Everybody has fantasized about creating their own NFL team from scratch, and then keeping that team for the next decade.
The following 10 players are those who I would select if I were starting a team of players from the Philadelphia Eagles.
This is a keeper team, so 32-year old quarterback Michael Vick is not going to be one of the my top picks, even though he is one of the biggest playmakers in the league. The same applies to 31-year old cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and 32-year old defensive end Jason Babin, even though both are among the premier players in the league at their position.
Talent is vital, but age is just as important, if not more important. You get the picture. You’ve seen this done before. Oh, and I’m not factoring in position. So if the two best players for a keeper league happen to be quarterbacks, then those will be the top two picks.
In fact, here are the 10 players from 2011. Let’s just say that there are a lot of changes.
So here it is. The ten players are as follows:
10. Vinny Curry, Defensive End, 24.
Curry, like a lot of the other players in this list, is a risky move. He’s 24, which is old for an NFL rookie, and he was ‘only’ a second round draft pick. But he had first round draft talent, and I can’t even describe how much it will benefit Curry to work with defensive line coach Jim Washburn, arguably a top five positional coach in the league. Expect Curry to become a starter in a couple of seasons as Trent Cole and Jason Babin continue to age, and don’t be surprised if he turns into a Pro Bowl player down the road.
9. Brandon Graham, Defensive End, 24.
The Graham pick is a leap of faith. NFC East blogger Dan Graziano wrote that Graham’s career has summed up the Eagles over the past few seasons. A first round pick, he had a ton of potential in 2010 but dropped off the face of the earth in 2011. The 2012 season comes with high expectations that Graham can change from a bust into a player worthy of first round status. But just like the Eagles, Graham’s potential has been recognized and now it’s time to actually perform on the field. Fans are done waiting.
8. Nick Foles, Quarterback, 23.
Foles is a total risk with the eighth pick. He’s never stepped onto the field and he was only selected in the third round of the draft. Most star quarterbacks in the league were first round (or first overall) draft picks. My pick of Foles is based on one condition, and that is that he gets to work with head coach and quarterback genius Andy Reid. If Reid can develop Foles, I believe he can turn into an above average quarterback.
7. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cornerback, 26.
Rodgers-Cromartie is a gamble with the seventh pick. His career has been extremely inconsistent. Following a stellar rookie season and a Pro Bowl year in 2009, he rated as the worst cornerback in the league in 2010, according to Pro Football Focus, and he contributed almost nothing to the Eagles in 2011 as a slot cornerback. He’s back as a starter for the Eagles, and he’s been absolutely dominant in training camp. He needs to perform this year, and the next four or five seasons, to prove his worth to the team, but he was a star once before, so I have faith that he can do it again.
6. Nate Allen, Safety, 24.
Allen has had an up-and-down career through two seasons. The second round draft pick in 2010 was really good as a rookie, even winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month honors in September. But he suffered a torn patellar tendon late in the season, which continued to affect him in 2011. This year is the time for him to establish himself as one of the top safeties in the league. He’s likely going to be compared to Brian Dawkins for a lot of his career, as Philly fans still have not gotten over Dawkins’ departure following the 2008 season, but if Allen can turn into the next Quintin Mikell or even Michael Lewis and play near a Pro Bowl level for a while, he’ll be a success.
5. DeSean Jackson, Wide Receiver, 25.
If Jackson didn’t have injury concerns, he might be the top player selected for the Eagles. But you can’t ignore his injury problems. He’s 5’9 and weighs about 170 pounds, meaning he’s just a single big hit away from a potentially career-ending injury. I still have nightmares about his brutal concussion against the Atlanta Falcons in 2010, when he was absolutely crushed by cornerback Dunta Robinson. If he stays healthy, expect a couple more Pro Bowls until he begins to lose his speed and his career goes downhill. But if injuries play a factor, he could be out of the league in a couple of seasons. Just keep him running fly patterns and not crossing routes.
4. Jason Kelce, Center, 24.
Kelce came out of nowhere last season to earn the starting center job for the Eagles. He struggled at times in his rookie season, but many experts say that he played at a near Pro Bowl level. I have confidence that he will be selected to multiple Pro Bowls over the next decade. It’s still early in his career, but Kelce looks more and more like a veteran every time he steps onto a football field.
3. Jeremy Maclin, Wide Receiver, 24.
Maclin is not the best receiver on the Eagles. But he is expected to turn in a breakout year in 2012, and I could see him becoming one of the league’s best wide receivers over the next five to six years. He, too, has not really had any injury issues and I foresee a long and successful career in the NFL.
2. LeSean McCoy, Running Back, 24.
McCoy is a question mark, only in the fact that running backs can see their career end in one play pretty easily. Look at the case of fullback Leonard Weaver, the Eagles’ All-Pro whose season and career ended on his first carry of the 2010 season. But McCoy is barely 24 years old and he has had no injury history during his three years in the league. I’m a big believer in not overrating running backs, but McCoy is one of the best, if not the best, in the league, and he’s on track to end up in the Hall of Fame one day. Now, that’s a long way away, but if he can remain a starter for five more seasons, this pick will have been worth it.
1. Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle, 21.
The 21-year old first round draft pick is the top player I would pick if I was starting an NFL team. Fletcher Cox is expected to make an immediate impact as a rookie, perhaps even earning some votes for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. The ideal situation is for Cox to have a 10 to 15 year career, earning a couple of Pro Bowls and anchoring an Eagles defense that consistently ranks among the best in the league against the run and at sacking the quarterback.
Players who just missed:
- I considered left tackle Jason Peters or middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, but Peters is almost 30 and Ryans is 28, and both are coming off major injuries. Peters could never be the same again for all that the Eagles know, if he even gets his job back, and Ryans needs to prove that he can still perform at a Pro Bowl level. Even then, I don’t think I would pick him because he probably only has three or four years left as a starter.
- Offensive tackle Todd Herremans and defensive end Trent Cole were two players that would have made my cut if they were even just two years younger. Neither was on my 2011 team though, so neither should make my 2012 team.
- Quarterback Michael Vick, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, defensive end Jason Babin, and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha are all about three to four years too old for me to select in the top 10 players. Vick is 32, Jenkins 31, Babin 32, and Asomugha 31. I can’t justify picking any player that old in my top ten.
- I considered rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks or rookie cornerback Brandon Boykin but they’re both just too unproven. If either had been a first round pick, I would probably pick them in my top 10.
This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for the Philadelphia Eagles and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.