(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)
Today’s the day folks. Your NFC East expert finally gets to preview the fantasy studs that catapulted his Philadelphia Eagles to a Superbowl championship. Now, I’m sure that some of you might be worried about my bias elevating my opinions of some of my precious Eagles, but as any seasoned Eagles fan can tell you, we’re taught to expect the worst outcome for any given situation, including that of player outlooks. Alright, let’s get to how my Birdies are lookin…
How’s the Team Lookin?
Coming off of a championship usually means your team is looking pretty damn good, and while the Birds do certainly look like they’ll be contending again this season, the team does have some worries heading into the 3rd preseason game tonight and into week 1. MANY key players are either recovering from offseason surgery or are sporting minor injuries which, more often than not, are listed as hockey-esque “lower body” injuries. For some perspective, allow me to list them all, just so you can get an idea of just how many key players we’re talking here: Alshon Jeffery (rotator cuff surgery), Darren Sproles (knee surgery), Timmy Jernigan (back surgery), Jason Peters (knee surgery), Nelson Agholor (“lower body injury”), Corey Clement (“lower body injury”), Brandon Graham (ankle surgery), oh, and this Carson Wentz schlub (full knee reconstruction). Yes, that is every returning skill position player from last season except Jay Ajayi, who sports a degenerative knee issue himself, and Zach Ertz. While many of these players have quite positive prognoses, everybody knows that when recovering from an injury a setback is one tweak away. So try having a team full of them: not great odds. All of that negativity aside, all of the Eagles top-ranked offensive line from last season is returning, as is Jason Peters if his recovery has gone well as has been reported, so expect A LOT of efficient offense. Oh, and the D ain’t too shabby either, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s start with the new golden boy himself…
Carson Wentz (QB1)
Even though Carson Wentz appears to be the next star QB in this league, he is clearly in line for some serious regression. Scoring 33 TD’s in 10 games (!!!) is…crazy. Throwing 20 interceptable passes while only racking up 7 INT’s is…lucky. Hopefully, you get the point, and if not here is his player profiler page to reference. The man is visibly talented in nearly every facet of the game, AND he has the leagues best offensive line and one of it’s best offensive minds in Doug Pederson coaching him. He will continue to be a fantasy force at QB, posting QB1 numbers yet again, but I would fully expect him to land closer to QB#7 than to QB#1 unfortunately. Draft accordingly, and let others use their draft capital on Wentz early.
Jay Ajayi (RB2)
Probably the least sexy fantasy asset on this preview, Ajayi has seen his ADP tumble as folks begin to realize that the Birds backfield will more than likely be a rotation. That’s great! Why? Ah, well that’s because we can start snagging Ajayi for a reasonable draft price! In his 7 games, Ajayi averaged well above the typical benchmark of 4.0 YPC and had it not been for the human battering ram LeGarrette Blount soaking up carries and goal-line work (Ajayi had 0 goal-line carries last season) he likely would have posted larger TD and yardage numbers. Again, Ajayi has to contend with impressive second-year back Corey Clement, as well as living legend Darren Sproles, for backfield touches, but my bet is that his groundwork GREATLY outweighs his dearth of targets. Look for Ajayi to finish the year with 1000+ yards rushing, and 6-10 TD’s as a fine standard league RB2 and a low-end PPR RB2.
Corey Clement (RB2)
Corey Clement may very well be my favorite Eagle. Joining the team as a UDFA out of Texas last season, he worked his way up the ranks to eventually make several key plays for the Birds in their thrilling shootout against the NE Patriots. When our retooled site opened for business at the end of July, I posted an article fully detailing Clement’s potential to contribute big-time in PPR formats this year. Rather than needlessly lengthen this article by repeating myself, I’ll just give you the skinny on Clement this year: with a likely role as the primary 3rd down back and red zone specialist in Philly, similar to James White in NE, Clement could be a terrific RB2 this year in PPR leagues., and a solid streaming flex in standard leagues.
Alshon Jeffery (WR1)
In the past couple of weeks, I have gone on multiple rants about Jeffery and his latent value this year in fantasy. The man is a force in the red zone, clearly displayed a report with Wentz AND Foles throughout the season, and posted WR #15 numbers within the Eagles spread-the-ball-around passing offense WITH A TORN ROTATOR CUFF. Both the eye and stats test tout Jeffery as an elite receiver, but the primary concern with the star receiver is his recovery from offseason surgery to repair his rotator cuff. He currently sits on the PUP list, which if he remains on it to start the season, will keep him out for the first 6 games of the season. Now, Jeffery was seen as recently as Tuesday performing side work on the Eagles practice field, so he is able to use the shoulder, albeit without contact at the moment. I am not a doctor by any means, and much less so an orthopedic surgeon, so I am not in the know when it comes to Alshon’s recovery time. However, I do know that his original timeline was set to end right around week 1. Do I think Alshon will be fully recovered in two weeks time? No. But do I think he’ll be recovered fully in a month, yes, and even more so do I think the team will leave him on the PUP for 6 weeks if he can be ready to go by week 2 or 3 in favor of another warm body in his place? Nope. Look for Alshon to have 13-14 games of WR1 production at the price of a mid-low end WR2.
