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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Philadelphia Eagles

Senior Fantasy Writer
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There was a lot of uncertainty with the Eagles last year heading into training camp.

Would Chip Kelly's offense work in the NFL? Who would be the starting quarterback between Michael Vick and Nick Foles? Would LeSean McCoy lose playing time to Bryce Brown?

We now know it all worked out great for Kelly, Foles, McCoy and the Eagles, and they are ready for an encore this season. The biggest question now is how the Eagles will overcome the loss of DeSean Jackson in the passing game.

Philadelphia didn't add a deep threat to replace Jackson, but the hope is the addition of Darren Sproles and Jordan Matthews, as well as getting Jeremy Maclin back from last year's torn ACL, will keep this offense flying high. Zach Ertz is also a breakout candidate at tight end, and Riley Cooper signed an extension to stay with the team.

All these moves should help, and this rushing attack is the best in the NFL. But Foles might suffer without Jackson, and it's something to keep in mind on Draft Day.

Good, but not great ... Nick Foles

I was skeptical of Foles heading into 2014 when the Eagles released Jackson, and he was in my early busts column in April. But the Eagles have done a good job to revamp their receiving corps, and I think Foles will be fine.

He just won't be an elite Fantasy quarterback, and you shouldn't overrate him on Draft Day. If you put Foles in the same category of quarterbacks to wait for with a mid-round pick -- Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler or Cam Newton -- then you'll be OK. But if you're like my colleague Dave Richard, who has Foles ranked ahead of quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck, I think that's a bit of a stretch.

What Foles did in 2013 was amazing. He finished the season with 2,891 yards, 27 touchdowns and two interceptions and 56 carries for 225 yards and three touchdowns in just 13 appearances and 10 starts. He finished as the No. 11 quarterback in standard leagues, but if you project his stats over 16 games he would have been No. 3 behind only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

I think a regression is coming, because Jackson's loss will be hard to overcome. Foles targeted him more than any other receiver (70 times), and he completed 71.4 percent of those passes to Jackson. Additionally, Foles threw just two interceptions last year, and that number will rise.

You can definitely draft Foles as a starter, but don't reach for him. If he does regress, he could cost you unless you add the right backup with a late-round pick.

Philly's best WR ... Jeremy Maclin

Maclin missed all the fun in Philadelphia last season with a torn ACL. Had he played, he likely would have been a Top 24 Fantasy receiver instead of Cooper, who was No. 22 in Fantasy points.

In two of the previous three seasons, Maclin was the best receiver for the Eagles, finishing with more Fantasy points than Jackson in 2010 -- he was No. 12 that year -- and 2012. He should be back on top this year.

Cooper will start opposite Maclin, but he should struggle to repeat his stat line of 47 catches, 835 yards and eight touchdowns. Maclin has never had more than 70 catches or 965 yards in a season, but he could best those marks this year. And he once scored 10 touchdowns in 2010, with 22 touchdowns from 2010-11, so he knows how to find the end zone.

Don't think that Maclin is going to replace Jackson as a deep threat, but he's a good route runner and receiver, which should help Foles. He's a sleeper on Draft Day, and he's someone I plan to target as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in all leagues.

Draft Day sleeper ... Zach Ertz

2013 Touches Leaders
810 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
LeSean McCoy 366 (314 car., 52 rec.) 45.2%
DeSean Jackson 85 (3 car., 82 rec.) 10.5%
Bryce Brown 83 (75 car., 8 rec.) 10.2%
Riley Cooper 47 rec. 5.8%
Jason Avant 38 rec. 4.7%
All Others 191 23.6%

One way the Eagles could help replace Jackson is by using Ertz more. Sure, Maclin, Sproles and Matthews will pick up a lot of the slack, but increasing Ertz's role will definitely improve the offense.

He had a secondary role as a rookie in 2013 with 36 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns, and he played behind Brent Celek. While Celek could remain the starter, Ertz has a much higher ceiling as a receiver, and we think he could be a Top 10 Fantasy tight end this year.

