Five Years Later, Revisiting the 2007 NFL Draft

Five Years Later, Revisiting the 2007 NFL Draft

It's fitting the Eagles would make an unexpected move with a certain fourth-round draft pick they acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

You see, there's a lot of history with that fourth-round pick, the same fourth-round pick that was swapped for new middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans last month. The Bucs sent that pick to Philadelphia last year as part of a draft-day deal to move up 12 spots to select Luke Stocker 104th overall. Of course, the 104th pick in 2011 originally belonged to the Washington Redskins, but had been exchanged in the original Donovan McNabb trade. Though as shocking as the day was when the Eagles sent their franchise quarterback to a division rival, it never could have happened without the biggest draft day surprise of the Andy Reid era.

When the Eagles traded out of the first round in 2007, the move was met with groans. When the trade was completed with the selection of a little-known quarterback from the University of Houston hours later, the reactions ranged from head scratching to rage. To this day, some still can't understand how the front office could pass on a talent like Anthony Spencer -- and let the Dallas Cowboys have him no less -- to take some small-school QB nobody ever heard of.

Yet, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that move eventually became the catalyst for the management completely altering the face of this organization. After all, how could the Eagles have moved on from McNabb were it not for Kevin Kolb? In franchise lore, the two will be forever connected.

We get the sense there are still a lot of folks who to this day think Kolb was a terrible move. It was the first of back-to-back trades out of the first round for Philadelphia, giving the front office a reputation for dropping down when they're really twice as likely to trade up. They dealt the 26th selection to the Cowboys, allowing a division rival to jump ahead of them and select Spencer, a double-digit sack artist going to Honolulu every January in the minds of most Birds fans. They passed on boat loads of other great players to take Kolb, who sat the bench for three years, flamed out as the franchise quarterback in one week, and now plays for Arizona -- so obviously it was all a waste.

Except it wasn't. You can grade the Kolb selection using two methods: what they got, and what they didn't get.

What they didn't get is easy. They didn't get Spencer, a would-be defensive end in the Eagles 4-3 who has never had more than six sacks in an NFL season. They didn't get any of the non-descript players who went between picks 26 and 36, out of which the only Pro Bowl-caliber players to emerge were a pair of O-linemen -- which at the time was not a position of need. They didn't get any of the quality players who were off the board the next time the Birds were up after choosing Kolb either, though obviously the team thought a quarterback was the best player available.

What they got is a little more abstract. Kolb only started seven games in an Eagles uniform, yet that doesn't begin to define his legacy here. By 2010, the team was comfortable enough with Kolb as their starting quarterback (and Michael Vick his backup) that they were able to trade McNabb, who suddenly looked old and ineffective in consecutive losses to Dallas to end their '09 campaign. Without the replacement Andy Reid and the coaching staff had been grooming to take over for three seasons, can the club ever seriously consider dumping Donovan?

When you look at it like that, the Kevin Kolb pick nets all of this:

#26 overall (Spencer) in '07 for
a 2nd (Kolb), 3rd (Stewart Bradley) and a 5th (C.J. Gaddis) in '07

Donovan McNabb for
a 2nd (Nate Allen) in 2010 and a 4th (traded to TB) in '11

A 4th to Tampa Bay (Stocker) in '11 for
a 4th (Casey Matthews) in '11 and a 4th (DeMeco Ryans) in '12

Kevin Kolb for
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd (#51) in '12

Not a bad haul. Three of the above players could be starting on the Eagles defense this season -- Ryans, Allen, and Rodgers-Cromartie. Matthews may become a serviceable backup, and they have Arizona's second-round pick left, which could be another player, possibly even currency to either trade up or acquire more picks later/in the future. Maybe this isn't exactly what the front office intended when they chose Kolb, but one way or the other, he became an asset to the team.

Most of all, more than a collection of players, what it meant was a fresh start for the franchise. The Eagles dumped a ton of veterans along with McNabb, making 2010 something akin to a rebuilding year. It didn't take Mike Vick long to usurp the starting job from Kolb, but that never could have happened if he had spent another season buried third on the depth chart, used only as an occasional Wildcat option.

