Fantasy Football Offensive Evaluation: Philadelphia Eagles

If there's one team in the NFL that has absolutely gone to work and struck gold on offense over the last few seasons, it's the Philadelphia Eagles.  Despite having to move on from the long and impressive Donovan McNabb-Brian Westbrook era, the Eagles recorded their 3rd straight season of having a top 6 scoring offense.

Whether we are entering a long era of Michael Vick in Philadelphia is truly unknown at this point, but we know that at this time it's the most exciting show in football.  Not only do the Eagles have the league's and fantasy's most exhilirating QB, but they've surrounded him with a supreme core of 25-and-under talent.  The Eagles could literally break off a touchdown from any point in the field on offense and they've got several key players that will go off the board in the first few rounds of most drafts.

The trade of Kevin Kolb to Arizona was the only key loss on offense and he was only set to be a backup, while being replaced with another very intriguing option.  On the other side of the coin, they've added some very intriguing skill position players that could make this offense even more explosive in 2011.  Here's a look at all the relevant fantasy Eagles.

Quarterback

Michael Vick

It's hard to believe now, but there was still some question early last season as to whether or not Vick should even be the starter, and if Kevin Kolb should remain the #1 after Vick would return from an injury he suffered in week 4.  (I can say I was a personal beneficiary of this controversy as Vick was dropped in my keeper league last season during this time and I used my waiver priority to snatch him up.  I won my first championship in an ultra-competitive keeper league.)

Vick had varying degrees of success during his years in Atlanta.  His athleticism was always unquestionable, but his overall game as a quarterback was iffy at times.  He erased any doubts last season, not just producing with his legs anymore, Vick threw for over 3,000 yards, 21 TDs, 6 INTS, 676 rushing yards and 9 rushing scores in only 12 games.  (11 games and some change really.) 

Let's just put it this way; Vicks worst game of the season was probably week 1 against future champion Green Bay when he went 16 of 24, 175 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 103 yards rushing and 0 rushing TDs.  He was 16 of 26 against Dallas and threw 2 picks, but he also threw 2 TDs and ran for another score.  From a fantasy standpoint, it was hard to lose with Vick.  Other than his injury-shortened game against Washington, he had at least 2 TDs in all but 1 other game.  That being said, I'm wary of giving up a 1st round pick to any QB.  If you drafted Manning or Brady in the first round after their career seasons, you paid the price.  I'd feel better taking an elite RB or WR.



Vince Young

Under Andy Reid, McNabb has been the main QB during his tenure.  But career backups and former stars have come in and had varying degrees of success in Philadelphias system: Koy Detmer, AJ Feeley, Jeff Garcia, Vick.  Now the Eagles have as many weapons on offense as they've ever had, and whoever is QBing for the Eagles is going to have a great opportunity to run with it.  Everybody knows the story of Vince Young and has seen him play.  He's not a terrible QB and his career record as a starter is 30-17 and last season he threw just 3 picks in 8 starts. 

As far as guys who are backup QBs that have no shot at getting in a game unless the starter gets hurt, Young would rank near the top of my list.  I guess the "good" news for him is that Vick isn't a lock to stay healthy all year.  If you were to "handcuff" a QB, Vick would be the guy you want to handcuff.  But would Young be the next in line?

Mike Kafka

I can't believe I'm talking about 3 QBs for any team, but what the hell.  In the 2nd preseason game, Kafka was 14 of 19 for 160 yards and 2 TDs against 0 picks.  (Vick was terrible against the Steelers in the same game, against the first team though of course, not mop-up duty)   He also rushed for 24 yards on 2 carries.  What it all boils down to is that I've probably wasted my last 200 words on QBs that won't play, but I'm inclined to talk way too much about things of little consequence when it comes to the NFL.

Running Back

LeSean McCoy

From strictly a rushing standpoint, there are running backs that would go ahead of McCoy in fantasy drafts.  He rushed for a respectable 1,080 yards in 15 games but only seven TDs and three of those came in week 2.  As a 2nd-year player, with over 5 yards per carry, that would make McCoy an easy 2nd round pick this season.  Whats pushed him into the upper-class of the first round however was his 78 catches for 592 yards.  He ranked 12th in the NFL in receptions and in PPR leagues that makes him elite.  The Eagles style of offense works perfectly around McCoy and he should continue to rack up rushing yards and catches while hopefully adding a few touchdowns this year.  He's a mid-first round pick.

