2017 Fantasy Football: Philadelphia Eagles Team Outlook
After making the playoffs nine times in 14 seasons under Andy Reid with 10 playoff wins and a Super Bowl appearance, the Eagles have a 46-50 record over the last six years with one playoff appearance. They've missed the playoffs in each of the last three years. In the first season with Doug Pederson as head coach, Philly placed last in their division with a 7-9 record. Over the previous three seasons, Doug was the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs. He worked under Reid for eight years in Philadelphia and Kansas City. Just like the Giants and Cowboys, the Eagles showed growth on the defensive side of the ball. They moved to 13th in yards allowed after finishing 29, 28, and 30 over the previous three seasons under Chip Kelly. Philly allowed 99 fewer points than they did in 2015 (430) to move finish 12th in the league (331). Jim Schwartz will run the defense for the second season after taking a year off from the NFL. Over five seasons as a head coach for the Lions, Jim went 29-51 with one playoff berth. He has ten years of experience as a defensive coordinator. The offense came up flat in 2016 with a rookie QB behind center. The Eagles scored 367 points (16th), which was 10 points fewer than their total in 2015 (377). It was also their third consecutive season of regression in yards gained per game on offense (22nd, 12th, 5th, and 2nd). Frank Reich returns for his second season as offensive coordinator. Reich spent the previous three years with the Chargers with two coming as the offensive coordinator. Reich has nine years of NFL experience and 14 as a player.
The Eagles were aggressive in the offseason on the offensive side of the ball. They added RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Alshon Jeffery, and WR Torrey Smith. Jeffery is the key player as he has the skill set to add value in all areas of the passing game. He'll give Carson Wentz a true WR1, but Alshon needs to stay healthy. Smith offers big play potential and some scoring ability but is not a lock to earn valuable snaps. Blount will be in the mix for early down and goal line carries. The Eagles signed Nick Foles and Matt McGloin to compete for the backup quarterback job. G Chance Warmack adds depth to the offensive line after playing only two games in 2016. That being said, he does have a starting pedigree after being drafted in the first round in 2013.
CB Patrick Robinson has a chance to start after missing nine games in 2016 with groin and knee issues. He's never developed into the player the Saints thought he would be after being selected in the first round in 2010. DT Timmy Jernigan and DE Chris Long are expected to start after offering neutral value in 2016 with the Ravens and the Patriots.
Philadelphia released QB Chase Daniels and RB Kenjon Barner to clear room for the new options at QB and RB.
On defense, the Eagles parted ways with CB Leodis McKelvin, CB Nolan Carroll, DT Bennie Logan, and DE Conor Barwin. Each player failed to deliver starting value at their position in 2016. McKelvin remains unsigned while being the player who finished closest to the league average in value.
The front part of the 2017 NFL draft was geared toward improving the defense. In the first round, Philly selected DE Derek Barnett. He projects to have value against the run with solid vision and hands to pressure the QB. His first step quickness and speed don't offer an edge so Barnett will try to cheat the snap to create early wins off the ball, but this can lead to mental mistakes and penalties. Derek is still a thinker, which can lead to a lost step if he's late dissecting the developing play. Barnett loses value when asked to make big change of direction moves.
In the next two rounds, the Eagles drafted a pair of CBs – Sidney Jones (2nd) and Rasul Douglas (3rd). Jones wants to be a playmaker where his vision offers an edge. His style had success in press coverage in college, but the talent level in the NFL at WR will test his game. Sidney doesn't have the size (6'0" and 186 lbs.) to defeat the top WRs in the pros at the line of scrimmage even with a winning skill set and technique. He needs to get stronger plus add more bulk without losing any speed. His value in deep coverage has some risk. Jones slid in the draft due to a torn Achilles. Douglas comes from the complete opposite mold at CB. He has size (6'2" and 209 lbs.) with below par speed for his position. He'll struggle in man coverage if he's beaten off the line. Rasul gains back an edge with his vision and instincts helping him be a play maker when the ball enters his area of the field. His best success will be in press coverage against second tier WRs and working off the ball coming forward. His game will gain value in the red zone where speed receivers don't have enough real estate to make him pay.
Philadelphia continued to throw darts at the wide receiver position. In the fourth and fifth round, they took a swing with WR Mach Hollins and WR Shelton Gibson. Hollins should be an instant factor on special teams while offering big play ability at WR. His size (6'4" and 221 lbs.) points to upside when paired with his speed (4.5), but Mach needs plenty of work on his route running and his hands don't project as an edge. His style and skill set hints of value on the defensive side of the ball. For now, Hollins projects as a one-dimensional deep threat with scoring ability. He'll be a matchup problem as the fourth WR on the field on some plays. Philadelphia really focused on adding WRs with the ability to test defenses in the deep passing game this offseason. Gibson fits this mold perfectly. His deep speed is exceptional even with only average NFL speed in the 40-yard dash (4.5). Shelton has softness to his game where he's going to be dead in the water working in the middle of the field when hard contact is expected plus his hands don't' look to be an edge. Flash player who is expected to add value in the return game.
