Friday, April 23, 2010

Philadelphia Eagles Fans Hope Brandon Graham Isn't the New McDougle

Miami (OH) Red Hawks v Michigan Wolverines

The Philadelphia Eagles have a poor track record when it comes to moving up in the draft and selecting undersized defensive ends. If Eagles fans are having that same deja vue feeling again it is for good reason.

Last night, as is well established organizational practice, the Eagles made a trade to swap draft positions. This year they decided to move up in the first round to grab the apparent "apple of their eye"— namely Brandon Graham.

Graham is an outside linebacker— I mean, defensive end out of Michigan. The 6' 1", 268-pounder is the type of "tweener" that the Andy Reid era Eagles have routinely coveted and had NFL player personnel pundits slotting him as a pass rushing linebacker.

The team's previous history makes this pick a little bit troubling. And, the fact that Reid and Howie Roseman parted with the No. 24 pick and both third rounders to move up 11 places makes it especially scary.

If the Eagles were going to expend that type of ransom, getting much closer to a "sure thing" would have been more in order.

For a team that just traded their franchise quarterback for 2nd and 4th round picks just a few weeks ago, a first and two third's seems a bit steep for what amounts to a roll of the dice. Perhaps the odds are pretty good— but history tells us that perhaps they are not.

Another Reid regime pulled a similar move in 2003 when they moved up 15 slots to take Miami defensive end Jerome McDougle. Despite parting with first and second round picks, the team was ecstatic to get the 6'2", 264 pound player with the 15th overall selection.

McDougle was also considered undersized around the league and projected as a pass rushing linebacker. Apparently the consensus opinion proved right as the defensive end was oft-injured and could manage a total of three sacks over four NFL seasons. Gulp!

Of course, several years earlier the Ray Rhodes regime helped establish an ignominious distinction similar to the "Mendoza Line" in baseball by paying a king's ransom to move up five slots and draft Mike Mamula with the 7th overall pick. Mamula became synonymous with reaching way too high to get a bust.

Mamula had the length at 6'4", but at 252 pounds was usually overmatched and often appeared to be a boy amongst men. He was a classic workout warrior that vaulted up the draft rankings despite an unremarkable college career.

The team fared a little better with the Boston College defensive end. He lasted five seasons and recorded 31.5 sacks. Much better than McDougle— but hardly what the Eagles envisioned getting in return for the 12th pick and two second rounders.

Stats aside, those fans who watched his body of work know full well that Mamula was a big bust.

Now fans have Graham donning midnight green under similar circumstances. Of course, all hope that he turns out to be the next Hugh Douglas or even Trent Cole as Reid compared him.

Skepticism induced by previous experience tends to creep in, though. The first difficulty with this comparison is that Douglas was an inch taller and 15 pounds heavier. The other is that although Cole has been good, fans also see that he can be overmatched and worn down by the much larger tackles he faces.

Comparing Graham to Cole also triggers a head scratching reaction. After all, he was selected in the 5th round— which might suggest that the team could have gambled on a fast, undersized "tweener" much later in the draft. Perhaps they could have used both third rounders for that purpose?

For what it is worth, Graham described himself as "a great pass rusher, a disruptive run stopper, a high motor guy, a humble guy." Well, maybe not that humble, but the Eagles and their fans would gladly take the first three regardless of the last.

Lets hope that Brandon Graham turns out to be the type of difference maker the team would hope to get for what they gave up. Unfortunately, history is not on their side.

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