2021 Franchise Focus: Philadelphia Eagles

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2021 Franchise Focus: Philadelphia Eagles

You could tell us the Eagles would win 4 games or they’d win 10 games and we’d believe you on both.

Following a total enema of the fast-deteriorating Doug Pederson/Carson Wentz Era, which nonetheless brought Philly its first Super Bowl title, the Eagles brought in the young and energetic Nick Sirianni to lead the way, and for now appear that they’re going to give Jalen Hurts a shot to prove he can be Philly’s QB of the future.

There are some interesting pieces here, including Heisman winner DeVonta Smith at WR, but how Sirianni coaches those pieces and how Hurts plays will determine if any of them can reach their fantasy ceiling.

Philadelphia Eagles Franchise Focus Companion Podcast

The Basics

Team FuturesOdds
Season Win Total (O/U)6.5 (-130/+110)
NFC East+550
Playoffs (Y/N)+275/-350
NFC Championship+5000
Super Bowl+10000

Season Prop Movement

  • Win Total: 6.5 (-150) in late March to 6.5 (-130)

  • Super Bowl: +5000 in early February to +10000

Premium 2021 Betting Preview from Tom Brolley found here.

Key Offseason Moves

AdditionsDraftDepartures
Joe Flacco (QB)Landon Dickerson (OC)Carson Wentz (QB, Ind)
Nick Mullens (QB)Kenneth Gainwell (RB)DeSean Jackson (WR, LAR)
Le'Raven Clark (OT)DeVonta Smith (WR)Alshon Jeffery (WR)
Kayode Awosika (OG, UDFA)Milton Williams (DT)Malik Jackson (DT, Cle)
Kerryon Johnson (RB)Marlon Tuipulotu (DT)Vinny Curry (DE, NYJ)
Jhamon Ausbon (WR, UDFA)Tarron Jackson (DE)Nate Gerry (ILB, SF)
Tyree Jackson (TE)Patrick Johnson (OLB)Jalen Mills (CB, NE)
Jack Stoll (TE, UDFA)Zech McPhearson (CB)Nickell Robey-Coleman (CB)
Ryan Kerrigan (DE)JaCoby Stevens (S)Jameson Houston (CB, Jax)
JaQuan Bailey (DE, UDFA)Cre'Von LeBlanc (S, Mia)
Eric Wilson (ILB)Johnathan Ford (S, Jax)
Steven Nelson (CB)
Josiah Scott (CB)
Anthony Harris (S)
Andrew Adams (S)
Obi Melifonwu (S)

Scott Barrett’s Fantasy Strength of Schedule

Quarterback: 11th-softest (+0.18)

Running Back: 11th-toughest (-0.35)

Wide Receivers: 8th-toughest (-0.68)

Tight Ends: 15th-toughest (-0.03)

Pace and Tendencies

Pace (seconds in between plays): 26.6 (T-6th)

Plays per game: 66.6 (4th)

When the game is within a score — Pass: 58.7% (15th) | Run: 41.3% (18th)

When the team is ahead — Pass: 57.2% (4th) | Run: 42.8% (29th)

When the team is behind — Pass: 66.3% (14th) | Run: 33.7% (19th)

With a brand new coaching staff and a new starter, the Eagles offense is going to look a lot different this season. Well, Jalen Hurts hasn’t been named “the starter” yet, but it’s a foregone conclusion. Still, new HC Nick Sirriani and OC Shane Steichen are going to design this offense around Hurts’ strengths. That means the Eagles are going to lean way more run-heavy and feature a lot of play-action and designed roll-outs to define things for Hurts. While Steichen will be a big part of the game-planning and Hurts’ development, it’ll be Sirriani calling plays. He spent the last three seasons under Colts’ HC Frank Reich, and while he was a big part of game-planning, Sirriani will be calling plays for the first time in his NFL coaching career when the Eagles take the field in Week 1.

Key Statistics

  • It’s a tiny sample, but in those three starts, Jalen Hurts finished as the QB10, QB1, and QB16 in weekly scoring and averaged 25.2 fantasy points per game largely because of his legs.

  • Hurts averaged 0.62 fantasy points per dropback, which ranked sixth-best, behind only Lamar Jackson (0.76), Aaron Rodgers (0.69), Ryan Tannehill (0.66), Josh Allen (0.65), and Kyler Murray (0.63).

  • Per SIS, Hurts led all QBs in scrambles (15), yards off of scrambles (112), first downs (8), and scramble TDs (1) in his three full starts.

  • Again, it’s a small sample, but two of Miles Sanders’ four-best games came with Hurts under center in Week 14-16 when he scored 29.6 fantasy points vs. the Saints and 18.8 vs. the Cowboys.

  • Sanders ranked sixth in routes run per game among running backs behind Christian McCaffrey, David Johnson, David Montgomery, Ezekiel Elliott, and JD McKissic.

  • Among the 18 running backs to get 50 or more targets, Sanders had the worst target quality. Per SIS, just 72% of Sanders’ targets were catchable.

  • For perspective, the other 17 RBs saw an accurate pass on 87% of their targets.

  • Sanders did have eight drops, which was third-most behind Ezekiel Elliott (9) and Alvin Kamara (10).

  • Dual-threat QBs always help open up lanes in the run game and Sanders averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 46 rushes in Week 14-16.

  • Hurts profiles very similarly to Lamar Jackson from a stylistic standpoint and Jackson has targeted his receivers on a league-low 12.9% of his passing attempts over the last three years. Hurts, on his 134 passes last year, wasn’t too far behind. He targeted his backs just 14.9% of the time.

