July 21, 2020
There's a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, so trying to predict and forecast things is even more difficult than usual. And that certainly applies to sports as well.
While the NFL prepares to open training camps over the next week, many of the longterm issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic — like smaller payrolls, players opting out and more — loom large, to say nothing of the numerous short-term issues teams will have to contend with, like added safety protocols including social distancing and constant testing. Add to that the growing concern over the possibility of a fall without college football and questions about the quality of draft picks next spring, and you can clearly see how difficult it it is to project team success going forward.
How all of these factors will impact the on-the-field product remains to be seen. And it's hard enough to project in July what things are going to look like in let December, let alone three Decembers from now, but that's just what ESPN did.
Each year, they release their NFL Future Power Rankings, in which they try to project which teams will be the best over the course of the next few years. And the Eagles, for the first time since before they won the Super Bowl, the Eagles found themselves outside the top five.
Here's a look at how they've ranked each of the last five seasons, including this year, since the team drafted Carson Wentz and hired Doug Pederson back in 2016:
Here's a look at the full breakdown of the Birds, according to ESPN's panel of NFL experts:
6. Philadelphia Eagles
Overall score: 82.6
CATEGORY SCORE RANK Overall Roster* 78.0 15 Quarterback 86.0 6 Coaching 89.3 6 Draft 75.5 15 Front Office 85.8 5
Why they're here: The Eagles feature a potential MVP candidate in Carson Wentz, who showed an ability to raise the talent around him 2019. Coach Doug Pederson is resourceful, innovative and confident, while GM/executive VP of football operations Howie Roseman has infused the roster with talent while maintaining his status as a salary cap wizard who can find ways to keep this roster intact going forward. -- Yates
Biggest worry: The Eagles have upgraded the speed and skill level exceptionally well at the wide receiver position as compared to what they finished the season with last year. The question is whether they can now make it all work, on the field, where Wentz is as skilled a thrower as there is in the league. Chemistry is a big part of the game of football. They need to make it happen in Philly. -- Riddick
Looking ahead: Jason Kelce is done after this year, Jason Peters is now a 38-year-old guard and Brandon Brooks is coming off an Achilles tendon tear. The interior offensive line needs reinforcements. And so does the linebacker spot. The Eagles have addressed the front and back ends of the defense, and a high-pedigree sideline-to-sideline player would complete the mission. -- Fowler
Top stat to know: Among QBs currently under 30, Wentz has recorded the third-best QBR season: his 2017, when he posted a 78.5. He has shown the upside, and -- performance wise -- is fairly reliable looking forward. If I had to bet on the current quarterbacks most likely to be above average in five years, Wentz is no lower than sixth (behind Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott). That kind of certainty is worth a lot. -- Walder [espn.com]
Before any analysis, let's just take a second to review something Jeremy Fowler said, in case you missed it: "Jason Kelce is done after this year." That's certainly an eye-opening statement, and something I hadn't seen reported elsewhere. Does he know something we don't? Is he just assuming? Or is he just trying to hammer home the point that there are some cracks beginning to show along the Eagles offensive line?
It's probably either Option 2 or 3, but it's worth monitoring as Kelce has contemplated retirement in the past and it certainly wouldn't be out of the question for him to call it quits after the season. Anyway, back to the rankings...
With the Eagles checking in at sixth, it begs the question of not only who is above them, but where their NFC East rivals rank. And the Dallas Cowboys fit in both those categories.
Dallas came in one spot ahead of the Eagles at fifth, but both those teams were miles ahead of the other two teams in the division, with Washington placing 26th and the Giants at 29th. Needless to say, there's a power imbalance in the NFC East.
When it comes to the Cowboys specifically, they ranked higher than the Eagles in overall roster (7th), quarterback (5th) and draft (1st) but placed significantly behind the Eagles when it came to the team's power structure, finishing 15th in coaching and 13th in front office. Still, the Cowboys were able to edge out the Birds in the overall rankings after finishing 11 spots behind them (14th) in 2019.
As for whether or not ESPN got the individual rankings right for the Eagles, you can bicker a spot or two here or there, but overall, most of these pass the eye test. But we all know how things can be different on paper than they are on the field — just look at last season when ESPN ranked the Eagles as having the No. 1 roster in football. They seem to have adjusted this season, dropping them all the way down to 15th. Similarly, ESPN seems to have corrected their way-too-high rating of the Eagles drafts, dropping them from fourth to 15th. Pederson, Wentz and Roseman (front office) remained about the same, with Wentz and Roseman each dropping just one spot.
Because these are future rankings, though, it's even more difficult to argue with them. It's only in hindsight that we'll really see whether or not these are accurate. However, with training camps opening in the next week or so, we'll start to get our first look at how these teams come together on the field. And we may start to get some answers.
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