The annual list of the 101 best NFL players came out in full this week from Pro Football Focus and four Eagles made the cut.
Some people love the evaluation site, some people hate it. But it’s still fun to take a look at how the Eagles ranked on the list.
5. Fletcher Cox
What they said: There’s an argument to be made for Fletcher Cox having the very best, second-best season of all time, and more people would be talking about his 2018 campaign if it weren’t for the sheer domination of Aaron Donald. Cox ended the year ranked second among interior defenders with an overall grade of 92.5, and his 101 quarterback pressures were the most we’ve ever seen from a defensive tackle not named Donald.
My take: It’s nice to finally see Cox get his due. For years, he had been an underappreciated player in the NFL, but now everyone is noticing just how good he really is. The only defensive player ranked higher than him was Aaron Donald, who was again named the Defensive Player of the Year. That was Cox’s goal coming into this season and while he didn’t achieve it, he had a tremendous season, breaking double digits in sacks for the first time while playing with a revolving door of defensive tackles next to him.
50. Brandon Graham
What they said: Brandon Graham had yet another great year as the Eagles’ premier pass-rusher. He earned an overall grade of 88.1 last season, tying for ninth out of 113 edge defenders, while his 70 total pressures (56 hurries, nine hits, five sacks) were the fourth-most for an edge defender in 2018.
My take: I’ll be honest. I thought Graham was really hindered by that ankle injury early in the season. He just didn’t look like the same guy. Later in the year, he started to get the kind of pressure we’re more accustomed to. Still, I think Michael Bennett was, overall, the Eagles’ best defensive end in 2018. That doesn’t take anything away from Graham, who had a big season despite a low sack total of four.
64. Jason Kelce
What they said: Kelce may very well be the best all-around center in the NFL, and his 2018 season further proved that point. The Cincinnati grad turned Philadelphia legend led all centers in run-blocking grade (80.6) while ranking second behind Oakland’s Rodney Hudson in pass-blocking grade (88.0).
My take: Kelce was the seventh offensive lineman on the list, but the first center. Kind of like Graham, I thought Kelce was visibly struggling while dealing with his knee injury early in the year. But once he got healthy, he was back to his normal, dynamic self. I think Kelce is the best center in the league and when he’s full-go the Eagles offense is tremendously better.
91. Zach Ertz
What they said: Ertz finished his record-setting 2018 season with the most ever receptions by a tight end, with 116 on 154 total targets. In his sixth season, he finished as the sixth-highest graded player at the position with an overall grade of 76.0 and a 79.5 receiving grade.
My take: Like in the All-Pro voting, Ertz finished behind George Kittle (13th) and Travis Kelce (23). Kelce was first-team All-Pro and Kittle was second-team. It’s just a shame two other tight ends had great seasons this year because it makes Ertz’s year seem less special; it wasn't. Simply put, Ertz put together one of the greatest seasons ever for a tight end and I’d certainly argue he should be much higher on this list.
The snubs: Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Malcolm Jenkins, Michael Bennett
Everyone can’t make these lists, but these four players would have been deserving of spots too. Johnson is the best right tackle in football. Brooks was the Eagles’ most consistent OL and one of the best guards in the league. Jenkins never gets the respect he deserves as being one of the best and most versatile players in the league. And Bennett got great pressure at end and tackle after a slower-than-usual start.
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