  • According to PFF, DeVonta Smith’s 4.39 yards per route run in 2020 ranks best by any Power-5 WR since at least 2014.

  • Jalen Reagor led the team in target share (18%) and air yards (23%) in Hurts’ three full starts.

  • Dallas Goedert averaged 12.3 fantasy points per game in games that Zach Ertz missed and 9.6 FPG when Ertz played.

  • Over the last three combined seasons, Goedert ranks 6th according to PFF in yards gained per route run (1.63) behind only Jared Cook (1.81), Mark Andrews (2.17), Travis Kelce (2.20), Darren Waller (2.34), and George Kittle (2.79).

Huber’s Scheme Notes

Offensive

The Carson Wentz injury only shines another spotlight on his contract with the Eagles and the details surrounding the trade that sent him to the Colts. The elephant in the room is the $33.8 million in remaining dead money from Wentz’s previous contract that will account for 16% of Philadelphia’s 2021 salary cap. Consider that, entering his 21st season as an Eagles executive, GM Howie Roseman only used a combined 13.7% of the team’s ‘21 cap on contracts for all of his free agent additions and selections from the ‘21 draft — $23.6 million in total. I’ll save you the trouble, Philadelphia is on the hook for a full 30% more of its ‘21 cap in dead money leftover from Wentz than they used to improve its personnel after posting a 4-11-1 record. In total, the Eagles top all NFL teams with $49.4 million in dead capital — 23.85% of the ‘21 cap. In addition to Wentz, DeSean Jackson ($5.8 million), Alshon Jeffery ($5.6M), and Malik Jackson ($3.6M) make up the bulk of the hit.

Now that the chances have dwindled on Wentz either playing at least 75% of offensive snaps or 70% with Indianapolis earning a playoff berth, Roseman will need to come to terms with the 2022 conditional pick received from the Colts falling in the second round. Philly will have a rabbit foot in hand hoping for a dismal finish for Indianapolis in order to improve the exact placement in the second round. If we view the deal alongside the one for Sam Darnold, even considering they missed out on a first-rounder, the Eagles actually did well for themselves solely from a pick compensation standpoint. However, the Jets are only on the hook for 14.8% of what Philadelphia owes in dead capital on Wentz. With the dead cap hit in mind, the Darnold deal moves out in front. And, just for kicks, Roseman will be paying the top-three QBs on the roster a combined $3.9 million this season — 88.5% less than Wentz’s dead cap hit.

It’s quite amusing, bear with me, that Philadelphia plucked their new HC, Nick Sirianni, from the same team where they traded off Wentz, after he served as their OC the last three seasons, and as an offensive coach for the Chargers in the five seasons prior. The next day, they added Shane Steichen as their new OC after he spent his last seven seasons as an offensive coach with the Chargers. Both coaches have spent six previous seasons working with Philip Rivers, literally the anti-prototype of a mobile QB. Now some doubt has been expressed from Sirianni and Steichen at fully committing to Jalen Hurts as the starter. Judging by the QBs the Eagles signed this offseason — Joe Flacco and Nick Mullens — the QB-type they prefer is quite obvious.

Hurts is far from a perfect QB. Although, it wouldn’t be fair to judge him based on his 185 career dropbacks to date. We need more to build a complete profile. We can extract some trends he’s displayed as long as we understand they could quickly change. He’s certainly not afraid to air it out, posting 10.1 air yards/attempt that would rank fourth-highest if qualified. Hurts shredded Cover 3 with an unqualified 0.64 FPs/dropback that would pace all QBs. And he struggled when facing Cover 1 and, particularly, Cover 2. No matter how the new coaching staff may view Hurts’ playstyle, you can be sure that Roseman will see to it that his ‘20 second-rounder has the first opportunity to lead the offense. More than anything, Philadelphia needs to know whether or not Hurts is their QB of the future with a pair of 2022 first-rounders in their pocket to potentially draft another QB.

While Steichen may not be thrilled about including read- and run-pass options (RPOs) in his offense, there is no scenario in which Hurts would be placed in a situation to succeed without both installed. Hurts’ year-long carry rate of 9.3% placed him fifth among QBs. When he started the last four games, the 11.2 pure rushing FPG he posted would pace all QBs — yes, even Lamar Jackson, we just need to see him stretch that average out over a full season. It’s the type of upside that should perk the attention of everyone in the world of fantasy. A level of rushing production that would only require moderate contributions through the air to rank within the top-10 QBs in FPG.

Provided the recent knee sprain for DeVonta Smith proves to be nothing, he’ll provide Hurts with an excellent upgrade at short-to-intermediate depths. Good luck attempting to uncover any collegiate coverage weaknesses for Smith after a season in which he compiled numbers of the truly sick-variety. It may come as a bit of surprise to read that Smith’s optimal spot may be out of the slot. Playing from the inside, Smith will, on average, be defended by smaller corners. And it will set Hurts and Smith up to establish an instant Flat-connection. With Hurts under center, we’ll definitely see the Eagles run the ball more than the rate that ranked third-lowest last year. But the addition of Smith will provide plenty of motivation for Steichen to continue to air it out.

Last I checked, the NFL is quite a bit different than college ball, so Hurts will need several other receivers to step forward in order to draw safety attention away from Smith. And there’s no WR on Philadelphia’s roster that the offense needs to provide positive development signs more than ‘20 first-rounder Jalen Reagor. A ligament tear in his thumb unfortunately delayed the progress of his rookie season. It’s definitely not a great sign that he’s already missing reps in camp, but this kid is the most explosive offensive weapon on the roster. He simply must play a significant role in the attack for the Eagles to contend in the NFC East. Early reports from camp indicate that Travis Fulgham has already entrenched himself as a Week 1 starter on the outside. For Hurts’ sake, let’s hope he’s able to establish something more consistent with the second-year QB.

