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2022 Player Outlooks: Philadelphia Eagles

By Nick Caron | 6/17/22 |

QB Jalen Hurts
(2021 QB Rank – No.10, 24.0 FPts/G)

A quiet season passing the football meant that Hurts barely squeaked inside the QB1 range in 2021. His 16 touchdowns were tied (with Lamar Jackson) for the fewest among top-20 fantasy QBs, but he was one of only five top-20 QBs who finished with single-digit interceptions. The thing that really buoyed his fantasy production, however, was his rushing. Hurts quietly led all quarterbacks in rush attempts (140), rushing yards (782) and rushing touchdowns (10).

So, what’s changed between this past season and now? Well, the most obvious difference is that the Eagles identified a problem that the majority of fantasy owners have been pointing to for the past few seasons which is that the team lacked legitimate outside weapons. DeVonta Smith was decent enough as a rookie, but the team really made a big splash during this year’s NFL Draft when they made the move to acquire a proven producer in A.J. Brown. Brown spent the first three seasons of his NFL career in the run-heavy Tennessee offense, but still produced nearly 3,000 yards while scoring 24 touchdowns. The big-bodied receiver is a welcome addition to a Philadelphia passing game that lacked red zone production and his presence should serve to increase the passing ceiling for Hurts.

In order for Hurts to remain a QB1 for fantasy he’ll need to continue to produce on the ground and while there is some risk of injury that could hamper that potential, we’ve seen over the years that these productive runners at the quarterback position are often times more consistent than their less-mobile counterparts. Best yet is the reality that, with a little bit of touchdown luck, Hurts could actually be a difference-maker at the top of the position. It’s not difficult to imagine a world where he throws 25 touchdown passes while maintaining his rushing production, which would instantly catapult him into being in the conversation as a top five fantasy quarterback.

RB Miles Sanders
(2021 RB Rank – No.43, 7.6 FPts/G)

Sanders believers have been absolutely tortured throughout the young running back’s career, but his 2019 and 2020 seasons were nothing in comparison to the absolute brutality that was his 2021 season. Sanders suffered through multiple injuries and while he touched the ball 163 times and averaged nearly 5.6 yards per touch, he somehow failed to score a single touchdown. He wasn’t a huge touchdown producer over his first two seasons, but at times it felt like he was flat out allergic to the end zone in 2021. What made things even worse is that the Eagles scored a whopping 25 rushing touchdowns on the season. Sure, 10 of them were from quarterback Jalen Hurts, but that still left 15 touchdowns that went to other Philadelphia running backs, including Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell and even the corpse of Jordan Howard.

It’d be easy to look at those numbers and just write off Sanders as a “no thanks” due to lack of touchdown upside, but things might be a little more complicated than that. While he certainly was nothing short of a disappointment in 2021, the reality is that Sanders was also objectively unlucky in his failure to get into the end zone. Sanders had scored six touchdowns in each of his first two seasons and if he was able to score even that many times in 2021, he would’ve jumped up all the way from RB43 on the season to RB28. Consider that he also missed a number of games entirely due to injury and was knocked out early of a couple more, and it’s easy to tell yourself a story of how Sanders could’ve been a top-15 back with just a little bit of luck.

As it is, Sanders is being drafted outside of the top-24 of his position and it’s hard not to believe that this is closer to his floor than it is his ceiling. The running back position is extremely volatile this season, especially outside the top 10, and Sanders is one of the few backs who has legitimate upside as a three-down back in an improving offense with good blocking in front of him. Don’t sleep on him in your drafts, especially if you’re able to land him as an RB3 on your roster.

RB Kenneth Gainwell
(2021 RB Rank – No.45, 5.7 FPts/G)

With his rookie season now under his belt and Jordan Howard now off the roster, things are looking up for the second-year running back Gainwell. Gainwell nearly out-scored starter Miles Sanders in 2021 and there’s reason to believe that the Eagles remain skeptical of Sanders’ ability to be an every-down back for their offense. This opens up an interesting opportunity for Gainwell, who was quietly more effective as a pass catcher than even Sanders was this past season.

Boston Scott remains on the roster so it’s not necessarily a clear path to huge playing time for Gainwell if Sanders were to go down with an injury, but it seems reasonable to assume that the Eagles would look to get Gainwell more involved in that scenario, just given his pass catching ability. His low cost combined with his relatively high upside and passing game involvement makes him an ideal mid-to-late-round target in fantasy drafts.

