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August 26, 2019

Five Eagles land on ESPN's NFLRank list of Top 100 players

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Carroll - Eagles Stock Carson Wentz Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz could be back on the practice field at the NovaCare Complex in June.

Earlier this summer, the NFL unveiled its list of the top 100 players in the NFL, as voted on by the players. There were four Eagles who made the cut, but none cracked the top 25 and several Eagles players felt as though they were snubbed, including Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson. 

As a reminder, here's a look at the players who made that list:

28. Fletcher Cox
40. Zach Ertz
72. Jason Kelce
96. Carson Wentz

In addition to Johnson, some of the other players getting snubbed included safety Malcolm Jenkins and right guard Brandon Brooks.

On Monday, ESPN dropped a Top 100 list of their own, called NFLRank. And unlike the NFL Network's version, this one was voted on by the media and was based solely on how they're expected to perform in 2019 compared to their peers, not how they performed last season. 

While the Eagles fared better in this list, with five players making the cut and three in the Top 50, there were still some snubs.

Let's take a look at where ESPN ranked the five Birds on the list, and how those rankings compare to some of the other top teams in the NFL, as well as their own divisional rivals.

23. Zach Ertz

TE | Eagles
Age: 28
2018 rank: 79

Carson Wentz targeted Ertz an average of 10 times per game during Ertz's record-setting 2018 season, in which he finished with 1,163 yards and eight touchdowns. Their connection is strong, and Wentz will continue to look Ertz's way quite a bit even with the array of offensive options at his disposal. -- Tim McManus

Signature stat: Ertz's 116 catches last season were the most by a tight end in a single season in NFL history.

2019 projection: 87 catches, 881 yards, 7 TDs  []

Analysis: Ertz was the second-ranked tight end on the list behind Travis Kelce (18th overall), and came in 19 spots ahead of the third-ranked tight end George Kittle (42nd). That's exactly where you would expect to find Ertz on this list, despite him setting the single-season record for receptions by a tight end last year. 

29. Fletcher Cox

DT | Eagles
Age: 28
2018 rank: 29

Cox has been limited this offseason following foot surgery but is on track to play come September. He has averaged eight sacks per season since 2015 and has the chance to reach double-digit sacks for the second straight season with his new partner, Malik Jackson, helping to create chaos in the middle. -- Tim McManus

Signature stat: Cox had 34 quarterback hits last season; Aaron Donald was the only player with more.

2019 projection: 44 tackles, 9.0 sacks  []

Analysis: Cox has been one of the most dominant pass-rushers in the league and an incredibly disruptive force up front for the Eagles defense for several years now. As expected, Cox finished as the second-ranked defensive tackle behind Aaron Donald, who was the No. 1 overall player on the list. The other three defensive linemen ahead of Cox — J.J. Watt (14th), Myles Garrett (21st) and Joey Bosa (25th) — were all defensive ends. Interestingly enough, it's almost exactly where Cox was ranked by his peers earlier this summer. 

31. Carson Wentz

QB | Eagles
Age: 26
2018 rank: 17

Wentz was coming off an ACL injury and played most of the season with an injured back but still put up respectable numbers (69.6 completion percentage, 21 TDs, 7 INT) in 2018. He comes into this season in good health and with a host of playmakers at his side. It wouldn't be a surprise if he returns to the MVP conversation. -- Tim McManus

Signature stat: Wentz has 18 passing TDs and one interception against the blitz in the past two seasons, the best ratio in the NFL.

2019 projection: 4,044 passing yards, 31 TDs, 10 INTs  []

Analysis: After an injury-plagued season, first recovering from the torn ACL and then dealing with a stress fracture in his back, it was only natural for Wentz's stock to take a hit. But this 14-spot fall seems far more appropriated than the 93-spot fall he suffered on the NFL Network's list. That being said, they probably over-valued him following his MVP-caliber 2017 season and then over-reacted to a down year in 2018. 

In terms of where Wentz ranks compared to the other quarterbacks on the list, here's a look at all 13 QBs to crack the Top 100: 

2. Patrick Mahomes
4. Tom Brady
6. Aaron Rodgers
9. Russell Wilson
11. Drew Brees
17. Philip Rivers
31. Carson Wentz
37. Matt Ryan
38. Ben Roethlisberger
45. Baker Mayfield
47. Deshaun Watson
48. Jared Goff
94. Cam Newton

That seems fair, especially since unlike the NFL's list, there's no Kirk Cousins on the list. 

95. Lane Johnson

OT | Eagles
Age: 29
2018 rank: 54

Johnson yielded five sacks last season compared to three the year before, per PFF, as he fought through an MCL sprain and a high ankle sprain. But when healthy, Johnson is arguably the best right tackle in the game. -- Tim McManus

Signature stat: According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Johnson saw his pass block win rate go from 85% in 2017 to 82% in 2018, including playoffs.  []

Analysis: While it was nice to see Johnson land inside the Top 100 after being snubbed by the NFL Network list, it still seems like he's too low, especially when you consider that there were nine offensive linemen, seven of them tackles, ahead of Johnson on this list. 

98. Jason Kelce

C | Eagles
Age: 31
2018 rank: 98

Kelce did not give up a single sack in 2018, according to PFF tracking, further cementing his status as one of the best centers in the game. Fighting through multiple injuries, Kelce contemplated retirement this offseason, but is back serving as Carson Wentz's first line of defense in better health. -- Tim McManus

Signature stat: Kelce saw his pass block win rate go from 73% in 2017 to 81% in 2018. Kelce ranked 16th among 33 centers with 300 blocks last season.  []

Analysis: Like Johnson, I think Kelce could be higher, but there's less of an issue here since Kelce is also the only center to crack the Top 100. 

* * *

So, how do the Eagles' players on this list compare to the other teams around the league? Well, for starters, the Eagles' five players puts them tied with the Rams and Bears for the fifth-most in the league. But it also puts them one behind Dallas for the most in the NFC East.

Here's a look at the teams with the most players ranking in the Top 100:


Beyond that, there were several teams with three or four players, but neither of them play in the NFC East. In fact, the Giants had just one player on the list (Saquon Barkley, 12th) and Washington was one of just two teams without a single player on the list. 

So while you might have some issues with where the Eagles ranked on this list, it could always be worse. 

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