If you look at the way Ertz closed the season with 25 catches for 290 yards and five touchdowns over his final nine games -- including the playoff loss to the Saints -- you can see his potential. If you project that over 16 games he would have finished with 44 catches for 516 yards and nine touchdowns for 115 Fantasy points. That would have made him the No. 9 tight end in standard leagues.

Ertz should be drafted with a late-round pick in all leagues. Once the third-tier tight ends are drafted -- the group of Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen, Kyle Rudolph and Jordan Cameron -- then plan to take Ertz. I like him better than Eric Ebron, Martellus Bennett, Heath Miller and Ladarius Green, and I expect Ertz to outperform his draft value if things go his way.

Schedule analysis

There aren't many trouble spots on the schedule heading into the season. The Eagles face the NFC West this year, and they have back-to-back games against the 49ers and Rams, starting in Week 4, which could be tough. The start of the Fantasy playoffs in Week 14 is against Seattle, which could be problematic, and don't be surprised if the Jaguars in Week 1 slow down Kelly's attack. But the Eagles, barring a disaster, should be able to navigate this schedule without much trouble.

Training camp battles

Who's the starting tight end? Celek should open the season No. 1 on the depth chart, but don't pay much attention to that listing. He's the better blocker than Ertz, but Ertz has the higher ceiling for Fantasy owners. We'd like to see the Eagles use Ertz more as a receiver, which would allow both tight ends to play a lot, but the targets should favor Ertz. He's worth drafting with a late-round pick, and Celek should be left on waivers.

What's the pecking order at receiver? The Eagles don't have a true No. 1 receiver, but Maclin and Cooper will be the starters. Matthews should be No. 3, and he's someone to monitor during the season in re-draft leagues. There is some potential for rookie Josh Huff, but the only three receivers to consider on Draft Day are Maclin, Cooper and Matthews. And we like Maclin the best based on his upside.

Bold prediction

Last year, Fantasy owners wondered if Brown would impact McCoy based on how they finished in 2012. Well, McCoy led the NFL in rushing in 2013, Brown was just a backup and he was traded to Buffalo this offseason since his services were no longer needed.

This year, the question surrounding McCoy is the addition of Sproles. We know Sproles isn't going to hurt McCoy's rushing numbers, but he will be a significant part of the passing game with at least 70 catches and 600 receiving yards the past three seasons. By comparison, McCoy has at least 52 catches in three of the past four years, with 500-plus receiving yards in two of those campaigns.

I'm not worried about Sproles hurting McCoy's stats, and I still expect him to get 2,000 total yards for the second year in a row. He will repeat as the No. 2 Fantasy running back overall behind Jamaal Charles, and you should draft him after Charles in all formats.

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Player News
Cardinals' Larry Foote '50-50' on playing in 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2:17 pm ET) Though Larry Foote is on the Cardinals' coaching staff at the moment, he hasn't ruled out a potential return to the team

Speaking to the team's website, Foote said he's "50-50" about playing in 2015. He talked about the factors that could play into whether or not he returns to playing. 

“Draft, what happens with (suspended linebacker) Darryl Washington, stuff like that, how my knee feels (after offseason surgery),” Foote said. “I’ll sit down with (Bruce Arians) and the next couple of months are really going to be the deciding factor.”

If Foote doesn't play, he'll be the linebackers coach for Arizona's upcoming season. He's been adjusting to the role of being a coach this offseason. 

“I am starting to like coaching,” Foote said. “It’s a little tough in the office, eating M&Ms, snacking all day, drinking coffee. I started my diet a couple days ago.”


Panthers pick up option on Luke Kuechly contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) What was promised by general manager Dave Gettleman is now official - the Panthers have picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of standout linebacker Luke Kuechly, per the team website.