With their second pick in the fourth round, Philly invested in RB Donnel Pumphrey who could be another option in the return game. Pumphrey is an undersized back (5'8" and 176 Lbs.) with winning vision and plus value in the open field. His route running should be above average while his hands may not. His lack of size kills him on passing downs when teams will bury him if he is asked to block. Gimmick type playmaker while offering the quickness to test the outside in the run game. Pumphrey doesn't have impact deep speed.
With the last two picks in this year's draft in the fifth and sixth rounds, the Eagles added S Nate Gerry and DT Elijah Qualls. Gerry will be at his best moving toward the line of scrimmage attacking the run and standing WRs. His change of direction speed and tackling have risk. Nate will most likely be a rotational player with limited value in coverage on the long field. Qualls is a run clogger with narrow range and minimal upside rushing the QB.
Philly finished 11th in the NFL in rushing yards (1,813) with 16 rushing TDs. They gained 4.1 yards per carry with only seven runs over 20 yards and 58 rushes over 10 yards. Their backs had 52 negative runs.
This offense ranked 24th in the league in passing yards (3,585) with only 16 passing TDs and 14 Ints. Their offensive line 33 sacks. The Eagles gained only 6.2 yards per pass attempt (30th).
LT Jason Peters has been a steady force on the left side of this line over the last decade with his best play coming over the last five seasons. He'll enter 2017 at age 35 so decline in his game should be expected.
LG Allen Barbre has more losing seasons on his resume than success, but he did plays well in both 2014 and 2016. His missed time in 2016 leading to Isaac Seumalo getting value snaps in four of the last six games of the year. Isaac will bring flexibility to the offensive line. He has solid technique with his best asset being his foot quickness. Seumalo needs to improve as an attacker with his hands to create a winning edge. Philly drafted him in the third round in 2016.
C Jason Kelce tends to be an asset, but he's now regressed slightly in each of his last three seasons. Kelce now projects to be a league average player with run blocking being an area of strength.
RG Brandon Brooks did a nice job in pass protection last year leading to his best season of his career. Brooks offered an edge in three of his last four years in the league after getting drafted in the third round in 2012.
RT Lane Johnson continues to improve, but his success looks to be induced by outside products as he was suspended for 10-games in 2016. Lane has strength in run blocking while being a former first round pick (2013).
Looking at the skills of this line, it has three players of value with one in the twilight of his career and another making his living by taking performance-enhancing drugs. There is enough talent here to be ranked in the top third of the league, which will be helped by better play at quarterback. The Eagles don't have an impact running back so the ceiling in the run game isn't very high as far as yards per carry.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).
This information is based on 2016, which will work as our starting point for 2017. We'll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We'll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2016 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2016.
2016 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL last year.
2016 Adjustment is based on the 2016 league average and the 2016 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.
Philadelphia has eight games against teams that played above the league average in rushing defense in 2016. The toughest five games look to be against the Giants (2), the Cowboys (2), and the Cardinals. Their best success should come against the 49ers.
Overall, their schedule for the passing offense looks to be neutral. The Eagles have a bad matchup against Denver plus a below par game vs. Arizona. Philly will have the most success passing the ball against the Redskins (2), the Cowboys (2), and the Panthers.
A Fantasy owner will be surprised to see the Eagles threw the ball 609 times in 2016 based on their low ranking in passing yards (24th). They ran the ball 41.8 percent of the time with the sixth highest number of passing attempts per game (38.1). With the improvements at WR in 2017, this offense could offer sneaky upside if Carson Wentz figures out how to throw TDs in the red zone. Philly will run the ball in close so rushing TDs will rise with better all-around play offensively.
Philly has six games (LAC, LAR, SEA, DEN, and NYG X 2) vs. team that struggled to run the ball in 2016. Their toughest two games on the ground will come against the Cowboys.
This defense will be challenged in the passing game by the Redskins in two games plus three other mid-tier matchups (SEA, ARI, and LAC). They'll have the biggest edge against the Rams and the 49ers. Dallas and Denver ranked below the league average in passing yards in 2016 as well.
The Eagles were about league average in rushing yards allowed (1,652 – 15th) along with 10 rushing TDs. They allowed 4.2 yards per rush and 14 runs over 20 yards.
Their pass defense finished 13th in the NFL in yards allowed (3,832). QBs had 25 passing TDs while gaining 7.3 yards per pass attempts. The Eagles' defense only had 34 sacks with receivers delivering 57 catches over 20 yards.