Even though we’re only two seasons removed from Zach Ertz collecting 90 receptions, do not believe any of the reports stating he’s still the team’s TE1. Roseman simply has no other alternative except to attempt to convince NFL teams he’s still their go-to guy if he expects to get anything of value in return. It certainly seems, based on his ‘20 play, that Ertz’s ability fell off the map at the exact moment he turned 30 years of age. When it comes time for the statistics to officially count, it will be Dallas Goedert that will, once again, be Hurts’ primary receiving threat at TE. And former HC Doug Pederson already did everything he could to try to get Ertz right last season. The results of which only further cemented Goedert as the better option at this point in their careers. Now that we have qualifying numbers on Goedert, he has firmly established himself as one of the most coverage-independent TEs in football, and should be considered to be on the verge of a breakout season.

The O-line’s pass blocking let everyone in Philly down last season. The group permitted the second-highest QB pressure rate that resulted in Wentz finishing dead last among 39 qualified QBs with a 9.8% sack rate. It wasn’t until Hurts’ evasion/scrambling ability was installed that the offense found a way to consistently move the ball. Granted, much of those protection struggles stemmed from injuries to Brandon Brooks, Andre Dillard, and Lane Johnson. All three are expected to be at full health for the start of the season. What can we expect? With Brooks, the Eagles will see the return of one of the top-three offensive guards in football. A stint on the COVID-19 list and a lingering ankle injury limited Johnson to a career-low snap number. Hurts desperately needs Johnson to stay healthy while Dillard develops at left tackle. And Dillard’s progress is well below the curve. After a disappointing rookie season, the former ‘19 first-rounder was lost for the entirety of the ‘20 season with a torn bicep muscle, and looks to be well behind Jordan Mailata in camp.

Another guy that has seen his play fall off in recent seasons is center Jason Kelce. Even with the reduction in quality, Kelce still presents as one of the better centers in the NFL. Brooks’ return could be the catalyst for Kelce’s play to rebound. Which, provided Brooks and Johnson remain healthy, brings us to the other spot on the O-line with a bolded question mark: left guard. It’s likely that Isaac Seumalo maintains his starting job after providing the team with its top option in pass pro last year. That’s unless ‘21 second-rounder Landon Dickerson — who is reportedly stretching his legs at guard — manages to unseat him. A setback/injury to either Brooks or Johnson would land a devastating blow, but this unit has an opportunity to be special.

Philadelphia’s RBs can thank the patchwork O-line for providing them with rather decent blocking last season. Still, Miles Sanders’ numbers suffered from the offense's third-highest rate of pass. The one immediate takeaway from Sanders’ season is his dismal numbers as a receiver. In spite of ranking with the 15th-highest target rate, he returned the favor with only 0.67 yards gained/route (11th-worst among 78 qualified RBs). Considering the new staff is keenly aware of the type of impact a RB can make as a receiver after coaching Austin Ekeler for several seasons, they will no doubt immediately identify that weakness in Sanders’ game if he doesn’t rebound. It’s likely that one-or-more of Boston Scott, Kerryon Johnson, and/or ‘21 fifth-rounder Kenneth Gainwell emerges in the role.

It’s never a good omen to learn the coaches in place feel less than confident in the only QB on the roster with the potential to provide difference-making results. That’s not to say that Flacco is a dud. Despite his age, he’s actually quite aggressive with his arm. And, at this stage in Hurts’ development, he’s certainly the best QB on the roster at reading coverages. But Hurts deserves the first opportunity in the spotlight. With a much improved defense, the NFC East is there for the taking if the offense can establish cohesion.

Defensive

To date, GM Howie Roseman has spent 68% of his free agent dollars on the defense. However, he did so in such a masterful way as to avoid throwing any significant money at any single individual. We can sum up the results for the ‘20 version of this defense with three statements: (1) the pass rush was one of the league’s best, (2) the secondary struggled mightily, and (3) the defense, as a whole, nearly paced the NFL in missed tackles. Considering those statements, it’s a bit odd that Roseman chose to spend three-of-four draft picks devoted to defense on the D-line. The same D-line that was already one of the best in football, consisting of Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargave on the interior, and Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett on the outside. The four combined to average over 10 QB pressures a game. Not to mention the fact that Roseman also added Ryan Kerrigan to the mix. What gives?

You can guarantee that new DC Jonathan Gannon is certainly not complaining. An elite pass rush offers a defense’s coverage component a long list of liberties only present for a handful of teams. One unit on the team that needed to be tweaked were the linebackers. That begins with changing absolutely nothing regarding MIKE T.J. Edwards’ role. One of the most underrated inside LBs in the NFL, Edwards limited his coverage responsibilities to the second-fewest yards/coverage snap (YPCS), FPs/coverage snap (FPCS), and second-lowest passer rating on targets into his coverage among 47 qualified box LBs. Gotta love two’s across the board. And a reserve role in the rotation is certainly deserved for Alex Singleton, formerly of the CFL.

