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Andrew Swanson | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

2018 Player Outlooks: Philadelphia Eagles

Could we see 200+ carries for Jay Ajayi? He's the best bet to lead the Eagles running back group.

QB Carson Wentz
(2017 QB Rank - No.2, 25.1 FPts/G)

After an up and down rookie season, Carson Wentz exploded onto the fantasy football landscape in 2017 with 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams. With at least two touchdowns in 12 of his 14 games, Wentz posted the fifth highest TD% (7.5) by a quarterback in their second season in NFL history, behind Hall of Fame players Dan Marino, Kurt Warner, and Johnny Unitas. Ironically, the player with the highest TD% in their sophomore season is Nick Foles, the quarterback who took over for Wentz last season and led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl.

When you consider the fact that Sid Luckman’s 7.9% TD rate is the highest in NFL history and future first ballot hall of famer Tom Brady owns a career TD rate of 5.5%, a negative regression for Wentz is likely in 2018. It should also be noted that although Wentz posted impressive touchdown numbers in 2017, his completion percentage dipped down to just over 60% from 62% as a rookie, suggesting that his success throwing touchdowns at a high rate is an outlier.

Questions surrounding his ability to return to form from his severe knee injury also hurts the draft value of Wentz heading into 2018. As a quarterback who excels at moving both inside and outside the pocket, the inability to evade would-be tacklers and extending plays could hurt Wentz’s overall value in 2018. However, Wentz is surrounded by a collection of talented wide receivers and running backs, and Doug Pederson’s stellar offensive scheme should help Wentz finish as a top 12 QB this season.

RB Jay Ajayi
(2017 RB Rank - No.35, 8.2 FPts/G)

One of the more polarizing players in fantasy last season, Jay Ajayi rushed for 408 yards and one rushing touchdown in seven games for the Eagles after joining the team midseason via trade with the Dolphins. Although limited to just 70 carries in a crowded backfield that included the now departed LeGarrette Blount, Ajayi did make the most of his time with the Eagles, posting an impressive 5.8 yard per carry average.

Now that Blount has moved on to the Lions and the Eagles have yet to add another bruising RB to the backfield, Ajayi looks poised to take over as the primary first and second down back for an Eagles team that finished third last season in total points scored.

The main knock against Ajayi and the reason why he is not considered a second or third round pick in most experts’ eyes is the fact that head coach Doug Pederson prefers to use multiple RBs out of the backfield. Corey Clement looked impressive at times last season, and veteran Darren Sproles looks to return to the team as the primary receiving down option.

The lack of clear touches will make many owners shy away from Ajayi in drafts this summer. However, should he continue to fall in ADP, Ajayi could end up being a great value, especially in standard scoring formats.

RB Corey Clement
(2017 RB Rank - No.62, 5.7 FPts/G)

Clement made a lasting impression on Eagles fans last season, capping off his rookie campaign with 108 yards and a receiving touchdown in Philly’s 41-33 win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Although the former Wisconsin Badger never received more than 15 total touches in a game in 2017, Clement scored six total touchdowns and averaged 5.7 fantasy points per game in a backfield that split nearly 400 carries between six running backs last year.

With LeGarrette Blount now a member of the Detroit Lions, Clement looks primed to be the second running back and change of pace behind Jay Ajayi. Considering Ajayi’s well-documented knee issues and Clement’s increased role in the Super Bowl, Clement is an attractive draft and stash value as a late-round pick.

WR Alshon Jeffery
(2017 WR Rank - No.25, 8.3 FPts/G)

After a slow start to the season in which the former second-round pick from South Carolina manned just two receiving touchdowns in his first seven games, Alshon Jeffery came through for fantasy owners with a receiving score in six of his final eight contests. The high touchdown production made up for the fact that Jeffery caught just 49% of his targets, failed to reach 100 yards in any game, and posted the second-lowest yard per reception average of his six-year NFL career.

Jeffery is an attractive option for owners playing in standard leagues as he will continue to be a primary touchdown scoring threat at the wide receiver position for Carson Wentz. Jeffery will also become more of a valuable asset in PPR formats if he is able to positively regress back to his career catch rate of 55% and yard per reception average of 15 yards.

WR Nelson Agholor
(2017 WR Rank - No.24, 8.2 FPts/G)

It may surprise many readers to learn that Agholor, a former first-round pick who appeared to be perilously close to getting cut, scored nearly the same amount of fantasy points as fellow Eagle Alshon Jeffery on 25 fewer targets.

Agholor set career highs in targets (95), receptions (62), yards (768), and touchdowns (8) while posting an impressive 65% catch rate. Although he is often the third or fourth option behind Jeffery, Ertz, and the Philly receiving backs, head coach Doug Pederson made Agholor a focus in the red zone (18 red zone targets), often designing misdirection passing routes for the shifty receiver.

The fact that Agholor jumped up to eight receiving touchdowns after catching a combined three in his first two seasons might suggest that he is in line for some negative regression. It also does not help that his quarterback’s 7.5% touchdown rate late season was an outlier and Agholor was a beneficiary of that outlier season. Despite these negative factors, the volume he received last season will likely continue, with 90 to 100 targets well within reach.

WR Mike Wallace
(2017 WR Rank - No.46, 6.6 FPts/G)

Wallace delved a quietly productive fantasy season last year as part of a dreadful Baltimore passing game that ranked 29th out of 32 teams in 2017. Although he caught a mere four receiving touchdowns and topped 100 yards only twice, Wallace did provide a nice floor of production as a flex player, with a least five points in each of his final eight games.

The move for Wallace from Baltimore to Philadelphia will be a catch-22 in that the veteran receiver will be part of a high scoring passing offense, and his targets will be more valuable coming from Carson Wentz as opposed to Joe Flacco. However, the likelihood of Wallace receiving the 92 or 117 targets he garnered in his last two seasons as a member of the Ravens will be hard to project as the fourth or fifth option on the Eagles.

For that reason, Wallace projects to be a low-volume target in standard leagues and someone who will likely start the season on the waiver wire in PPR formats.

TE Zach Ertz
(2017 TE Rank - No.3, 9.3 FPts/G)

As the No.1 receiving threat (Sorry Alshon, but the numbers don’t lie) in an Eagles offense that ranked third in points scored last season, Zach Ertz firmly staked his claim as one of the best fantasy tight ends in the business last year.

Only Travis Kelce average more targets per game and only Jimmy Graham finished with more receiving touchdowns than Ertz, who despite the addition of Alshon Jeffery, was clearly the favorite target of quarterback Carson Wentz.

Perhaps most attractive about Ertz is his usage and efficiency in the red zone, an area of the field in which Ertz had yet to exploit before last season. In 2017, Ertz ranked third among tight ends in red zone targets and tied for first on the Eagles with Nelson Agholor (18 targets). He caught 12 of his 18 red zone targets for eight touchdowns, effectively ending the narrative that the former Stanford Cardinal could not be a touchdown scoring tight end.

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