DT Fletcher Cox had regression in his game in 2016 after being one of the better players in the league at his position in 2016. Cox had 6.5 sacks and 43 tackles compared to 9.5 and 71 the previous year. Cox is a former first round pick (2012). DE Brandon Graham posted similar stats (5.5 sacks and 59 tackles), but his game showed growth in 2016. Philly selected Graham in the first round in 2010. DT Timmy Jernigan will hopefully solidify the interior of the line vs. the run while chipping in a with a handful of sacks. Jernigan did suffer an ankle injury in early June, which has plenty of time to clear up before the start of the season. DE Chris Long only added rotational value to the Patriots' defense in 2016, but he did win a Super Bowl. Over his first four years in the league, Long has 41.5 sacks over 64 games. Over his last 34 games, he only has eight sacks. His biggest threat for playing time comes from rookie Derek Barnett who Philadelphia selected 14th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
LB Jordan Hicks continues to improve after the Eagles invested in him in the 3rd round in 2015. Last year his biggest area of growth came in pass protection while setting a career high in tackles (85). LB Nigel Bradham lived up to expectations after defecting from the Bills in 2016. He led this defense in tackles (102) while adding two sacks and five defended passes. LB Mychal Kendrick was a non-factor last year after having 75 tackles or more in his first four years in the league. Kendrick was only on the field for 273 plays in 2016 after posting 761 and 628 over the previous two years. Kendrick was drafted in the second round in 2012 so he should rebound in 2017.
S Malcolm Jenkins remains one of the better players in the league at his position. His game wasn't as impressive last year as it was in 2015 when Malcolm set a career-high in tackles (109). Jenkins has returned seven passes for TDs in his career. S Rodney McLeod helped stabilize the second safety position after he signed prior to 2016. He handles himself well vs. the run and in pass coverage. The CB position is in transition in 2017 and it will define this defense. They have a combination of underwhelming veterans and green rookies so the Eagles' coaching staff will have plenty of work to do in this area this season.
The first two levels of the defense have talent with the defensive line being the bigger area of strength. Philadelphia has two solid safeties with tons of risk at cornerback despite adding talent in the offseason. If the Eagles can pressure the QB, it will cover up some of their weakness in the secondary. I like their options in the return game and I could see a couple of returned kicks this year. Worthy of being a starting Fantasy defense in 12-team leagues with the most value coming when facing weak QBs and below average receiving talent.
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QB Nick Foles, PHI - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 12/29/17Foles struggled in his second start (163/1) for the Eagles, but he did lead them to another win. This week Philly is underdog at home to the Cowboys. They've clinched home field advantage so the betting world expects them to have a quick hook with their starting players. Avoid for me due to his downside risk in his playing time.
QB Carson Wentz, PHI - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Update 12/09/17Even with a short game (348/1) in Week 13, Wentz moved to second in QB scoring in four-point TD leagues. It was his fourth game with over 300 yards, but his first since Week 5 (304/4). Carson has five games with three TDs or more. The Rams have the third best defense in the NFL vs. QBs. They've allowed 20 Fantasy points or fewer to ten QBs. Their worst game came in Week 3 against the 49ers (332/2). LA allows 6.8 yards per pass attempts with 14 passing TDs. Not a great matchup even with Vegas giving this game an over/under of 50.5. His top shelf salary at QB would keep me away.
RB LeGarrette Blount, DET - Bust (overvalued)
Update 11/24/17Blount regained the RB1 snaps again in Week 11 for the Eagles. Over his last two games with Jay Ajayi added to the roster, LeGarrette has 12 rushes for 94 yards while on the field for 46 of 133 plays. On the year, he averages 4.6 yards per rush with two TDs. Only a place holder for the Eagles downside in his touches going forward.
RB Corey Clement, PHI - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 11/24/17There's a lot to like about Clement's game over the last three weeks. Over this period, Corey has 170 combined yards with four TDs and a catch. He remains in the mix for snaps (47 over the last two games) even with Jay Ajayi added to the roster. Interesting player especially if he can work his way into the passing game. Possible RB2 in the offense going forward with potential goal line value. More of a gamble.
RB Wendell Smallwood, PHI - Dynasty Only
Update 10/28/17In his first game back on the field, Smallwood finished with 39 combined yards with two catches while being on the field for 24 of 65 plays. The Eagles will score a rushing TD or two in this game so Wendell is a coin flip of getting the right call in the red zone. He should be the top pass catching back in this offense when healthy. Philly should play from the lead so one of their back could come in due to high rushing attempts.
RB Darren Sproles, PHI - Bye Week Fill-in
For the second straight season, Sproles has been unable to be a consistent, reliable RB option in the Fantasy market. He had 146 touches last season for 865 combined yards with four TDs and 52 catches, which works out to 10.4 Fantasy points per game in PPR league. His production led to a 25th place finish in RB scoring in PPR leagues. In two games mid-season with a bump in early down action (Week 8 - 15/86 and Week 9 - 13/57), the Eagles gave his short chance in the passing game (5/17 and 3/14). His only game of value came in Week 3 when Sproles broke a short pass for a long TD leading to his best success in the passing game (6/128/1). Philly completed 80 of their 115 targets to the RB position in 2017 for 654 yards and three TDs. Change of pace back who will start the year at age 34. The added strength at the WR position should open up more room underneath so Sproles could have an uptick in chances. Only a bench player with the most value in chaser games.