2015 Fantasy Football: Philadelphia Eagles Team Preview
Year two of Chip Kelly brought the same 10 wins as year one but this time the Eagles missed the playoffs. They crumbled down the stretch losing 3 of their last 4 games. Things changed this offseason as Kelly seized total control of player personnel and turned over a roster in an effort that resembled an extreme home makeover. The changes left Eagles fans with a closet full of jersey’s they can never wear again and a whole bunch of new players to boo if things don’t work out. However, it’s a roster full of usable fantasy pieces and a few potential studs.
Much to everyone’s surprise, the Eagles didn’t sell the farm on draft night to get who everyone believed was Kelly’s ideal quarterback, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Instead they engineered a trade of Nick Foles for the oft injured Sam Bradford. While Foles was well liked in the locker room and by the fan base, he didn’t receive the same amount of love from the coaching staff. After playing 13 games in 2013 and compiling an eye popping 119.2 QB Rating, he fell back to earth in 2014, getting injured and playing only 8 games while posting an 84.1 rating.
In comes Bradford and by all accounts this is his job to lose. The former Heisman winner is reunited with Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur who helped Bradford win Offensive Rookie of The Year honors in 2010. If healthy he’s got the tools Kelly is looking for from a Quarterback, primarily his ability to get rid of the ball quickly. His health is a major concern as he was limited throughout all of the team’s activities this offseason.
Due to the health factor, Mark Sanchez shouldn’t be ignored. While his numbers weren’t all that different from those that got Foles a one way ticket to St. Louis, a year’s experience in Kelly’s system and the comfort and confidence that can provide can’t be overlooked. Sanchez has been working out this offseason with a number of the Eagles players on the West Coast. He’s taken all the first team snaps and it appears it’s his intention to not go to the bench without a fight.
Whoever wins the battle has the potential to be a Top 12 Quarterback by the end of the year.
We can’t forget the circus came to town this summer as the Eagles also added Tim Tebow to the roster. While he’s no direct threat to Sanchez or Bradford, Matt Barkley should be quaking in his cleats. He’s not your prototypical quarterback that much is clear. However, Chip Kelly isn’t your prototypical coach either. If I had to guess I’d give Tebow a 60% chance of making the final roster as some sort of hybrid Offensive/Special Teams weapon for Kelly to gimmick around.
Ask yourself these questions if you think I’m crazy. Do you want Bradford and his bionic knee trying for a yard on 3rd & 1? If the season were to get a point where both Sanchez and Bradford are hurt who would you rather have under center? Barkley or Tebow? Both have proven they are not NFL Quarterbacks, but Tebow has a playoff win and something Chip Kelly covets, mobility.
This was the biggest shake up on the Offensive side of the ball as the best Running Back in franchise history has shuffled off to Buffalo. LeSean McCoy wasn’t the kind of RB that Chip Kelly likes and since he had total control he did something about it.
2013 was a massive season for McCoy as totaled over 2000 yards and made his way to the top of many drafts last year. 2014 was a disappointment for McCoy owners as his production plummeted.
It wasn’t so much that he was terrible as there were more mouths to feed in the Eagles backfield by design. Also, the offensive line wasn’t nearly as good or healthy as it was in 2013. Darren Sprouls contributed to McCoy’s receptions dropping from 52 in 2013 to 28 last year. Sprouls and Chris Polk’s usage running the ball in particular Polk’s use at the goal line cut into his touchdowns as well.
In comes the league’s leading rusher Demarco Murray. Murray is more along the lines of running back that Kelly prefers. A north south runner that last year with the Cowboys totaled an insane 449 touches and 2261 yards. Much like McCoy’s drop in offensive output from 2013 to 2014, I expect the same if not a more drastic a drop from Murray this year. He goes from playing behind arguably the best offensive line in football to an Eagles offensive line that is a major question. He also now has Sprouls and Ryan Matthews to share touches with.
While Murray is certainly worthy of RB1 status this season his numbers will almost certainly fall off a cliff. He should be one of the Top 10 running backs taken in drafts but he’s in the bottom half of the 10. Matthews should do well if he can remain healthy and is a handcuff for Murray. He could also earn himself a spot as a flex consideration depending on match up and usage. Sprouls will once again be a flex play but one has to wonder when the tread will finally wear off his 32 year old tires.
The receiving game is where we see the potential fantasy studs emerge for the Eagles. Jeremy Maclin is off to Kansas City creating a lot of opportunities for the young receiving corps.
