FF Tips

The Fantasy Football Impact of the Bradford-Foles Trade

By Matt Schauf 12:46pm EDT 3/11/15

So, what are the Eagles doing?

I'm really not sure how many times I've gotten that question over the past few days, being the resident Eagles fan in my extended family, around Draft Sharks HQ and down at the preschool. (My kids go. I graduated.) Honest answer: I don't know.

But I say that just because I'm not privy to the plan, not because I'm baffled. I actually seem to have far less trouble making sense of Philly's moves than most football fans -- especially the flailing, screaming Eagles fans.

The LeSean McCoy trade? Money. And RBs are more fungible than most of us want to admit.

Jeremy Maclin? The guy's getting $11 million a year somewhere else. Chip Kelly decided that was too much.

Nick Foles? That's the news of the day, so let's spend a little more time on it.

If you listen to our podcast even semi-regularly, then you probably already know that I don't particularly like Foles. Two years ago was fun for us Eagles fans, but even that magical 2013 found him grading out just 17th among QBs in Pro Football Focus' ratings. I don't treat those grades as gospel, but watching him play every week showed plenty of occasions where Foles seemed to get lucky because of DeSean Jackson, the scheme or defensive players dropping INTs.

Then it got ugly in 2014. You just wouldn't have known it from his early fantasy production.

Foles' 7 full games produced a 22.4 fantasy-scoring average, which would have ranked 8th among all QBs for the season. And even that average got dragged down by his 9.9 at San Francisco in Week 4. Take out that game and you get a top-4 average. Great stuff for fantasy owners.

But Foles also turned the ball over 2+ times in 5 of those 1st 7 games and finished just 1 of his 8 outings with 0 INTs. He lost 2.1 yards off his per-attempt average (9.1 to 7.0). He cut his TD rate in half (8.5% to 4.2%). He lost 4.2 percentage points off his completion rate. Blame the injured O-line? Foles also saw his sack rate fall from 8.1% in 2013 to just 2.8% in 2014. PFF ranked him 20th in pressure rate among qualifying QBs. His overall PFF grade ranked him 25th, 1 spot behind Kirk Cousins; 2 ahead of Mark Sanchez.

What matters more than my or PFF's feelings about Foles, however, is his place in Coach Kelly's heart. We now know for sure that he doesn't have one.


The new guy

But why Sam Bradford? Why take on his $13 million salary this year and give a 2nd-rounder next year?

Well, Dave Spadaro of PhiladelphiaEagles.com called Bradford "a QB they love" after talking to his team sources. They have the cap room this year and can try to restructure the contract if it becomes an issue. And the 2nd-round pick isn’t a ton to gamble on a guy who may be the long-term answer at football's most important position.

Bradford won't turn 28 until November. He's coming off consecutive ACL tears, but he'd fail the physical and negate the trade if his knees didn't check out. ACL injuries have become less devastating in their long-term effects and should matter less for a QB who wasn't especially mobile to begin with.

Doesn't that lack of mobility make Bradford a poor fit for Kelly's offense? No. Kelly said way back in his 1st April on the Philly job that "repetitive accuracy" was the "No. 1 quality" he sought in his QBs.

Bradford's 58.6% career completion rate in the NFL isn't special. We could debate how much of that falls on him and how much on the receivers he's played with. But every Bradford season to date has ended with an INT rate of 2.5% or better, with that worst number coming in his rookie campaign. Foles tossed INTs on 3.2% of his throws last year. Bradford has thrown 2+ INTs in a game just 5 times in 49 NFL starts, with 4 of those in his rookie year. Foles (3) and Sanchez (4) combined for 7 such games last season along. And Bradford was en route to his best season in 2013, when his 1st ACL tear ended it 9 games early.

His 2 full college seasons found completion rates of 69.5% and 67.9%, with 86 total TDs and a combined 1.9% INT rate. That all helped him go 1st overall in the 2010 draft despite a 2009 shoulder injury that cost him all but 3 games of his final season at Oklahoma. (The shoulder hasn't been an issue in the pros.)

