KEY LOSSES: DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, Michael Vick, Bryce Brown
KEY ADDITIONS: Darren Sproles, Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Maragos, Nolan Carroll
DRAFTED: Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff
The Philadelphia Eagles were the surprise of the NFL in 2013 winning the NFC East in Chip Kelly's first season as head coach. Although the division was weak, Kelly's offense set team records for yards gained, points and touchdowns and that was AFTER starting QB Michael Vick went down with an injury. The offensive line was rated the number one overall unit in 2013 by Pro Football Focus. That includes a number one ranking in run blocking. The Eagles solidified that unit by resigning Jason Kelce and Jason Peters to long term deals. The real question will be whether or not the defense can improve enough to make a deep run in 2014.
QUARTERBACK: Nick Foles
After losing Michael Vick to injury mid season Nick Foles came in and tore up the next 11 games passing for 2,891 yards, a 64% completion percentage and 27 TDs to just 2 INTs. Foles was consistently a top QB throughout the second half of the season and finished 2013 as QB11 ahead of Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Robert Griffin III. This coming season he loses one of his biggest weapons in DeSean Jackson. Although I am down on Jackson, he set career marks with Foles at QB and opened up the field for the entire offense. ESPN currently has Foles rated QB8. I wouldn't rush out the door to grab him. I think you can get a great QB as low as 12-13 in this year's draft. I would put Foles in a tier with Jay Cutler, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan. I don't think their is much difference in those four and I certainly would draft Tony Romo (ESPN QB13) and Jay Cutler (ESPN QB15) ahead of him.
RUNNING BACKS: LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Chris Polk
If I am selecting number one in any draft this year, LeSean McCoy is my first player taken. Last year he set a career high in rushing yards with 1,607 and added 11 TDs (9 rushing, 2 receiving) as well. Although he had over 300 rushing attempts in this high octane offense, he is only 25 years old. In addition to the 5.1 YPC he posted, McCoy also caught 52 balls. Extra special spicy if you are in a PPR. Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles are obviously great RBs but the system McCoy is in gives him the edge and the number one slot in my mind. In order to give McCoy a blow every once in awhile the Eagles signed Darren Sproles this year. The 30 year old ten year veteran caught 71 balls last year for the New Orleans Saints but outside of a 7/114/1 game against the Dolphins in week 4 he was pretty much fantasy irrelevant. He will get opportunity in this offense but he is a risky pick given his age and last seasons indifference. Currently Sproles is ESPN RB37. I can pick up David Wilson (if he is healthy - ESPN RB39), Darren McFadden (ESPN RB44), or Lamar Miller (ESPN RB45) instead. Those guys, to me, are much better risk/reward. If you are drafting a handcuff for McCoy the guy to get is Chris Polk. I don't think Sproles could handle the carries of a feature back. I drafted McCoy in the SB Nation Analysts Mock Draft last week and in the late rounds picked up Polk. I generally am not a believer in handcuffs but in a system offense such as this Chris Polk will get plenty of volume and plenty of opportunity should McCoy go down.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff
Jeremy Maclin has gotten a lot of fantasy love over the past few years from experts everywhere but I just don't see it. He has never topped 1,000 yards in a season and never topped 100 catches in a season. For his whole career he has caught just 60% of his targets. In addition to this he is coming off of an ACL tear that sidelined him the entire 2013 season. So where does this leave the 2014 WRs for the Eagles? Riley Cooper showed nice rapport with Nick Foles last year putting up a 47/835/8 line as the third WR on the team and the 22nd best fantasy WR. I just don't trust him as a number one. That leaves two rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. Matthews was a second round draft pick out of Vanderbilt. Matthews caught 112 balls last year at Vandy for 1477 yards coming off a junior campaign of 94/1323/8. The big question mark is why did this projected late first round pick drop to the bottom of the second round? Josh Huff was a later round choice in this year's draft who has familiarity with the Chip Kelly offense in that he played at Oregon. Matthews is the more talented wideout but Huff is more seasoned in the Kelly system. Huff put up a 62/1140/12 line at Oregon last year. The bottom line on the Eagles WR corps is that there will be fantasy love to grab here but which WR will give it to you? The problem with the "system" coach is that the system becomes more important than the player. DeSean Jackson will be a big loss for the Eagles. He made a lot of little things happen just by being on the field. If I am drafting an Eagles wideout I feel more comfortable waiting on Matthews who currently is ranked WR74 as a late round flier rather than spending a valuable higher draft pick on an unknown quantity such as Maclin or Cooper. I like the upside of Matthews over the steadiness of Cooper.
Last year the Eagles were a high octane, high yardage, high fantasy scoring offense. I expect that to slow down a bit this year if one of their WRs can't step up to take on the DeSean Jackson role. I don't want to speculate on which one it will be. I will leave that to others in my drafts. I also think the fantasy points slow a bit because of the additions on defense. The Eagles will realize the toll running all of those plays takes on the offense and will look to not turn every game into a shootout. It is part of the maturation process of a new coach. The NFL is different than the NCAA. Kelly will adapt because he will need to in order to win consistently. I think the Eagles and the Giants battle it out for the NFC East crown and predict the Eagles end up at 9-7 or 10-6.