Eagles' draft basket filled with 2 tackles A lineman's man, Reid goes for Bunkley, Justice

Posted: April 30, 2006

The defensive tackle was projected to go in the top 10.

The offensive tackle was projected to go in the first round.

One slipped slightly, the other fell mightily, and the Eagles ended up with two players - Brodrick Bunkley and Winston Justice - they swear they had targeted with the 14th overall pick.

That, in coach Andy Reid's estimation, made for a great first day of the draft.

"To be honest with you ... I thought we might have a shot at Justice, but Bunkley I didn't think would fall," Reid said after the Eagles traded up in the second round and used the 39th overall pick to complete the Bunkley-Justice exacta.

Reid, of course, loves linemen almost as much as he loves the forward pass. The Eagles have spent five of their eight first-round picks under Reid on offensive and defensive linemen. Bunkley was the third defensive tackle they've taken in the first round and the second from Florida State. The other was Corey Simon in 2000.

This was the second straight year that the Eagles used their top pick on a defensive tackle, and they now hope to have a vastly improved pass rush up the middle with Bunkley and last year's first-round selection, Mike Patterson.

Despite slipping down the board a little, Bunkley was more than happy with his landing spot.

"It's a great place, and I'm just ready to go," he said. "I'm really excited right now."

He should be.

A year ago at this time, it appeared as if there wasn't going to be a senior season at Florida State for the 6-foot-3, 307-pound defensive tackle. The school declared him academically ineligible, and he was devastated.

His mother, on the other hand, was furious. Patrice Lewis said her son was too frightened to break the news to her. Odell Haggins, the defensive tackle's position coach, took care of that business.

"I was driving when he called me, and I was so upset I drove over to the side of the road," Lewis said. "I couldn't believe he was telling me that he was kicked out of school. I said, 'Son, people get kicked out of school in their first year, not their last year.' Brodrick just sure keeps me on edge a lot."

Lewis said she didn't care if her son ever played football again, but she wanted to make sure he left Florida State with a diploma.

"A lot of kids go to college and they're so excited about being in a big program and they really put school second," Bunkley said. "That's something I did for a while, but when it was almost taken away from me and I wasn't going to be able to graduate and I wasn't going to be able to play football anymore ... just to hear someone tell you that, it was a horrible feeling. I felt empty.

"I broke down crying. I remember sitting in the car and I broke down in tears. When I talked to my mother, she burst out in tears. Just to hear your mother crying, man, that was one of the worst feelings in the world. I knew I had to turn it around."

Bunkley regained his eligibility by taking correspondence courses over the summer.

"It was a lot of work," he said. "I had to stay on top of it and get good grades. I was in study hall 10 to 13 hours a day. I had to put football aside a little bit."

When Bunkley got back on the football field for his final season, his draft stock soared. He set a school record with 25 tackles for losses and nine sacks.

"He has a chance to be a great player," Haggins said. "He's definitely one of the best I've had at Florida State."

As a freshman, Bunkley stole the video game Grand Theft Auto from a Florida Wal-Mart and put in 16 hours of community service, but he said that was a mistake he regrets and won't ever repeat.

"It was a dumb mistake that I made, but I'm way past it," he said. "I've grown up a lot."

Yes, he has grown. His mother can attest to that, too, despite the trying times.

"I only have one child, but he eats enough for five," Lewis said. "He really is a good kid."

And a strong one. Bunkley bench-pressed 225 pounds 44 times at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. That was one shy of the record.

While Bunkley could live with falling out of the top 10 to the 14th slot in the draft, Justice was disappointed to fall out of the first round entirely. As recently as a few weeks ago, there was speculation that the Eagles would have to trade up in the first round if they wanted the USC offensive tackle.

Then it became apparent that he would at least fall to the Eagles at the 14th pick.

He did, and he kept on falling.

"It was pretty hard," Justice said when asked about watching 38 players drafted ahead of him. "But if I was to choose any team to play for in the NFL, I would pick the Eagles. It's a great situation for me."

Justice was charged with two misdemeanor crimes - solicitation and brandishing a replica firearm - while at USC and had to sit out the 2004 season when the Trojans went unbeaten and won the national title. He didn't think that was the reason for his fall yesterday.

"The teams know what kind of character guy I am," he said. "I don't think it was because of character issues. I think it was the draft."

Eagles general manager Tom Heckert said last week that the Eagles had no problem with Justice's character. When he kept falling in the second round, they decided to move up and get him by trading their own second-round pick (45th overall) and the middle of their three fourth-round picks (116th overall) to the Tennessee Titans. The Titans used the 45th pick to take Justice's teammate, running back LenDale White.

The Eagles, meanwhile, were ecstatic to get what they considered two first-round picks in one day.

"It was pretty weird," Heckert said. "I had never had anything like that happen before in my career. It was good for us."

The Eagles moved up five spots in the third round by making a trade with the New York Jets and selected defensive end Chris Gocong from Division I-AA California State Polytechnic University.

They plan to look at Gocong as a strongside linebacker.

Gocong, 6-2 and 264 pounds, led the nation with 23 1/2 sacks, a single-season record for I-AA. He also won the Buck Buchanan Award given to the best defensive player in I-AA.

"He played in the East-West Shrine game and he dominated in that," Reid said.

Gocong had two tackles for losses and a sack in that game.

"He's going to start off at strong-side linebacker," Reid said. "We know he can play defensive end if that doesn't work out."

Gocong, an engineering major, said he thinks he can make the transition to linebacker.

"The way we ran our defense at Cal Poly, I was not a straight-up defensive end," Gocong said. "I played a lot of stand up and even though I have never pass [covered], I think I am athletic enough to transition into it."

The Eagles gave the Jets their third-round pick (76th overall) and their seventh-round pick (220th) to move up to take Gocong. The Eagles have two fourth-round picks (108th and 127th), two fifth-round picks (147th and 168th), and one sixth-round pick (204th) today.

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

Brodrick Bunkley

Defensive tackle

6-foot-3, 307 pounds

Florida State, 14th overall

Bunkley is disruptive, with an explosive burst. As a senior, he had 66 tackles and nine sacks, and in drawing double-team blocking he freed other pass-rushers to get at opposing quarterbacks. One knock is he doesn't have a lot of finesse moves to penetrate the line. But he'll compete with Darwin Walker and Mike Patterson for a starting job.

Winston Justice

Offensive tackle

6-foot-6, 320 pounds

Southern Cal

39th overall (from Tennessee)

Justice is a good run-blocker, with fast feet and strong hands. Some experts considered him the second-best offensive lineman in the draft, after D'Brickashaw Ferguson. He can thrive on the left or right side. With the unknown status of Tra Thomas' back and the aging of Jon Runyan, the Eagles need to groom a young offensive tackle. Justice didn't play in 2004 due to student-conduct violations.

Chris Gocong

Defensive end

6-foot-2, 264 pounds

Cal Poly

71st overall (from N.Y. Jets)

Scouting reports credit Gocong with "great football IQ," "a great motor" and nice lateral mobility. He led Division I-AA in sacks in 2005, but he's undersized for the NFL, and how well he'll adjust from a small school remains to be seen. He played some inside linebacker and quarterback in high school.

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