2020 Fantasy Preview: Philadelphia Eagles

Dan Adams continues the 2020 Team Preview series with a fantasy-focused look at the Philadelphia Eagles.

Philadelphia Eagles

 

The 2019 version of the Philadelphia Eagles offense looked to have everything they needed to succeed after offseason moves that brought in Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, and DeSean Jackson. Sanders and Howard were supposed to form a potent combination out of the backfield to fix what had been a terrible running game the year before, and Jackson returned to Philadelphia to give quarterback Carson Wentz the true deep threat he’d been lacking. With one of the best offensive lines in the league, two great receiving tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, and a traditional number-one receiver in Alshon Jeffery the Eagles were poised to be one of the better offenses in the league. Unfortunately, injuries derailed their season as Jackson, Jeffery, and Howard all missed significant time and Wentz was forced to work with the weakest receiver group in the league. They lacked explosiveness and relied on running the most plays in the league just to maintain a league-average offense, with Wentz managing to throw for over 4,000 yards despite none of his receivers reaching 500 yards.

The Eagles tried to address their lack of receiving depth in the offseason by trading for Marquise Goodwin, and spending three draft picks on the position, including using their first-round pick on Jalen Reagor out of TCU. Goodwin has already opted out of the 2020 season, while Jeffery is still recovering from surgery and may miss the early part of the season, but otherwise, this receiving group is healthy and much deeper than it was last season. A suddenly crowded receiver room could be a mess for fantasy, but could also lead to one or two names separating from the pack and producing valuable fantasy seasons. All-Pro offensive guard Brandon Brooks will be missing from what was an elite offensive line due to season-ending injury, but former All-Pro Jason Peters will move over from left tackle to guard and 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard will move to tackle so Philadelphia is still a team expected to have a strong offense and contend for a playoff spot.

 

Quarterback

 

Carson Wentz

ADP: 106, QB12

Carson Wentz is coming off a third straight year where his season was ended by injury, this time a concussion suffered in the first round off the playoffs. They’ve all been different injuries, so it doesn’t seem Wentz is injury prone so much as his tendency to hold the ball and extend plays leads to him taking a lot of hits. Some will also point to the Eagles spending a second-round pick on quarterback dual-threat Jalen Hurts out of Oklahoma as an indicator that the team is concerned about Wentz’s health, but that seems more like a case of the team valuing depth at their most important position, especially in an offseason as uncertain as this one. A healthy Wentz with a reloaded receiving group should be a safe low-end QB1 for fantasy purposes. In theory, his upside would be a return to his 2017 form when he was a leading MVP candidate, but his fantasy production that season was inflated by an unsustainably-high 7.5% touchdown rate. Assuming he throws touchdowns at a rate more in line his career average of 4.7% Wentz probably has a lower ceiling than other quarterbacks being drafted around him, as he adds very little with his legs and hasn’t given us any reason to expect him to take a large step forward heading into year five. He’s a fine option if he falls in drafts but isn’t someone I would prioritize.

 

Best Case Scenario

Wentz and his receivers stay healthy, the Eagles maintain a high-volume approach to their offense while also increasing their efficiency, and he returns to his MVP-caliber form to make Philadelphia one of the strongest teams in the NFC.

 

Worst Case Scenario

The players around him, or Wentz himself, struggle to stay healthy and the new receivers fail to develop chemistry with him after a very limited offseason. The Eagles struggle and the coaching staff finds itself on the hot seat entering next season.

 

2020 Projection: 600 attempts, 390 completions, 4,200 yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 interceptions; 56 carries, 224 yards, 1 touchdown, 4 fumbles

 

Running Back

 

Miles Sanders

ADP: 11.4, RB10

Miles Sanders spent most of his rookie season battling Darren Sproles and Jordan Howard for snaps, but after both of the veterans went down with injuries Sanders was able to break out to end the season. From Week 12 on, Sanders saw at least 19 touches in every game, aside from the last game of the season where he touched the ball 12 times before getting knocked out of the game with an injury in the second quarter. A good athlete with the prototypical size and receiving skills to be a true workhorse running back, there’s a lot to like about Sanders heading into his second season.

The upside for Sanders is becoming the go-to option for a strong offense that has a strong offensive line, even after losing Brandon Brooks, but the downside isn’t being priced into his ADP right now. Eagles coach Doug Pederson is known for favoring a committee approach with his running backs, and where Sanders is being drafted if he falls closer to the 12-15 touch range of just one option in a crowded backfield rather than the 18-20 touch range of an established lead guy he’s likely a bust. It’s possible that Sanders, who seems to be the most talented running back Pederson has worked with during his tenure with the Eagles, has the requisite talent and complete skill set to force his way onto the field.