Nelson Agholor (WR3)
Agholor was a true stud last year for those that gambled on him in the late rounds. He corrected the drop issues which have maligned him throughout his young career and displayed the raw athleticism that got him picked #20 overall in the 2015 NFL draft. As the #2 receiver on the Birds, Agholor will likely maintain his moderate target share (~100 over the season), though there has been talk of increasing his usage in season, especially with Alshon Jeffery likely to miss a game or two. If this becomes the case, we could see Agholor balloon his yardage, and reception totals, while hopefully coming close to maintaining his grossly elevated 9 TD’s over a full season. Agholor comes into the season as a rock-solid WR3, with real WR2 potential.
Mike Wallace (WR3/4)
Wallace was signed by the Birds this offseason with the expectation that he would replace last years deep threat Torrey Smith. As such, evaluating his fantasy prospects becomes much easier, as we can simply evaluate Smith’s usage and apply our best estimate of Wallace’s production with it. Unfortunately, Smith and Wallace sported similar catch rates, though Wallace sports far greater physical potential. My best bet would be Wallace ending the season with a slightly elevated version of Torrey’s 2017 numbers: 40-50 receptions, 5-600 yards, 4-5 TD’s = a low-end WR3 or occasional streamer.
Zach Ertz (TE1)
Ertz was a BEAST last season, leveraging his elite route running and supple hands to post 70+ receptions, 800+ yards, and 8 TD’s. Ertz enters 2018 with the same skill set, QB, and offensive scheme; however, Ertz must now contend with younger-Ertz Dallas Goedert for targets, and most importantly red zone targets. Even last season, Ertz had an incredibly talented Trey Burton (a terrific pick at his ADP this year by the way) to contend with, though I believe the Eagles see greater things for their 2nd round selection. Don’t be surprised if Ertz sees a slight dip in production, but don’t expect him to venture far from his elite 2017. Pick Ertx confidently as the 3rd TE off the board.
Dallas Goedert (TE3)
If you haven’t seen Eagles legendary kicker David Akers announcing the Eagles’ pick of Goedert in the 2nd round of this year’s draft, then allow me to make your day. That aside, the man is both a backup TE and a younger Zach Ertz. From preseason footage and rumblings in camp, the Birds are likely to use Goedert as an Ertz replacement sparingly, while primarily bringing him in as a red zone wrinkle ala Trey Burton last season. If you’re in a deep deep league, the TD’s could make Goedert a solid TE3, otherwise, he’s just a backup.
Nick Foles, aka BDN, will likely start week 1 in my opinion, but beyond that, he will continue to be a backup for fantasy purposes. Nate STUDfeld could get a shot if all hell breaks loose and both Wentz and Foles go down, but let’s not talk any more about that. The RB depth behind Ajayi and Clement is highlighted by Darren Sproles and a whole bunch of guys that could end up as the #4 RB, so it’ll suffice to say that aside from using Sproles as a flex in return yardage leagues, there’s nothing to see here. The WR depth behind the starting 3 does show some promise, with guys like Mack Hollins, and Shelton Gibson flashing potential between last season and now, but without injuries, they will continue to be fantasy irrelevant. There’s already two TE’s, so even with injury guys like Richard Rodgers and Bill Brown will not be relevant.
The birds flaunt the leagues BEST defensive line in my opinion, despite additions to that of the Rams and Vikings, however not while Timmy Jernigan is off of the field and recovering from back surgery. In addition, the Birds’ secondary is full of uncertain youth opposite Ronald Darby, and their linebacker corps has many questions with Jordan Hicks’ questionable health and Nigel Bradham out for week 1 due to a suspension. Look for the dynamic Eagles D to still put up top 5 defensive points, but don’t be surprised if the beginning of the season isn’t so pretty.
That’ll do it for the review of my team’s fantasy studs. A few landmines to dodge in terms of elevated ADP, but LOTS of value to be had in guys like Agholor, Jeffery, and Clement. I hope you enjoyed the article despite the homer in me trying his best to screw it up, and get pumped for a full half of real football tonight with Preseason Week 3 kicking off!!! Addio!