The two-time Pro Bowler has led the NFL in tackles in two of his three seasons and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He has racked up 473 tackles since 2012, the most in the NFL.


Ravens TE Dennis Pitta hopeful for 2015 return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta hopes to take the field in time for the 2015 season, but admits it's too early to determine if that goal can become a reality.

Pitta has undergone surgeries to repair a fractured and dislocated hip in each of the last two years.

"We still have some time to be able to assess where I'm at," Pitta told the Baltimore Sun. "I sure hope that I'll be on the field next year. That's my hope; that's my goal. We'll just see if I can get there."

Pitta has played in just seven games in the last two seasons combined.


Mark Sanchez: Eagles said Tim Tebow was just a camp arm
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez said he wasn't concerned that the team signed Tim Tebow, because the Eagles told him Tebow was just there to throw in camp.

"We needed another guy to throw while Sam's (Bradford) still recovering. So that's the reason (for the signing), at least as explained to me," Sanchez said, per CSN Philadelphia

The Eagles signed Tebow on Monday. He hasn't played in the NFL since getting cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp prior to the 2013 season. He spent last year as a television analyst for the SEC Network. 

Tebow and Sanchez were teammates on the Jets in 2012. Tebow's presence as a back-up created a quarterback controversy among fans and media that last ed throughout the season. 


Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


Chiefs pick up option on NT Dontari Poe
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Chiefs have exercised their fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, per NFL.com. He is set in Kansas City through 2016, when he will earn $6.146 million.

The 350-pound Poe has earned the money. He racked up six sacks and contributed to 46 tackles in 2014.


Lions GM Mayhew OK with James Ihedigbo skipping workouts
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Safety James Ihedigbo was the lone absence from voluntary workouts this week for the Lions. But general manager Martin Mayhew understands. After all, Ihedigbo's agent has stated that he would not work without a new contract.

"I look forward to talking with James," Mayhew told ESPN. "I understand what he's going through. I've been through that myself as a player, when I felt that a time in my career that I was underpaid and I had to deal with that.

"So I have empathy for him. I understand what he's going through and I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I've gotten to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels."

Mayhew declined to discuss whether the Liins will rework Ihedigbo's contract.

The 31-year-old Ihedigbo contributed 71 tackles and two sacks with a career-high four interceptions in 2014 despite missing three games at the start of the year with a nerve injury. He earned Pro Bowl alternate status.


Eagles withdraw qualifying offer to RB Chris Polk
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Running back Chris Polk is now a free agent. 

According to the NFL transaction wire, the Eagles rescinded their $1.6 million tender they offered this past March. The Eagles placed the tender on Polk, previously a restricted free agent, before signing both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in free agency. 

With Darren Sproles on the roster, it didn't make much sense for Polk to stay with the Eagles. 

In 2014, Polk ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns. 


RB Bobby Rainey signs qualifying offer with Buccaneers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Buccaneers have announced that running back Bobby Rainey has signed a one-year qualifying offer the team extended to him before the free agency period. He was a restricted free agent and was given an opportunity to negotiate with other teams.

Rainey will compete for playing time with Tampa Bay. He rushed for 406 yards in 2014, but faded at the end of the season with just two carries in the last six games combined.


Jaguars planning to play 2015 season without Justin Blackmon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) As far as the Jaguars are concerned, Justin Blackmon will not be lining up at receiver for them this season. 

At least that's the approach Jacksonville is taking. Blackmon has been indefinitely suspended since Nov. 1 2013 for three violations of the substance-abuse policy under the old CBA.

"Our process hasn't changed," Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. "[We] plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges, and he's going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we're able to get some news, but if not we weren't planning on [having Blackmon]. We're just going to go [without him]."

Before he can re-join the Jaguars, he'll need to file an application for reinstatement, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell making a decision within a 60-day window. The application letter would include details of the treatment he's received. 

Since being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Blackmon has only played in 20 games. He has 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in his career. 


 
 
 
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