© Brad Penner / USA Today Sports

2017 Fantasy Football: Philadelphia Eagles Team Outlook

Shawn Childs provides an in-depth look at Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles as we gear up for the 2017 Fantasy season!

Philadelphia Eagles

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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.

Free Agency

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.

Draft

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.

©M. Samek / SCOUT

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.

Offensive Line

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.

Offensive Schedule

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.

Offense

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.

Quarterbacks

QB Carson Wentz

http://www.scout.com/player/200548-carson-wentz?s=532

Other than short TD production (16), Wentz handled himself well in his rookie season. He passed for 3,782 yards with a 62.4 percent completion rate. He took 33 sacks while tossing 14 picks. His game looked intriguing in Week 1 (278/2) and Week 3 (301/2), but defenses started to catch up to him leading to 10 games with one passing TD or fewer in his last 13 games and three other games with over 300 yards passing. His success in yards was mostly created by volume as Carson settled for the short pass in too many games leading to only 6.2 yards per pass attempt. The Eagles did a nice job improving his wide receiver options in the offseason plus Wentz already had one WR (Jordan Matthews) with strength and an upside TE (Zach Ertz). I like the structure of the receiver core as it offers a nice combination of big play ability and possession type options to move the chains. This team wants to throw the ball and attack in the deep passing game to improve the running lanes for the running backs. I expect a nice step forward in Carson’s yards per attempt. I’ll bump his floor to 4,200+ passing yards, but I don’t expect a huge breakthrough in TDs. Philly will run the ball well in close so his bar in TDs looks to be about league average (25). Not a bad swing as a QB2 if you land a stud as your lead QB. Until he proves he can throw TDs in the red zone, Wentz will be a tough week-to-week start in Fantasy games.

Other options: Nick Foles, Matt McGloin

Running Backs

RB LeGarrette Blount

http://www.scout.com/player/57630-legarrette-blount?s=532

The Patriots gave Blount his best opportunity for success in his seventh season in the NFL. He set career highs in carries (299), rushing yards (1,161), and TDs (18). Blount gained just 3.9 yards per rush, which was his lowest rate with over 100 rushes in a season. His game offers minimal value in the passing game (7/38 in 2016 and 46/337/1 in his career). The Eagles signed him to a one-year deal in May for $2.8 million to compete for early down touches. Ryan Mathews had surgery in the offseason to repair a herniated disk in his neck and there are reports that he’ll be released by Philly. Based on this, Blount should be in line for 250+ rushes leading to his third season with over 1,000 yards rushing and double-digit TDs. Game score is key to his value from week-to-week. He makes the most sense as a rotational RB3 in 12-team PPR leagues while expecting just over 10 Fantasy points per game.

RB Ryan Mathews

http://www.scout.com/player/82151-ryan-mathews?s=532

It’s been three seasons since Mathews had a full time starting opportunity in the NFL. He’s started 14 of his 26 games played for the Eagles over the last two years with solid production in TDs (16). In 2016, Mathews had two games with over 100 yards rushing and two games with two TDs. His best value came when Philly played from the lead. Mathews missed a couple of games with a knee issue before seeing his season end after Week 16 with a neck injury that required surgery. He’ll start the year at age 30 with questions about his health. The Eagles may release him clearing the path for Blount to get all the early down action. More of a handcuff headed in to training camp with his biggest fault being his inability to stay healthy for 16 games.

RB Darren Sproles

http://www.scout.com/player/39440-darren-sproles?s=532

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.

RB Wendell Smallwood

http://www.scout.com/player/161623-wendell-smallwood?s=532

Over three years with West Virginia, Smallwood rushed for 2,462 yards on 425 carries with 12 rushing TDs. He also caught 68 passes for 618 yards with no receiving TDs. His value moved onto the NFL map after his junior season (238/1519/6 with 26 catches for 160 yards). His resume won’t blow you away and his game doesn’t look to be explosive. Last season he ran many of his plays out of the shotgun where he delivered 59 runs of 10 yards or more. He needs to prove he can run through tight quarters in the NFL while handing his duties in pass protection. His style of play warrants volume of touches, but it could produce short results at times. Wendell has some talent as a pass catcher. In his rookie season, Philadelphia gave him 83 touches for 367 yards with a TD and six catches. He flashed in Week 3 (17/79/1), but he had short snaps in his next five games (1, 10, 5, 1, and 4). His season ended in early December with a right knee injury. This season he looks like more of a backup for Sproles than Blount.

