their terrible error in the 1997 drafting of defensive end Jon Harris. So some sort of postmortem is required for the departure of the man who epitomizes the futility of the Eagles' 2011 draft, and underlines the personnel mistakes that paved Andy Reid's road to Kansas City.

Watkins' career with Eagles goes up in smoke by Les Bowen