The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FOR FANTASY PURPOSES. We're interested in yards and points here. These ranks are astonishingly accurate and highly collectible. Please enjoy them responsibly.
The Eagles were sixth in the NFL in points scored last year (26.0 per game) and ninth in total yardage (350.5). They were loaded with talent before having the NFL's best offseason. Now, with redundancy at the skill positions and upgrades throughout the roster, anything less than 11 wins and a return to the NFC title game would be a severe disappointment.
No pressure, Philly.
Let's review the team's key offseason moves in order of fantasy relevance…
• The Eagles strengthened the O-line – no small thing in the NFC East – adding massive guard Stacy Andrews(notes) and Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters(notes). Andy Reid has described Peters as "the best left tackle in football." On paper, Philadelphia has an absolutely dominant line…but so far, it's only on paper. Injuries have prevented the unit from working together, but everyone should be in place by the opener except guard Todd Herremans(notes) (foot, 3-4 weeks).
• Philly grabbed running back LeSean McCoy(notes) in the second round of the NFL Draft, giving the team a Brian Westbrook(notes) replicant should the need arise. Westbrook is recovering from knee and ankle surgeries and he's never played all 16 games in any season, so it can be argued that McCoy (ADP 105.3) is fantasy's most essential handcuff.
• In the first round of the draft, the Eagles selected playmaking receiver Jeremy Maclin(notes), a high-upside talent who's had an active preseason (11 catches, 129 yards, two fumbles). You'll find all the right adjectives in Maclin's Rivals scouting report: "Explosive downfield threat … elite deep speed … very dangerous with the ball in his hands … top-end burst and acceleration … rare production … good work ethic." He's just another piece of a deep receiving corps right now, but the eventual ceiling is high.
• Michael Vick's(notes) signing generated more headlines than any other addition – and by orders of magnitude – but it's really a sideshow in fantasy circles. Vick has demonstrated his old escapability, arm strength and lack-of-touch during the preseason. He figures to be the centerpiece of many gimmick plays when he returns in Week 3, but he's not a serious threat to Donovan McNabb(notes), nor is he worth drafting in most non-dynasty formats.
Commenters have hammered us for carrying Philadelphia to the final three in the Juggernaut Index, but, again, this team had a top-ten offense in 2008 and it's undeniably better entering '09. You'll regret a lack of investment in the Eagles.
If you're not impressed by the enhancements listed above, then perhaps you'll appreciate the breakout candidates and disrespected vets listed below…
• Westbrook has lots of mileage, but the offseason maintenance reportedly went well and his average draft position (13.7) isn't as scary as it used to be. (Not interested at 6/7; buying at 13/14). If you roster the 21-year-old McCoy alongside the 30-year-old Westbrook, you'll ultimately like the payout. Even in a disappointing 14-game season last year, Westbrook managed 1338 total yards and 14 touchdowns.
• McNabb is the eighth QB selected in an average draft (ADP 61.3), but he has a top scorer's setup. The Eagles attempted 37.9 passes per game in '08, the fourth-highest total in the league. McNabb's protection should be excellent, he limits the negative plays – 13 INTs is his single-season high – and the weapons at his disposal haven't been this interesting since the Terrell Owens(notes) years. McNabb was the top per-game fantasy scorer in '05, so when the situation is right, he's capable of outproducing anyone.
• At this point you might reasonably ask which member of the '09 Eagles resembles – in a good way – the '05 version of Owens? Well, no one does. Owens is a huge target and a double-digit touchdown machine. DeSean Jackson(notes) (5-10, 175) isn't exactly that guy. However, Jackson is an excellent route-runner with 4.35-speed and he's having a stellar preseason. Every visitor to Eagles camp raved about his rapport with McNabb. Jackson makes three moves before a defender can react to the first. His goal for this season is reportedly to double last year's reception total (62). But don't get greedy. Let's forecast an 85-1200-8 line for Jackson, assuming good health. The ceiling is higher, though. Jackson is a steal at his current ADP (56.3). He's going 25 picks later than Dwayne Bowe(notes) and eight later than Braylon Edwards(notes).
• Brent Celek(notes) is Exhibit J in the case against taking a tight end early in the draft. You'll find him in the free agent pool in most leagues (37 percent owned), but he's shown an ability to make degree-of-difficulty plays and he's no picnic to tackle. Celek had 19 receptions for 151 yards and three TDs in the postseason for the Eagles last year. It would be no great surprise if he delivered a season that eclipsed anything LJ Smith(notes) accomplished in his six years in Philly.
Eagle droppings: Collectively, we've ranked the Eagles' defense No. 7 overall for fantasy purposes, but one of us has 'em in the top spot. They were third in the league in sacks (48) and tied for ninth in turnovers (29), but the loss of linebacker Stewart Bradley(notes) (ACL) was a small disaster. Trent Cole(notes), Quintin Mikell(notes) and Omar Gaither(notes) are the remaining IDPs to consider. … Kevin Curtis peaked in Week 3, 2007. Maybe there was magic in the throwback uniforms. Dunno. He's been limited by knee and groin issues lately and he's 31 years old. Perhaps some of the gains we're projecting for Jackson and Celek will come from Curtis. … We will not defend, nor will we condone, the habits of this team within the final minutes of games. That is not a fantasy issue, so we choose to ignore it.
The special leather-bound commemorative edition of the '09 Juggernaut Index: 32) Oakland, 31) Cleveland, 30) St. Louis, 29) Miami, 28) NY Jets, 27) Baltimore, 26) Washington, 25) San Francisco, 24) Tampa Bay, 23) Kansas City, 22) Detroit, 21) Seattle, 20) Buffalo, 19) Cincinnati, 18) Jacksonville, 17) New York Giants, 16) Tennessee, 15) Pittsburgh, 14) Denver, 13) Chicago, 12) Minnesota, 11) Arizona, 10) Green Bay, 9) Dallas, 8) Carolina, 7) Atlanta, 6) Indianapolis, 5) San Diego, 4) New England.
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