Roseman brought in Eric Wilson to ensure that the team is not forced to rely on Singleton for another 750 snaps. Wilson is penciled in as the starting WILL after previously providing the Vikings top-10 finishes among box LBs in YPCS, FPCS, and passer rating on targets into his coverage. He’ll form quite a formidable coverage duo alongside Edwards. With Dallas’ offense looking more-and-more like a collegiate Air Raid and both Washington and New York adding significant receiving threats, we should expect to see Gannon use a Nickleback in his base defense. Another cheap addition made by Roseman, Steven Nelson will instantly step in on the outside, opposite CB1 Darius Slay. Nelson will be a monumental outside upgrade over the diminutive Avonte Maddox. In turn, Maddox will kick inside to replace free agent Nickell Robey-Coleman.

Big changes are on the horizon for the Eagles’ scheme rotation. Gannon is a disciple of Matt Eberflus’ system, likely cutting the top-five rates of Cover 1 and Cover 0 from last season in half. In the place of those Man schemes, Gannon is likely to install a dedicated Zone rotation consisting primarily of Cover 6, Cover 3-Seam, Cover 2, and Cover 3 (in order of rate ranking expectancy). We’ll need to wait for the evidence to be presented before our eyes, but we may no longer see Slay travel with opposing WR1’s. Slay’s final coverage numbers were perverted by a series of very difficult matchups as he was dealing with a variety of injuries. But he still deserves to be regarded, at the very least, among the top-10 CBs in the game.

It’s difficult to project exact scheme numbers from Grannon. If he intends to devote more time to split-safety shells (Cover 6 and Cover 2), the Eagles will be in business with Rodney McLeod at free safety and Anthony Harris at strong safety. McLeod is currently on the PUP list while rehabbing from an ACL he tore in Week 14. In a two-high look without McLeod, Gannon may be able to hide some of Marcus Epps’ consistency issues. However, when he calls for a single-high (Cover 3 and Cover 3-Seam), teams will take advantage of the opportunity to avoid one of the league’s top coverage free safeties (McLeod), at the expense of Epps’ responsibility for the middle-third of the third level. That said, we must also factor in the role played by the Eagles’ elite pass rush in limiting the pocket time for opposing QBs.

Any way you slice it, this defense has improved significantly over last season. It will take time for the personnel to develop consistency following the drastic scheme alterations. But, when it reaches full health, Philadelphia rosters an impressive collection of secondary personnel, one of the NFLs preeminent LB duos in coverage, and the type of pass rush that will always give the team the chance to pull away with a victory. Depth, however, is certainly an issue at defensive back. Yet, it seems to be the singular concern on that side of the ball. It’ll be the continued development of Hurts and the WR core that ultimately decides the ceiling for the Eagles.

Projected Fantasy Contributors

Jalen Hurts (Proj: QB10 | ADP: 88 | Pos ADP: QB11)

As of publication, the Eagles have not named Hurts their starter, amid rumors that they’re pursuing — or at least waiting out — the Deshaun Watson legal situation. They signed both Joe Flacco and Nick Mullens this off-season, two QBs with starting experience. But let’s be real; barring something absolutely crazy, Philly is going to take 2021 to see if it can build around Hurts and use its extensive future draft capital to fill out the rest of the roster. And for our game, Hurts is a stud. Sure, he completed just 55% of his throws in his three full starts when he replaced Carson Wentz in Weeks 14-16, but Hurts rushed for a whopping 238 yards and a score on just 38 carries in that stretch. In those three full starts, Hurts finished as the QB10, QB1, and QB16 in weekly scoring and averaged 25.2 fantasy points per game largely because of his legs. Hurts averaged 0.62 fantasy points per dropback, which ranked sixth-best in the league, and per SIS, Hurts led all QBs in scrambles (15), yards off of scrambles (112), first downs (8), and scramble TDs (1) in his three full starts. And remember, he did this in a broken offense with a horrible supporting cast. While Hurts’ film showed a player who had a tendency to bail the pocket too early, we do have to give him the benefit of the doubt — he started behind a makeshift offensive line in a horrible scheme, and he was a rookie. It’s not like we could expect him to come out looking like rookie Andrew Luck. Under new coach Nick Sirianni, Hurts has been preparing all off-season like he’s the starter, and Sirianni has extensive experience coaching different kinds of QBs (Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers). He also has an offensive line that, even if not healthy, has a bunch of youngsters who gained valuable depth last year. Moreover, the Eagles added a massive weapon in the NFL Draft, acquiring Heisman Trophy-winning WR DeVonta Smith, who may instantly come in and lead this team in targets. There is a lot of unknown with Hurts, including just how much this team believes in him. That might scare you away from his QB1-level ADP, as he’s often off the board within the first 90 picks of a draft. But we’ve already seen that Hurts can put up titanic numbers even when playing inconsistently. There is certainly some reason to question just how good he is… but what if he is good? This ADP will be looking like a bargain by October if that’s the case. And if not, he’s not so expensive that you can’t invest in a higher-end backup just in case.

Joe Flacco (Proj: QB42 | ADP: 339 | Pos ADP: QB50)

South Jersey’s favorite son comes home to ostensibly back up Jalen Hurts and provide a veteran presence in the locker room in Philly. An old-school pocket passer, Flacco may be the most successful NFL QB of the last 20 years who basically never had extended fantasy success. Despite starting full-time in Baltimore for 10 seasons from 2008 to 2017, Flacco finished as a top-12 QB in total fantasy points just once — in 2010. If he has to take over for Hurts at any point during the 2021 season (and keep in mind, even if just for show, coach Nick Sirianni hasn’t named Hurts the starter yet), Flacco would be a low-end fill in, at best. He’s competing with Nick Mullens to be Hurts’ top backup.

