The rules are this: there are no rules.
Well, the only real rule is that you have to currently be playing for a Philly team, so Millville’s Mike Trout and Delran’s Carli Lloyd are ineligible for the list. Same with Eddie Alvarez, since he’s one of ours and trains in the area but doesn’t play for a Philly team. Also, no rookies or people that just signed, so James Van Riemsdyk or Landry Shamet aren’t in the mix.
That’s pretty much it.
As far as how we came up with the list, I basically just made it myself, then we argued about it in Slack chat for a few days. I leaned on Bob and Anthony and Russ for Phillies and Flyers placement, since they handle most of our baseball and hockey stuff for the site. Phil was also very helpful with his bitching and complaining. The hardest thing was comparing and contrasting athletes who play two completely different sports, since you can’t compare the statistics of an ace pitcher vs. an NBA shooting guard, for example.
So this is ultimately defeatist and pointless, since people will just disagree with the selections and complain about it and call me an idiot. Sixers fans will think the Sixers players are ranked too low. Flyers fans will think the Flyers players are ranked too low and yadda yadda yadda.
As Charlie Manuel once said, “what it is, is what it is.”
Behold, the top 25 athletes in Philadelphia sports:
25. Jason Peters
We had arguments about whether this spot belonged to Peters or Seranthony Dominguez. Yeah, the franchise left tackle only played seven games last season, but the fact of the matter is that he was performing at his typically high level before he went down with a torn ACL and MCL. A full season would have likely resulted in a 10th Pro Bowl selection and a shoe-in top 15 placement on this list, but the injury knocks him down a bit.
24. Shayne Gostisbehere
Phil says that Ghost doesn’t belong on the list because he’s a glorified forward who racks up power play points while actually being a liability on defense. I don’t think he’s the only one who feels that way, but I’m not leaving out a 25 year old d-man who put up 65 points on a playoff team. Only three defenseman had more points that Gostisbehere this season (John Carlson, Brent Burns, John Klingberg).
23. Robert Covington
A utility-knife 3 and D wing who goes hot and cold offensively.
Cov has become a polarizing player in Philly sports circles, but he has all of the tools to be a legitimate starter on most NBA playoff squads.
22. Sean Couturier
A breakout season for Coots, who hit career highs in the following categories:
- games (82)
- goals (31)
- assists (45)
- points (76)
- plus/minus (34)
- average time on ice (21:36)
Friendly reminder that Sean Couturier is still 25 and signed at 4.3 per.
— Anthony DiGrazio 🏒 (@AnthonyDiGrazio) July 19, 2018
21. Odubel Herrera
You can’t win with Odubel!
Actually, you can.
He’s hitting .280 with 105 hits and 55 RBI this season, slugging at .467 with a .798 OPS. Twitter had heated arguments about whether he was snubbed for the All-Star Game while Bryce Harper got a free pass instead. That’s where we are in 2018, arguing whether Odubel got a raw deal in favor of Harper.
20. Dario Saric
I think Dario is a bit underrated by Philly sports fans since he’s not Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons, but he had a very consistent season with few clunkers.
Saric upped his field goal percentage from 41 to 45 this year while improving his three point shooting to 39.3% from a rookie mark of 31.1%. He did that while missing only three regular season contests and contributing 14.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists at 29.6 minutes per game.
19. JJ Redick
The Sixers’ second leading scorer, Redick was a key piece in the team’s ability to space the floor and hit from deep. Of all players who attempted five or more three pointers per game, Redick’s 42% mark was sixth best in the NBA, trailing only Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Buddy Hield, Kyle Korver, and Joe Ingles.
— Rob Hodge (@RobHodge) November 4, 2017
18. Ivan Provorov
Nobody caused more internal strife and argument than Provorov. I originally had him down further, but Russ and Anthony insisted he was a top 15 player. The compromise is that Provy lands at #18 on the list.
He bagged 17 goals as a 20-year-old, putting him in a tie with Victor Hedman and Dougie Hamilton for the most goals scored by a defenseman this year. Provorov played 82 games with a team-leading 24:09 time on ice.