Other options: Donnel Pumphrey, Byron Marshall, Corey Clement

Wide Receivers

WR Alshon Jeffery

http://www.scout.com/player/82780-alshon-jeffery?s=532

Jeffery has been a frustrating player to own over the last two seasons leading to 11 missed games. After being overlooked on draft day in 2016, he looked sharp in his first two games (4/105 and 5/96) with 13 combined targets. His opportunity rose in Week 6 and Week 7 when Jeffery had 24 combined targets, but he finished with a poor catch (41.7 percent) over this span. His first TD didn’t come until Week 8. Alshon missed four games over the second half of the season after being suspended for taking PEDs. When he returned to the lineup, Jeffery deliver two steady games (6/89/1 and 5/92) with 19 combined targets. For most of the season in the Bears’ offense, he looked like a WR2 rather than the elite lead WR Fantasy owners expected after a high level of success in 2013 (89/1421/7) and 2014 (85/1133/10) when he played in the shadows of Brandon Marshall. Alshon signed a one-year deal for $14 million in March. The plan would be for him to post a plus season leading to a long-term contract while still being in his prime. In 2016, the Eagles attempted 297 passes to the WR position with minimal success (170/1839/8). This stats should grow dramatically in 2017 with the help of Jeffery. A floor of 80/1000/7 and an upside of 100/1400/12 if he plays 16 games. Excellent gamble as a WR2 while playing in a contract year as long as there isn’t any negative injury news over the summer.

WR Jordan Matthews

http://www.scout.com/player/132908-jordan-matthews?s=532

In early August, Matthews suffered a bone bruise in his left knee putting his status for the 2016 season in limbo for the next month. In Week 1 of the season, Jordan delivering an impact game (7/114/1 on 14 targets) leading to Fantasy owners believing they missed on a great value in drafts. Over the next 13 games, he just wasn’t the same player as he was in 2015. His knee was part of the issue and defenses tried to take him away from Wentz. Philly did give him double digit targets in four straight games mid-season (15, 10, 10, and 10), but his results were unimpressive (11/65/1, 6/88, 6/73, and 5/59). Over his last 12 games played, Matthews had only one TD. Late in November, he suffered ankle injury that lingered for the rest of the season leading to a missed game in Week 17. Jordan is a mismatch problem in the slot with scoring ability. The presences of Jeffery will take some pressure off and defenses will need to respect the TE position and the speed on the outside at the other WR position. Reasonable chance at his first 1000-yard season with 80+ catches and competitive TDs.

WR Torrey Smith

http://www.scout.com/player/69010-torrey-smith?s=532

The last two seasons must have been insanity for Smith playing in San Fran. Over two years as the WR1 for the 49ers, he only caught 53 of his 111 targets (47.7 percent) for 930 combined yards and seven TDs. Last year he missed three games due to a concussion and one game as a result of a shoulder injury. This season he’ll be the fourth, possibly the fifth option in the passing game for the Eagles, but this will be a good thing as Torrey will be singled on the outside on many plays. His resume seems to have fade while I expect a rebound in his big play ability. The Ravens did a nice job getting him TDs in the red zone in 2014 so his TD production could be sneaky. For now, a 50/750/5 option with boom and bust value from week-to-week in all Fantasy games.

WR Nelson Agholor

http://www.scout.com/player/145896-nelson-agholor?s=532

It only took two seasons in the NFL for the Eagles’ coaching staff to see he was the answer for them as a starting wide receiver. Philly added two WR options in free agency plus looked to add big play options in the draft. Over two years in the league, Nelson has 59 catches for 648 yards and three TDs on 113 targets. The structure of the 2017 receiver core points to minimal action as a WR4 and a move out of town in the near future. Agholor was a first round pick in 2015 and he’ll be in his third year in the league for what’s it worth.

Other options: Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, Paul Turner, Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Treggs

Tight End

TE Zach Ertz

http://www.scout.com/player/109211-zach-ertz?s=532

After a hot run to end 2015 (30 passes for 352 yards and a TD on 39 targets), Fantasy owner had visions of a monster season in 2016. After a decent game in Week 1 (6/58 on seven targets), Ertz missed the next two games a rib injury. The Eagles barely looked his way over the next month (3/37, 1/22, 1/14, and 4/19) while getting starting snaps. Over the last nine games of the season, Zach caught 63 passes for 616 yards and four TDs on 86 targets. This was more in line with his expected value. Ertz had three strong games over his last five starts (9/79/1, 10/112, and 13/139/2) to save his season in a similar way as the previous year. There’s a lot to like with his game and the addition of Alshon Jeffery should create more open field to make plays. Last season Wentz completed 129 passes to the TE position for 1298 yards and five TDs on 184 targets. This is a great opportunity for success here for Zach. His game has high enough upside to be the next TE to gain over 1000 yards receiving with 90+ catches and growth TDs.

Other options: Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Anthony Denham, Billy Brown

Kicker

Caleb Sturgis

2016 was Caleb’s best success in his career in the NFL. He made 35 of his 41 field goals to set a career high in his success rate (85.4). He’s made improvement in his accuracy in each season in the NFL while showcasing a solid leg from 50 yards or longer (4-for-6 in 2016 and 12-for-23 in his career). Over the past two seasons with kickers attempting longer extra points, Sturgis made 65 of his 68 chances. The Eagles’ offense stalled in the red zone last year due to a rookie QB and a poor run game. Both area should be improved in 2017 so growth TDs should be expected with continued strength in field goals. His name and resume won’t blow you away, but Caleb was a top 5 kicker in 2016. Worth a ride as top 10 kicking options with matchup value.

Defensive Schedule

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.

Defense

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.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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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