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

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

BOX SCORE

Brett Brown was ready to do it Wednesday night. The matchup against the Kings presented an opportunity to experiment with playing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together. That pairing had to wait two days, though, after the Kings game was postponed

On Friday, Embiid and Okafor shared the court for just under 13 minutes in the Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic (see Instant Replay), who also rolled out a duo of bigs in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 

“I thought we had our moments,” Embiid said. “We shared the ball, we made shots. Obviously we need to play more together and learn how to play with each other.”

Embiid and Okafor first played together for 5:29 in the second quarter. They scored all of the Sixers' 12 points during that time, including a pair of threes by Embiid. They also combined for five boards. The Sixers outscored the Magic, 12-9, with the bigs in together.

The benefits of the floor spacing was apparent. Oftentimes in the game, Okafor could be seen open at the basket with a hand up for the ball while Embiid was also getting looks from long range. 

“I liked our spacing, I liked the high-low stuff we were doing,” Brown said. “I think when you post Joel, that Jahlil is going to play sort of hide-and-seek on the other side of the floor, and work that low zone, and become — I hope — a potent offensive rebounder. When you post Jahlil, Joel has the ability to space to three.”

Brown turned to Embiid and Okafor again in the fourth. At that point, the Magic had a 23-point lead. Their next 7:25 together was a chance to give them a long run in live game action. They combined for another 12 points and four rebounds. All of their buckets were layups, dunks or free throws. Both teams scored 19 points with Embiid and Okafor in that segment.

Both Embiid and Okafor finished the game with double-doubles: 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Embiid; 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for Okafor. 

“I thought they played well together,” Vucevic said. “I thought it was tough to guard them because they’re both really good offensively.”

Okafor credited his friendship with Embiid, which dates back to high school, as a key to coexisting well on the court. Both emphasized their off-the-court relationship would help them in a game situation. 

“I think the communication piece went really well,” Okafor said. “He was talking to me, I was talking to him.”

Scoring and communication always seemed to be the easier parts of the pairing to tackle. Defense, though, was the challenge given that one of the centers would have to guard the four spot. Okafor noted their transition D as an area that needs improvement.

“We’re both used to going right to the rim,” Okafor said. “I think I had a couple easy buckets. That’s something we’ll be able to fix.” 

Brown had based his decision of when to play Embiid and Okafor together on the matchups. While the two could boast their own edge on the offensive end, Brown didn’t want to play them in a scenario in which they’d be at a huge defensive disadvantage. 

“It’s not offense to me, it’s defense. That’s the thing that is most challenging,” Brown said. “We want to play fast. We want to put points on the board. You don’t want to play in the 80s. You don’t want to do that, that’s not our sport anymore. So you want to make sure that you're capable of guarding the opposition.”

Vucevic noticed the challenge from an opposing perspective. He understands the necessary changes since playing alongside Biyombo.  

“It takes time for them to get adjusted, especially for the guy that will be playing the four defensively,” Vucevic said. “They’re not used to that because they always back down to the paint guarding the fives. It’s a different look. They have to work on it, communicate, and I think they’ll be fine.” 

On a night with few highlights in a 17-point blowout loss, Brown was able to take away a positive from this anticipated duo.

"I thought Jahlil and Joel did a really good job," he said. 

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Joel Embiid didn’t see four quarters of basketball from the Sixers in their 105-88 loss to the Magic Friday night (see Instant Replay). Their efforts were inconsistent as they fell flat in long stretches and allowed the Magic to build up double-digit leads as high as 29 points.

The Sixers gave up a 16-0 run in the first and shot just 6 for 26 (23.1 percent) in the quarter. The Magic, who had lost a one-point game to the Grizzlies in Memphis the night before, rallied together to seize this opportunity.

“They just made a lot of shots that we didn’t,” Embiid said. “That’s the game, but we didn’t play hard all 48 minutes and we need to do a better job next time.”

The Sixers didn’t break 30 points until 4:33 to go in the second and attempted just two free throws in the first half. By the end of the third, the Magic had a 21-point lead which they held on to with in ease in the fourth. 

The Magic outshot the Sixers on all areas of the floor: 47.4 percent to 37.9 from the field and 50.0 to 28.1 from three. While the teams had nearly equal percentages from the line, the Magic shot 18 for 26 compared to only 7 for 10 from the Sixers. 

“They missed a lot of shots,” Magic forward Jeff Green said. “We got stops, were aggressive, guys just played hard and created for one another and played as a team.”

Covington injured
The Sixers are waiting to learn more news on the extent of Robert Covington’s injury. In the fourth quarter, Covington exited and did not return after suffering a left knee sprain when he collided with T.J. McConnell chasing a loose ball in front of the Sixers’ bench. If the starting small forward has to miss time, Sixers head coach Brett Brown is thinking ahead to possible lineup changes. 

“We'll try to figure out what his next week represents,” Brown said. “If we aren't with him, maybe there's a chance we can look at Dario [Saric] a little bit at the three.”

Covington is averaging 8.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. Saric has been coming off the bench at power forward behind Ersan Ilyasova. He started 10 games earlier this season at the four spot. 

Embiid honored
The Sixers honored Embiid during a timeout for being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month (October and November). Embiid was appreciative of the award and has his sights set on the bigger picture this season.

“All the hard work I’ve put in, it feels great,” Embiid said earlier in the day at shootaround. “Obviously, maybe the bigger picture is Rookie of the Year, that’s what matters. … I don’t have my mind set on that. But if I can get it, that would be nice.”

Brown sees this recent showing as just a glimpse into what Embiid will be able to do over his career. Embiid leads the Sixers with 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. 

“This in infant stages, early days for him,” Brown said. “His body of work, given his lack of playing basketball, really is jaw-dropping for what I think he can be. To jump in and get rookie of the month I think is a real, sort of, quick snapshot view of him now. I think what he’s going to be is going to be extremely special.”

Embiid also is shooting 51.4 percent from three, including 3 for 5 against the Magic. When asked if he would like to participate in the three-point contest All-Star weekend, he said "it would be nice" and noted he would have to work on the speed of his release.