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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
QB struggles begin to impact Cardinals DST
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:13 am ET) The Cardinals DST scored just one Fantasy point in standard CBSSports.com leagues Week 16 against Seattle, interrupting a stretch of 10 games in which it averaged 15.1, and the Cardinals' offensive woes may have had something to do with it.

Specifically, they've been unable to find a decent quarterback since losing Carson Palmer to injury in Week 10. Backup Drew Stanton at least mounted some kind of threat, but with him sidelined by a sprained knee in Week 16, the Cardinals had to turn to third-stringer Ryan Lindley. He turned the ball over twice without once leading his team into the end zone, completing less than half of his passes in the process.

The quick trips back to the sideline gave the Seahawks more chances to pile up points and yards, and they did, finishing with 35 and 596. Only one other time have the Cardinals allowed more than 30 points in a game, and the 596 yards were a season high. Worse yet, they were lacking in big plays, recording one sack with no takeaways.

Fortunately, the Cardinals will take on a struggling 49ers offense in Week 17, so even if Lindley is back under center, the DST at least has a chance of a respectable performance. Still, if you've been relying on it all season, you might want to make sure there isn't an appealing matchups play on the waiver wire.


Seahawks DST can't be stopped
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:04 am ET) The Seahawks DST had another dominant performance Week 16 at Arizona, continuing a nine-week run that has made it once again arguably the top unit in Fantasy. During that stretch, it has averaged 16.2 Fantasy points, allowing 11.9 points on 231.3 yards.

It allowed only six points on 216 yards in Week 16, recording four sacks and one interception. Of the Seahawks' 33 sacks this season, 20 have come in their last five games.

Clearly, they had a favorable matchup in this one, but they also shut down the Eagles in Week 14. You don't have any reason to shy away from the Seahawks DST against St. Louis in Week 17.


Kenbrell Thompkins comes out of nowhere
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:58 am ET) After making only modest contributions since coming over from the Patriots in Week 6, Raiders wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins suddenly emerged as quarterback Derek Carr's favorite target Week 16 against Buffalo, catching five passes for 90 yards. He hadn't caught even one pass since Week 13, and his previous high in yardage was 47.

Of course, you should know how this goes by now. Fellow wide receivers James Jones and Andre Holmes have both had their stretches of Fantasy relevance this season, as has tight end Mychal Rivera. The Raiders have a multitude of viable receiving targets, but their roles aren't so clear, which makes the task of picking the most impactful from week to week next to impossible.

In other words, you'd need to play in an especially deep league to take a flier on Thompkins for the season's final week.


Latavius Murray trustworthy up to a point
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:51 am ET) If his 23 carries Week 14 against San Francisco didn't convince you, Latavius Murray's 23 carries Week 16 against Buffalo should make the message loud and clear: He is the Raiders' top running back, and they're putting more faith in him than they ever did Darren McFadden.

Granted, it hasn't translated to much production yet, but the 49ers and Bills are two of the toughest defenses against the run. Unfortunately, Denver, the Raiders' Week 17 opponent, is ranked even higher at both.

Can you trust Murray to get his carries? He's gotten them two of the last three weeks, so most likely, yes. And with 20-plus chances, there's always the chance he breaks a long one. But the matchup will make it difficult.

You'd like to start him given his ever-increasing role, but you shouldn't force him into your lineup if you have two (or maybe three) respectable running backs already.


One way or another, Fred Jackson gets his
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:44 am ET) Trailing early Week 16 at Oakland with their playoff hopes on the line, the Bills didn't stick with the running game for long, attempting only three runs in the second half. But in a way, that worked to running back Fred Jackson's advantage. He's such a good pass-catcher out of the backfield that he still topped 100 total yards, doing so for the first time since returning from a groin injury in Week 12.

Even with the return of C.J. Spiller from a long-term shoulder injury, Jackson still led the Bills in carries, but with only six for 10 yards. He also led the team in catches with nine for 93 yards. He had 10 catches just two weeks ago, so clearly, he's a PPR stud.

Is he worth starting in standard leagues as well? Well, he's also gotten 20 carries twice in five games since returning. He hasn't been as effective on the ground as through the air, but yards are yards, however he gets them.

Their matchup Week 17 at New England will probably force the Bills to go pass-heavy again, so unless you're stacked at running back, you can find a spot for Jackson in your lineup.


Desperation fuels Kyle Orton's performance
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:35 am ET) Bills quarterback Kyle Orton didn't have the most efficient day throwing the ball Week 16 at Oakland, but from a Fantasy perspective, it was a productive one. He threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns but also had two interceptions.

