The third instalment in our series ranking the top 25 young Eagles players sees us edge towards the top 10. There haven’t been too many in the way of big surprises so far, but as we get closer to finding the most valuable prospects to keep an eye on, there are bound to be a few.
Eagles top-25 under 25 so far
#25: CB Craig James
#24 WR Trevon Grimes (Now back on IR after being waived with an injury settlement)
#23 S Marcus Epps
#22 DE Tarron Jackson
#21 CB Michael Jacquet
#20 LB Davion Taylor
#19 WR Quez Watkins
#18 G Nate Herbig
#17 RB Kenny Gainwell
#16 DT Milton Williams
#15 WR John Hightower
Hightower’s rookie year wasn’t spectacular by any means, but the upside remains so. The Boise State product dropped 3 passes in 2021 and while that number doesn’t sound like a lot, the drops themselves were damaging. However, he ended 2020 with 167 yards on 10 receptions and actually led the NFL in ‘Average depth of target’ (22 yards), showing that the Eagles clearly view him as a burner.
There was some alleged friction between Hightower and the former coaching staff when it came to snaps and playing time and perhaps a new team of coaches will be able to get the most out of one of the finer route-runners on the team, who should at the very least be able to produce more reliably if he sees a similar snap count in 2021.
#14 CB Avonte Maddox
It’s a boom or bust season for Avonte Maddox, but it’s a frustrating situation for fans who remember his rookie year. The Pitt product once excelled at Safety and in the nickel, but injuries and a bizarre desire to push his shorter frame outside has only stagnated his growth.
With that said, if he’s able to move back inside, Maddox will have a great shot of locking down a starting role and shining as brightly as he once did before. If he can, this should at least lead him to an NFL future as a starting nickel, be it in Philadelphia or elsewhere.
#13 S K’Von Wallace
Wallace only played in 18% of snaps as a rookie behind Jalen Mills, but the hard-hitter may well be given the starting reins since Anthony Harris will probably have the role of FS locked down and Rodney McLeod will be battling an ACL recovery. With a full year of development under his belt and an offseason of competition, he could come out swinging.
His Clemson tape is beyond impressive and he was matched up on tight ends consistently. Realistically, K’Von Wallace is one of the few long-term options the Eagles have at the position, so it would make sense to give him as much defensive exposure as possible.
#12 WR Greg Ward Jr.
Greg Ward Jr’s rise through the NFL is an inspiring one and the scary part is that he’s still only 25-years-old. At the very least, he’s proven that he can be a starting slot receiver at the NFL level for years to come. The only issue now is that if Jalen Reagor moves inside (even for a portion of his snaps), the Eagles may suddenly be top-heavy at wide receiver, cutting into Ward’s exposure.
With that said, you can’t deny his competitiveness and ability to adjust for his quarterback. He ranked 29th in the entire league in touchdowns last year, which is pretty good for a wideout limited to the slot. Ward should continue to contribute for the Eagles and potentially land himself a long-term future elsewhere after this season as a result.
#11 CB Zech McPhearson
Zech McPhearson may be on the smaller side, but he plays with a real intensity and has a lot of athleticism to bring to the table. He’ll likely challenge Avonte Maddox for a starting role immediately depending on whether or not Maddox moves outside and could well be the starting slot corner of the future in Jonathan Gannon’s defense.
It’s hard not to fall in love with McPhearson’s tape and it won’t take long for him to turn heads in Philadelphia if that aggressive nature and surge in ball-production that glistened in his final year at Texas Tech follows him to the NFL.
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