Brandon Graham

Breaking down where Eagles ranked on Pro Football Focus' top 101 list

USA Today Images

Breaking down where Eagles ranked on Pro Football Focus' top 101 list

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.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on you device.

More on the Eagles

Eagles Mailbag: Top needs, Golden Tate, missing Super Bowl team

Eagles Mailbag: Top needs, Golden Tate, missing Super Bowl team

We’ve made it to the end of the week and the bottom of the mailbag barrel. 

On Wednesday, we answered your questions about Carson Wentz/Nick Foles, Sidney Jones and the defensive line (see story)

On Thursday, we answered your questions about Jordan Mailata, Brandon Graham and running backs (see story)

And today, we’ll finish out the mailbags. Thanks for all your great questions. If I didn’t get to yours, we’ll do more mailbags throughout the offseason. 

Earlier this offseason, I listed my top five Eagles needs for this offseason and didn’t even list cornerback. Here they are:

DE: If Brandon Graham is gone, the Eagles need to replace him. But even if he’s back, the Eagles need to get younger at that spot. This is a draft full of defensive line talent. 

OT: Even if Jason Peters is back, he’s 37 and the Eagles need to find his replacement. Maybe it’s Jordan Mailata, but it’s too early to know that for sure. 

DT: The spot next to Fletcher Cox in 2018 was a mess. Tim Jernigan won’t be back without a restructure, so maybe they simply draft someone to line up next to Cox. 

RB: This position was kind of a mess thanks to injuries in 2018. They need a feature back and bringing back Jay Ajayi isn’t enough for me. 

WR: I’ll admit receiver isn’t high on the list, but they need a field stretcher. That was supposed to be Mike Wallace in 2018. 

It’s not completely impossible, but I don’t think it would be wise for a few reasons. The most obvious one is the Eagles never truly realized how to utilize Tate this past season because he and Agholor play the same position. If they had figured out how to make it work, maybe. But the other part of this is financial. Alshon Jeffery’s cap hit for 2019 is over $14 million. If Agholor plays this upcoming season on his fifth-year option, he’s another $9-plus million. Can the Eagles really justify paying Tate what it would take to keep him and paying between $27-30 million for three players at one position? I don’t see it. 

I agree with you that McLeod’s cap hit is too high for this upcoming season, especially as he comes off an ACL tear. His hit is over $9.3 million and the Eagles could save over $5 million cap space by cutting him. I think it would be beneficial for both sides to find some common ground and work on a cheaper deal. It would keep McLeod on a team to prove he’s truly healthy and it would help the Eagles out from a cap standpoint. 

The Birds missed him on the field in 2018, but the emergence of Avonte Maddox as a possible replacement might make him more expendable. Although, I think the Eagles ought to try to keep McLeod first. 

I like this question; good job. I’ll go with Beau Allen and Patrick Robinson and that’s not to say I fault the Eagles for letting either of them go. 

But the DT spot next to Fletcher Cox gave the Eagles nothing for most of the year and they really could have used Allen. Destiny Vaeao began the season as the starter and he’s gone. Haloti Ngata came on late, but was injured throughout the year and wasn’t great. Treyvon Hester is a playoff special teams hero but didn’t do much defensively. If the Eagles had Allen, they would have just plugged him into that DT spot and they wouldn’t have missed Tim Jernigan nearly as much. 

The other one I’ll name is Patrick Robinson. I know P-Rob got hurt in New Orleans, but we don’t know if that would’ve happened here. What we do know was that until the Eagles got Cre’Von LeBlanc in there, that nickel corner spot was a mess. Remember Dexter McDougle? Yeah, that really happened this year.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Eagles Mailbag: Jordan Mailata’s future, drafting a RB, bringing back Brandon Graham

AP Images

Eagles Mailbag: Jordan Mailata’s future, drafting a RB, bringing back Brandon Graham

We got so many questions in this call for mailbags, that I actually split it into three parts. Thanks to everyone who submitted. 

Yesterday, we talked about what Carson Wentz can learn from Nick Foles, what the secondary might look like next season and the importance of getting younger on the defensive line (see story)

Plenty more questions to get to today:

You’re right. I was so impressed with how far he came in such a short time last offseason. But the only way we’ll see him more next year is if he’s a starter or someone gets hurt and he’s the next backup. I don’t think he’ll be ready to be a starter at the beginning of the season. I know it’s tough to see how far he came last year and not see him play in the regular season, because he certainly seems to have a bright future. But I think it’s just too early. He’s still learning how to play this game and is still a longer-term project. 

But we’ll see how he looks in the spring and in training camp. Remember, we haven’t really seen him since his first training camp because most of the regular season practices are closed. And he hurt his back late in the season. But I guess there’s a possibility he’s just continued to improve a ton. As a rookie, he was active for just a handful of games and didn’t play. I think he’ll be higher on the depth chart in 2019, but I can’t see him playing a ton.

They need to get a running back and with this organization’s hesitance to pay a lot for the position, yeah, they probably need to draft one. The last time the Eagles drafted a running back, they took Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round. He has yet to play an NFL snap. But the Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first two rounds since they took LeSean McCoy in the second round back in 2009. In the years since Shady was traded, the Eagles have had four different leading rushers: DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount and Josh Adams. They definitely need some stability. 

Since Shady was traded, the Eagles have drafted just two running backs in six draft classes. The Eagles have drafted 42 players in the last six classes and two of them have been running backs. It’s also important to note the Eagles got Corey Clement and Josh Adams after the draft was over. 

But Pump and Wendell Smallwood were fourth and fifth-round round picks. I still don’t think they’ll take one in the first round, but with two second-rounders, maybe this is the year they prioritize taking one higher. 

I love that people feel like this. Because Brandon Graham should mean a lot to this fanbase. He’s the former first-round pick who was labeled a bust, remained the most positive human ever throughout the whole thing and eventually became a Super Bowl hero. It’s really an incredible story. But I’m not sure about this. I think there’s a chance the Eagles get a defensive end high in the draft and they bring back Michael Bennett, which makes it tough to re-sign Graham. 

Now, if a market doesn’t really materialize for Graham and the Eagles don’t lowball him, I think there’s a chance he’d take a small hometown discount to return. I agree that it would be a big loss if he’s gone, but I have a feeling another team is going to offer him a contract that will be too much for the Eagles to match.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles