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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
Falcons sign LB Nate Stupar to one-year deal
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:30 am ET) The Falcons signed linebacker Nate Stupar, a special teams standout, to a one-year extension for the minimum, $585,000, reports ESPN.com. Stupar ranked second on the team with nine special teams tackles, seven solo, while appearing in 15 games last season.

Report: WR Torrey Smith likely gone unless he gives discount
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:39 am ET) It's unlikely the Ravens will re-sign receiver Torrey Smith unless he gives the team a hometown discount, reports the Baltimore Sun. Owner Steve Bisciotti recently expressed pessimism about the team's chances of retaining Smith.

Smith, 26, caught a career-high 11 touchdowns last season.


Report: Ray Rice received $1.6 million in wrongful termination case
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:09 am ET) The Ravens and former running back Ray Rice settled his wrongful termination grievance in January for $1.588 million, sources told the Baltimore Sun. The financial details were not disclosed until now.

In the grievance, Rice had sought $3.529 million in back pay. The Ravens cut him Sept. 8, hours after the release of a video showing Rice knocking out his then-fiancee in a casino elevator.

Rice hasn't visited any NFL teams, but he's working out regularly and hoping to latch on with a team this season, the paper said.


WR Brian Hartline visiting Browns
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:48 am ET) Free agent wideout Brian Hartline, who's spent his entire six-year career with Miami, is visiting the Browns on Tuesday, reports Pro Football Talk. Hartline posted 1,000-yard seasons in 2012 and 2013 before dipping to 474 receiving yards last season.

He's never caught more than four touchdowns in a season.


Saints S Jairus Byrd close to 100 percent after knee surgery
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:27 am ET) Saints safety Jairus Byrd, who underwent surgery in early October to fix torn meniscus, is on schedule in his rehab, coach Sean Payton told The Advocate.

“He’s doing well," Payton told the paper. "He’ll be cleared for minicamp. We’re really looking at about two or three weeks away from him being 100 percent.”

Byrd had 22 tackles and a forced fumble in four games last season.


Sean Payton hopeful about retaining RB Mark Ingram
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:18 am ET) Despite the fact that New Orleans is $22 million above the salary cap, Saints coach Sean Payton expressed optimism about the team's chances of re-signing free agent running back Mark Ingram, per The Advocate.

“I spoke with him today," Payton told the paper Monday nght. "The good thing about Mark is that we’re real close with his agent. We work a lot with Joel (Segal). [GM] Mickey [Loomis] will talk with him quite a bit. Obviously he’s someone that we want to keep. Hopefully we can do that.”

In 13 games last season, Ingram ran for 964 yards and nine touchdowns while catching 29 passes for 145 yards.

According to NFL.com, it's unlikely the Saints can afford to bring back Ingram.


Patriots' Devin McCourty: There's a 'chance that I might not be back'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) With the Patriots deciding to use their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, safety Devin McCourty knows his time in New England could be coming to an end. 

In an interview with ESPN's Josina Anderson, McCourty said he didn't have much information on what the Patriots would do and was going off of various media reports that came down to the organization deciding whether to franchise him or Gostkowski. 

Now that Gostkowski is ineligible from hitting the free agent market, McCourty will test the waters beginning on March 10. 

"I guess it's more realistic now that [there's] a chance that I might not be back there," McCourty said. "Or there's still a chance that I will, but I guess [there's] more of a chance now with the franchise tag going to Steve that I could be playing in a different place. Still, keeping an open mind and trying to enjoy the process."

In 2014, McCourty recorded 68 tackles and two interceptions. 


Report: Texans' Andre Johnson given permission to seek trade
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Wide receiver Andre Johnson has been given permission by the Texans to seek a trade, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle

The Texans told Johnson that he'd have a reduced role this upcoming season opposite of DeAndre Hopkins. Therefore, Johnson wanted out of his deal. If a trade cannot be made with a suitor, Johnson will be released

Johnson was the third overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft and is the greatest player in the history of the Texans. He's recorded 1,012 catches, 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns in his career.

A trade could be difficult, however, based on Johnson's upcoming $16.1 million cap figure and $10.5 million base salary for the 2015 season. 


Colts RB Vick Ballard (Achilles) 'on schedule' with recovery
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Running back Vick Ballard is poised to be back in the Colts' plans for the 2015 season. 

Ballard, who has missed almost all of the previous two seasons due to injuries, hasn't suffered any setbacks with his recovery, according to the Colts' official website. Ballard tore his ACL in 2013 and suffered an Achilles tear before the 2014 season. 

“Vick’s doing well. He’s going through rehab right now. He’s on schedule,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He’s been working his tail. When the doctors say he’s 100 percent and ready to roll, then we’ll get him back on the field.”

Ballard led the Colts in rushing as a rookie in 2012 with 814 yards and two touchdowns. He only played in one game in 2013 before tearing his ACL in a practice the following week. His Achilles tear came during the 2014 preseason. 


Report: Jaguars looking for help at RB this offseason
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) It appears Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart will have new role in 2015. 

According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, the Jaguars are planning to move Gerhart around on offense at H-back in addition to running back. This also means the Jaguars will be in the market for additional help at running back. 

Gerhart was plagued by injuries in 2014, which paved the way for Denard Robinson to assert himself as a potential starting running back down the road. Robinson, however, is injury prone himself, which goes back to his days as a standout quarterback in college at Michigan.

Robinson's 2014 season ended on injured reserve with a mid-foot sprain.

Gerhart's season ended with just 326 yards and a patry 3.2 yards per carry average. Robinson emerged late in the year and ran for 582 yards and held a 4.3 yards per carry average.  


 
 
 
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