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April 09, 2022

Mailbag: Assembling a starting lineup from the Eagles' 2017 and 2022 rosters

Eagles NFL
021121JasonPetersJordanMailata Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Jason Peters and Jordan Mailata

In our Eagles chat on Thursday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow, as well as some commonly asked questions on Twitter and via email.

Question from Sam Becker: Your critique of the roster has been rolling around in the back of my head. This morning it occurred to me that I should compare the roster to the Super Bowl team and think about how many guys on the 2022 team would start over the guys on the Super Bowl team. I was surprised at how few positions I thought were better today, making your point. I would still like your take. I put the over-under at 5.

Let's put together a starting lineup picking from the 2017 team (what they were as players then), and the current roster:

QB: Carson Wentz (2017)

RB: Miles Sanders (2022)

WR: DeVonta Smith (2022), Alshon Jeffery (2017), Nelson Agholor (2017)

TE: Zach Ertz (2017), Dallas Goedert (2022)

LT: Jordan Mailata (2022)

LG: Landon Dickerson (2022)

C: Jason Kelce (2017 version)

RG: Brandon Brooks (2017)

RT: Lane Johnson (2017 version)

DE: Brandon Graham (2017 version)

DT: Fletcher Cox (2017 version)

DT: Javon Hargrave (2022)

DE: Josh Sweat (2022)

LB (off-ball): Nigel Bradham (2017), Jordan Hicks (2017)

CB: Darius Slay (2022), Jalen Mills (2017), Patrick Robinson (2017)

S: Malcolm Jenkins (2017), Rodney McLeod (2017)

So that's 15 players from 2017, 8 from 2022. We have 12 guys on offense, but if you want to be a stickler, I'll keep Goedert and drop Agholor. If the Eagles draft a wide receiver or a cornerback in the first round, those guys would have a pretty good chance of displacing Agholor and Mills, respectively.

Overall, that was a pretty easy exercise, in my opinion, with only three difficult decisions: 

  1. The 2017 running back committee is better than the current committee, but I kinda feel like Sanders is still the best of any of the backs.
  2. Jason Peters circa 2017 vs. Mailata was close. JP was still really good heading into that season. I gave Mailata the edge on the premise that I believe that he was great in 2021 and will only continue to get better.
  3. The 2022 defensive has a SAM linebacker spot that will be unique to Haason Reddick's talents, so it was hard to include him. Basically, I figured I had to choose between him and Sweat, and I chose Sweat.

Unsurprisingly, 2017 players significantly outnumber 2022 players, though it wasn't as lopsided as I thought it would be. The big difference is that the 2017 quarterback was the likely league MVP until his injury, while the team has tried to upgrade on Jalen Hurts already this offseason. Also also, I would give the 2017 roster the edge on depth.

The current Eagles roster is heading in the right direction, but they're still not really close to Super Bowl contention, barring an extreme step forward by Hurts.

Question from Nick Foles: Jimmy, how bad does the Saints draft position have to be next year to make this trade bad for the Eagles?

If the Saints win the Super Bowl, it's not as great a trade as it seems right now (duh), but I actually still think that even in the worst-case scenario it'd be fine.

Question from jy: If you had to guess today, where would you peg that Saints pick next year? Top 10? Top five?!

The Saints missed the playoffs last season after finishing with a 9-8 record. During the offseason, they lost head coach Sean Payton and star LT Terron Armstead. Their starting quarterback is presently Jameis Winston. Expect their offense to suffer.

But also, with Dennis Allen being promoted to head coach from defensive coordinator, he can no longer solely focus on the defense, so it'll be interesting to see if that unit falters as well. It's probably also worth noting that they lost both of their 2021 starting safeties in Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins.

Looking at their schedule, the Saints play in a division with a Super Bowl contender in the Buccaneers, and two teams with truly awful rosters in the Panthers and Falcons. Let's give them a 3-1 record overall against the Panthers and Falcons, and we'll be generous giving them a split with the Bucs. So that's 4-2 within the NFC South.

And then their non-divisional games get really tough: 

Home Away 
Rams Cardinals 
Seahawks 49ers 
Ravens Browns 
Bengals Steelers 
Raiders Eagles 

On the home games, the Rams, Ravens, Bengals, Raiders are all clearly better teams than the Saints as of right now, at least on paper. The Saints are better than the Seahawks, and they're about on the same level as the Vikings. Let's give them two wins, so 2-4.

On the road games, there isn't a great argument that the Saints are better than any of those five teams. They all made the playoffs in 2021, except the Browns, who added Deshaun Watson this offseason. To be determined if he'll be available to play against the Saints. Let's give them one win from this group of games. So 1-4.

Add it all up, and I got 7-10. The Saints' current over-under on win total is 7.5. Four teams finished at 7-10 last season. Their draft slots this year are from picks 8 to 11. So yes, I do think a top 10 pick is quite possible. I do not think they'll be bad enough to finish with a top five pick, though.

Question from Ross: Does Quez Watkins being a former sixth-round draft pick affect how people see his potential? If he had been a 3rd or a 4th rounder, would he be viewed differently as the No. 2? I remember after that draft you had said it was such a loaded WR draft that he dropped, but in normal years he would've gone sooner.

Yeah, I think that's probably fair, and I agree that the team seems to be more enthusiastic about Watkins than the fans and media. He had 43 catches on 62 targets for 647 yards and a TD. 10.4 yards per target is excellent.

Watkins' numbers were unquestionably hurt by the Eagles running the most run-heavy offense in the NFL in 2021, but beyond that, there's a good argument to be made that his ability to get open down the field would have been rewarded by a better passing quarterback. For example:

Watkins still has plenty to prove. He had an outstanding training camp, eventually earned a starting job, and he has to carry that momentum over into 2022.

Question from David: Matt Corral has been ranked as the No. 1 QB according by Chris Simms. Do you think that the Eagles hosting Corral for a top 30 pre-draft visit would make him a target in the first round? Corral was the best player on the field by far when he played against Malik Willis.

I do think that if the Eagles hosted him for a visit, there is legitimate interest. I don't have any information on how much they like him. He's my No. 2 quarterback behind Willis. I like Corral more than Pickett. His arm is simply better, in my opinion, and he possesses similar leadership and mobility traits as Pickett.

I also agree with you that Corral was better than Willis during the 2021 season, However, I have Willis higher because I think he has significantly higher upside.

Question from Cutter: The current DE depth chart seems to go three deep (Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett). Even with the expectation they draft a guy, any chance Milton Williams gets some snaps there?

That's a good thought, especially considering that Williams was playing quite a bit in the Graham role in the defense throughout training camp. But no, I think Williams is pretty much locked in at DT, and they're going to focus on developing him there.

Question from DB: Who wins a race in their prime, DJax or Tyreek?

Tyreek. DJax had elite speed, obviously, and he is one of the best deep ball trackers in the history of the league. But Tyreek's speed is incomparable, in my opinion. It's too bad the NFL doesn't still do this fastest man competition, at least in a similar format like the one from 1988 below:

I would watch the hell out of that.

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