Thursday, July 31, 2014
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The Eagles' young players compare favorably to the other NFC East teams

Due in large part to a couple of very strong drafts the last two years, the Eagles have a lot of good players on their roster who are currently 25 years of age or younger. As an added bonus for the Eagles, the rest of the NFC East, with perhaps the surprise exception of the Redskins, lacks quality young talent.

The Eagles' young players compare favorably to the other NFC East teams

(Matt Rourke/AP)
(Matt Rourke/AP)

Due in large part to a couple of very strong drafts the last two years, the Eagles have a lot of good players on their roster who are currently 25 years of age or younger. As an added bonus for the Eagles, the rest of the NFC East, with perhaps the surprise exception of the Redskins, lacks quality young talent.

I picked out the 15 players who are currently 25 years of age or younger on each of the 4 NFC East teams, and arranged them in order of the most important and/or talented. As a disclaimer, I should note I didn't exactly spend hours ordering them with delicate care, but they should be fairly close to consensus agreement. To note, several of the players below will turn 26 before the beginning of the 2014 season, and others are free agents, so they may not be with their respective teams when the season begins.

Here's the list (you can click here for a larger version):

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Grading the Eagles' draft picks

I would order them like this:

1) Eagles

2) Redskins

3) Cowboys

4) Giants

The Eagles have a pair of players who are currently 25 who led the league in rushing yards last season (LeSean McCoy) and passer rating (Nick Foles). They also have a good number of players who are 23 years old in Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Brandon Boykin, and Mychal Kendricks, who have all proven they are worthy starters in the NFL and should only get better.

But perhaps most impressively about this list for the Eagles is how deep it is. Look at the bottom 7 or 8 Eagles players on the above list and compare it to the other NFC East teams.

If only they hadn't botched the 2010 and 2011 drafts...

The Redskins have 4 heavy hitters at the top of their list in RG3, Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, and Alfred Morris. Their top 4 rivals the Eagles' top 4, but once you get past their 6th or 7th guy, their young talent falls off a cliff. Part of the reason for that is because of the hefty price they paid to acquire the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 draft, which became RG3. Here's a reminder of what the Skins gave up: for that 2nd overall pick 2 years ago:

• Redskins 2012 1st round pick (6th overall)

• Redskins 2012 2nd round pick (39th overall)

• Redskins 2013 1st round pick (22nd overall)

• Redskins 2014 1st round pick (2nd overall)

The Redskins got their franchise QB, and for a while it was looking like they did the right thing, but when you give up a haul that large, you're sacrificing the amount of young talent you can develop. It remains to be seen whether or not RG3 was worth it, but at least the Skins did score with Williams, Kerrigan, and Morris.

Dez Bryant has become one of the scariest weapons in the NFL, and while he has stayed out of trouble with the law recently, questions about his maturity still surface occasionally (leaving the field early, etc.). If Tyron Smith stays healthy, he'll be playing LT in the NFL for the next decade. Bryant and Smith headline the Cowboys' best young players.

And then it gets a little dicey. In the 2012 draft, the Cowboys traded their 1st and 2nd round picks (14th and 45th overall) for the 6th overall pick, which became Morris Claiborne, who has been a major disappointment through 2 seasons. Bruce Carter has also been a disappointing player, as he is physically talented, but remains a common target of opposing offenses.

The Cowboys do have 3 or 4 players from the 2013 draft who may turn out to be good players. Travis Frederick was solid but unspectacular as a rookie at center, while Terrance Williams proved to be a legitimate #2 WR in the Cowboys offense, hauling in 44 catches for 736 yards, and 5 TDs. Gavin Escobar didn't do much of anything, but the TE position is one that typically takes a while to develop.

Beyond that, it's basically a collection of replacement level players, with only one guy (J.J.Wlicox) who can reasonably be considered a player with legitimate upside.

Surprisingly, the Giants look like they have the worst young talent in the division. Jason Pierre-Paul once looked like a supreme talent at DE, but he has battled back injuries and may never be the same. Prince Amukamara has developed into a good CB, but with 3 career INTs in 3 seasons, he's not exactly a player that opposing offenses are terrified to challenge.

Beyond JPP and Amukamara, there are a few good players mixed in, but who can you really get excited about?

***

The Eagles were the best team in the NFC East last season. If their young talent continues to develop and they can put together another quality draft this offseason, the Eagles could be in a position to rule the NFC East for a while.

Jimmy Kempski Philly.com
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