The Eagles made a significant investment to get their franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz last year. And this year they gave him an upgrade in weapons.
Philadelphia had arguably the worst receiving corps in the NFL last season with Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham as the top three options. Sure, the Eagles also had a standout tight end in Zach Ertz and a great running back out of the backfield in Darren Sproles, but Wentz was lacking when it came to playmakers on the outside.
That shouldn't be the case any longer after Philadelphia signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith as free agents this offseason. Now, when you add Jeffery and Smith to Matthews, Ertz and Sproles, this is a solid group.
And Wentz should benefit in a big way. Smith said the Eagles could have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL this year with their new additions.
"You're only as good as you make it," Smith said in an interview with CBS Sports. "I know there's going to be high expectations from the fans, as it should be. We have to go out there and deliver. We have to work and make things happen."
The running game also got new faces with the addition of free agent LeGarrette Blount and rookie Donnel Pumphrey, who was drafted in the fourth round from San Diego State and looks like a Sproles clone. The depth chart is now Blount, Sproles and either Wendell Smallwood or Pumphrey as the No. 3 option, but Blount is the one Fantasy owners will focus on.
He was great in 2016 with the Patriots with 299 carries for 1,161 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and a league-best 18 touchdowns, but he's headed for a decline at 30 and with a new team, even though the Eagles have a quality offensive line. Blount is only worth drafting as a No. 3 running back with a mid-round pick.
Sproles will see plenty of action, but he's still just a late-round selection, with his value higher in PPR formats. And either Smallwood or Pumphrey could be a sleeper, depending on who wins the No. 3 job, especially given Blount and Sproles (34) getting up in age.
But the Philadelphia players that Fantasy owners will gravitate toward this season will come from the passing game. And it starts with Wentz, who is worth drafting as a sleeper with a late-round pick.
Jeffery should rebound from a down 2016 with the Bears, and he should be rejuvenated going to the Eagles, where he might have a quarterback upgrade from Jay Cutler to Wentz. Jeffery is worth drafting in Round 4 in all leagues, but he could be overdrafted, which might be a mistake.
Ertz feels like he's been on the cusp of a breakout season in each of the past two years, and this could be the time it finally happens. He's a No. 1 Fantasy tight end worth drafting with a mid-round pick.
And Matthews should be drafted with a late-round flier in all formats. He's been a disappointment the past two seasons when he was forced to be the No. 1 receiver in Philadelphia, but he might benefit being dropped to the No. 2 receiver and moving back to the slot with capable receivers on the outside to draw coverage. We'd rather be surprised by Matthews and his production this season than reach for him on Draft Day.
The same goes for Smith, who was a bust in two seasons in San Francisco. Let him prove himself first with the Eagles before drafting him in any leagues.
This should be a fun year for the Eagles passing game. Wentz finally has weapons, and we hope he makes them great so Fantasy owners can benefit.
Sleeper: Carson Wentz
An interesting note on Wentz as a rookie last year was he had only four games with 20 Fantasy points in a standard league. And all four of those came when right tackle Lane Johnson, who is among the best players at his position in the NFL, was active. Johnson was suspended 10 games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, but he played in the first four games of the season and the final two. If you project Wentz's stats in those games over a full season then Wentz would have had 3,744 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and three interceptions. Now, that's a small sample size, but it shows what Wentz can do when he has talent around him, including an excellent offensive line that features Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Johnson. And now he has a receiving corps to match with the addition of Jeffery and Smith to join Matthews, Ertz and Sproles. Wentz isn't worth drafting as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback this season, but he should be considered a high-end backup worth selecting with a late-round pick in all leagues. This could be a big year for Wentz in 2017.
Breakout: Zach Ertz
For the past two seasons, Ertz has been a monster to close the year. Now, we have to see that player for 16 games, which would make him among the elite tight ends in the NFL. In 2015, Ertz had at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league in each of his final four outings, including three games with at least 12 points. And last year, in his final nine games, Ertz scored at least eight Fantasy points in a standard league in six outings, including three games with at least 11 points. As you can see, he's getting closer toward putting it all together for a full season, and hopefully this is the year it happens. You would think that might be hard with more mouths to feed with the additions of Jeffery and Smith, which could be right. But those players, as well as Matthews and Sproles, could draw coverage from Ertz, who would benefit from just a slight uptick in touchdowns. For example, Ertz was the No. 9 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues last season with 78 catches for 816 yards and four touchdowns on 107 targets. A comparable player in 2016 was Kyle Rudolph, who had 83 catches for 840 yards and seven touchdowns on 132 targets. Those three extra touchdowns helped Rudolph finish as the No. 4 tight end in standard formats, and that's the place we hope Ertz gets to in 2017 -- if not higher. He's never had more than four touchdowns in a season, but maybe this is the year he can break through. Ertz is worth drafting with a mid-round pick in all leagues.
Bust: Alshon Jeffery
Things didn't go as planned for Jeffery with the Bears in 2016, which was a contract year. He was suspended four games for performance-enhancing drugs and finished with just 52 catches for 821 yards and two touchdowns on 95 targets. He only had three games with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league. But the Eagles and Fantasy owners are counting on Jeffery to play like the receiver we saw in 2013 and 2014 when he had at least 85 catches, 1,100 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in each year. Coach Doug Pederson is excited about Jeffery this season. "He's a big target," Pederson said of Jeffery. "He's a veteran player. Wealth of experience. Excellent in his route running. Strong to the ball. For us, and for Carson really, it's just somebody that brings a little bit of that leadership into that room and makes that room better." Fantasy owners are excited about Jeffery this season, and rightfully so. But his early Average Draft Position at No. 30 overall might make him too rich to match his production. If you can get Jeffery in Round 4 then it's a good pick. But in Round 3, he might be a disappointment this season.