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- American football player and coach
The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking and review of NFL teams for fantasy purposes — repeat: FANTASY PURPOSES. Here, we concern ourselves with a franchise's likely contributions to the fantasy player pool. We are not concerned with projected wins and losses. Instead, we're focused on yards and points. As always, we're beginning with the league's least useful teams, working our way toward the elite fantasy juggernauts.
Philadelphia currently has three quarterbacks under contract for over $80 million, and the team's opening week starter is likely to be Sam Bradford. Kids, this is no way to operate your franchise in a salary cap league.
The Eagles hemorrhaged talent at the offensive skill spots during the Chip Kelly years, leaving the team with an unimpressive collection of names atop the depth chart at various positions. Kelly, of course, was fired last December, prior to the season's end. Under new head coach Doug Pederson, Philly will play slower — probably much slower — and place more decision-making and play-changing responsibility on the quarterback. Pederson served as Kansas City's OC from 2013 to 2015, steering an offense that finished 27th, 25th and 21st in total yardage. And again, this year's starting QB is likely to be Sam [profane] Bradford.
So yeah, this is kind of a big green mess. Bradford has averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt over his five NFL seasons, completing only 60.1 percent of his throws. He has no exceptional quarterbacking traits by NFL standards, and he's coming off a mostly ugly season. He threw only 19 touchdown passes and 14 picks over 14 games last year, plus he put the ball on the ground 10 times. Not good. But we think he's the guy to open the season...
Doug Pederson reiterates that Sam Bradford will be his starting QB, barring injury, for Game 1 in September.
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) June 3, 2016
...so you should probably find a spot for him on your cheat sheet in very deep two-quarterback leagues. Elsewhere, you can forget him. Veteran backup Chase Daniel is next up on the depth chart, and he has years of experience in Pederson's offense, though he's shown us very little over six pro seasons (80.2 rating, one TD).
Of course the biggest storyline for the 2016 Eagles will be Carson Wentz's development. Back in April, the team traded five draft picks to Cleveland, including two first-rounders and a second, in order to move up six spots to acquire Wentz. As most of you know, Wentz was adored by scouts and draft pundits and pretty much anyone who's interacted with him. He has a big arm and he owned the Senior Bowl. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he certainly looks the part. He's drawn a few Andrew Luck comps, which is just ... well ... wow.
For all of his physical and intellectual gifts, Wentz's collegiate numbers and his tape from North Dakota State won't blow you away. He completed 62.5 percent of his throws over seven games as a senior at NDSU, averaging 7.9 Y/A — nice enough stats for a college QB, but they don't scream, "MUST DRAFT!" Let's keep in mind that Wentz was playing his home games in a dome, facing an FCS schedule. I can guarantee that the collegiate version of Andrew Luck would have absolutely eviscerated Montana, Weber State and UNI. For a guy with a huge arm, Wentz wasn't particularly accurate throws 20-plus yards downfield (38.5 percent). He occasionally processes plays at David Carr-speed, too.
I hope Wentz works out well for the Eagles, because I've got no beef with Philly and the league isn't overflowing with star quarterbacks. But this is not a Luck-level prospect in my view. Wentz has reportedly picked up the offense well, which is great. But he's making such a massive leap in quality-of-competition. Ideally, he'd get a redshirt year in Philly. Patience, please.
Jordan Matthews returns as the Eagles' clear No. 1 receiver, and he's coming off a quality season, considering the lousy team context. Matthews caught 85 balls for 997 yards on 128 targets, finding the end-zone eight times in 2015. He was generous to the fantasy community in the most important weeks of our season, delivering four of his touchdowns and 317 of his yards over the final three games. There's been talk that Matthews will see more snaps as an outside receiver in the year ahead, but he's primarily a slot guy.
Philadelphia's Bradford-Wentz-Pederson passing game seems unlikely to produce a second wide receiver with fantasy relevance, and the options at this position aren't great. Rueben Randle has nice enough size (6-foot-2) and durability, but he lacks explosion and after-the-catch ability. Nelson Agholor had a quiet rookie season featuring multiple drops, and he might soon be facing criminal charges. Josh Huff apparently dropped everything that came his way in OTAs. Tight end Zach Ertz signed a five-year extension during the offseason after producing career highs in both receptions (75) and yards (853) in 2015, and you should continue to view him as a reliable if unspectacular fantasy option. But in leagues of standard size, you can probably leave this team's non-Matthews wideouts alone.
DeMarco Murray is no longer in the team picture for Philly, which of course is not a bad thing. He was a notable fantasy and real-life bust last season, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry on 193 rush attempts. He's now Tennessee's worry. Ryan Mathews is in line to see the largest share of backfield touches for the Eagles this season, following a season in which he averaged 5.0 YPC and crossed the goal-line seven times. Ball security and injury risk are the longtime issues for Mathews, as everyone knows, but those concerns are baked into his current ADP (54.1, RB25). He's an excellent pick for the ZeroRB crowd, and a nice flex/bench option for the rest of us. Darren Sproles remains in Philly, and he's still a reasonable end-of-draft asset in PPR formats and best-ball leagues. (Anywhere else, he's simply an emergency/bye-week placeholder; it's so hard to know when the twice-a-year big game is coming.) West Virginia rookie Wendell Smallwood is the sleeper in this team's backfield, and he's earned early praise from Pederson:
"Here is a guy I think can be explosive, has shown some explosiveness," Pederson said. "I really like the fact how he catches the football out of the backfield. I think that is something that is just a gift that he has. He's a natural, a natural pass catcher."
Smallwood has size enough to handle a significant workload (5-foot-11, 200), and he rushed for 1519 yards at WVU last year (6.4 YPC), adding 26 catches. He's the handcuff to Mathews. Snag him in the final round of deeper formats, and a bit earlier in dynasty.
No member of the Yahoo fantasy team ranked the Eagles defense higher than No. 14 among all D/STs, but we all ranked 'em somewhere. They were dreadful last season in terms of yards and points allowed (401.6 YPG, 26.9 PPG), but they also intercepted 15 passes, forced 18 fumbles and scored four defensive TDs, so they weren't a terrible fantasy unit. Fletcher Cox is the best of the IDPs here (71 tackles, 9.5 sacks), and Brandon Graham is on the radar as well. This group opens against the Browns and Bears, so Philly is at least ownable in the early weeks.
2015 Offensive Stats & Ranks
Points per game – 23.6 (13)
Pass YPG – 255.4 (12)
Rush YPG – 108.9 (14)
Yards per play – 5.3 (23)
Plays per game – 68.9 (2)