Miles Sanders (Proj: RB17 | ADP: 34 | Pos ADP: RB18)

Like most of the Eagles, Sanders had a very uneven 2020 campaign. In all, he finished as the RB17 with 14.4 PPR FPG among RBs who played 10 or more games, though he himself missed four games with hamstring and knee problems. Sanders ran well, posting 164/867/6 rushing (5.3 YPC), but disappointed with a horrible season as a pass catcher, a miserable 28/197/0 on 52 targets (7.0 YPR, 53.8%), finishing with PFF’s second-worst grade as a receiver at his position (this is after a rookie season in which he caught 50 passes and averaged over 10 yards per reception). Indeed, Sanders really struggled with drops, with 8 of them, third most among RBs (SIS). However, Sanders could also have been a victim of a bad offense and QB play from Carson Wentz. Sanders ranked sixth in routes run per game among running backs behind Christian McCaffrey, David Johnson, David Montgomery, Ezekiel Elliott, and JD McKissic. But among the 18 running backs to get 50 or more targets, Sanders had the worst target quality. Per SIS, just 72% of Sanders’ targets were catchable. For perspective, the other 17 RBs saw an accurate pass on 87% of their targets. Meanwhile, our Greg Cosell noted that Sanders’ film told a different story than the narrative — he ran with patience and vision, and finished runs with more aplomb than he did as a rookie. Again, line problems and woes of the offense were just big issues for this team as a whole. Also keep this in mind — Sanders finished as a top-12 weekly RB four times in 12 games in 2020. Two of those four best games came with Jalen Hurts under center in Weeks 14-16, when he scored 29.6 fantasy points vs. the Saints and 18.8 vs. the Cowboys. A big-play threat who is a better sustainer than you might think, Sanders has a very good shot to pay off his ADP after a perceived disappointing 2020 campaign. He does have competition in this backfield from Boston Scott, Kerryon Johnson, and rookie Kenny Gainwell, but coach Nick Sirianni has already insinuated the Eagles will run some “21” personnel sets, but with two tailbacks instead of a fullback. Sanders is a totally acceptable target at that 3rd/4th-round turn range, given his big-play ability and our expectation that he’ll rebound as a receiver, at least somewhat.

Kenny Gainwell (Proj: RB55 | ADP: 148 | Pos ADP: RB51)

A player we had valued as a Day 2 selection, Gainwell was a steal for the Eagles in the fifth round of April’s NFL Draft, and he might give new coach Nick Sirianni a Nyheim Hines kind of weapon in the backfield. In fact, he was our guy Greg Cosell’s favorite receiving back in the 2021 draft class (he opted out of the 2020 season, which might explain why he fell so far). “Gainwell is not at quite the same level athletically and explosively as Alvin Kamara, but he presents similar value to an NFL offense with his multiple run game experience and his ability to line up all over the formation as a receiver,” Cosell wrote in our 2021 Rookie Draft Guide. “Like Kamara, I believe Gainwell can be very impactful lining up to the boundary and working two-man route concepts with the boundary X receiver. Gainwell is a big-time prospect with his ability to impact the passing game. He is a matchup piece who can run routes at all three levels of the defense and will create matchup advantages for his offense.” Gainwell has a lot of work to do to climb the depth chart in Philly behind Miles SandersBoston Scott, Kerryon Johnson, and Jordan Howard are also present here, and especially Scott has had some success in the role we’d plug Gainwell into. But as a player we’ve had our eye on since his only season at Memphis in 2019, we’re projecting him to be the #2 back here before long. Is he a traditional handcuff? Maybe not, but his receiving skills are the kind of things we look for in a fantasy contributor. Moreover, Sirianni has insinuated the Eagles will run some two-back sets this year, which could open a role for Gainwell.

Kerryon Johnson (Proj: RB78 | ADP: 503 | Pos ADP: RB134)

The Eagles claimed Johnson off of waivers in May, as the Lions chose to move on from the 2018 second-round pick, after he fell out of the rotation in 2020, touching the ball just 71 times in 16 games. But, frankly, that second stat (16 games) might be the most important for Johnson. Knee injuries cost him 14 games in his first two seasons, and just getting through one season unscathed is important for him. The expectations aren’t high for Johnson — he might not even make this team — but he can be a short-yardage back who can contribute as a receiver and a pass protector, and he played special teams at the end of last season for Detroit, which could give him an edge on making the roster over Jordan Howard. He’s barely being drafted at all, though, so he’d been someone to entertain off the Waiver Wire in the event Miles Sanders gets hurt.

Boston Scott (Proj: RB81 | ADP: 377 | Pos ADP: RB98)

A scatback who has contributed solidly for fantasy when called upon, over the last two seasons, Scott averages 7.5 FPG when Miles Sanders plays and 11.4 FPG when he doesn’t. Of course, Scott is a Giant killer above all, averaging 25 PPR FPG against New York, while scoring 5 of his 6 career TD against the Eagles’ division rival (he averages 5.7 FPG against all other opponents). This year, Scott is opening training camp as the Eagles’ #2 RB, but he has significant competition for that role, from Kerryon Johnson, Jordan Howard, and rookie Kenny Gainwell, one of our favorite RB prospects in the 2021 draft class. Scott’s got some juice, and though we don’t think he’s nearly as gifted as Gainwell, his ability to play special teams could give him an edge on making this roster. If so, there’s a chance he plays the Nyheim Hines role for coach Nick Sirianni, for at least as long as he can hold off Gainwell.

