Philadelphia Eagles 2023 Fantasy Football Preview: Elite talent back with high hopes

Philadelphia Eagles 2023 Fantasy Football Preview: Elite talent back with high hopes

2022 Stats (rank)

Total yards per game: 389.1 (3rd)
Plays per game: 66.1 (5th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks per game: 34.1 (24th)
Dropback EPA per play: 0.12 (7th)
Rush attempts per game: 32 (3rd)
Rush EPA per play: 0.07 (1st)

Coaching Staff

The NFL’s most adaptable coaching staff pivoted again in 2022, veering from the league’s most run-heavy attack to ninth in raw passing output. Extreme efficiency took the day, as the Eagles were still only 23rd in total passes. They were second in YPA (8.1) and seventh in dropback EPA. None of it would have been possible without Jalen Hurts transforming from question mark to MVP finalist. It was with Hurts where the Eagles continued to manifest their smash-mouth identity on the ground. Fifth in rushing yards per game, the Eagles were far and away No. 1 overall in ground scores thanks to Hurts’ ridiculous 13 punch-ins. All of these eye-popping statistics would have been even moreso had the Eagles not spent so many second halves playing with monster leads and taking their foot off the gas.

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Passing Game

QB: Jalen Hurts, Tanner McKee
WR: A.J. Brown, Olamide Zaccheaus
WR: DeVonta Smith, Tyrie Cleveland
WR: Quez Watkins, Greg Ward
TE: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra

The not-so-secret weapon behind the Eagles’ 2022 passing-game explosion was trade addition A.J. Brown. He finally had the elite WR1 campaign that was always on the tip of his tongue in Tennessee, staying healthy for every game for the first time since 2019 and setting new career highs across the board with his 88 catches, 1,496 yards and 11 touchdowns. He averaged 88 yards per contest, besting his previous career best by 11.2. Like Hurts, Brown was wildly efficient, placing fourth in yards per route run at 2.59. That was a carryover from Brown’s Titans days, but the difference in Philly is that it scaled on greater workloads. Brown averaged 8.5 weekly looks, up from 7.8 over the previous two years in Nashville. That his yards per route run remained essentially unchanged speaks to a special player, one who will continue to dominate in 2023. Despite stiff target competition from DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, that is Brown’s only competition, making this one of the league’s narrower target trees. With his volume and efficiency both seemingly locked in, Brown is a high-end WR1 capable of finishing as the WR1 overall.

If Brown was the expected alpha in 2022, DeVonta Smith was the surprising sophomore. Not that it came entirely out of nowhere. Looking to build off a strong 64/916/5 rookie campaign, Smith found his boat lifted by Brown’s rising tide. Ninth in raw yardage (1,196), Smith was 11th in receptions (95) and tied for 15th in receiving scores (seven). Taking advantage of the Eagles’ newfound passing efficiency, Smith saw his yards per route run spike from 1.77 to 1.98. Smith’s 25.4 percent target share was by far the highest amongst No. 2 receivers. Although it’s fair to wonder if the Eagles can possibly run as hot as they did in 2022 again, Smith’s absolute floor is mid-range WR2, and you could argue it’s actually low-end WR1. Brown does cap Smith’s ceiling in the WR9-12 range.

The only other pass-catcher worth calling home about is Dallas Goedert. Seemingly forever on the precipice of a monster campaign, Goedert didn’t quite get there in 2022 but did take advantage of the Eagles’ increased passing focus to post new career best rate stats. That includes his 4.5 catches and 58.5 yards per game. His 1.82 yards per route run, though off his elite 2021 mark of 2.34, remained stellar for a tight end. Only Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews and role-playing rookie Chig Okonkwo were better. Not threatened for targets by a No. 3 receiver or No. 2 tight end, Goedert should have little trouble justifying his TE5 summer ADP as long as he stays healthy. Goedert has missed at least two games each of the past three seasons.

When we say Goedert isn’t threatened by a No. 3 wide receiver or No. 2 tight end, we mean it. Situational deep threat Quez Watkins isn’t about to increase his target share. The Eagles will have a real problem on their hands if any of Brown, Smith or Goedert gets hurt, as Brown and Goedert have both done multiple times during their careers.

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Running Game

RB: Rashaad Penny, D’Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott
OL (L-R): Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Tyler Steen, Lane Johnson

If the top of the Eagles’ pass-catching corps is compact and full of returning mainstays, the exact opposite is true in the backfield. Fans of committees going back to their Doug Pederson days, the Eagles will undoubtedly run 2-3 deep at running back. The question is in what order.

First up is trade acquisition D’Andre Swift, whom the Lions sold for a song after selecting Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 overall. Although in theory capable of contributing on all three downs, there’s a reason the Lions dealt Swift for a bag of footballs. He can’t stay healthy and he doesn’t grind out tough yards. He is bound to be the change-of-pace/passing-down option in Philadelphia, but it is worth asking what that even means in Philly. No team apportioned fewer running back targets in 2022. That might be an unrepeatable feat considering the Eagles’ lack of pass-catching depth, but Swift is going to have his work cut out for him to meet his low-end RB2 ADP. All that being said, Swift and his breakaway ability remain capable of a top-12 season if he could ever stay healthy for 17 games. Considering his injury history and the position he plays, we would not be counting on it.

Standing in the way of a Swift ceiling effort is Rashaad Penny, who is like the even more pronounced version of his new backfield mate. Like Swift, Penny has trouble staying on the field. Unlike Swift, Penny has a history of serious ailments rather than minor ones. Like Swift, Penny has elite breakaway ability. Unlike Swift, he can’t catch passes. An Adrian Peterson-type runner when he’s off the injury report and dominating early-down touches, Penny is in Philly instead of Seattle because he missed 32 games over his final three years with the Seahawks, including 12 with a broken leg last season. Penny will get the first crack on early downs, but it’s up in the air how much work the Eagles will be willing to give a player with his medical chart. Penny’s truly special big-play ability will keep him FLEX relevant whenever he’s on the field, but there are too many obstacles in front of him to carve out consistent RB2 value. That includes Hurts’ rushing threat at the goal line.

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Playing spoiler is Kenneth Gainwell, a coaching staff favorite but not so much that the team didn’t add Swift and Penny. The Eagles want to think bigger at running back, but they might think better of it if Swift and Penny are missing practices during training camp. Playing behind two of the most injury-prone players in football, Gainwell’s familiarity with the Eagles’ system put him in position to swoop in quickly at the first sign of struggle or injury ahead of him. He is worth a late-round pick in all formats.

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Win Total

Generally set at 11.5, the Eagles are coming off something of a charmed 2022. They at one point faced Cooper Rush, Kenny Pickett, Davis Mills, Taylor Heinicke and Matt Ryan all in a row, for instance. They got a quarterback-less 49ers team in the NFC Championship Game. It is more than fair to wonder if last year was the high-water mark for this group. There is just so much high-end talent, with the depth to supplement it. Their schedule is on the easier side despite a strong overall NFC East. I would rather bet on the Eagles running it back in the 12-13 win range instead of falling back to 9-10.