Finding a diamond in the rough is the key to building championship-winning teams, and the Eagles have had quite a few of those instances in their long history.
Like, players who greatly outperform expectations have also been a staple throughout the franchise’s life. But which surprise players and steals are the greatest?
10. Donavon McNabb
The Eagles selecting Donavon McNabb with the second overall pick in the 1999 draft came as a surprise to some. Many fans had been pounding the table for electrifying Texas running back Ricky Williams, and their disappointment was made known- McNabb’s career began with fans booing the pick.
Those boos would turn into cheers in the next decade, as McNabb led Philadelphia to five division titles and an NFC championship victory. Additionally, McNabb appeared in six Pro-Bowls and finished as the Eagles’ all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns.
9. David Akers
It’s always a pleasant surprise when a kicker you sign turns into the real deal. After bouncing around the league a few years, coupled with a brief stint in Europe, Akers won the Eagles’ kicking job in 1999 and didn’t give it up for 10 years.
When it was all said and done, Akers finished on top of the Eagles standings for field goals attempted (357), field goals made (294), and extra points made (441). He also attended five Pro-Bowls while donning midnight green.
8. Trent Cole
A fifth-round pick out of Cincinnati in the 2005 draft, Cole developed into a killer defensive end and linebacker for the Eagles. Cole appeared at two Pro-Bowls during his time in Philadelphia and had two 12.5 sack seasons to boot.
At the end of his career, Cole accumulated 85.5 sacks for the Eagles, which is the second-most in the team’s history (right behind Reggie White). It’s safe to say the Eagles got quite a bit of value from that mid-round selection.
7. Mike Vick
When Mike Vick was convicted of engaging in dogfighting, many thought his NFL days were over. However, the Eagles decided to take a chance on Vick in 2009, signing him to a backup role with no guarantees.
Vick wouldn’t get his chance to shine until the 2010 season when he took over for starting QB Kevin Kolb. Vick went on to have the best season of his career, throwing for 21 touchdowns and 3018 yards while rushing for 676 yards and nine touchdowns. For his efforts, Vick was named to his fourth Pro-Bowl.
While Vick would never reach that level of play again during his time in Philadelphia, it was still a nice reward for a team that gave him one more shot.
6. Doug Pederson
Following the Chip Kelly tenure, the Eagles needed a changeup. That resulted in the hiring of Doug Pederson as HC, which wasn’t exactly the most inspiring move at the time. Many fans wanted candidates such as Adam Gase or Hue Jackson.
Those doubters were proved wrong. In the course of his four years as the Eagles’ head coach, Pederson went 42-37-1. Certainly not the most inspiring career numbers, but that record leaves out one crucial detail: Pederson is responsible for the only Super Bowl victory in the franchise’s history. And in the end, that’s the only stat that matters.
5. Clyde Simmons
Another late-round defensive pick, another star. Simmons was drafted by the Birds in the ninth round of the 1986 draft, and he blossomed into a stellar DE. A two-time Pro-Bowler and All-Pro, Simmons racked up 76.0 sacks for Philadelphia from 1986 t0 1993 (he would eventually finish his career with 121.5). At his peak, Simmons had a league-leading 19 sack season in ’92.
4. Pete Pihos
Pete Pihos was drafted in the fifth round of the 1945 NFL draft, and went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career for Philly. In nine seasons (all played for the Eagles), Pihos totaled 5,619 receiving yards and led the league in that category twice.
Pihos also registered 61 total touchdowns and led the league in TDs with 10 in 1953. Phios, a six-time Pro-Bowler, was named an All-Pro five times and won two NFL championships.
3. Jason Kelce
Jason Kelce was drafted by the Eagles in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, and what a pick it was. Kelce’s accolades include four Pro-Bowl visits and three All-Pro honors. Kelce also ranks ninth all-time in approximate value (92) for the Eagles.
In addition to his amazing stretch of production, Kelce’s fierce passion has turned him into an incredible leader and fan-favorite. Having that type of presence in the locker room has been a huge advantage for Philadelphia.
If nothing else, this pick eventually resulted in giving fans this incredible moment.
2. Harold Carmichael
The best receiver in Eagles history wasn’t drafted until the seventh round in the 1971 draft. While Carmichael had little impact his first two years, his third year was a doozy- he put up a career-best (and league-leading) 1116 receiving yards, to go along with nine touchdowns.
Carmichael, a four-time Pro Bowler, would end up spending 13 years in Philadelphia, accumulating 8,987 receiving yards and 79 touchdowns (both the most all-time for an Eagle).
Carmichael was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020, a fitting end to a terrific career.
1. Nick Foles
Let’s be honest. When Nick Foles was selected in the third round of the 2012 draft, no one expected the insane performances he put on during his Eagles tenure. In his second year, Foles put the league on notice with his seven touchdown game and his 27-2 TD/INT line.
After bouncing around the league, Foles returned to the Eagles in 2017. When Carson Wentz went down that season, Foles took over and led the team to wins in the Divisional and Championship rounds.
In Super Bowl LII, Foles went up against Tom Brady and put on the show of a lifetime. The QB put up 373 passing yards, three touchdowns, and one receiving touchdown in a play that would go down in Eagles (and Super Bowl) history.
There are very few unanimously loved players in Eagles history, and Foles earned his way into that group with his gutsy play in clutch time.