DeVonta Smith (Proj: WR27 | ADP: 80 | Pos ADP: WR35)

The failures of the Eagles’ scouting, drafting, and development over the last couple of years necessitated the trade up in April to select Smith, after the Eagles passed on DK Metcalf for JJ Arcega-Whiteside in 2019 and Justin Jefferson for Jalen Reagor in 2020. If maybe even one of those two mistakes wasn’t made, we might not be talking about Smith in a Philly uniform. Still, we need to evaluate Smith on his own merits, and he’s a phenomenal prospect. A crisp route runner who dominated SEC competition en route to the Heisman Trophy, he instantly gives Philly and new coach/WR guru Nick Sirianni a #1 WR. While Smith’s sub-170-pound frame absolutely makes him an outlier, the rest of his prospect profile absolutely booms. He has great hands, great YAC ability, and — perhaps most importantly for a team that struggled with leadership last year — a bulldog playing personality. Given the uncertainty with Reagor and Travis Fulgham behind him, plus the chance Zach Ertz is moved at some point, it is in no way outrageous to think Smith leads Philly in targets as a rookie. Oh, by the way, he’s playing with former college teammate Jalen Hurts, so the two already have an established rapport. A minor knee sprain is going to cost Smith a couple weeks of summer camp, and Eagles fans may be experiencing deja vu given the team’s recent history with crippling injuries. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t getting the willies too, but all indications are that the Eagles are just being cautious. Hopefully, Smith will be able to get some preseason action in. Presuming that’s the case, the call here is Hurts will look to Smith early and often, and we have Smith outperforming his relatively modest ADP as a rookie. He should challenge Ja’Marr Chase to be the most productive rookie WR in 2021, presuming he recovers from his MCL sprain as expected.

Jalen Reagor (Proj: WR55 | ADP: 136 | Pos ADP: WR58)

It wasn’t a great rookie season for Reagor in 2020, both in reality but also in perception. Why? Because he was drafted one pick ahead of Justin Jefferson, a fact that Eagles fans aren’t going to let go easily. Reagor played in 11 games — he missed some camp action with a shoulder injury, then tore a ligament in his thumb — and posted 31/396/1 receiving on 54 targets (12.8 YPR, 57.4%), finishing as a top-36 PPR WR just once in 11 games… and never as a top-24 WR or higher. Reagor seemed to struggle with the details of route running, while we also know that the scheme and quarterback (Carson Wentz) were abysmal. That being said, our Greg Cosell turned the tape on this off-season and gave a slightly better review of Reagor’s rookie campaign, noting that he looked explosive at times and could be a force with the ball in his hands. While not fully absolving Reagor of a disappointing rookie campaign, it is certainly worth acknowledging that a new scheme and a new QB in Jalen Hurts could help him quite a bit. During Hurts’ three full starts in 2021, Reagor led the team in target share (18%) and air yards (23%). Moreover, he has a big opportunity in training camp, as presumed Eagle #1 WR DeVonta Smith is missing time with a minor knee sprain, which should open plenty of first-team reps for Reagor. The second-year man told reporters this off-season that new coach Nick Sirianni plans to move him around, including in the slot, where he ran 32% of his routes in 2020 (SIS). Reagor’s ADP is very modest, in the 12th-round range, though that may rise given Smith’s injury status. We can sign off at his price though — WRs who struggled as rookies only to figure it out later aren’t exactly uncommon, and you can make plenty of excuses for Reagor’s poor results. You’re not paying a whole lot for him at a 12th-round ADP.

Greg Ward (Proj: WR96 | ADP: 502 | Pos ADP: WR170)

Ward is a guy the Eagles never want to count on, but he ends up delivering solid play whenever they ask for it. It just doesn’t do much for fantasy. In 16 games in 2020, he posted 53/419/6 on 79 targets (7.9 YPR, 67.1%). Ward finished twice as a top-24 weekly WR and three more times as a top-36 option. Three of his 6 TD came with Jalen Hurts throwing the ball, so he has some built-in chemistry with Philly’s new QB. The issue is he’s a slot-only option — 89% of his routes were run inside last year, per SIS — and his 0.9 Y/RR was third-worst among all players with 50 or more targets (teammate Miles Sanders was dead last). That’s not to say Ward can’t get open in the short area, but mostly, he’s more of a useful player to have on a roster than he is someone you want to count on. If the Eagles continue to have injury issues at WR (rookie DeVonta Smith is already dinged up), Ward will continue to play.

Travis Fulgham (Proj: WR105 | ADP: 490 | Pos ADP: WR164)

2020 was a weird year. 2020 was a weird season in the NFL. 2020 was a weird season in Philadelphia. But for everything that could be classified as strange for the Eagles, Fulgham’s campaign is maybe #1. Waived twice in August — once by Detroit and once by Green Bay — Fulgham landed with the Eagles on August 20… only to be waived again on September 3. Fortunately for Philly, Fulgham didn’t get picked up this time, and signed with the practice squad on September 6. Given a multitude of injuries at the WR position, Fulgham was promoted to the active roster on October 3, a Saturday. On October 4, on Sunday night against the 49ers, Fulgham played 60% of the Eagles’ offensive snaps, catching two passes for 57 yards, the latter of which was a 42-yard game-winner from Carson Wentz. That began a five-week span over which Fulgham posted 29/435/4 on 44 targets (15.0 YPR, 65.9%). He led the entire NFL in receiving over this span, and was the overall WR1 in fantasy points. In his final eight games, he caught 9 passes for 104 yards on 23 targets. What? Most Eagle fans would argue the team made a miserable error in putting Fulgham behind the toast Alshon Jeffery when Jeffery returned from error, but reports also suggest that Fulgham has had some practice issues, which likely contributed to his short stints in Detroit and Green Bay. But what we also see is a big guy who can run and make contested catches, which profiles him as an “X” receiver in the NFL. While the sheer number of yards Fulgham put up over that magical run might not be his true ceiling, we also don’t think one puts up a five-game run like Fulgham did without having some real talent. In camp, Fulgham appears to be running as one of the Eagles’ top three WRs with DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor, and will continue to get key first-team reps with Smith dealing with a minor knee sprain. Fulgham is free in drafts, and we can sign off on him as an upside pick.

