Two years ago, we were all excited to see what Chip Kelly’s Eagles would do next for fantasy football owners. A year ago, many of us still tried to give him some benefit of the doubt amid even more changes and lost offensive stars.
Now, he’s gone. And Doug Pederson’s back. So is Sam Bradford … and a bunch of other QBs. DeMarco Murray’s gone. The pass-catchers look young and iffy. And the whole team will face the pressure cooker that is Philadelphia.
Where should you be looking for value in this offense? Let’s get to the Eagles’ fantasy football preview ...
What will happen: Jordan Matthews will lead the team in receptions
No kidding. Right?
But there appear to be precious few certainties in Philly right now. Matthews beat #2 Zach Ertz by 10 catches last season and finished 30 ahead of #3 Darren Sproles. The season before, only Jeremy Maclin topped the then-rookie. (Maclin’s gone now, in case you slept through 2015.)
Ertz remains the biggest threat to Matthews’ top billing in the passing game, but he has inflated his reception numbers with huge games right at the end in each of the past 2 seasons. Ertz might actually be the better relative value in fantasy football drafts, with an ADP about 50 spots later than Matthews. And the WR is no special target, with Eric Decker and Larry Fitzgerald going right behind him in MFL10 drafting right now -- plus John Brown a half-round later and DeVante Parker nearly a full round behind.
But Matthews’ likely volume makes him a sensible option in that range.
What won’t happen: Anyone in Philly explodes
Implode, maybe. But don’t look to the Eagles in search of league winners.
Even if Matthews and Ertz hit their athletic peaks this year, they’ll still be catching passes from a QB who has never topped 21 TD passes in the pros and only reached 20 once. And they’ll be playing under a HC in his 1st season away from Andy Reid and an OC, Frank Reich, who coached the Chargers to #17 and #26 finishes in scoring the past 2 years.
That’s not to say Reich and Doug Pederson are bad coaches. They’re just unknowns at best.
Elsewhere we have an O-line that disappointed in 2015 and required reinforcements at guard this offseason. Will it jell quickly? We’ll see. Ryan Mathews’ upside might depend on it, and he’s opening training camp with ankle trouble. Behind him sit no backs ready to storm onto the fantasy scene.
Beyond the other Matthews at wideout stand Nelson Agholor, who’s best known for an ankle sprain and offseason brush with the law so far. Rueben Randle apparently might push for his job. He played so well for the Giants that his original team let the 25-year-old receiver walk, and then it took Randle 2 weeks to drum up a 1-year deal with the Eagles.
There’s upside to Ertz, but he’s going ahead of Gary Barnidge, Julius Thomas, Antonio Gates, Eric Ebron and Dwayne Allen. Does he have a higher ceiling than any of those TEs?
And then there are the QBs … (moving on …)
Bottom line: There will be spots in your draft where Eagles players make sense. But don’t expect to kiss your trophy in January and look back on that mold-breaking Philly dude you stole from your league mates. That guy plays elsewhere in the NFL this year.
What might happen: Agholor does something
The buzz is all bad around this 2015 first-round pick right now. We mentioned recently how NJ.com’s Elliott Shorr-Parks projected Randle to start ahead of Agholor, who continued to be “plagued” by drops in the spring. Well, the same writer, on Thursday alone, also tweeted that:
-- Philly would be better off with Nick Foles back in Bradford’s place right now.
-- 2016 seventh-round CB Jalen Mills has a better chance to make the roster than 2015 second-round CB Eric Rowe.
-- “I really don't see any reasons Ryan Mathews should be on the roster over Barner, Smallwood or Byron Marshall.”
Two main takeaways here: First, Shorr-Parks favors hot takes over reporting. (I base that on a lot more than just this particular series of tweets.) Second, don’t overrate anyone’s pre-camp analysis.
Agholor has not had an optimism-inducing offseason, but that’ll just make him a late-round flier instead of a mid-round gamble. He’s going in Round 16 of MFL10s right now -- nearly 70th off the board among WRs.
Agholor’s just a year removed from arriving as a Round 1 pick with an athletic profile nearly identical to Jeremy Maclin’s. That doesn’t come close to guaranteeing NFL success. But don’t count him behind Randle in the competition until we actually see that happen.