|By Ben Standig, Monday, September 2, 2013|
QB Michael Vick - Quality Backup
Update (8-20): The Eagles announced that Vick would start the regular season opener against the Redskins. In two preseason games, the mobile left-hander is 13 of 15 for 199 yards with one touchdown and one explainable interception. Seeing as Vick is an obvious injury risk, backup Nick Foles will likely play at some point. Seeing as Vick's running ability makes him a tremendous fit for Philadelphia's new offense, he makes for a high-upside and arguably ideal fantasy backup.
Profile - We have a potential boom or bust situation here, though that pretty much sums up Vick's fantasy worth the past couple of seasons. If Chip Kelly's fast breaking offensive plans work, the mobile left-hander could post monster numbers both on the ground and through the air. That's also a big if seeing as Vick, who threw for 12 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions last season, also missed six games and hasn't played a full season since he returned to the NFL in 2009. On the other hand, Kelly's schemes could free Vick up for more running lanes and greater production while offering better protection due to quick reacting plays. In 12 team leagues, every owner should have a strong weekly start at QB, meaning the backup can largely be about potential and Vick has always oozed that. In that sense, Vick makes for a rather intriguing QB2 option playing in this system. That is provided he can stay healthy and fend off Nick Foles for the starting job in Philly. Heading into training camp, it is unclear whether either of those scenarios is possible. If he is the Eagles' opening game QB, then at least the stats should be there for as long as he plays.
QB Nick Foles - Not Draft Worthy
Update: Vick has been named the starter, but keep Foles' name on speed-dial because we all know Vick likes to dive head first into defenders. In Chip Kelly's offense, Foles, who will go undrafted in your draft, will eventually be one of the hot waiver wire pickups of the season.
It's not often the drafting of a quarterback is considered a good thing for a not-so established QB already on the roster. Nick Foles' tale might be another story. Selected in 2012 for Andy Reid's West Coast offense, the large and not terribly athletic passer didn't appear to be a great fit for Chip Kelly's read-and react attack (which in college deployed fleet-of-foot players at quarterback). You know, someone like Michael Vick. Then a strange thing happened: the Eagles drafted Matt Barkley, another pocket passer nobody would pick to win a foot race. The selection indicated Kelly's openness to different options. Ultimately, he wants a quick thinker more than a quick mover. Some reports have Foles in the lead over Vick entering camp. Should he be named the starter, Foles would land somewhere in the 19-25 QB range, but as with most Eagles this season, his value could fluctuate greatly depending on how quickly Kelly's system takes off.
QB Matt Barkley - Dynasty Only
For now, Barkley' s journey from USC stalwart to NFL rookie is nothing but a downhill trajectory, seeing as he went from a potential top-5 pick in 2012 to an actual fourth selection in 2013. However, the future does not look so gloomy seeing as the two passers in front of Barkley - Michael Vick and Nick Foles - are not locks to hold the job down. Barkley has already received praise for his adjustment to coach Chip Kelly' up-tempo offense. Don't expect him to enter the QB battle this season, but next season is a possibility, meaning 2014 could be a much better year.
RB LeSean McCoy - Stud (low risk)
McCoy is a top-8 RB fixture, but typically toward the back of that illustrious pack. It appears that 2013 is shaping up the same, though his dynamic pass catching ability gives him more value in PPR leagues. "Shady" is indeed a dual threat and one playing behind an unsettled QB situation and now in an offense with a heavy-run component. It will surprise no one if McCoy ends up surpassing his drafted value. However, the uncertainty over how Chip Kelly's system will work in the NFL makes everything in Philly, well, uncertain. There is also a bit of an injury history; he dealt with a concussion last season and missed four games after missing one in each of the previous two campaigns. Regardless, draft McCoy with confidence. He might be the last RB available owners take before the non-Calvin Johnson wide receivers. Almost regardless of league setup, they probably should.
