The 2016 Eagles are a team that is trying to both compete for a division title and transition to a core that can eventually compete for a Super Bowl. To do so they’ll need strong contributions from young players, something they didn’t get last year and may not get this year. As a result, in an ESPN/Football Outsiders ranking of teams by their youth, the Eagles don’t come out looking good.
Using a combination of playing time in 2015, post season honors and subjective values, Scott Kacsmar of ESPN and Football Outsiders ranked all 32 teams (In$ider) based on their players under the age of 25. After ranking 14th in 2015, the Eagles rank 30th for 2016.
Some solid draft classes kept the Eagles around 14th the past two years, but Zach Ertz and Fletcher Cox both turned 25 and no longer qualify. Marcus Smith has made little impact with 1.5 sacks in two years, and Nelson Agholor was far from impressive as a rookie (just 23 catches). Jordan Matthews is not well-suited to be a No. 1 wideout; he's more of a slot WR, but he should still lead the team in receiving again this year.
The Eagles actually gain back a Pro Bowler from injury, but it's just kicker Cody Parkey, who had marginal value on kickoffs in 2014. We'd also normally give a boost for drafting a quarterback No. 2 overall, but we downgraded Philadelphia for the decision to redshirt Carson Wentz this year. Even if he were the starter, Wentz raises plenty of red flags given his limited experience in a run-heavy offense against lesser college competition.
Eric Rowe should see more snaps this year, but the U25 defender in Philadelphia to watch is linebacker Jordan Hicks, who outplayed teammate Kiko Alonso. Hicks was leading the team in tackles before tearing his pectoral in Week 9.
As Kacsmar notes, a big reason for the drop in rank is that starters “graduated” out of the formula. Cox, Ertz and Mychal Kendricks turned 25 last year, losing three starters caused a few other teams to drop. Add in a combination of an unproductive 2015 draft class and a 2016 draft class that may not get much playing time, and it’s easy to see why the Eagles rank so low this year. If Wentz sees and Rowe see playing time, Hicks has a healthy and good year and the Eagles get any production from Agholor, they should be in much better shape for 2017.
Ultimately these rankings are just for fun. The Cowboys were the top ranked team last year and the Seahawks the worst, and we all saw how that turned out.