So while Kevin Kolb didn't work out in the conventional sense of a successful draft pick who contributes to the same team over multiple years -- and to be fair, who knows if he would have or not given more than one half of football to prove himself -- it was still as important a pick as the Eagles have made since taking Donovan McNabb in 1999.

Drafting Kevin Kolb changed the landscape in Philadelphia like no other NFL player in a long time. From that standpoint, you have to admit the 2007 Draft worked out quite well.

Notable Hits: Brent Celek (5th)
Notable Misses: Victor Abiamiri (2nd), Tony Hunt (3rd)

Final Grade: B

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Red Wings' Vanek, Nielsen score in 6-5 SO win over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski lead Sharks past rival LA Kings, 3-2
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in overtime to lead Oilers past Panthers 4-3
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

Joel Embiid, Sixers prove plenty with benchmark win over Raptors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers weren’t supposed to beat the Raptors, were they? This was going to be an “easy” game for the visiting team, which was coming to Philadelphia on a back-to-back that started in Brooklyn. The Raptors are a playoff team, and second in the Eastern Conference at that. Not to mention, they had defeated the Sixers in their last 14 meetings.

Maybe easy would have been the case the last time the two teams played back in mid-December. For the Sixers, though, things have changed since then and a 94-89 win over the Raptors on Wednesday proved this recent success is not fleeting (see Instant Replay).

“I don’t think it’s a fluke,” Joel Embiid said. “We’re competing. We’re winning games. We’re playing great defense. We finally found what we’ve been looking for.”

The Sixers had been missing clearly-defined roles and a defensive identity (see story). Now that Brett Brown has whittled down his roster to 10 players and laid out a starting five and second unit, the team has been gelling in those two aspects. The Sixers have won seven out of their last nine games, with the Raptors being the highest caliber of competition.

The Raptors entered the game averaging 111.5 points per game, first in the East and third in the NBA behind only the Warriors and Rockets. They had scored less than 100 points in just seven games this season. Additionally, the Raptors had been held to under 90 points by a single opponent: the Spurs. Not bad company to be in. 

Embiid led all players with 26 points (including 12 for 14 from the free throw line) to go with nine rebounds (see highlights). The Sixers staved off 25 points (11 for 21 from the field), six assists and three rebounds from DeMar DeRozan and 24 points (11 for 16 from the line), four rebounds, four assists and five steals from Kyle Lowry, who fouled out. The Raptors shot 25 percent from three and 65.2 percent at the free throw line.  

“We’re playing with a spirit, we’re playing with a defensive mindset,” Brown said. “There is a belief within each other amongst the team that is the best that it’s been since I’ve been here.”

The Sixers' winning stretch began against subpar teams, opponents who earlier in the season some would look at the schedule and say, the Sixers could probably take that one, as they tried to project a batch of victories. The Sixers turned those wins over the Nuggets, Timberwolves and Nets into momentum and carried it into a matchup against the Knicks.

Even though the Knicks are looking lost this season, they still have veteran offensive firepower that can take over a game against a struggling opponent. The Sixers made noise by beating them at the buzzer, then escalated their performance against the postseason-hungry Hornets and Bucks. 

The Raptors are different, though. There is no questioning their success and potential to make a deep playoff run … again. Nonetheless, the Sixers handled this well-seasoned opponent with composure and confidence down the stretch. 

They stayed together when DeRozan hit a jumper with 1:53 to play to give the Raptors their first lead since the second quarter. The Sixers responded to the one-point deficit with a 7-0 run to push the edge up to six points with 20.7 seconds to go.

“I think it says we’re for real. It shows our consistency that we’ve built throughout the year,” Nerlens Noel said. “We’re relentless. We have a young group of guys that know how to play the game and play it the right way and will come out there and compete against anybody in this league. I think the perception should be a whole different one now.”

The Sixers showed they can compete with top talent. Their wins aren't just coming from teams at the bottom of the standings. 

"That gives us a lot of confidence," Embiid said. "Coming into the game, we had a lot of confidence. Winning against the second-best team in the East is just amazing. We’re going to keep on working."