DeSean Jackson is gone, can the Eagles offense survive?
We take a look at the main Fantasy options for the Eagles in Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper and Zach Ertz.
The Eagles were one of the most fun teams to follow in 2013 because of Chip Kelly's offense. Philadelphia finished second in total points behind the Broncos and scored at least 30 points in a game eight times.
That obviously led to a lot of Fantasy production.
But what can we expect heading into this season? Have defensive coordinators adjusted enough to Kelly to slow down his attack? Will losing deep threat DeSean Jackson limit this passing game?
We're still all in on the Eagles this year, but things definitely have changed. Prior to Jackson being released we had Nick Foles as a potential Top 5 Fantasy quarterback, but he's better suited as a low-end starting option now. LeSean McCoy is still an elite running back, but he'll lose some value with the addition of Darren Sproles.
The healthy return of Jeremy Maclin makes him a sleeper with Jackson gone, but I'm skeptical of Riley Cooper finishing as a Top 24 Fantasy receiver again. And tight end Zach Ertz is someone to target on Draft Day for his breakout potential. We'll also find out what the Eagles do in the NFL Draft, as receiver is a position they plan to address.
With all that in mind, here's a Fantasy look at their key players heading into 2014.
- Nick Foles: I put Foles on my early bust list because repeating his performance from last season is unrealistic, especially with Jackson gone. Yes, he gets Maclin back and the addition of Sproles, but Foles only threw two interceptions in his 10 starts. That will change, and his monster games (five outings with three-plus touchdowns) could also decrease with Jackson now in Washington. Foles targeted Jackson more than any other receiver (70 times), and he completed 71.4 percent of those passes to him. I still consider Foles a starting Fantasy option, but I'd take him after the likes of Robert Griffin III and Jay Cutler with a mid-round pick. His value could rise following the NFL Draft, but I don't expect a dramatic leap.
- LeSean McCoy: Sproles coming on board is going to cut into McCoy's catches, and he had 52 in 2013 and has averaged 54 over his five-year career. But McCoy led the NFL in rushing with 1,607 yards, and he should be around 1,500 rushing yards again if he stays healthy. McCoy said the addition of Sproles will lower his workload, which he's OK with, but it's hard to imagine him getting fewer than 300 total touches (he had 391 last year, including the playoffs). I would draft McCoy at No. 2 overall after Jamaal Charles, and he'll definitely be gone in the Top 5 picks in any format.
- Darren Sproles: Sproles is going to help the Eagles and Foles more than Fantasy owners. He is coming off a down season with 824 total yards and two touchdowns with 71 receptions, which were all lows since he went to the Saints in 2011, and he had just three games with double digits in Fantasy points. He's obviously better in PPR leagues than standard formats -- he had more than five carries just three times in 2013 and never topped 40 rushing yards -- but Kelly should be creative in getting him the ball. One issue for Sproles could be going outdoors. He played six games outdoors in 2013 and combined for 20 Fantasy points, and the Eagles play 12 games outdoors this season. He's just a No. 3 Fantasy running back at best this year.
- Jeremy Maclin: Maclin is coming back from a torn ACL, which kept him out of the 2013 season. We expect him to assume the No. 1 receiver role for the Eagles with Jackson gone, and he’s a sleeper this year. He won't replace Jackson as the deep threat in Philadelphia, but Maclin could thrive in this offense, with low-end projections of at least 80 passes with 1,000 yards and seven-plus touchdowns. Maclin should be considered a No. 3 Fantasy receiver on Draft Day, and he's worth selecting with a mid-round pick.
- Riley Cooper: Cooper took advantage of Maclin being out, and he set career highs in catches (47), yards (835) and touchdowns (eight). Cooper could easily replicate his stats from 2013, but he should only be considered a No. 3 Fantasy receiver. He's also an early bust candidate for me. Cooper only had four games with double digits in Fantasy points last year, and he's not a consistent threat with nine games with five points or less. He could also struggle with tougher coverage with Jackson gone, especially if Maclin isn't 100 percent. Plan on drafting Cooper with a mid-round pick, and he's only worth starting when the matchup is in his favor or during the bye weeks. I don't consider him an every-week starter coming into the season.
- Zach Ertz: One way the Eagles could get over the loss of Jackson is to use Ertz more this year. He played OK as a rookie last season with 36 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns, but much more is expected. Brent Celek remains with the Eagles, but Ertz is more of a receiving threat. We like Ertz as a breakout candidate, and he's worth drafting as a low-end No. 1 tight end with a late-round pick. Once you see Jordan Cameron, Greg Olsen and Kyle Rudolph come off the board then look for Ertz, who has plenty of upside this season.
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