Jordan Matthews tops the list of guys to pay attention to. He turned in a fine rookie season coming out of Vanderbilt with 67 Receptions, 872 yards and 8 touchdowns. Matthews was targeted 105 times and that number will almost certainly rise to around the level Maclin had last year with 143. That was good enough to tie Maclin for 8th in the NFL among WR. They want to get him the ball and with Maclin’s subtraction they will need to get him the ball. He is dedicated to his craft and you can’t argue with his genetics as he’s Jerry Rice’s cousin. He’s a solid pick as a WR2 with the potential for a whole lot more.
In the draft the Eagles picked up the home run threat they’ve been missing since DeSean Jackson was let go in USC’s Nelson Agholor. Preseason workouts have done nothing to dissuade me from believing an Offensive Rookie of The Year campaign is possible. Much of last year the Eagles passing game didn’t look nearly as potent as when Jackson was around because they didn’t have a true deep threat. Now with the potential of Bradford’s arm and the threat of Agholor things should open up for everyone. He will also contribute in the return game. I think Agholor is due for fewer receptions than Matthews in his rookie year but the targets, touchdown and yardage numbers could be similar. For those in leagues that give bonus points for length of touchdowns keep your eyes on Agholor.
The rest of the receivers are a crap shoot. Riley Cooper does deserve a mention here because of the presence of Agholor. When DeSean Jackson was in town in 2013, Cooper was a usable fantasy option due to his 8 touchdowns. Without Jackson, that total dropped to 3 last season. He’s been under 100 targets each of the last 2 seasons and I don’t expect that to change, but he’s someone that needs to be watched if Agholor is as advertised.
Also of note are Josh Huff and Miles Austin. A Kelly favorite from Oregon, Huff’s first year in Philadelphia wasn’t a good one as a receiver. Mostly used in the return game a year of growth and opportunity could see a major uptick in stats for a guy with a lot of speed. Austin comes over from Cleveland. He could end up making the team and putting up decent numbers but I don’t expect either he or Huff to be fantasy standouts…but they are worth watching.
The only name you need to know here is Zach Ertz. Ertz saw his targets increase from 56 to 86 in his second year in the league and that number will go up this season. We also saw his receptions jump from 36 to 58. While his yardage increased his touchdowns stayed about the same going from 4 in 2013 to 3 in 2014. Last year he ended up ranked 14th among tight ends but his numbers are somewhat misleading due to a 15 catch game against the Redskins in December. I expect to see all of his totals go up this season and end up somewhere in the Top 10 tight ends by season’s end. The potential is there for him to be a stand out for sure, but while some will be calling out his name as a “sleeper” or “break out” candidate I’m not as enthusiastic. He will be somebody’s starter at tight end and he’ll be a decent option. The problem with Ertz is that this will be a running offense and if you take away the Washington game his numbers in year one vs. year two are very similar.
They should be a Top 5 fantasy defense once again. Last season they ended up ranked 1st overall thanks to their special teams. The defense put up an incredible 11 touchdowns last season and some owners can thank their production for singlehandedly winning weeks. While I don’t think they can repeat the 11 touchdown total it’s not out of the realm of possibility for them to get close to that number again. Special teams is a huge focus for Chip Kelly and with the addition of Agholor to the return game that already featured Sprouls and Huff they can do some damage. You must also factor in that their Secondary should be a lot better because honestly it couldn’t have gotten much worse last season. Adding Byron Maxwell should help a lot and with the addition of Kiko Alonso their defensive statistics across the board should improve.
Player To Watch
Rasheed Bailey from Division III Delaware Valley College is a guy to keep an eye on. He’s a local kid that the Eagles kept their eye on. I should say they were forced to keep their eye on due to his numbers. Before you knock Bailey or blow him off completely, the Eagles keeping a tab on local small school players worked out pretty well for them with Brian Westbrook. In three years as a starter Bailey was fantastic with 165 catches for 3,138 yards and 29 TD’s. His senior season is what drew all the attention with a staggering 80 receptions for 1,707 yards and 19 touchdowns. The 6’2 205 pound Bailey is one of the guys that’s been working out with Sanchez on the West Coast and if he can cut it Kelly will make use of him.
4238 Net Passing Yards allowed by the Eagles defense. That’s good enough to rank 31st in the NFL. This number has to improve if the Eagles will break the 10 win barrier this season.
Article written by Andrew Wheeler exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com.