His primary competition right now is Boston Scott, a former sixth-round pick who profiles as more of a change-of-pace back then a threat to take over an early-down role. Sanders should be able to handle the majority of the early-down snaps and snaps around the goal line, and he’s probably too talented as a pass catcher to completely cede that role to Scott. As Philadelphia’s best offensive weapon, Sanders is one of the few running backs with a clear path to being the overall fantasy RB1 by the end of the season as long as he gets the work.

 

Best Case Scenario

Sanders is handed as many touches as he can handle and emerges as one of the best all-around running backs in the league. He finishes near the top of the league in yards from scrimmage, scores double-digit touchdowns on the ground, and becomes the engine that powers the Eagles offense.

 

Worst Case Scenario

Pederson falls back on his history of turning his backfield into a committee and Sanders loses passing-down and red zone work either to Scott or a running back not currently on the team. Sanders has a few nice games but ultimately struggles to find any consistent upside and proves to be one of the biggest fantasy busts of the early rounds.

 

2020 Projection: 248 rush attempts, 1,104 yards, 9 touchdowns, 2 fumbles; 76 targets, 61 receptions, 547 yards, 4 touchdowns

 

Boston Scott

ADP: 123.6, RB51

As much upside as Sanders has this season Boston Scott may turn this backfield into a true timeshare situation, which makes Scott an excellent value where he’s being drafted. From Week 13 on, which coincides with Sanders’ breakout stretch, Scott saw at least six targets in every game. Both running backs probably benefited from the complete lack of depth at wide receiver for the Eagles during that stretch but it isn’t hard to see Scott sliding right into the pass-catching role Sproles used to occupy. Scott doesn’t have the size to be an every-down back, but he has the speed, agility, and receiving skills to carve out a nice role in this offense.

Scott can return value even if Sanders has a break-out season, but if Scott can earn any red-zone work he could turn into an absolute steal at his current draft price. When Sanders went down with an injury in Week 17 last year, Scott stepped in and scored three touchdowns. So while the Eagles would probably add another running back if Sanders were to miss any extended time, Scott also probably holds value as a handcuff to Sanders. A backup running back who gets passing work and plays on a good offense is exactly the type of player to invest in late in a fantasy draft, which makes Scott one of my preferred late-round targets.

 

Best Case Scenario

Scott plays the majority of clear passing downs and steals away some red-zone work from Sanders, turning this into more of a 1A and 1B situation, while using his speed and quickness to be very efficient with his touches and emerges as a quality RB2 in PPR leagues.

 

Worst Case Scenario

Scott plays more like a former sixth-round pick and shows that his stretch to end the season in 2019 was just a flash in the pan. Someone else emerges as the primary backup to Sanders, and Scott is relegated to only kick and punt return duties.

 

2020 Projections: 72 carries, 299 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 fumble; 48 targets, 41 receptions, 326 yards, 1 touchdown

 

Wide Receiver

 

Alshon Jeffery

ADP: 165, WR65

Alshon Jeffery is currently recovering from surgery, and the last update provided on him offered no timetable for his return to the football field. He suffered a Lisfranc injury last season, which is an injury that can have lingering effects even after a player has returned to action. Given Jeffery’s injury history, this makes him a significant risk to never get to full speed this season.

If Jeffery can return to form this season he should be well-positioned to succeed. The Eagles added several receivers this offseason, but all of them are better suited to function as deep threats rather than as the possession receiver role that Jeffery would occupy. One of the better contested-catch receivers when healthy, Jeffery would figure to rack up red-zone targets and would have more room to operate in the intermediate parts of the field with all of the speed guys able to take the top off the defense. At his current price, Jeffery is too much of an injury risk to justify taking unless there is unexpected good news about his recovery. He doesn’t seem like the type of player worth stashing on the bench if he is set to miss games to open the season, and he could miss up to six games if he starts the season on the PUP list. Jeffery is more likely to have an impact on the rest of the offense rather than having any consistent fantasy value himself in 2020.

 

Best Case Scenario

Jeffery is fully healthy, plays a full season, and reasserts himself as the number one receiver in this offense. His chemistry with Wentz and a more complete offense around him leads to a 1,000-yard season and close to double-digit touchdowns.

 

Worst Case Scenario

Aside from the possibility that Jeffery loses the whole season to injury, the worst case is that he shows lasting effects from his surgery and continues his career-long battle with soft tissue injuries. In and out of the lineup, Jeffery is almost a complete non-factor for the season and becomes impossible to start because he’s always a game-time decision.

 

2020 Projection: (10 Games) 60 targets, 33 receptions, 355 yards, 3 touchdowns

 

DeSean Jackson

ADP: 130.5, WR50

DeSean Jackson was great in his first game back with the Eagles last season, torching Washington for 8 receptions, 154 yards, and two deep touchdowns in Week 1. Unfortunately, he would leave Week 2 with an injury very early in the game and not return until Week 9, in which he recorded one catch for five yards before reinjuring himself and missing the rest of the season. A 33-year old speed receiver, it seems likely that Jackson will struggle with injuries for the remainder of his career.

When healthy he’s still one of the premier deep threats in the NFL and a perfect fit for both Philadelphia’s offense and quarterback Carson Wentz’s strengths. Jackson can blow past defenders, which allows Wentz to showcase his arm strength, but that speed also causes defenses to give Jackson a huge cushion that opens up easy completions underneath. Losing Jackson last season was a major blow to the Eagle’s offense and was probably the catalyst to the team adding several similarly fast receivers in the offseason. None of them are as talented as Jackson though, and for the games that he is healthy, he should be very productive. At his current ADP, Jackson is a cheap receiver that you can comfortably start every week he’s healthy, just be aware that you got a discount on his production level simply because he’s unlikely to hold up for a whole season.

 

Best Case Scenario

Jackson’s health holds up and we get a season’s worth of games similar to, although not quite as explosive as, his Week 1 performance from last season. His presence is also a huge boost to the efficiency of the rest of the offense due to the attention he demands, and he acts as a rising tide that lifts the fantasy ships of most of his teammates.

 

Worst Case Scenario

Jackson continues to struggle with injury and becomes a weekly threat to leave his game early with various nagging injuries. Those injuries sap some of his elite speed and by the end of the season, Jackson has lost his job to one of the other speedy receivers on the roster.

 

2020 Projection: 56 targets, 36 receptions, 601 yards, 3 touchdowns

 

Jalen Reagor

ADP: 121.1, WR47

It was one of the worst-kept secrets in the NFL this offseason that the Eagles were looking to draft a receiver early in the NFL Draft. That pick turned out to be Jalen Reagor, an impressive athlete out of TCU that saw his college production suffer due to poor quarterback play. Reagor has a ton of pressure on him from a Philadelphia fan base that has been searching for several seasons for an elite receiver to cheer for, especially given how loaded this draft was with receiving talent. Reagor had a few drops on his college tape, but he has all the tools to live up to his lofty expectations. He’s probably faster than the 4.47 40-yard dash time he ran at the combine and his other athletic tests and breakout age paint him as a strong prospect and great fit for this offense.

The Eagles have said Reagor will begin learning the same role Jackson currently plays in the offense, and with how limited this offseason is likely to be I wouldn’t expect Reagor to be as involved in the offense as he would be in a normal season. He also seems unlikely to slide into the role that Jeffery would vacate if he misses time with injury. That said, Reagor is too talented to ride the bench and the Eagles should be able to get him involved on screens and running plays to at least put the ball in his hands and let him contribute. I’m hesitant to trust any rookie receivers, especially this year, but the combination of Reagor’s talent and the lack of consistently healthy receivers in front of him makes him a solid value late in fantasy drafts.

 

Best Case Scenario

Reagor proves to be a quick study of the offense and gets involved early and often. He emerges as the number one receiver and doesn’t let the veterans reclaim that role from him en route to having the best season of any rookie receiver this year.

 

Worst Case Scenario

Reagor’s drops in college prove to be more than just a product of bad quarterback play and he struggles to find a role in the offense after a tough offseason. He never gets going and spends most of the season as a disappointment, not unlike the next receiver on this list did last season.

 

2020 Projection: 64 receptions, 38 receptions, 480 yards, 2 touchdowns; 10 carries, 38 yards

 

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

ADP: 298, WR142

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was drafted in the second round in 2019 and was expected to be the heir-apparent to the possession receiver role that Jeffery filled. After Jeffery and Jackson went down to injury, Arcega-Whiteside was given every opportunity to step in and prove he was worth that draft capital but unfortunately he struggled and managed just 10 receptions as a rookie. A contested-catch specialist in college, he was unable to create separation in the NFL and hadn’t gained the trust of Wentz to earn many jump ball opportunities, especially when he did a poor job of fighting for the ball early in the season.

The best case for Arcega-Whiteside’s fantasy value for this season is that he is probably next in line to fill Jeffery’s spot in the starting lineup should Jeffery miss time, and now that he’s in his second year he could take a huge step forward. There’s nowhere to go but up for him, and as a former second-round pick the team is invested in him turning into a successful player. He’ll get chances to prove he deserves the ball, and if he takes advantage of those chances and gets some touchdown luck to go his way he would be a valuable fantasy asset based on where he’s being drafted now.

 

Best Case Scenario

Arcega-Whiteside takes advantage of Jeffery missing some time and shows why the Eagles spent a high draft pick on him. His contested catch ability finally translates to success in the NFL and he emerges as a physically imposing receiver that demands targets around the goal line. A few deep catches on 50-50 balls and a high conversion rate on those goal-line targets lead to a breakout fantasy season.

 

Worst Case Scenario

It turns out that relying on contested catches in college is an indicator that Arcega-Whiteside is unable to separate against NFL-level athletes, and he struggles to earn both playing time and Wentz’s trust in the offense. Arcega-Whiteside becomes the odd man out among the young receivers on the team and enters the 2021 season on the roster bubble.

 

2020 Projection: 56 targets, 31 receptions, 462 yards, 3 touchdowns

 

Tight End

 

Zach Ertz

ADP: 51.9, TE4

With a limited offseason for players to develop chemistry, players that already have a connection should be more valuable than ever, and there is no denying that Zach Ertz and Carson Wentz have a strong connection. Ertz has been Wentz’s favorite target since the quarterback entered the league and has enjoyed the fantasy success that comes with leading the team in targets. Last year it appeared there would be more competition for targets, but after the injuries to their receivers piled up the Eagles once again relied heavily on Ertz to be a reliable option to pick up first downs in the passing game. Ertz has now recorded five straight seasons of over 100 targets and at least 800 receiving yards, an almost unbelievable level of consistency for a tight end in recent seasons.

The additions the team made at wide receiver should eat into his target share a little bit but not enough to be a cause for concern. The Eagles also figure to lead the league in two-tight end sets again after running that formation the most in the league last year, which should keep Ertz’s production steady even as backup tight end Dallas Goedert pushes for more work after an impressive 2019 season. Ertz may lack a clear path to the same upside that other top tight end options have but his weekly floor should be one of the highest at the position in 2020.

 

Best Case Scenario

Ertz continues to command a high target share while also increasing his efficiency thanks to the running game and speed receivers drawing more defensive attention than they have in recent seasons. He goes over 1,000 receiving yards for the second time in his career and, with a little touchdown luck, finishes as the overall TE1.

 

Worst Case Scenario

Age starts to catch up with Ertz, who turns 30 this season, and Goedert takes a larger role in the offense than anticipated. The targets in this offense get distributed more evenly and without a high volume of targets, Ertz doesn’t have the efficiency to remain a top fantasy option.

 

2020 Projection: 104 targets, 70 receptions, 702 yards, 5 touchdowns

 

Dallas Goedert

ADP: 157, TE18

Dallas Goedert is the only backup tight end that has any fantasy relevance heading into this season, and drafting him is more about his upside than it is about his projection. Goedert broke out last year after the Eagles ran out of receivers and showed why they felt justified drafting him in the second round of the NFL draft with Ertz already on the roster. Ertz is no-doubt a better route runner than Goedert, but Goedert is bigger, more athletic, a better blocker, and more explosive after the catch.

Goedert, entering his third NFL season, should see the field plenty even if Ertz remains ahead of him on the depth chart as the Eagles figure to be near the top of the league in two-tight end sets. Goedert would also become a top-three fantasy tight end if Ertz were to miss any time, and that combination of floor and upside is very difficult to find among tight ends late in the draft. After Ertz, Goedert is probably the second-best pass catcher on the team and should get plenty of opportunities to prove it this season.

 

Best Case Scenario

Goedert closes the gap between himself and Ertz in target share and improves on his efficiency as the rest of the offense improves around him. He continues to be a featured target around the goal line and adds a high touchdown total to a receiving yards total that places him among the top tight ends in the league.

 

Worst Case Scenario

Ertz dominates the tight end snaps and the Eagles don’t rely on two-tight end sets as much as they look to get all of their new receivers more involved in the offense. Goedert sees some of his red zone opportunities go towards Jeffery or Arcega-Whiteside and turns into more of a role player and less of someone fantasy owners can rely on every week.

 

2020 Projection: 76 targets, 49 receptions, 543 yards, 5 touchdowns

 

 

Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

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