He’s not a flashy player but is entirely dependable and just plays the position soundly. Next year you’re looking at an All-Star caliber #1 defenseman on a playoff team, but as of July, 2018, I just didn’t think there was anyone in the top 15 who should make way for him right now.
17. Nick Foles
It seems weird to think that the guy who quarterbacked the Eagles to their first Super Bowl win wouldn’t be in the top-10, but we struggled to rank Nick simply based on the fact that he’s a backup who only played five full games last season.
That’s not to say he’s down the pecking order in a league-wide quarterback ranking. I’d probably take Nick over one of Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, Alex Smith, or Derek Carr, four signal callers who are rated higher than he is in Madden 19.
But if we’re looking at the Eagles’ season in a vacuum, it’s just very hard to compare the body of work he put up to that of Carson Wentz. Foles carried the team over the finish line and won in the playoffs. Wentz and others did the job to secure home field advantage over a longer chunk of the season. I just had a hard time navigating the short sample size we saw from Foles. Maybe other people put significantly more weight into his playoff performances.
16. Alshon Jeffery
A slow start and underwhelming fall can now be attributed to a rotator cuff injury that nobody knew about until February.
Jeffery finished his debut Eagles season with 57 receptions, 789 yards, 9 touchdowns, and a Super Bowl ring.
15. Nigel Bradham
The Eagles’ leader in tackles, Bradham was all over the place last season, making key play after key play and holding down the fort at the linebacker spot after Jordan Hicks went down in late October.
I’d sum up his season by sharing this video clip:
14. Jake Voracek
Similar to Couturier, Voracek hit career highs with 65 assists and 85 total points over the course of a full 82 games (for the second straight year). Jake bagged more goals than Max Pacioretty and T.J. Oshie and finished fourth in the NHL in helpers, trailing only Connor McDavid, Blake Wheeler, and teammate Claude Giroux.
13. Jason Kelce
The heart and soul of the Eagles offensive line, Kelce looked much more like himself this season, holding steady in pass protection and rumbling downfield on running plays and screens. His ability to get to the next level is simply staggering, and Pro Football Focus ranked Kelce as the league’s best center, handing him a 91.3 grade this season.
12. Zach Ertz
Among NFL tight ends, Ertz was third in total yards, third in total receptions, third in first down conversions, and tied for second in total touchdowns.
He led the Eagles’ receiving corps with 824 yards and was second on the team with 110 targets, establishing himself as a reliable and steady #1 option for Foles and Wentz.
11. Brandon Brooks
We also argued over Brooks, simply because his name was never called and he just quietly went about his elite Pro Bowl season, locking up the right side of the offensive line between Kelce and Lane Johnson.
Brooks is kind of like Bradham. I have a tough time explaining what he did with stats and tweets, so I’ll share another video clip:
10. Rhys Hoskins
Hoskins is the best hitter on the first place team in the National League East, leading the Phils with 61 RBI, 22 doubles, and an .833 OPS.
As far as playing a corner outfield position, no, he’s not great there. But that’s a situation the Phillies created for themselves with the Carlos Santana signing, deciding to sacrifice some defense to get Santana on first base. I wouldn’t use that re-positioning to slag Hoskins or drop him further down the list.
9. Brandon Graham
The guy who sealed the Super Bowl win, Graham finished with a career-high 9.5 sacks last season.
He’s due for a new contract and deserves it, matching the output of the NFL’s elite defensive ends and finally ending the lame ass narrative of “the Eagles should have taken Earl Thomas instead of Graham.”
Now both players have rings, and we can put that revisionist draft history to bed.
8. Fletcher Cox
He didn’t compile amazing statistics or highlight reel stuff this year, but that’s mostly because he was double-teamed from the jump and relegated to eating up space and clogging running lanes.
Still, Cox remains the biggest threat on the Birds’ defensive line, and his ability to command attention and hold firm at the line of scrimmage opens up 1v1 battles for his teammates elsewhere on the field. That, in turn, makes them exponentially better performers.
7. Ben Simmons
16 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists as a 6’10” rookie “point guard” without a jumper.
