With Donovan McNabb, Eagles' biggest draft gamble paid off

The Eagles selected Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft. AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Breaking down one of the riskiest draft moves by the Philadelphia Eagles over the past 25 years:

Round/overall selection: First round, second overall.

Did the risk pay off? It most certainly did. Andy Reid had just been hired as the Eagles' head coach and he was determined to find his franchise quarterback in his first draft. Meanwhile, thanks to sports talk radio, there was a very loud clamor for the Eagles to select Heisman-winning Texas running back Ricky Williams. That led to the infamous booing of Donovan McNabb at the 1999 draft. But McNabb took the Eagles to the playoffs in his second season. He took them to five NFC Championship Games in an eight-year span (2001-08), plus one Super Bowl appearance. After 11 seasons, McNabb was traded away, but he remains the franchise's all-time leader in completions, yards, touchdown passes and victories.

Was there a safer move? For all the tempest about Ricky Williams at the time, the running back did not have nearly as good an NFL career that McNabb had. Edgerrin James, who was taken one pick ahead of Williams, had a better overall career. But Reid wanted a quarterback, and there was a glut of them that year. Quarterbacks went with the first three picks. McNabb was the best of those three (Tim Couch and Akili Smith were the others). Minnesota had quick success with Daunte Culpepper, who was selected 11th overall, but McNabb outlasted him. Cade McNown, the fifth QB drafted in that first round, did not have a great NFL career. One mystery: Was McNabb the best of the bunch because he landed in a stable environment created by Reid in Philadelphia? Or did McNabb's being the best of the draft class allow Reid to create that stable environment? Either way, the team of Reid and McNabb gave the Eagles their most sustained run of success ever.