According to the Eagles' website, Kelly's crew studied and decided that they really wanted Bradford, whom OC Pat Shurmur worked with as St. Louis' OC in 2010.

"They saw a quarterback with special accuracy, with touch, with a big arm," Spadaro wrote after the trade. "A quarterback who can get the ball out quickly, who can make fast, good decisions. Bradford is, the Eagles think, a classic pocket quarterback with just enough mobility to work the pocket well and keep plays alive." And Chip Kelly apparently "identified Sam Bradford as a special talent who can make this offense soar."

Now, it's the team's website, and I'm pretty sure I've never seen Spadaro say or write even a slightly negative word about anything Eagles. So there's probably some hyperbole at play. But Peter King added similar reporting today.

King said that an NFL insider "reliably" told him Tuesday night: "Chip came hard after Bradford. That's why this happened." King also said the source told him "Kelly is smitten with Bradford, who ran a fast-paced offense at Oklahoma."


Fantasy impact

It's tough to put numbers to Bradford's new role already. He has played just 7 games over the past 2 years, and the Eagles don't appear to be set at WR yet (unless you're sold on Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper and Josh Huff as the top 3). But look at what Kelly's offenses have done so far.

Philly finished 3rd in the league in scoring in 2013 and then 4th last year. In the games he started and finished in 2013, Foles posted a better fantasy-scoring average than any QB not named Peyton Manning. We've already gone through his strong numbers before the collarbone fracture last season. Sanchez's scoring average over his 8 starts would have ranked 14th among QBs -- with duds against Seattle and Dallas seriously dragging that number down.

Bradford's more talented than Foles. That's why the Eagles went after him. So whenever he's healthy, he sure looks like a high-upside fantasy starter from here -- like, upside into the top 5. And Bradford's recent injury history will probably keep his ADP out of the top 12 at QB.


What about Foles?

The Rams quietly traded a 7th-round pick for Case Keenum this week. They still have Austin Davis around. Shaun Hill has left for Minnesota. So, barring a 1st-round QB come draft time, it looks like Foles should start. Unfortunately for him and anyone hanging onto him in dynasty, the former Eagle will work in a much worse offense.

St. Louis ran 170 fewer offensive plays than Philly did last year. The 957 total marked a slight dip from the year before, when the Rams ran 86 fewer plays than the Eagles. You might be surprised to learn that the Rams actually passed more often than Foles' old team each of the past 2 years:


Then there's the WR corps, which had no player grade out higher than 30th in PFF's receiving grades last year. And the top guy there, Kenny Britt, might leave in free agency. TEs Lance Kendricks and Jared Cook finished 20th and 22nd, respectively, in receiving grades at their position. But, as you can see, the difference in play volume takes away any advantage St. Louis might present in pass lean. And we'd bet on the Rams leaning a bit more back toward the running game with their backfield more settled than it was early last season.

Again, PFF grades are not gospel. But it's pretty clear that Foles won't find a situation with any special pass-catchers. Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey could prove solid. Perhaps the Rams will still add some more help there. And maybe Tavon Austin will finally add a little more big-play punch. But Foles' move currently means a downgrade in surrounding talent.

Look for that new situation to also reveal to more people his shortcomings as a QB. If Foles continues to turn the ball over as readily as he did last season, the Rams will lose a lot more often than the 2014 Eagles did. And Foles probably won't do much for your fantasy team. Treat him like a low QB2 at best.


What about everyone else?

Perhaps Bradford stays healthy, raises the level of QB play in Philly and boosts the value of the guys around him as a result. But we certainly can't expect that kind of impact right now. I'm ready to buy Bradford's upside in the Chip Kelly system, but I'm not altering the outlooks for any of his receivers vs. what I would have expected from Foles/Sanchez.

Similarly, I don't think Foles hurts (or helps) the value of any of his receivers in St. Louis. Maybe he fixes his brutal footwork and becomes a more efficient passer. Maybe he doesn't. Maybe he proves to be no better than Shaun Hill. As of today, all I know is that his arrival won't make me change Brian Quick's draft position.

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