RB Bryce Brown - Gamble (high risk)
What we learned about Brown during his rookie season: the 6-foot-0, 225-pounder is all instincts, no fundamentals. During a two-week stretch with LeSean McCoy out of the lineup, Brown was the talk of the NFL after rushing for 347 yards and four touchdowns. Then over the final games, his touches dipped, the yards decreased and the fumbling just couldn't be stopped. The latter issue had better not be one going forward if Brown wants consistent touches, but otherwise there will be no keeping him out of the lineup. McCoy remains the clear RB1, but the Eagles' new-look offense should include enough plays for the primary runners. Brown is more handcuff or middle-to-late round flyer than anything, but we've seen what he can do for fantasy owners, if he holds onto the ball.
RB Felix Jones - Bust (overvalued)
Felix the Fragile left Dallas, but remains in the NFC East after signing a one-year deal with the Eagles. Jones actually played all 16 games last season for only the second time in his career. However, without the burst he entered the league with, Jones rushed for a personal-low 3.6 yards per carry. While a two-way threat, Jones only caught 25 passes last season. In other words, the former first rounder no longer plays up to his name vale. On the other hand, Philly should run plenty this season and with an injury to LeSean McCoy (and maybe Bryce Brown), Jones could find his way into receiving decent touches. No more than a late, late round flyer or perhaps a McCoy handcuff, sort of.
WR DeSean Jackson - Gamble (high risk)
Have you heard the one about DeSean Jackson as a home run threat who strikes out about as much he goes yard? What about him as a combustible option that seemingly loses focus on the field more often than a far-sighted camera operator with their glasses? Sadly both versions have proven true, including last season when he finished with 45 receptions for 700 yards and two touchdowns. The numbers were down in part due to Jackson missing five games and landing on the IR with fractured ribs. Of course, the previous season when he played 15 games, the shifty one only scored four times and finished under 1,000 receiving yards. Here's the good news: just about everyone outside of the Jackson household has doubts, meaning he's likely to be drafted outside the WR2 range. As a third receiver and in this potentially high scoring offense, that's not a bad gamble to consider (especially in non-PPR leagues). When he's at full blast, Jackson is one the scariest playmakers in the league. Still, put all the factors together - including a new offense - and Jackson is indeed a gamble.
WR Riley Cooper - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
8/7: It goes without saying that Cooper hasn't had a good few weeks. SInce the Eagles have welcomed him back into the fold, we'll move on from the ugliness and focus on the football. There is also a reason why Philly kept him on the roster: they're running out of bodies. With his size and route-running ability, Cooper is an interesting talent and one the Eagles might have to rely on considering their limited options. If he emerges as a starter, it is conceivable he's a draftable WR5, but circle back in a couple of weeks.
Somebody is about to pick up a whole bunch more targets now that the Eagles confirmed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is out for the season after tearing tore the ACL in his right knee. That someone could be Cooper, who offers red zone size, though has remained a fantasy tease. He did catch a career-high 23 passes last year, three for touchdowns. The Eagles' WR2 position is certainly one to watch during training camp. So far the viewing has been a bummer.
WR Jason Avant - Deep-league Only
Update (7/27): The Eagles confirmed Maclin tore the ACL in his right knee and will the miss the entire 2013 season. No Maclin means defenses can regularly keep a safety over the top on Jackson, as the expected drop-off to Avant or Riley Cooper is significant. Not exactly a playmaker, Avant has caught at least 51 passes in three straight seasons, but only two touchdowns in that span. Perhaps his fantasy value receives a modest boost, but except another receiver (or tight end) to emerge as Philly's second pass-catching target. The mystery surrounding what the heck will happen with Chip Kelly's offense, now more mysterious.
Profile - Under the previous administration, owning Avant was often the same: catch just enough passes to intrigue, not enough to use. Last season in 14 games, the 6-foot target (plays bigger than his listed height) averaged 3.8 receptions and 46 yards. There were some games where he was close to becoming fantasy viable, but there were none where Avant actually scored. Over the last three seasons, he only scored two touchdowns total. There's the rub, or has been. Perhaps the Eagles' new look will boost Avant's numbers, but there are plenty of mouths to feed. Outside of the truly deep leagues, Avant is waiver wire option (but is an option to consider if DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin miss games).