What's crazy, though, is that 196 of those yards came in the second half. The Bills were trailing a winnable game with their playoff hopes on the line, and their desperation showed. Unfortunately, that desperation also contributed to the second of Orton's interceptions.

The Bills have been eliminated, so no matter how much they're trailing Week 17 at New England, they probably won't be quite as desperate. You can expect more typical numbers from Orton -- maybe about 250 yards with one or two scores -- even if the matchup appears to be a favorable one, making him a player better left for two-quarterback leagues.


Kenny Britt clearly better with Shaun Hill
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:27 am ET) Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt caught a season-high nine passes on a season-high 11 targets Week 16 against the Giants, but his 103 receiving yards actually weren't a season high.

That's because he had 128, along with a touchdown, Week 11 against the Broncos.

That was Shaun Hill's first game back under center. Week 16, obviously, was his latest one. In the six games since Hill reclaimed the role, Britt has averaged 3.8 catches for 66.3 yards. In the nine games before then, he averaged 2.3 catches for 34.7 yards.

Britt has been especially good lately, averaging 73.3 yards in his last three games. Hill has also been fond of Stedman Bailey, but he doesn't seem to have a clear preference for one or the other.

Of course, the Rams passing attack isn't prolific enough to sustain both, so if you're going to target Britt or Bailey off the waiver wire, make sure it's in a deeper league. You wouldn't want to roll the dice on either in the season's final week if you can help it.


Andre Williams showing more ability
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:19 am ET) Carrying the load for the third straight game with Rashad Jennings sidelined by an ankle injury Week 16 at St. Louis, Giants rookie running back Andre Williams delivered his second 100-yard effort during that stretch, picking up 110 yards on 26 carries. Of course, just like in Week 14, it wasn't the steadiest performance. He had a 50-yard run in that one en route to a career-best 131 yards. He had a 45-yard run en route to his 110 yards in this one.

But that's true for most 100-yard rushing performances. The best backs break long runs occasionally, which makes up for all the 2- and 3-yard gains in between. It's easy to discount Williams' performance because of a long run here or a long run there because he's been so bad on a per-carry basis this season (take that 45-yard run away, and he averaged only 2.6 yards per carry -- oh noes!), but the fact is those long runs count, too. And he barreled over a couple of tacklers to complete it, which was nice to see.

Because Williams is short on receiving ability, his numbers don't look so great when he doesn't break a long run, but with all the carries he's getting now, his chances are better than not of breaking one. He's worth starting in standard leagues Week 17 against Philadelphia.


Rueben Randle not overshadowed for once
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:08 am ET) Since the emergence of rookie Odell Beckham in Week 9, and especially since his even bigger emergence in Week 12, wide receiver Rueben Randle has been an afterthought in the Giants passing game, averaging 2.3 catches for 31.8 yards in the four games leading up to Week 16 at St. Louis. But quarterback Eli Manning finally had enough yards to go around in that one, delivering Beckham his usual eight grabs for 148 yards and still finding Randle on six passes for 132 yards.

Randle even caught a touchdown pass, his first since Week 5. Of course, Beckham caught two and is now up to eight in his last five games, averaging 9.6 catches for 131.4 yards during that stretch.

You see the problem here, don't you? Manning was able to sustain both Beckham and Randle in this one, but that's only because he threw for a season-high 391 yards. If he regresses to a more modest total Week 17 against Philadelphia, we all know Randle is the one taking a back seat. Beckham has other-worldly talent, and Manning is smart enough to deliver him the ball as often as possible.

Of course, the Giants will probably have to throw a lot to keep pace with the Eagles, which bodes well for Randle, but you should still treat him as no more than a No. 3 wide receiver in Fantasy.


Odell Beckham making Eli Manning a stud
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:58 am ET) Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham had another eight catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns Week 16 at St. Louis, which has become par for the course for him. It was his second straight game and third game in five with more than 140 receiving yards and multiple scores.

What you may not have noticed, though, is that quarterback Eli Manning has taken off during that same stretch. He had a season-high 391 yards and three touchdowns in Week 16, completing 25 of 32 passes. Over his last five games, he has averaged 297.2 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.

It stands to reason, of course. Beckham couldn't be putting up all those numbers without someone throwing him the ball. This may be one of those rare cases of the wide receiver making the quarterback as opposed to the other way around. Beckham is clearly a special talent, and Manning has made a point to deliver him the ball as often as possible.

It's reason enough to give Manning another chance Week 17 against Philadelphia if you've been suffering with Matthew Stafford or Colin Kaepernick and are somehow still alive in spite of it.


 
 
 
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