Some of you have asked for me to go back to old drafts and talk about who I wanted and what players I liked/didn’t like. I can’t speak with great authority prior to 1996. I was a draftnik then, but didn’t have the time and resources to know players thoroughly.
1996 was Ray Rhodes second year as Eagles head coach. There was some good talent in place, but there were some definite needs. We were desperate for a TE. We needed a SAM LB. We needed a QB to develop. Since they let Greg Jackson leave, there was a hole at FS.
In the 1st round I had 2 players that really interested me. I liked Texas A&M LB Reggie Brown quite a lot. I was also a big fan of TE Jason Dunn.
The Eagles picked…OT Jermane Mayberry.
I wasn’t upset. I’d read plenty about him and was fascinated. I had no Texas A&M Kingsville tape (this was pre-DirecTV) so I had to rely on what I read more than anything. The Eagles hoped Bernard Williams might come back, but there was a clear need for an OT or OG. Mayberry had the build for both. Mayberry got moved around too much by Rhodes and that stunted his development. Andy Reid put him at RG and Jermane became a Pro Bowl blocker. Turned out to be a terrific pick. The most memorable game in 1996 came with Mayberry at OT against Hugh Douglas. Hugh ate him up (3 sacks I believe) and the Eagles struggled with a bad Jets team. Even worse, the cable in my place went out for no reason and I missed part of the game. The horror, the horror.
In the 2nd round of the draft the Eagles had a pair of picks. They took my guy Jason Dunn. They then added Brian Dawkins, a S/CB tweener from Clemson. Dawk had the body and cover skills of a CB, but the hitting style of a S. The plan was for him to sit as a rookie behind Eric Zomalt (that name isn’t made up) and for Dawk to be a key guy on the STs cover units. The Eagles got lit up on STs in 1995 and it cost the team games. Rhodes made STs a priority.
I was excited by Dunn and Dawk. Dunn was huge and athletic. The only reason he lasted to the bottom of the 2nd round was character issues. We later found out he had lots of kids by lots of different ladies, amongst other things. TE had been an issue since Keith Jackson left. There were solid temps (Maurice Johnson, Mark Bavaro, Ed West), but no outright solutions. The Eagles hoped Reggie Johnson could be that guy, but he was just unfulfilled potential. If the Eagles wanted to have Jon Gruden’s WCO thrive, a stud TE was needed.
Dawk was small, but could be a good role player and big time STer. That was fine by me. I didn’t think he’d be the FS because Eric Zomalt was set for that. We’d read about him in Eagles Digest that offseason and were excited to see what he could do.
The 1996 QB class was bad. The Eagles got very lucky to land Bobby Hoying in the 3rd round. How bad was the class? Tony Banks went to STL at pick 42. Hoying was pick 85. Those were the only QBs taken in the first 3 rounds. I was stoked to get Hoying. I knew he had some limitations, but thought he could develop into a starter.
In the 4th round the Eagles got a huge steal, in my mind. They landed Ray Farmer from Duke. He was a S/LB tweener. Rhodes loved him. On draft weekend, Rhodes told SalPal that Farmer was the staring LLB. Farmer was also a phenomenal STs player. He might be the best STer I’ve ever seen in college. His ability to block kicks, make key tackles, and just be in the right spot was uncanny. He blocked an NCAA record 8 PATs (not sure if that’s still a record).
The late rounds were non-descript. 6th round DE Steve White played in the league for several years, mainly as a backup in Tampa.
The 1996 class delivered mixed results.
Mayberry developed into a very good player, but only after Rhodes was fired.
Dunn flashed great talent, but wasn’t meant to be a pass catcher. He later went to KC and became an outstanding blocker for them.
Hoying is the most complicated of them all. He sat in ’96. Bobby got on the field in 1997 and flashed star QB potential. The Ravens sacked him 9 times in a game, but Hoying still went 26-38-276. The next game was vs PIT, another stout defense. Hoying was 15-31-246, with 2 TDs and no INTs. We won that game. The next start was his best ever in the NFL. Hoying led the Eagles to a 44-42 win over Cincy. He was 26-42-313, with 4 TDs and 1 INT.
Hoying struggled the next 2 weeks before having a good game in the season finale. I remember thinking to myself that the season (6-9-1) wasn’t a waste because we had found ourselves a franchise QB. Oops.
Gruden left. Hoying had an appendectomy. Hoying then got married. Something happened in those events that affected him in a permanent way. Hoying only had one good game after that. He lost his mojo (like Trent Edwards) and it never came back. Great pick in 1996. Great promise in 1997. Great misery after that. So weird.
Farmer sat for a couple of games as a rookie before he finally became the LLB. He was a good player. He was the NFC Defensive Player of the Week in December 1996 when he led the Eagles to a 24-0 win over the Giants. Farmer had a sack and INT. He was all over the place. Sadly, that was the peak of his career and our last shutout.
Farmer started 5 games in 1997, but a knee injury quickly ended his career. Should have been a good player for a long time, but injuries are the ultimate x-factor.
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For fun, here is a mock draft I did for 1996:
1 NYJ – WR Keyshawn Johnson
2 JAX – LB Kevin Hardy
3 ARZ – OT Jonathan Ogden
4 BAL – DE Simeon Rice
5 NYG – DT Darryl Gardner
6 STL – RB Lawrence Phillips
7 NE — DE Cedric Jones
8 CAR – RB Tim Biakabutuka
9 HOU – TE Rickey Dudley
10 CIN – OT Willie Anderson
11 NO – DE Tony Brackens
12 TB – DE Regan Upshaw
13 STL – WR Terry Glenn
14 SEA – DE Duane Clemons
15 DEN – CB Alex Molden
16 MIN – DT Marcus Jones
17 OAK – WR Marvin Harrison
18 CHI – CB Walt Harris
19 IND – CB Ray Mickens
20 MIA – LB John Mobley
21 DET – LB Reggie Brown
22 TB – WR Bobby Engram
23 DET – OL Pete Kendall
24 BUF – RB Leeland McElroy
25 PHI – TE Jason Dunn
26 BAL – RB Eddie George
27 GB – LB Ray Lewis
28 KC – TE Johnny McWilliams
29 PIT – RB Jerald Moore
30 DAL – WR Eric Moulds
I think I got 7 picks right. I was way off on Eddie George. I don’t remember if I thought he was overrated or would slide for some odd reason.
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Donovan McNabb made some comments about his future and playing. I had a reader ask me to write about his last couple of years with the Eagles.
I am happy to write about Donovan, but I’d like to know if this is something you want to hear about or is he ancient history and people are tired of him?
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Someone asked about podcasts yesterday. I am talking to Jimmy Bama about doing a podcast. We’re working out the details. It wouldn’t start for 2 or 3 weeks, but it is in the planning stage right now. I’ll keep you updated.