Simmons was everything and more in his first season, winning Rookie of the Year honors and leading the young Sixers to 52 wins and a playoff quarterfinal series. His ceiling is incredibly high if he develops his shot. At worst, his floor is being an elite-passer and stout defender on a team that values both of those skills.
6. Lane Johnson
The best right tackle in football, if you’re asking me.
His best moments probably came in the Denver game, when he shut down Von Miller and later tossed him aside with ease:
5. Malcolm Jenkins
76 tackles, 2 interceptions, a sack, 8 passes defended, and a forced fumble is what you find when you look at Jenkins on paper. Intangibly, he was really the heart and soul of the Birds’ defensive unit and a captain who glued everything together.
On the field, he was an extremely flexible safety who was able to roam a bit, get in the box and make tackles, match up on tight ends at the line of scrimmage, and fill whatever hole necessary. His best game was the 34-24 Washington win, when he finished with 10 tackles and helped patch up a defense that did not have Mychal Kendricks or Ronald Darby and later lost Hicks to injury.
4. Claude Giroux
People will complain that Giroux is just a point machine on an average team, a guy who doesn’t perform when the playoffs come around. He’s past his prime and on the downslope of his career.
All of that might be true, but we’re still talking about a guy who finished second in the NHL with a 102 point season, a guy that really should have been a finalist for the Hart Trophy. And he did what he did playing on the wing this year, moved to accommodate Couturier, who flourished as a center.
I think the thing with Giroux is that he’s not really “elite” at any one thing. He’s not a pure goal scorer like Alex Ovechkin. He’s not young and exciting like a Nathan MacKinnon or a Connor McDavid. I don’t think anyone goes to a Flyers game and says, “man I can’t wait to watch Claude Giroux.” He’s not really a needle mover for the typical “four for four” Philly sports fan and ice hockey casual.
But he’s an incredibly well-rounded and consistent player, a guy who I still think is a top-five Philly athlete.
3. Aaron Nola
A 25-year-old ace with plenty of great years ahead, we hope.
Nola is 12-3 with the fifth best ERA (2.30) among starting MLB pitchers. He’s conceded just 35 walks and 33 runs, good for a 0.98 WHIP. He’s given up just six home runs and is coming off his first All-Star game, in which he did this:
Phillies All-Star, Aaron Nola
MLB Batting leader, Mookie Betts pic.twitter.com/e69cHSA6WE
— Marc Farzetta (@MarcFarzetta) July 18, 2018
2. Joel Embiid
When fully healthy, which he finally is, he’s arguably the NBA’s best center, a 7’2″ defensive juggernaut who can spread the floor and shoot a bit in addition to working out of still-nascent low-post situations.
Sky is the limit for Embiid, who played 63 games last year and led the Sixers with 22.9 points,11 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. His ability to protect the rim was key in the team finishing with a top-five defensive rating, and he showed flashes of brilliance passing out of the post and setting up teammates.
He needs to continue to evolve his post play and cut down on turnovers, in addition to recognizing that late double team and making better decisions overall, but Embiid has the on-court tools and off-court personality and charisma to be one the city’s greatest athletes of all time.
1. Carson Wentz
33 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in 13 games. Wentz finished second in total TDs despite not even playing a full season and throwing 113 fewer passes than Russell Wilson.
He was everything and more last season, hitting receivers in stride, ducking pass rushers, and showing elite recognition and decision making inside and outside of the pocket. Nick Foles would not have been in a position to finish the job if Wentz did not lead the Eagles to an 11-2 mark to begin the season, and his last action was the throwing of a touchdown on a torn ACL before coming off the field in Los Angeles.
Wentz is the franchise quarterback on a championship team, and even if his season was cut short, we still see him as being the city’s best athlete, the most important piece to the most memorable and successful campaign in Eagles history.
Despite tearing his ACL on this called back TD run, Carson Wentz STAYED IN to finish the drive with a TD pass to Alshon Jeffery. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/l1YAafP68g
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 13, 2017
Jake Elliott, Seranthony Dominguez, Cesar Hernandez, Jake Arrieta, Carlos Santana, Travis Konecny, Andre Blake, Haris Medunjanin