Ronnie Brown

McCoy didn't work with a true backup last season, so will Ronnie Brown be a hinderance to his continued development or at least his fantasy value?  Vick ran the ball 100 times last year, Jerome Harrison was next at 40 carries.  The Eagles rushed it 428 times and passed it 561 times, plus some of those 428 rushes were from Vick scrambling out of a passing formation.  Brown carried it 200 times in Miami last season, McCoy had 207 rushes in 2010, so how will that divide out in 2011?  I see Brown as more of an insurance to McCoy than actually stealing carries.  He may get some short-yardage carries, run some wildcat, and perhaps 50 carries on the season if necessary, but few running backs in the league can do what McCoy can do.  Brown is a definite handcuff if you draft McCoy, but don't worry too much about him killing the starters value.

Wide Receiver

DeSean Jackson

After having watched a lot of Pac-10 football, I knew that when the Eagles drafted Jackson 49th overall in 2008 that A.) They were getting one of the most explosive receivers in the NFL and B.) He should have been a top 10 pick, easily.  There's just certain guys you watch play that make you say "wow" unlike any most humans can do on a football field.  Not all of those guys will pan out, but just the notion that they might is sometimes good enough. 

In three seasons he's caught 172 passes for 3,135 yards, 18.2 YPC, and 17 TDs plus 4 punt returns for TDs and countless highlight reels.  Jackson has made some boneheaded plays in his career too, but he's still young and sometimes immature. 

What I love about Jackson is how talented he really is.  What I don't love about Jackson is his boom-or-bust games.  Last season he had 4 games where he went over 100 yards and 8 games where he had 52 yards or less.  Because he's not a possession receiver, he also won't rack up a lot of PPR points during games where he doesn't break off a huge play.  For that reason, Jackson is a back-end WR1 and a top-end WR2. 

Jeremy Maclin

While Jackson is the big play guy, the Eagles have 2 potential #1 WRs of different variety.  Maclin was the 19th overall pick by the Eagles in 2009 and he broke out last season with 70 catches for 964 yards and 10 TDs.  Maclin was the more consistent receiver in Philly, catching more passes and more TDs, while Jackson would make more highlight reels.  While Jackson is going 11th in fantsay drafts amongst WRs, Maclin is going 18th.  If healthy, Maclin might be the safer choice, but that's a question right now.

He's just returning to practice and getting into game shape after months of an unknown illness was being investigated.  Luckily, the test results revealed that he's going to be okay, but he's running behind the other players as of now.  While he may seem like a "veteran" who could just step in and out, this is still only his 3rd season in the league and he's just 23 years old.  Maclin slipping in the draft could mean great value for one lucky owner, but don't ignore the fact that there's risk involved.  We don't know how Maclin will react to the health scare.

Steve Smith

Two years ago Smith was a major target in the Giants offense and the possession wide receiver from USC caught 107 passes for over 1,200 yards, making him perhaps on the edge of being one of the top 10 WRs in the fantasy and PPR leagues.  He was on track to repeat last season and after 7 games he had 43 catches for 471 yards.  That would put him right in line for 100 catches and 1,100 over a full season but injuries sidelined him for most of last season and into the preseason in 2011.  He caught on with the Eagles on a 1-year contract and will try to work himself to get healthy and play for a big contract after the year is over.  If he and Maclin are healthy, he slots in nicely as the Eagles #3 WR and he could have a nice season.  If it worked out that he had to become the #2 in Philly, that could put him in line for a really big year.  He's not somebody I would draft but after seeing how the season and injuries shake out, I will keep an eye on him as 2011 moves forward.

Jason Avant

Avant has had several big games throughout his career.  His career consists of 5 seasons.  Several is not a lot.

Riley Cooper

Cooper was a 5th round pick out of Florida last year.  He's fighting for the #5 WR position in Philly which means he's off the fantasy radar, but he's just a player who I think is good.  He's big, has sure hands, and isn't slow.  That's all, I just think if the opportunity arises, Cooper could be pretty good.

Tight End

Brent Celek

Two years ago Celek caught 76 passes for 971 yards and 8 TDs but a lot has changed in Philly in two years.  They've got a new QB and some new shiny weapons, which means there would be less of an opportunity for Celek to put up fantasy-type numbers.  Last season he caught 42 passes for 511 yards and 4 TDs, which is probably what he will repeat again this year.  He's going off as the 20th TE in fantasy drafts, which is about right.  He's someone who is good for a spot start when you need it, and in deep leagues he's probably a more intriguing option than Jermaine Gresham based on the offense he plays with.

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