WR Damaris Johnson - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
The buzz surrounding the 5-foot-8 sparkplug was mounting even before Jeremy Maclin's season-ending knee injury. Now that the Eagles' second receiver job is up for grabs, expect chatter about Johnson's exploits to reach another level. Whether college football's all-time leader in all-purpose yards can play a meaty role on the NFL level is the question. As a rookie, Johnson averaged 13.5 yards on 19 receptions while his lone touchdown came as a punt returner. On paper, his shifty style makes for a great fit in Chip Kelly's up-tempo schemes, more than Jason Avant or Riley Cooper. Now the training camp opportunity exists to show that Johnson can make the transition from potential to production.
TE Brent Celek - Quality Backup
Celek has turned in some potent performances during his career, some over large chunks of entire seasons. The 2012 campaign wasn't one of those seasons. He finished with 57 receptions for 684 yards, but only one touchdown after scoring at least four times in each of the previous three seasons. The trick with projecting Celek's value before fantasy drafts is gauging the tight end's worth in a Chip Kelly offense. From what we can tell, it is actually worth quite a bit, so much so that Kelly has stated he plans to use three of them throughout the season. As for how he will use them, perhaps this article is a clue. Kelly classifies rookie Zach Ertz as a receiver. Same with James Casey. As for Celek, "his strength is blocking." Now, that's not the same as predicting Celek turns into the Eagles' sixth offensive linemen, but it is also not the same as projecting him catching 76 passes like Celek did during his breakout 2009 campaign. We'll find out during camp if Celek is the main option or part of a committee. Seeing as the fantasy tight end class is a weak one this year, Celek's upside is interesting (just not TE1 interesting, not yet anyway).
Update 9/1: Word in Eagles camp is that Brent Celek will be heavily involved in the passing game this season. Celek was orginally thought to be used more as a blocking tight end, which would allow rookie Zach Ertz to be the receiving threat. This would make for a crowded tight end position for fantasy, but things change quickly in pre-season. Update your draft board accoringly, but Celek should be considered a high end TE2 with big time potential in Chip Kelly's offense.
TE Zach Ertz - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Chip Kelly immediately added a pass-catching tight end threat by selecting Stanford's Zach Ertz in the second round. The 6-foot-6 target replaced Coby Fleener at Stanford and paced the Cardinals in receptions (69), yards (898) and touchdowns (6). Yet it isn't Ertz' pass receiving skills that will determine his playing time, but likely his pass protecting (which is not considered a strength, for now). Veterans Brent Celek and James Casey are also in the mix. Therefore, we may not learn until late in camp how much playing time the rookie earns. For now, consider Ertz a worthy dynasty or keeper league, but at best a late round flyer in redraft leagues.
PK Alex Henery - Quality Backup
Like the entire Eagles offense, Henery's production dipped in his second NFL season, finishing in the middle of the pack among fantasy kickers with 106 points. Over two seasons, he's drilled 51 of 58 field goals. In 2012, he made 11 of 13 from 40 yards and beyond. There is certainly a chance the scoring overall picks up under the new scheme, but the equal opportunity exists that it won't. With so much unpredictability, you can probably do better at kicker, but jump on Henery if the Eagles soar early.
Philadelphia Defense - Bye Week Fill-in
Because for years this unit was a top-10 fantasy staple, the standard assumption is drafting Philly's defense is a good thing. Eh, not so much anymore. Last season the Eagles were middle of the pack in sacks, but ranked 30th with eight interceptions. Adding former Texans linebacker Connor Barwin will help the pass rush, which in turn should aid the now overhauled secondary. There is some interesting linebacker talent, but both the defensive line and backfield are iffy. During the season, Philly could be useful, but on draft day, there will likely be better options.