Two Eagles’ Named Biggest Surprises for 2021 NFL Season
The Eagles have plenty of surprises during the 2021 NFL season, but none might have been bigger than left tackle Jordan Mailata.
Mailata is an amazing story, going from the National Rugby League (NRL) in Australia to the seventh-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2018 NFL Draft. Fast forward to September 11, 2021, when the Eagles approached Mailata to sign a four-year, $64 million contract, which included $40.85 million in guaranteed money.
Now he is one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season according to ESPN.com, who graded the high-rated players at every position for the 2021 season.
They named the top player, rookie, and biggest surprise at every position for the season, and Mailata was named biggest surprise at left tackle, finishing as the league's third-highest-graded tackle in his second season.
Mailata will finish as the league's third-highest-graded tackle in his second season, as his grade jumped from 70.9 last year to 86.9 this season. At 6-foot-8 and 346 pounds, he is one the biggest players in the league. And because of his rugby background coming from his native Australia, Mailata never played a down of American football before being taken in by Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and subsequently becoming one of the best at his position in the league.
He wasn't the only Eagles player to make the biggest surprise list.
Center Jason Kelce also was named the biggest surprise this season, finishing with the third-highest grade among NFL centers. At 34-years of age, we could be seeing the final season of Kelce's career, but if he wants to come back and play again next season, it appears he still has what it takes.
The surprise here is that Kelce apparently does not age. He turned 34 during the middle of the season and was one of the best centers in the league. He finished with the third-highest grade among centers, and his 90.0 run-blocking grade helped pave the way for a rushing attack that led the Eagles to the playoffs. Considering Kelce's grade had fallen to 69.6 last season, one could have surmised that his best days were behind him, but he rebounded in a big way in 2021.
The duo of Mailata and Kelce might have been the biggest surprises, but they are a key part of the Eagles 2021 success. Add in Lane Johnson, Landon Dickerson and the coaching of Jeff Stoutland, and the Eagles offensive line was one of the best in football, leading the way for the league top rushing attack.