August 13, 2010
The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FOR FANTASY PURPOSES. This is not an NFL power ranking. We're reviewing each team's projected fantasy contributions — that's it. That's all.
The Philadelphia Eagles clearly have total, unqualified confidence in their new starting quarterback, Kevin Kolb(notes). If they didn't, then the team would not have dealt six-time Pro Bowler Donovan McNabb(notes) to a division rival.
Under head coach Andy Reid, Philadelphia runs a West Coast scheme that demands precision in the passing game, relying on quick throws, often into traffic, hitting receivers in stride. The Eagles have developed Kolb in the system for three years, and they know his strengths, his tendencies and his limitations much better than anyone else. In the organization's opinion, Kolb gives the team a better chance than McNabb to win games right now. This is not a developmental year. When McNabb was traded, Kolb received a full endorsement.
The fantasy community has embraced Kolb, too. We're drafting him aggressively, in essentially the same spot where we would have taken Donovan if he were still at the controls of Philly's offense (ADP 78.9). It's a leap-of-faith pick, an expression of our belief in Reid's program and the Eagles' institutional intelligence. We didn't really see enough of Kolb last year to write a full scouting report. He delivered a pair of useful fantasy lines in his two starts last season, sure, but Kolb also threw three interceptions in the first of those games, a 26-point loss, and he faced a terrible Kansas City defense in the second. The Chiefs failed to pressure the quarterback, per their usual, and Kolb picked them apart (24-for-34, 327 yards, 2 TDs). Many other quarterbacks shredded Kansas City's D in 2009; it wasn't exactly an exclusive club. The defenses in the NFC East are more formidable.
But still, what little we've seen of Kolb has been promising from a fantasy perspective. It's worth noting that he was remarkably accurate in his senior season at Houston in '06, completing 67.6 percent of his passes and throwing only four interceptions in 432 attempts. Back then, he projected as a terrific fit for a West Coast playbook, and now he's in a situation that should suit his skills. This is a high-volume passing game, the Eagles' receiving corps is loaded, and the offensive line is solid. If healthy, Kolb has a realistic shot to reach 4,000 passing yards in the year ahead. While it's true that 4K isn't really a special number anymore — 10 quarterbacks reached the mark in '09 — it would nonetheless make Kolb a serious fantasy asset. It's also a yardage threshold that McNabb has never hit.
Fantasy owners don't usually compare Kolb to Donovan, however. Instead, you're all expecting him to be Aaron Rodgers(notes), the three-year backup who took over for a legend and immediately excelled, outperforming the star he replaced. As if that's so easy. Philadelphia fans aren't the most forgiving bunch (unlike the fantasy crowd). If Kolb's Eagles lose at home to Rodgers' Packers in Week 1, things may take an ugly turn. Michael Vick(notes) will be a small nuisance all season — he'll likely get a few Wildcat snaps — but he won't threaten Kolb's status as starter.
With DeSean Jackson(notes) and Jeremy Maclin(notes) atop the depth chart at wideout, the Eagles have one of the most exciting young receiver tandems in the league. Jackson is a burner, cartoon quick, a big play waiting to happen. He finished with 12 touchdowns last season, and eight of them covered 50-plus yards. That's ridiculous. There was also a 48-yarder. And another went for 35. You'd never actually predict than a player will continue to score from distance with such frequency, of course. But if you're assuming that A) Kolb won't be a disaster and B) Jackson will get another 110-plus targets, then you absolutely need to rank D-Jax inside the top-10 at his position.
Maclin had a terrific rookie season (55-762-4), and he was a consistent performer until plantar fasciitis became an issue late in the year. He doesn't quite have Jackson's inhuman speed, but he fits the offense well. Again, if you think Kolb is the real thing, then you should draft Maclin as a fantasy starter. In early mocks, he's the No. 24 receiver in terms of ADP (67.4). The rest of Philadelphia's wideouts can be ignored on draft day in standard leagues; Jason Avant(notes) is a potential late-rounder in deep formats, and Florida rookie Riley Cooper(notes) should be on the radar for dynasty owners. Tight end Brent Celek(notes) is coming off a 971-yard, 8-TD season, and he's a clear starter in any league. (Because some of you care about this sort of detail, here: Celek and Kolb are tight. Fast friends. Roommates on the road. Two men, one Snuggie. That's chemistry right there).
Running back LeSean McCoy(notes) gained 945 total yards on 195 touches as a 21-year-old rookie, and he's in line for a much larger workload in his second year. He has the receiving skills to be a future PPR first-rounder (40 receptions in '09), and the offseason propaganda surrounding McCoy has certainly been encouraging. He demonstrated a nose for the end zone in college, too, crossing the goal line 36 times in two seasons at Pitt. There's a lot to like here, and the draft-day price is reasonable. McCoy's Mock Draft Central ADP is 34.4, so he's going a full round later than Beanie Wells(notes) (24.2). We can't promise you a vintage Brian Westbrook(notes) season, nor will we guarantee that McCoy is this year's Ray Rice(notes). But he's a talented all-purpose back in a dangerous offense, and Mike Bell(notes) won't challenge him for the starting role. In short yardage and goal-line situations, we'll likely see more of the 225-pound Bell (or 238-pound rookie Charles Scott(notes), or 250-pound vet Leonard Weaver(notes)).
Philly's defense tied for third in the NFL in sacks last year (44) and finished fourth in interceptions (25), so it was a very useful unit for fantasy purposes. In real life, however, this group wasn't so impressive. The Eagles allowed an average of 24.2 points per game over their final nine contests, including the playoff loss to Dallas. The team targeted defensive players with each of their first five picks back in April's draft, ultimately using nine of their 13 selections to upgrade the D (and particularly the pass rush). We've ranked the Philadelphia team DEF as a top-10 fantasy option; coordinator Sean McDermott's unit does not lack talent. The best of the IDPs are LB Stewart Bradley(notes) (now a year removed from ACL surgery), DE Trent Cole(notes), DB Quintin Mikell(notes), LB Ernie Sims(notes), and DB Asante Samuel(notes) (poor tackler, but he plays for picks).
So there it is. The Eagles drop from third to 13th in the Juggernaut Index, and you're probably more excited about 'em this season than you were in 2009. This team has plenty of question marks, yet also loads of potential. It's never a clock management clinic with Andy Reid, but it's often a fantasy buffet.
Photo via Getty Images
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