Dallas Goedert (Proj: TE8 | ADP: 84 | Pos ADP: TE7)

While Zach Ertz is an all-time great Eagle, Goedert is likely the better player at this stage, and at 26, Philadelphia likely wants to build around their younger and more athletic tight end. That’s why — in addition to money issues — Ertz’s name has popped up in trade talks all off-season. But as of publication, the Eagles have not been able to move Ertz, and for now they’re acting as if the vet will start the 2021 campaign in midnight green. That’s a bummer to Goedert’s upside. Goedert played in 11 games in 2020, missing five games with a variety of leg injuries. His 10.6 FPG tied him for 9th among TEs, however (with Mike Gesicki), but he also averaged 12.3 fantasy points per game in games that Ertz missed and 9.6 FPG when Ertz played. That 12.3 FPG rate would have ranked him 4th over the full season, behind only Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and George Kittle. Over the last three seasons, Goedert also ranks 6th according to PFF in yards gained per route run (1.63) behind only those “Big Three,” Jared Cook, and Mark Andrews. Goedert averaged 1.8 YPRR in 2020, compared to an abysmal 1.0 for Ertz, who was ahead of only Drew Sample and Tyler Eifert among TEs with 50 or more targets. We’d love to push Goedert even more, as he might be the Eagles’ best overall receiver as we speak today. But the Ertz elephant is one that might make drafters shy away from Goedert at his still relatively modest 7th/8th-round ADP. If Ertz does move, Goedert would be one of the most appealing picks on the board, but his ADP will also rise. At this stage, he moves significantly better with the ball in his hands than Ertz, and after-catch ability is huge in new coach Nick Sirianni’s offense.

Zach Ertz (Proj: TE26 | ADP: 191 | Pos ADP: TE23)

Quite frankly, we didn’t expect to be writing up Ertz as a member of the Eagles at this point — they’ve been trying to trade him all off-season and hand the reins at the position to Dallas Goedert. But so far, teams have balked at Philly’s asking price, and GM Howie Roseman told reporters at the beginning of training camp that he expects Ertz to be with the team at the beginning of the season. We’ll see if that comes to pass, but as good as Ertz has been — he’s 28 receptions shy of Harold Carmichael’s 589 for Philly’s all-time lead — last year was a massive step back for him, and you could wonder if he’s dust. In 2020, Goedert averaged 1.8 YPRR in 2020, compared to an abysmal 1.0 for Ertz, who was ahead of only Drew Sample and Tyler Eifert among TEs with 50 or more targets. He finished with a line of just 36/335/1 on 72 targets in 2020 (9.3 YPR, 50%). It was the first time Ertz was held under 10 YPR or a 63% catch rate in his entire career. Oh, by the way, Ertz missed five games with an ankle injury in 2020, which surely doesn’t help things. At his best, Ertz is a route technician, someone who wins with savvy and not necessarily strength — and certainly not YAC ability (think late-career Jason Witten, with a little bit more juice). And maybe he was a victim of poor coaching and poor QB play last year. Frankly, if Ertz is on this roster in 2021, there’s no real reason for Philly to play him over the more explosive, younger Goedert. But given his salary — perhaps the biggest reason he hasn’t been moved and the biggest reason Philly wants to move him — it’s possible the Eagles deploy a lot of 12 personnel under new coach Nick Sirianni. Ertz is free in drafts, and might be appealing to best-ball drafters as a TE3 in the event he gets moved, but he should not be drafted in standard leagues.

Hansen’s Final Points

As we know, running QBs usually put up numbers, and Jalen Hurts will run a ton, so just like last year, when he was thrown into the fire, Hurts should deliver for fantasy. But it’s not a lock like it’s a lock for the other top running QBs in the league. That said, Hurts is not a cheap fantasy pick, with an ADP only 20 spots away from Russell Wilson, who’s now produced for fantasy nine years in a row. We cannot rule out a move for Deshaun Watson, but the likely loss of a 2021 #1 pick for Wentz does help Hurts’ chances of remaining their QB of the future. He’s looked good in training camp, but probably not nearly as good as the reporting on him has been because the beat writers aren’t dialed into where he’s at mentally (we’re told, he’s still a work in progress there). The 8/1 injury to DeVonta Smith is a buzzkill, but they are very happy with him so far, and he looks like the real deal. I’d say their improved supporting cast from last year offsets most of my concerns about Hurts, but I still can’t call him an excellent pick at his higher ADP. But I am certainly willing to take him for his combination of cost plus upside. If I had concerns about the quality of the waiver wire during the season, I’d be inclined to grab a quality QB2 with stability, like Baker Mayfield, just in case.

If Joe Flacco had to start for Jalen Hurts, he’d be one of the five worst fantasy options at the position, but I do think he would play over #3 guy Nick Mullens. Flacco wasn’t terrible at times for the Jets last year, but he’s a completely different player than Hurts, so I would not expect anything from Flacco if pressed into action.

