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5 Eagles makes ESPN’s Top 100 NFL players for 2019

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Some big changes from last year’s list.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles-Training Camp Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 NFL regular season is just around the corner, which means that ESPN released their projected list of Top 100 players heading into the season. As explained in the article, here’s how the rankings come about:

We asked a panel of more than 40 ESPN NFL experts to rate players based on how good they will be in the 2019 season in comparison to their peers. Emphasis was entirely on predicting potential greatness for the upcoming season, rather than past performance or positional value. From those ratings, we were able to rank the best of the best.

Down from 7 in 2018, there were 5 Eagles named in this year’s projected list of top performers. Let’s take a look at how they rank. (Write-ups courtesy of Tim McManus.)

27 - Zach Ertz

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.

2018 Rank: 79

It’s no surprise that Ertz made the list coming off a record-setting season. He’s still expected to be one of Carson Wentz’s top targets and the Eagles are no stranger to running tight end-friendly schemes. Plus, his wife won her second World Cup Championship this offseason and I wouldn’t put it past them having a bit of competition for bragging rights in their household.

29 - Fletcher Cox

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.

2018 Rank: 29

We may not have seen much of anything from Cox this offseason as he recovered from foot surgery, but there’s not doubt that a veteran like him should pick up right where he left off. He’s also only 29 years old — which blows my mind — and should have plenty of gas left in the tank to continue dominating offenses for the next 16-plus weeks.

31 - Carson Wentz

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.

2018 Rank: 17

This is much higher than the No. 96 Wentz was ranked by his peers in the NFL Network Top 100 for the season, and probably a bit more accurate. Sure, he’s coming off two seasons in a row where he suffered injuries, but he’s had a full offseason healthy and has a pretty good chemistry and connection established with most of his offensive weapons — including the new ones.

95 - Lane Johnson

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.

2018 Rank: 54

The left tackles is really making the most of being undervalued this offseason, and is familiar with using being overlooked as motivation — as he did in his JUCO career and position change in college. He was completely omitted from the NFL Network Top 100 rankings, and continues to be left off lists of the best offensive lineman in the game.

98 - Jason Kelce

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.

2018 Rank: 98

The center stayed near the end of the list for the second year in a row, 26 spots higher than the No. 72 he was voted by his peers. Kelce played through a long list of injuries in 2018 and was still the anchor of the offensive line, and there’s little doubt he’ll continue to fill that role for the Eagles’ offense this upcoming season — but, hopefully he won’t have to play through quite as many injuries.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

  • The Eagles had the second-most representation from the NFC East. The Cowboys had 6 players named, the Giants had just one — Saquon Barkley — and literally no one was named from Washington.
  • The Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints top the entire league with 7 players ranked each.
  • Malcolm Jenkins and Brandon Graham were ranked last season but surprisingly didn’t make the cut for 2019. Jenkins is proving his value as he looks for a bigger contract, and Graham is finally fully healthy, so I would expect big years from both players rather than a drop off — but, I wasn’t polled.