WR A.J. Brown
(2021 WR Rank – No.32, 9.1 FPts/G)

The Eagles have been searching for a true alpha receiver for years now and they may have finally landed one in former Titan. The Eagles acquired Brown via trade during this year’s NFL Draft, giving up the 18th and 101st pick the process. The move corresponded with a four-year, $100 million extension for Brown which was seemingly the issue that kept him from remaining in Tennessee. Now that Philadelphia has invested both draft capital and financial assets into Brown, it appears as if they’re intent on making him the top target in their emerging offense.

Brown brings a strong body with legitimate end zone skills and should immediately be Jalen Hurts’ primary red zone weapon. Unfortunately for Brown, he’s not going from a run-heavy offense in Tennessee to some sort of pass-happy utopia in Philadelphia. In fact, while the Titans threw the seventh-fewest total number of passes in 2021, it was the Eagles who actually sat dead last in pass attempts on the season. Certainly, the addition of Brown and the continued emergence of DeVonta Smith could be argued as reasons to believe that the Eagles will become more pass-friendly this season, but even a significant increase in pass attempts would only lead to the Eagles being a middle-of-the-pack passing offense overall. This should concern those who are considering drafting Brown as his real potential to be an elite fantasy wide receiver is ultimately tied to the targets that will come his way. As a member of the Titans, he was the undisputed top target in the passing game and he still finished outside the top 30 in total targets in the league. A move to an even less pass-heavy offense with more competition just doesn’t seem like a recipe for a significant increase in fantasy value for Brown.

Of course, Brown is the kind of player who gets the most out of the targets he does see and being surrounded by better talent could mean even better per-target efficiency. It’s unlikely that it’ll make up for him still fighting for targets, but it should mean that Brown doesn’t finish significantly lower at his position in 2022 than he did in 2021.

WR DeVonta Smith
(2021 WR Rank – No.30, 7.2 FPts/G)

Smith was one of the more controversial prospects we’ve seen coming into the NFL in recent seasons. While he was wildly productive at Alabama, Smith’s 170-pound frame made him one of the smaller wide receivers we’ve seen taken near the top of the NFL Draft in quite some time. While he didn’t enjoy the rookie season production of a player like Ja’Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson, Smith was still effective, leading all Philadelphia pass catchers in receptions (64), yards (916) and touchdowns (5). Those numbers weren’t enough to make him a top fantasy player at the position, but it’s certainly enough to put aside any concerns that he can be a useful wide receiver at the NFL level.

The real concern right now for Smith is that he will now have significant added competition for targets in an offense that already sat at the bottom of the league in total pass attempts in 2021. Smith enjoyed over a 21 percent target share as a rookie, but that was while competing against the likes of Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins. Those players remain on the roster, but the team also added star receiver A.J. Brown in the offseason.

While things are looking up for the Eagles offense as a whole and a better overall offense tends to lead to more scoring opportunities, the added target competition for Smith has to be a concern for fantasy owners and that’s why he’s slipping into the sixth and even seventh round of some drafts. It’d be tough for Smith to be a total bust, but his upside is really capped unless the Eagles suddenly completely shift offensive philosophies which is very unlikely given that their quarterback is Jalen Hurts.

TE Dallas Goedert
(2021 TE Rank – No.9, 7.1 FPts/G)

Goedert was one of the “safe, reliable” tight ends who was going in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts in 2021 and that’s about what he delivered. His 830 yards were fifth-most among all tight ends and while he finished with just four touchdowns on the season, he was a top-10 overall producer at the position on the year both in PPR and non-PPR formats.

While it’s encouraging to note that Goedert was extremely effective on a per-target basis in 2021, the obvious concern is that he’s not likely to see a significant uptick in total targets here in 2022, especially now that the team added A.J. Brown this offseason. Goedert was already in a low-volume passing game and he struggled to dominate targets even against the likes of Quez Watkins, Jalen Reagor and rookie DeVonta Smith. When you consider that the team kept Watkins and Reagor, Smith has another year of development under his belt, and Brown is now on the roster, it’s tough to imagine a world where Goedert suddenly produces significantly more than he did before.

Like Smith, the most likely outcome is that Goedert continues to be highly effective on the targets he does see come his way, but that his total opportunities remain about the same or even go down slightly here in 2022. That doesn’t mean that Goedert can’t continue to be a TE1 for fantasy, of course, as the position is pretty much a complete disaster outside the top five or so players. It does, however, mean that Goedert is unlikely to become a true difference-maker at the position this season and thus should not be a priority in fantasy drafts.

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