PHILADELPHIA (AP) -The first pick Andy Reid made for the Philadelphia Eagles was his best. Matching that success hasn't been easy.
Running back Ricky Williams and quarterbacks Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper and Cade McNown were on the board when Reid, in his first season as coach, took Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 overall pick. Cleveland had selected Tim Couch first in the 1999 NFL draft.
Choosing McNabb instead over fan favorite Williams helped Reid turn a losing franchise into a perennial contender. A five-time Pro Bowl selection, McNabb has led the Eagles to five NFC East titles, four conference championship games and one Super Bowl appearance in eight seasons.
After McNabb, the Eagles' draft record has been mixed, particularly in the first round. Wide receiver Freddie Mitchell (No. 25, 2001) was a bust and defensive end Jerome McDougle (No. 15, 2003) might've been an even worse selection, though he still remains on the roster.
Cornerback Lito Sheppard (No. 26, 2002) and guard Shawn Andrews (No. 16, 2004) were excellent choices and defensive tackle Corey Simon (No. 6, 2000) had a productive five-year career in Philadelphia. It's too early to pass judgment on defensive tackles Mike Patterson (No. 31, 2005) and Brodrick Bunkley (No. 14, 2006).
Going into Saturday's draft, the Eagles have the 26th pick in the first round. They're leaning toward a safety, though a cornerback, a defensive end or even a linebacker wouldn't be a surprise.
It's the picks in the following rounds that can determine a team's future, however.
Only McNabb, backup running back Correll Buckhalter and backup quarterback A.J. Feeley remain from Reid's first three drafts. If McDougle gets cut, tight end L.J. Smith will be the only player left from the 2003 draft.
The 2002 draft was among the best in team history. The Eagles took Sheppard, cornerback Sheldon Brown (second round), safety Michael Lewis (second round) and running back Brian Westbrook (third round). Each played a prominent role in helping the Eagles win the NFC championship in 2004.
Sheppard is a two-time Pro Bowl selection, Brown is a solid player, and Westbrook is one of the most versatile and dangerous threats in the league. Lewis was a Pro Bowl player in '04, but lost his starting job last season and signed a free-agent deal with San Francisco in the offseason.
The team's 2005 draft has the potential to equal the '02 group. Patterson, wideout Reggie Brown (second round), strong safety Sean Considine (fourth round) and left guard Todd Herremans (fourth round) are starters. Defensive end Trent Cole (fifth round) led the team with eight sacks last year after replacing the injured Jevon Kearse. Linebacker Matt McCoy (second round) began last season as a starter before he was replaced by rookie Omar Gaither. Running back Ryan Moats (third round) has run well in limited playing time.
The Eagles are hoping for similar success in this year's draft, though it'll take a couple years to see it. Of course, the draftniks will have each pick analyzed and dissected minutes after the players are selected.
Heckert should have more say than usual this weekend. Reid took a five-week leave of absence earlier this year after his sons were embroiled in legal troubles stemming from separate arrests on Jan. 30.
Reid returned to full-time duties on March 23, and he's on the same page with Heckert as the draft approaches.
``If we have two guys who are similar in ability, we would go with a need,'' Heckert said. ``But to say we're going into the draft and we need a defensive lineman or an offensive lineman, just to say that there's a need, I don't think that's the case. I don't think we've done that.''

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