A look at the Eagles’ 10 best players under 25 years old originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Two years ago this week, we sat down and put together a list of the 10 best Eagles under the age of 25.
It was grim.
Miles Sanders was No. 1, coming off a 1,327 scrimmage-yard rookie season, and Avonte Maddox was No. 3 coming off a promising sophomore season. But the rest of the list included names like Andre Dillard, Josh Sweat, T.J. Edwards, Sidney Jones, Anthony Rush, Craig James and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
That’s all there was.
The point of the article was that the Eagles desperately needed to replenish the roster with young talent.
And as we move through the offseason, it’s a great time to make another list and compare this roster to that one.
The results are encouraging.
With a strong draft in 2021 and a seemingly good one again this year, Howie Roseman has done a terrific job replenishing the young talent on the roster.
Believe it or not, No. 2 on the 2020 list was Derek Barnett, coming off a career-high 6 ½ sacks. And No. 4 was Dillard based on three OK starts. And what does it say about your roster when Rush, James and Arcega-Whiteside are also somehow in the top 10?
Anthony Rush? Craig James? JJAW?
There’s no question the Eagles have made big strides in the area of young talent.
The only rule with these lists – based on something similar Sports Illustrated did league-wide in 2020 – is that players can’t turn 25 until opening day, which this year for the Eagles will be Sept. 11. That disqualifies recent acquisition A.J. Brown, who turns 25 on June 30.
Among the Eagles who’ve recently turned 25 and are no longer eligible for this list are T.J. Edwards, Miles Sanders, A.J. Brown, Jack Driscoll, Josh Sweat, Jordan Mailata and Barnett. If they were eligible this list would be ridiculous.
Bottom line is that it’s been a long time since the Eagles had such a promising young nucleus.
Here’s our top 10:
Turns 25 Nov. 14, 2023
Needed 17 games to do it but still broke DeSean Jackson’s rookie receiving record with 916 yards. Smith finished third among all rookie wide receivers in receiving yards last year, trailing only Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle, who were both playing in much more high-powered passing games. Only the second Eagles’ 1st-round pick with 850 yards in any season since Keith Jackson in 1988. Jeremy Maclin did it four times.
Turns 25 Sept. 30, 2023
Not only stayed healthy last year after an injury-riddled college career but played at an increasingly high level as his rookie year went on and looked like a Pro Bowler by the end of the season. Smith and Dickerson were the first pair of Eagles rookies to both start at least 12 games on offense since Jerry Sisemore and Charle Young in 1973.
Turns 25 Aug. 7, 2023
Tough to know exactly where to put Hurts, but as a 23-year-old first-year starter he accounted for 26 touchdowns combined rushing and passing, generated 199 first downs – 10th-most of any QB in the league – and took his team to the playoffs. So whether or not he’s the Eagles’ quarterback of the future, there’s no question he’s a talented kid. This seems like the right spot for him.
Turns 25 June 9, 2023
After barely playing on offense as a rookie, Watkins caught 43 passes for 647 yards last year, which is rare production for a 23-year-old 6th-round pick. Only three other players drafted in the sixth round or later have had that many yards at 23 or younger in the last 30 years (including 2009 Eagles 6th-round pick Brandon Gibson with the Rams in 2010). Already has the most receiving yards by a wide receiver the Eagles drafted in the sixth round or later since Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael.
Turns 25 March 14, 2024
Another late-round pick, Gainwell had 544 scrimmage yards as a rookie 5th-round pick last year and became the first rookie running back since 1999 drafted in the fifth round or later with 250 yards both rushing and receiving. He did all this despite averaging just 18 offensive snaps per game. His 55 scrimmage yards in the playoff loss in Tampa are the 3rd-most in NFL history in a postseason game by a rookie running back drafted in the fifth round or later or undrafted.
Turns 25 Dec. 13, 2025
OK, this is just a projection and maybe he won’t pan out and you never know with rookie draft picks. That said, everything points to the former Georgia star being a steal in the third round. If he really is healthy and can add a few pounds, he can give the Eagles a true stud at linebacker, something they just haven’t had very often over the last few decades.
Turns 25 April 6, 2024
Williams showed a lot of promise last year as a rookie 3rd-round defensive tackle, rotating in for 27 snaps per game – 5th-most among all Eagles defensive linemen. What was really encouraging was that Williams played better and better as the season went along. Will be interesting to see how this deep group of defensive tackles performs this year.
Turns 25 Jan. 12, 2025
Speaking of which, Davis is one intriguing rookie. I have him lower than Dean because I think he’s a little bit more risky as the 13th pick in the draft without proven pass-rush ability. Davis needs to get in better shape if he’s going to contribute in a big way as a rookie, but the potential is there for Davis to a real difference maker from the jump.
Turns 25 Aug. 5, 2023
He’s had his share of injury issues and finished the last two seasons on Injured Reserve. But Taylor, the Eagles’ 3rd-round pick in 2020, showed considerable promise in his six midseason starts last year. Taylor is an active, athletic, sideline-to-sideline linebacker, and if he can figure out a way to stay healthy he could work his way back into the rotation.
Turns 25 Jan. 28, 2023
Kind of a forgotten guy because he only caught four passes for 22 yards all year as an undrafted rookie tight end out of Nebraska. But Stoll is such a high-level blocker that by the second half of the season he was playing a ton. Stoll averaged 8.7 snaps the first seven games of last season and 30.1 snaps the rest of the year, a move that coincided with the Eagles’ new focus on the running attack. No coincidence there. When Stoll played 15 or more snaps last year, the Eagles went 7-2 and averaged 29 points per game. When he didn’t get 15 snaps they were 2-6 and averaged 23 points per game. Started five games last year, and the last undrafted Eagle to start more games as a rookie was Hollis Thomas in 1996.
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