Ranking the 10 Most Valuable Players on the Philadelphia Eagles Roster

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMay 30, 2013

September 18, 2011; Atlanta, GA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (25) celebrates with wide receiver DeSean Jackson (10) after scoring a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in the third quarter at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons beat the Eagles 35-31. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

There's a lot of mystery surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles right now. We don't quite know what to expect from Philly on offense, defense or special teams as the Eagles' new coaching regime takes over. 

As a result, we don't know who'll be featured and who will be placed on Chip Kelly's backburner. Still, here's a breakdown of 10 Philadelphia players who are more valuable right now than anyone else on the 90-man roster.

10. WR Jeremy Maclin

In each of his four NFL seasons, Maclin has been one of the most dangerous and effective No. 2 wide receivers in the league. The last three seasons, he's had between 60 and 70 catches, between 850 and 1,000 yards and between five and 10 touchdowns, and he was just south of those marks as a rookie. 

Sure, he drops more passes than fans and coaches would like, but there are No. 1 wideouts all around the league who don't contribute as much on a consistent basis as Maclin does as a No. 2. That he managed to maintain strong numbers across the board despite all the disarray in Philly the last two years is promising as the 25-year-old enters his fifth NFL season. 

And he'd better hope he can keep building in this new offense, because while Maclin should be valued by the Eagles, he's entering a contract year.

Everyone ranked higher than him on this list has already been locked up long-term, so we'll soon find out how much the Eagles value Maclin. 

9. G Evan Mathis 

Philly's veteran left guard is, like, the Pro Football Focus Champion of the World. That super-awesome website has graded Mathis as the best guard in all of football two years in a row, and the eyeball test indicates that he's been the team's most reliable and consistent offensive lineman by a wide margin. 

While his fellow starting offensive linemen have missed a combined 45 games due to injury the last two years, Mathis has held things together by starting in 31 of the 32 games Philly has played during that span. 

He's 31 years old now, but Mathis had just 22 career starts under his belt as a quasi-journeyman before coming to the Eagles in 2011, so expect him to continue to dominate for years to come. 

8. QB Michael Vick

I had to include at least one of the many Philadelphia quarterbacks on this list, so I went with the most accomplished horse in the stable. Vick is probably favored to win the team's quarterback competition and start Week 1, which is why he's still extremely valuable. 

That said, there's also a decent chance he loses that competition or gets hurt again, in which case he becomes a lot less important. Whoever replaces him in a situation like that immediately makes this list. 

But for now, we just don't know who'll be taking the majority of the snaps under center this season. So consider the No. 8 slot on this list a placeholder for either Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley or Dennis Dixon.

7. OLB Brandon Graham

It would be a shame if Graham were to be under-utilized in Philly's new defensive system, because when he was on the field last year, he was the best defensive player on the team.

The 25-year-old avoided the bust label in 2012, recording 5.5 sacks despite starting only six games and grading out as the second-best 4-3 defensive end in all of football at PFF.

He'll be forced to make the transition to 3-4 outside linebacker, where he has limited experience, but Graham is young enough that he should catch on quickly. He'll also have to compete with Connor Barwin for reps opposite Trent Cole, but if he performs the way he did in limited opportunities last year, he'll excel in that new role.

6. OLB Trent Cole

After an extremely disappointing 2012 campaign, the veteran pass-rusher will be counting on to lead Philadelphia's defensive front as a 3-4 outside linebacker in 2013. If he and/or Graham can't make that transition successfully, this entire team will suffer. 

Cole's sack and pressure numbers fell off a cliff this past season, but he's versatile enough to adapt to a standing up role and he's still only 30. Keep in mind that it was hard not to struggle with what was happening in Philly last season, so a fresh feel might be just what the doctor ordered in this situation.

Expect Cole to bounce back and reemerge as a top-tier playmaker in 2013.

5. DL Fletcher Cox

Cox showed flashes as a rookie in 2012, picking up 5.5 sacks from the inside while earning a positive PFF grade as a run defender. Now, the 22-year-old will likely be asked to perform as a 3-technique defensive end in the Eagles' new 4-3 under defense.

That's a role that suits a player with his skill set, though Cox is versatile enough to play anywhere along the defensive line. That's a big reason why the previous staff made him a No. 12 overall pick last April. 

It's tough to tell what the Eagles will get from Isaac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry up front, but nobody is concerned about Cox. It's only a matter of time before he becomes a perennial Pro Bowler. 

4. WR DeSean Jackson

Nobody on Philadelphia's roster—Michael Vick included—possesses the playmaking ability that Jackson has. Fractured ribs derailed the 26-year-old's 2012 campaign, but he was still on pace to hit the 1,000-yard mark before going down in November. 

Previous to that, Jackson had gone over the 900-yard mark in each of his first four seasons in the league, hitting 1,000 twice and accumulating 28 touchdowns as a receiver, runner and return man. He's got two Pro Bowls under his belt and has yet to reach his potential. 

Jackson might be returning punts again this year, which only adds to his value. 

3. RB LeSean McCoy

You'll rarely see a running back ranked as the third-most valuable player on his team, but you rarely see players like McCoy. By the time he turned 24, McCoy had two 1,000-yard seasons and 33 touchdowns under his belt. 

A concussion and an offensive line ravaged by injuries prevented him from doing much damage in 2012. But if he's healthy and the line can pull its weight, expect McCoy to play a massive role for the Eagles in 2013. 

Yes, Bryce Brown emerged last year and could steal some carries, but there will likely be plenty of opportunities to go around in Kelly's fast-paced, run-oriented offense.

2. OT Lane Johnson

Yes, a man who has never played an NFL snap is the second-most valuable player on the Eagles' roster. That's what happens when you have to focus on pass protection and use a No. 4 overall pick on an offensive tackle. 

The rookie out of Oklahoma will inevitably start from the get-go on the right side, which just so happens to be Vick's blind side. He's might be raw, but the 23-year-old former quarterback is already a vital part of Kelly's core. 

No pressure, man. None at all.

1. OT Jason Peters

If Peters can't stay on the field in 2013, the Eagles are pretty much screwed. They'd have to move Todd Herremans back to tackle and would have to rely on Johnson and Dennis Kelly far too much and far too early. 

In 2011, the 31-year-old Peters was rated by PFF as the best offensive tackle in the NFL. Despite having Vick as his quarterback, he was responsible for only three sacks and one hit that year. But then a ruptured Achilles tendon cost him his entire 2012 season, sending the entire offense into a downward spiral.

Word out of Philly early this year is that the four-time All-Pro has made a full recovery. If that holds up, the Eagles will have a lot more room to excel on that side of the ball.


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