The weekend is upon us and as the Sun shines down on the City of Brotherly Love following an impressive Sixers win over the Hawks, it’s only fitting we keep the optimism rolling. The Eagles have a very young roster, but who are the brightest talents to keep an eye on this year? This is the second article in a series designed to rank the team’s top 25 players aged 25 or younger.
The Eagles top 25 under 25 so far:
#20 LB Davion Taylor
A third round pick in last year’s NFL Draft, Taylor was always going to be a name to watch over the long-term. In high school, religious practices kept him off the field for Friday and Saturday games. It wasn’t until he walked on at junior college that Taylor began playing regularly, meaning that his level of play is understandably somewhat lower than most.
However, the Colorado product is a freak athlete in every sense of the word. He ran a 4.49 at the NFL Combine, which was among the top players at his position. He’s bigger than a safety at 226 lbs, but moves like one. The Eagles may have a fairly solid picture at linebacker for the time being, but it will be interesting to see how Taylor fares in a new-look defense that could afford him some opportunities to showcase that ridiculous sideline-to-sideline range.
#19 WR Quez Watkins
The second-year wideout has a long way to securing a roster spot with such a stacked WR room and finding a long-term home won’t be easy barring a move inside. With that said, we did catch some glimpses of what Watkins is capable of last year and while he may not be the smoothest route-runner in the world, he’s clearly lethal with the ball between his fingertips.
Even if he’s used in a gadget role providing he makes the roster, I think we’ll continue to see improvement under WR Coach Aaron Moorehead and there’s enough zoom to his game to make him worth keeping an eye on.
#18 G Nate Herbig
The Eagles do have an affinity for undrafted free agents, but Jeff Stoutland has shown an unparalleled ability to develop offensive line talent, meaning the chances of going undrafted, landing with the Eagles, and sticking on to a very deep roster is always going to be a huge uphill battle. That’s what gives Herbig a place on this list.
There was a weird injury situation with the guard last year, but through the opening eight games of the season, he was one of only four Eagles to play in every single snap. The Stanford product garnered a PFF grade of 71.2 last year in 894 snaps, giving up only two sacks in that time.
He obviously won’t be beating out Brandon Brooks anytime soon, but Herbig has clearly proven he can be a serviceable backup at an early point in his career. He’s still only 22-years-old, meaning there’s plenty of room left to run and he’s bound to be a part of Sirianni’s long-term plans if he can pick up where left off.
#17 RB Kenny Gainwell
The Eagles finally prioritizing a rushing attack? Someone actually pinch me.
The drafting of Kenneth Gainwell was a big one for Philadelphia purely because of how disappointing Miles Sanders was in terms of a receiving back last year. For a few reasons (torrid QB play being one), he struggled mightily when it came to being the same dual-threat back that made him a late Offensive Rookie Of The Year candidate.
Gainwell picked up 610 yards through the air in 2019, over 150 yards more than he tallied on the ground. He led the ACC in scrimmage yards in 2019 and ranked fourth in the nation in that metric.
The Memphis product is able to burst through the hole with real power and thrives when he’s able to bounce runs outside. The Eagles have clearly drafted him to take some of the strain off the shoulders of Miles Sanders which means he’ll have a fairly substantial role as a potential RB2. There’s a lot to like here and he’ll undoubtedly be a fun player to watch.
#16 DT Milton Williams
Milton Williams is another athletic monster but is built like a defensive end. While many see this as a weakness, it may work to his advantage in a scheme that thrives on moving pieces around and creating mismatches and hesitation when it comes to opposing blocking assignments.
According to PFF, he had 30 QB pressures through 10 games in 2020. This partners well with his 10 TFL and 4.5 sacks. In 2019, he had 5.5 sacks and 9 TFL. Production isn’t something that’s evaded him and the Eagles have an explosively lean pass-rushing missle at their disposal.
Whether it’s lining up on the edge or inside, Williams is going to be a problem and a fairly light depth chart on the interior should present him with plenty of opportunities to demonstrate his abilities as a rookie.
Photo by John Bunch/Icon Sportswire