He’s been a little bit of an enigma thus far in his career, but Miles Sanders can’t call his own plays and block for himself, so with the situation overall looking improved in Philly, and his ADP down, he does stand out to me this year as a good pick. For what it’s worth, his 2020 tape was surprisingly good when our Greg Cosell revisited it this summer, and our sources have told us Sanders looked fantastic in camp this summer… with the exception of dropped passes. It’s a small sample size, but Sanders did produce with Jalen Hurts Weeks 14-16, and Sanders should be used more in the passing game in the new scheme (even though rookie Kenny Gainwell is looking like a big factor in the passing game as well). Sanders isn’t the perfect fantasy option, but if he was, his ADP would be in the top-12 overall, so he is a very nice value in the third round, and it’s possible he slips to the top of the fourth, making him a complete no-brainer. (He has slipped to the fifth round in some Underdog Best Ball drafts.)

We were pretty darn high on Kenny Gainwell in the pre-draft process, so it was a surprise to see him drop to the fifth round of April’s NFL Draft (he opted out of the 2020 season, which explains some of his draft slip). But based on how he’s being used in camp, it looks like new coach Nick Sirianni wants to use him like he used Nyheim Hines in Indy, so 30+ catches are in play for the rookie. He was our guy Greg Cosell’s favorite receiving back in the 2021 draft class, and the Eagle OL should be in good shape if they can avoid major injury issues again. Gainwell isn’t a great handcuff for Miles Sanders, though, so he’s merely a cheap PPR bench player who could get you 10+ PPR points in a given week. His ranking as the RB51 off the board is very fair, and the very latest ADP data has him at 168 overall, which is also very fair.

We have not heard much buzz on Kerryon Johnson so far as of 8/4, so we’re still not even sure he’ll make the team. If he does, he could be the preferred handcuff for Miles Sanders, since Kerryon did look pretty good last year and is very good in the passing game and in short-yardage. If he makes the roster over Jordan Howard, he’ll have a speck of intrigue as Sanders’ main backup.

He’s a scatback who has made some plays in the passing game, but Boston Scott is probably out of luck in terms of having fantasy value due to the addition of rookie Kenny Gainwell, one of our favorite RB prospects in the 2021 draft class. Scott did open training camp as the Eagles’ #2 RB, but he’s a step down in talent from Gainwell, so we’re not seeing Scott in that Nyheim Hines role for coach Nick Sirianni, and he’s not being drafted in fantasy leagues.

The knee injury suffered early in camp is a buzzkill for DeVonta Smith, but it’s not a serious concern long term this season, and the Eagles are very happy with Smith overall. He’s looking like a high target percentage guy in this offense and with his former teammate Jalen Hurts, so since he’s an advanced prospect with tons of experience for a guy entering the league, we’re all in on him at his reasonable ADP of WR27 and 80 overall. The obvious concerns are his lack of size and physicality, and the fact that Hurts is still rough around the edges. His ADP may drop 10-15 spots, too, due to the injury and time missed. Smith’s not a lock to come through, but we’d bet on him, and again, we’d buy at his cost, especially if the ADP dips given the injury.

It was a rough rookie season for Jalen Reagor last year, so we still don’t know what he can be in the NFL. Reagor struggled with a lot of things last year, but he was also in a broken offense, so his fantasy potential is TBD. Our Greg Cosell did recently give us a positive review of his 2020 tape, and he is very explosive vertically and horizontally, so he’s very viable as a depth receiver. He will also line up more in the slot this year after running 32% of his routes inside last year, and that factor will help take some pressure off him, as will playing opposite #1 pick DeVonta Smith. He’s the WR55 off the board at 135 overall, and we have him a little higher than that.

He’s probably going to get consistent targets, but Greg Ward is about as unexciting as they come as a fantasy pick, which explains his 500 ADP and his standing at WR170. He should lose a few more snaps to Jalen Reagor in the slot, so he will need at least one injury to a key WR injuries here to have a chance.

If there is a deep sleeper for the Eagles, it’s probably Travis Fulgham. He’s had a good showing in camp this summer. As mentioned above, the guy led the entire NFL in receiving over a five-week span in the middle of the season, and was the overall WR1 in fantasy points. That said, it’s kind of amazing that he’s only the WR164 off the board, and his ADP was even later a couple of months ago. He is a big guy who can make contested catches, and they need size at the position, so Fulgham could get a lot of snaps at “X” receiver, so if you dig very deep, he’s a name to circle.

Even if Zach Ertz isn’t moved, and he could be at any time these next three months, the Eagles are preparing to feature Dallas Goedert more than ever this year in a TE-friendly offense, and he’s averaged 12.3 fantasy points per game in games that Ertz missed, which would have made him the TE4 in 2020. There are other positive data points for Goedert covered above, but other than the Ertz factor, the main question with Goedert is simply availability and durability. He’s missed only six games in his three-year career, but he’s been banged up otherwise. He is in the final year of his rookie deal, so it’s a good time for Goedert to turn a corner in terms of his health and readiness to play. The Ertz element does give us some pause in terms of pushing him, but his cost is still palatable with a 7th/8th-round ADP, so we’re still in on him as a solid target if you wait a little on TE.

Based on brand name recognition alone, Zach Ertz is still on the radar in fantasy drafts, with an ADP of 191 and as the TE26 off the board. That’s fair, and he could still be moved to a team with a bigger need. But backing him even as a late-round flyer isn’t something I’m inclined to do, given how absolutely dreadful he looked late last season.

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