In this look back at Eagles drafts in the past 20 season we’ll take a further look into the 1998 draft class. While the season turned out to be a miserable one and subsequently the last for head coach Ray Rhodes, several of the draft picks turned out to be fine players for the franchise. The first round in the ’98 draft boast high profile names such as Peyton Manning who went number 1 overall to the Colts in addition to Charles Woodson, Randy Moss and Alan Faneca all potential Hall of Famers. With the 11th pick in the 1998 draft the Philadelphia Eagles selected…
- Tra Thomas- Offensive Tackle (Florida State)
The left tackle for ten years Thomas was a terrific final first round pick for the Ray Rhodes era. Especially considering the following year Andy Reid would draft his franchise quarterback in Donovan McNabb who Big Tra would protect for the majority of his NFL career. The monstrous left tackle came into his rookie campaign and formed a nice left side of the line with 1996 first round pick left guard Jermaine Mayberry. Unfortunately the rest of the line wasn’t up to those standards. Thomas would go on to form probably the best right and left tackle pairing in franchise history with free agent signing Jon Runyan. Those two both played in five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl. Thomas went on to play one frustrating season with Jacksonville and then released by the team. The two picks after Thomas were Keith Brooking to Atlanta and Takeo Spikes to the Bengals.
- Jeremiah Trotter- Linebacker (Stephen F. Austin)
The Axe Man as he became known around these parts was the 72nd pick in the 3rd round. This was an incredible value pick by the Eagles brass. Once Andy Reid became head coach in 1999 Trotter was the starting middle linebacker and led the defense the next three seasons in tackles. Following the 2001 season and loss in the NFC title game to the Rams Trotter left as a free agent to the division rival Redskins after a disagreement with the front office. Trot only managed two seasons in DC and was brought back to Philly prior to the 2004 Super Bowl season. He made the Pro Bowl the next three seasons. The team surprisingly let him go once again prior to the 2007 season and replaced him with Omar Gaither. Trotter went to play for Tampa and only lasted 3 games. He returned to the Eagles for this third stint in 2009 and retired after that season. He is considered one of the best linebackers in Eagles history which is pretty good for a third round draft pick out of a small school in Texas. Earlier in the 3rd round the Bears selected center Olin Kreutz who made six Pro Bowls during his twelve year career.
- Allen Rossum- Cornerback (Notre Dame)
Rossum is best known for his track like speed and being a return specialist in the NFL for years. He was undersized as a cornerback, but managed to hang around. He set an NCAA record while at South Bend with nine return touchdowns during his career. He only lasted two seasons with the Eagles before he was traded to the Packers in 2000 for an undisclosed draft pick. Rossum played eleven seasons in the NFL with Eagles, Packers, Falcons, Steelers, 49ers and Cowboys. He made one Pro Bowl in 2005 as a returner. Seven picks later to close out the 3rd round the Steelers took borderline Hall of Fame wide receiver Hines Ward
- Brandon Whiting- Defensive Tackle (California)
Whiting was selected out of Cal in the 4th round by the Eagles with the 112th pick. He played with the team through the 2003 season. The Cal defensive tackle played in 88 games and started 59 of those games while an Eagle. He finished with 16.5 sacks during his time here. Whiting was a serviceable rotation tackle up front and solid value in round 4 of the 1998 draft. However, he is probably best known for being apart of the trade that brought Terrell Owens to Philly from the 49ers. Other notable 4th round selections include future Eagles linebacker Shawn Barber and speedy Tim Dwight who was selected by Atlanta.
- Ike Reese- Linebacker (Michigan State)
Reese was selected in the 5th round with the 142nd pick. This is another fantastic pick that is often difficult to find in this part of the draft. Reese played from 98-04 for the Eagles and was apart of the NFC Championship team of 2004. That season he also was named All-Pro for his special teams work and also made the Pro Bowl as the NFC representative. During his timer here Ike was a great special teams captain to go along with locker room leader. He also came in occasionally during nickel downs and more than held his own. He 6.5 sacks and 2 interceptions as a member of the Eagles. He signed with the Falcons in 2005 and was eventually released by the team in March of 2007. Reese was far and away the best player selected in the 5th round that year.
- Melvin Thomas- Guard (Colorado)
Thomas was the 2nd to last pick in the 1998 NFL draft making him oh so close to being dubbed as Mr. Irrelevant. He never had any career with the Eagles and these late round picks are often crapshoots at best. Earlier in round 6 Matt Birk was selected by the Vikings and went on to make six Pro Bowls in his career. Also, selected by the Packers was quarterback Matt Hasselbeck who eventually went on to lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl later in his career. Finally, with pick number 226 in the 7th round Arizona selected the late Pat Tillman who tragically died years later due to friendly fire serving our country in Afghanistan.
Overall Grade: B+
The first two selections of Tra Thomas and Jeremiah Trotter for this ’98 class was a huge boost going forward for the franchise. Thomas stabilized the left side of the line for a decade and Trotter did the same in the middle of the defense during his several stints with the team. Allen Rossum turned out to be a wasted pick of sorts since they traded him after two seasons. It would’ve been nice to have Hines Ward in midnight green for sure. Brandon Whiting was a solid pick for the 4th round and like I mentioned earlier he helped us get TO for a season so he paid off in that respect. The 5th round selection of Ike Reese was another great find in the later rounds by the front office. Ike was a fan favorite and became one of the best special teamers in the league. Overall, this draft set the stage going forward into the Andy Reid era and building those winning teams for years to come.
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