Strong Draft Will Pay Dividends

The Eagles came away from the 2006 NFL Draft feeling that they had helped themselves. As it turns out, they were right and the draft will go a long way toward bringing success back to Eagles football.

The Eagles are happy with how their young players have come through the pre-season. Even though two of their picks - Chris Gocong and Jeremy Bloom - will miss the season with injuries, they still have players who will contribute. No less than four picks figure to fit in with the Eagles in some sort of substantial role.

Here's a look back at the Eagles' 2006 Draft and how their picks fit in with the team.

Round 1/14th overall pick - DT Brodrick Bunkley, Florida State: May have the best combination of size, strength and speed of any Eagles DT since Jerome Brown. After signing late, he had a solid pre-season and will be a leading part of their four-man tackle rotation. He figures to be a huge part of the improved Eagles defense.

Round 2/39th overall pick - OT Winston Justice, USC: Justice has picked up the offense quickly and had a solid pre-season. He will be the team's outside swingman and would replace LT William Thomas if his back problems resurface. It figures that Justice will see substantial time on the field.

Round 3/71st overall pick - LB Chris Gocong, Cal Poly - A defensive end in college, the Eagles are trying to make him a SLB. They had hoped he'd compete for the starting job, but he suffered a stinger in camp and will instead spend the season on injured reserve. The Birds still expect big things from Gocong down the road, as early as next season.

Round 4/99th overall pick - G Max Jean-Gilles, Georgia: A big masher who will be a backup inside this season. Probably will spend most of the season as a gameday inactive. His potential will come down the road for the Eagles as he gains a little more experience. He showed a strong work ethic and picked up a lot in camp.

Round 4/109th overall pick - WR Jason Avant, Michigan: Avant earned one of the wide receiver spots on the roster, making Jabar Gaffney and Darnerien McCants expendable (both were cut). Not much speed, but smart, tough and has good hands.

He'll earn his keep as a rookie primarily on special teams, and he's not just there to fill a spot. The Eagles expect him to contribute this season.

Round 5/147th overall pick - WR Jeremy Bloom, Colorado: Bloom was placed on injured reserve. Eagles had hoped he might be able to return punts for them, but the hamstring injury he suffered before camp never really healed.

Some people are put off by Bloom's rock-star sort of status and doubt whether he'll ever truly pan out in the NFL. He's going to need some work and the Eagles would have to be patient with him if they're going to have any pay off from selecting him in the fifth round. He could wind up being the disappointment of the draft for the Eagles, but they knew going in that he was a longshot.

Round 5/168th overall pick - LB Omar Gaither, Tennessee: Really impressed the coaches with his play in training camp and the pre-season. They felt comfortable enough with him as the backup to starting MLB Jeremiah Trotter to trade away veteran Mark Simoneau, allowing them to bring Donte Stallworth to town. He's also getting some work on the outside.

Round 6/204th overall pick - DT La Juan Ramsey, USC: Another guy who has had an excellent camp and pre-season. Will likely see some time in the Birds' DT rotation, but will need some time to develop.

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