We’re finally here. After ranking 20 of the team’s brightest young candidates, it’s time to take one last deep breath before we list the top 5 Eagles under the age of 25. Who will be the King of the Castle when all is said and done? It’s time to find out.
In case you’ve missed any of the former articles, don’t panic. Here is the story so far:
Eagles top-25 under 25 so far
#25 TE Jack Stoll
#24 CB Craig James
#23 WR Trevon Grimes (Now back on IR after being waived with an injury settlement)
#22 S Marcus Epps
#21 DE Tarron Jackson
#20 CB Michael Jacquet
#19 LB Davion Taylor
#18 WR Quez Watkins
#17 G Nate Herbig
#16 RB Kenny Gainwell
#15 DT Milton Williams
#14 WR John Hightower
#13 CB Avonte Maddox
#12 S K’Von Wallace
#11 WR Greg Ward Jr.
#10 CB Zech McPhearson
#9 WR Travis Fulgham
#8 DE Derek Barnett
#7 LT Andre Dillard
#6 G Landon Dickerson
#5 Miles Sanders
For Miles Sanders to still rank fifth here despite a sophomore slump says a lot. Sure, a lot of his struggles came as the result of a broken offensive line, a QB who missed way too many passes, and a coach who refused to use him consistently, but Sanders wasn’t exactly great in 2020.
Miles Sanders was a boom or bust back last year for the Eagles. It was either an 80-yard carry or plunging straight into the back of a blocker without much in the way of room in between. With that said, those flashes were so explosive that it becomes hard not to get excited.
We all know how good the Penn State product can be and his rookie season proved that. He’ll now be working under a Head Coach who wants to run the ball consistently and may even be able to help him improve his pass protection and ball security weaknesses.
If Sanders can kick-on behind an offensive line that’s healthy again and under a coach who knows how to get the most out of him, then look out world. He will have to take a step forward in his own development as well, but the ceiling is very fun to think about.
#4 Josh Sweat
Josh Sweat had a really strong breakout in 2020 and proved that when fully healthy, he can be an absolute menace off the edge. Theoretically, he should at least be able to reach those same heights under Jonathan Gannon, but if he can surpass them, we could be talking about the next great long-term threat off the edge in Philadelphia.
Sweat is a rare breed of edge-rusher who has an explosive first step and some ferocious hands. He amassed 6 sacks in 14 games last year and looks primed to take the leap to a double-digit total in 2021.
#3 DeVonta Smith
A Heisman-winning wide receiver playing for the Eagles, what’s not to love? DeVonta Smith may have some concerns over his lean frame, but when it comes to his route-running, football IQ, and catch-radius, there were few receivers who offer a more dynamic threat in this year’s draft class.
After posting back-to-back seasons with 1,000+ receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns, Smith exploded to the top of draft boards. He broke the single-season records set by Ja’Maar Chase in 2019 to win the Heisman last year, picking up an astonishing 1,856 yards and averaging 18.5 per catch.
In an offense that will see him reunite with Jalen Hurts, it’s hard not to fall in love with the idea of Smith finally giving the Eagles a receiver capable of amassing 1,000 yards. With Aaron Moorehead coaching his every move, there is a chance that we could be looking at the first superstar receiver in midnight green since
Dorial Green-Beckham DeSean Jackson.
#2 Jalen Hurts
There’s only one player preventing Jalen Hurts from being #1 on this list. I know, I know. His rookie season had just as many potholes as it did flashes of sheer excellence. His 9 fumbles were absolutely unacceptable, his inability to peel off of first-reads hurt the offense at times, and his accuracy was a little inconsistent. But is it not encouraging to be able to list a few shortcomings that if corrected, could easily see Jalen Hurts ascend into the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks?
His rushing ability and leadership traits alone should inspire confidence. When you factor in his confidence to make difficult throws and remain unfazed in tricky conditions, you have a quarterback who will be entering his first full NFL season with the world at his feet.
Jalen Hurts gave a dying Eagles offense a sense of life last year. With a strong supporting cast around him, there’s no reason to be anything less than enticed and confident in seeing what the Oklahoma graduate can do. The Birds are all-in on Jalen Hurts, and you should be too.
Who is the top Eagles player under the age of 25?
I spent a while debating the prospect who would rank at the top of this list. Each of the top three candidates had sat at the top of the pecking order at some stage in the construction of this ranking. At the end of the day, the winner had to be someone that I had full belief would reach a level of play higher than the others before him. A player who has flashed so much, so consistently, that if he continued to develop at that rate, he may not only become one of the team’s most valuable players, but one of the brightest at his position in the entire league. There’s only one man who ticks every box.
#1 Jordan Mailata
The rise of Jordan Mailata has been well documented up to this point, but if you were to watch one game of Andre Dillard as a rookie and one game from Mailata’s 2020 season, you’d be forgiven for labelling Dillard as the former Rugby player who was selected in the seventh round just a few years prior.
Jordan Mailata’s play at left tackle last year was one of the only bright spots in an offense that otherwise did very little to keep hope burning in the hearts of fans. Not only did he look like a totally different beast to what we had seen just one preseason beforehand, but his passion was unlike anything exhibited by any other player.
Constantly picking up his teammates after being knocked down, running opposing edge rushers into the ground and playing until the whistle, the Aussie was the only other consistent lineman not named Jason Kelce.
Jordan Mailata actually ranked as one of PFF’s top-15 offensive lineman in the final 6 games of the season, which is beyond impressive for someone with as little experience as him. He handled every challenge thrown his way with ease.
What’s more impressive is that there was clear development to be seen on a weekly basis. Previously, Mailata often struggled at finding work at the second level when run blocking. This remained the case at the beginning of 2020, but as the season went on, he became more confident in sizing up linebackers and mauling them out of the way, clearing a path for the running back. His shoulders slowly positioned further forward in his stance to balance his weight and stop giving edge rushers an advantage when it came to knocking him off onto his back foot. With each week that passed, there was a small aspect of Mailata’s game that took a step forward.
If Jordan Mailata can win the starting Left Tackle competition in 2021, then that’s all the evidence you could possibly need. He will have beaten out a former first-round pick for that very spot, making it his own and proving that those lofty dreams fans may have of seeing him go down as one of the greats like Jason Peters before him are justified.
Another glass ceiling smashed through, Mailata would easily be the team’s most exciting piece to build around over the next era of football…and that’s more than deserving of the first-overall spot in my eyes.
Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire