(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)
Fresh off an exciting win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52, my Philadelphia Eagles head into 2018 returning nearly all of their primary offensive contributors, and therefore their fantasy studs. The Birds’ roster is chock full of prime fantasy players many of whom I, and certainly others, rode to fantasy championships: Wentz, Ertz, Jeffery, Agholor, Ajayi; but this article is not to sing their praises. Instead, I want to discuss a local hero, and Philadelphia Eagle who may just be the key to winning your PPR league this year: Corey Clement.
Clement went relatively unnoticed in fantasyland last season as he served merely as a change-of-pace back behind primary runners LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi. However, Clement was able to rack up 6 TD’s in only 84 total touches. That’s a TD every 14 touches, more than that of Todd Gurley (1 every 18 touches) and nearly triple that of Le’Veon Bell (1 every 37 touches)! With this rate of scoring and so little usage, you, or I for that matter, would suspect Clement’s in-game usage to be as a bruiser: a back brought in in tight yardage and goal line situations to get that extra yard the hard way, and in doing so “vulture” TD’s. At only 5’ 10” 215 lbs, however, Clement isn’t the type to bring in to barrel through a defensive line. Of course, the Eagles instead chose to use the 6’ 0” 250 lb LeGarrette Blount to gain that last yard needed for a touchdown, giving him 33 red zone rushes last season, good for the 11th most in the NFL. How then, if not by sheer force, did Corey Clement score a touchdown every 14 touches?
This was because Clement was used as a bruiser alternative: a secret weapon whose versatility opened the playbook for Doug Pederson in short yardage situations. Clement’s 3 TD performance in the Eagles’ week 9 drubbing of the Denver Broncos serves as a perfect example of his multifaceted use in key situations. Prior to Clement’s first touchdown, the Eagles had just crept into the red zone and faced 3rd and 10. Clement lines up for what appears to be a screen pass, and after the pass is faked to the athletic tight end Trey Burton, Clement is shovel-passed the ball in the middle of the field and scampers behind center Jason Kelce 19 yards into the end-zone. Pederson clearly trust’s Clement in the open field to find room and shift into the end-zone, utilizing his skill as a pass catcher and open field weapon to catch the Broncos defense off balance and score a much-needed TD. Shift now to Clement’s final touchdown of the day, as the Eagles line up in a 3 wideout, single back formation 4 yards out from the goal line. The play is again a fake to Trey Burton, however this time the fake is far less effective and Clement is handed the ball with only a small hole ahead. Colliding with two Broncos D-linemen at around the 2-yard line, Clement keeps his legs churning and barrels ahead for the final 2 yards and his third TD. With a talented, veteran runner in Blount on the sidelines, Pederson doesn’t employ Clement in this role without trusting his ability to gain the yards needed for the TD.
Trusted as both a runner and receiver, Doug Pederson could weaponize Clement’s pure athleticism in nearly any play type when it counted most, allowing him to rack up TD’s in the process. Now, I bet you’re thinking “Hey, this Clementine guy is pretty great, I think I’ll draft him now. Thanks Alex!”, but unfortunately, with the same number of touches this season as last season, Clement would be nothing more than a flex to stream in PPR, and only in larger leagues at that. So why then did I go through all of this analysis? Because Corey’s movin’ up folks. LeGarrette Blount, now with the Detroit Lions (RIP), leaves behind 173 rushing attempts, 33 of those within the red zone, to be accounted for. Assuming Clement gains an equal split of those attempts with Jay Ajayi and maintains his torrid TD pace, he would finish this season with a line of 170 total touches and 12 TDs!!! That is more than Le’Veon Bell had all of last season! Now, you would be foolish to expect that pace to continue given the chance nature of getting TD’s in the NFL, but with the safe expectation that he more than doubles his usage this season as he gains carries and becomes the primary 3rd down and passing back for the Eagles, AND assuming he maintains any semblance of last season’s TD production, Clement could be a true diamond in the rough in PPR this season. I would put Clement conservatively right around RB25, in the tier with rookies Sony Michel and Royce Freeman, but feel free to be bullish or bearish depending on your draft day needs and wants. Good luck, and happy drafting!