In 2013, the Eagles moved on from Andy Reid after 14 seasons and ushered in a new era under Chip Kelly by going 10-6 and making the postseason for the first time since 2010. Now with a full offseason to incorporate his system and acquire more players that fit his way of operating as a franchise, the Eagles and Kelly will look to take that initial success a step further in 2014.
2014 Eagles Schedule
|4||@||San Francisco 49ers|
|5||St. Louis Rams|
|6||New York Giants|
|11||@||Green Bay Packers|
|17||@||New York Giants|
By now you know the drill, take anything strength of schedule related with a grain of salt this early in advance. The Philadelphia offense draws an opening three weeks to salivate over, however, meaning this offense may have a chance to pick up right where it left off a season ago. Outside of a week 14 visit from Seattle, the back end of their schedule shouldn’t provide any discomfort either.
Even though Kelly rolled over most of the existing offensive personnel from Reid’s tenure, he improved on their efficiency a great deal. Inheriting one of the league’s better offensive lines was a huge plus for the system Kelly implemented as the Eagles were able to maintain offensive balance all season long. Here’s where the Philly offense finished in several key areas on offense in their first season under Kelly.
|Avg. Scoring Margin||3.4||10|
|Points Per Play||0.419||6|
|RZ Att. Per Game||3.6||6|
|RZ TD Per Game||1.9||10|
|Plays Per Game||65.4||12|
|Yards Per Play||6.2||2|
|Points Per Drive||2.13||8|
The Eagles had several players performing near peak efficiency all season long and for at least one season it appears Kelly may be a talent maximizer. For 2014, it will be key seeing if that efficiency can spill over, not only as an offense as a whole, but with the pieces that make it up.
The Real McCoy
We might as well just get the easy part out of the way early on. After a frequently hobbled 2012 season, LeSean McCoy bounced back in a big way last season, posting career highs in attempts (314) , rushing yards (1,607), and yards from scrimmage (2,146). He was one of the kings of consistency at running back, notching 13 top 24 PPR weeks and eight weeks of top 12 scoring production. He ranked fifth in non-touchdown points per touch, delivered on short yardage touchdown opportunities, and also added 117.9 receiving points in PPR leagues.
McCoy has made a career off of his versatility, catching 40 passes in all five seasons of his career, something that’s made him nearly matchup proof since he’s been the starter. Kelly’s offenses have always fed off of the tempo of the running game, so there’s little reason to worry about McCoy slowing down this season at age 26. McCoy is still right in the middle of the apex age for running back production, has a high end offensive line, offensive system, catches the football, and has a desirable schedule. He’s easily one of the top four choices you can make for your team this summer if not the first one.
The Eagles appear like they are going to be able to lighten his workload up some from the 22.8 touches per game he received a season ago by acquiring Darren Sproles from New Orleans and opening the door for Chris Polk to be the true back up after trading away Bryce Brown. Neither are a major concern to McCoy’s bottom line, but each represents some intriguing value themselves.
It was apparent last season at this time that Kelly had a strong affection for Polk, a player he got a good look at while coaching in the Pac-10 (12). Polk is a workhorse grinder who carried the football over 800 times to close out his college career while adding 78 receptions. Even after a glowing summer, Polk only amassed 15 total touches in 2013, so it’s easy to temper expectations on him a bit. It’s unlikely that if McCoy were to go down that Polk would inherit all of Shady’s assignments, but he’s the one handcuff to own on the roster if you’re looking for a late round stash and cash.
The addition of Sproles is very interesting because we know Kelly can and will use him creatively in the same fashion that Sean Payton was able to in New Orleans. We know they intend to use him as well because of what they paid to acquire him and extending him once they did. Sproles has been the premier pass catching back over the past five seasons, catching 336 passes, and is the poster child for fantasy points per route run (FPPRR) out of the backfield.
[table id=157 /]
*Route Data Provided By Pro Football Focus
There are a couple of red flags at play with Sproles recently, however. The first is the combination of his age (31 this season) and diminutive size. He’s missed games in each of the past two seasons with a concussion, knee sprain, and a fractured hand. The second part is that usage per game wasn’t exactly glowing a year ago and it’s not farfetched to see something similar this season.
[table id=158 /]
With just as much intermediate level ambiguity in the Philly offense as there was in New Orleans, if not more, it’s hard to see Sproles carving out as big of a role in this offense and will likely be used in a similar fashion as he did to close his tenure with the Saints. His usable fantasy production will very likely be too sporadic to trust in your lineups weekly, becoming a better real football cog than a fantasy one. Without an injury to McCoy, it’s hard to see him reaching the levels of pass catching prowess that has covered up his lack of rushing production so far in his career.
All of Your Mid-Level Receivers
As mentioned with Sproles, this roster is littered with intermediate options in the passing game after the release of DeSean Jackson. It’s a situation that is tremendous for this offense in reality, but could very well end up forcing fantasy owners to pull their hair out attempting to sort out weekly.
Philadelphia extended free agent to be Riley Cooper with a five-year, $22.5 million contract as one of their first moves in the offseason. Cooper is their main vertical target now, catching eight passes for 30 yards or more, which was tied for the 12th most in the league and four touchdown receptions of such length, which was tied for sixth best. He’s also the Eagles’ best red zone receiver, converting nine of 26 targets (34.6 percent) for scores in his career so far.
He was a top 24 scorer in five of the ten games from weeks six through 16 and more than benefited from the change to Nick Foles at quarterback. Look at his 2013 splits using the Games Splits App available at RotoViz from the week Foles took over as the starter.
As good as all of that is, Cooper also had three or fewer receptions in seven of his final nine games to close the season and posted the ninth highest mark in hallow routes run. Reliant on splash plays to carry weekly contributions, he’s better served as a best ball option at his current ADP than as a boom or bust WR4 on your roster.
The Eagles also used a second round selection on Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt. Matthews was one of my favorite receivers in this class because he’s such a well-rounded player. He may not have the flash of the receivers selected ahead of him, but all Matthews did was produce in an elite conference while attached to a poor offensive situation. Expected to spend the majority of his time in the slot, he should bring new life to a position that was hardly utilized a season ago in this offense while occupied by Jason Avant. Per Pro Football Focus, Avant ran 77.7 percent of his routes from the slot, but was targeted only once every 5.8 routes, which ranked 33rd out of all receivers who ran at least 100 routes from the slot. Matthews should immediately provide an upgrade in that area, but will still need an opportunity to play outside to make a dent into your fantasy lineup. His cost is worth a squeeze in the double digit rounds, because if I had one bet to place on any rookie receiver approaching what Keenan Allen was able to do last year, it would be Matthews.
Jeremy Maclin is also back in the fold after missing the entire 2013 season to a torn ACL. The former first round pick has never had a 1,000-yard season in his career, but has produced consistently, catching at least 55 passes for 750 or more yards in each of his first four seasons prior to the injury. Kelly was able to aid DeSean Jackson in having the best receiving season of his career by using him creatively and moving him around the offense. Maclin was actually a better physical prospect than Jackson and was a player who actually rushed for 688 yards in his final two seasons at Missouri. He also has shown us bit of chemistry with Foles already as well, playing seven games with him to close the 2012 season. Pulling back up that Games Splits App, you can see that Maclin was plenty of serviceable with Foles in the midst of a dumpster fire.
Those target totals are going to be unachievable in this offense, but the overall efficiency of them should improve. I don’t think Maclin carries the same ceiling that Jackson did a season ago, so I am hesitant to pay the sticker price if it’s an early sixth round selection, but he’s always been an average red zone producer (15 of 54 targets) that is fine as your WR3.
The last piece of this passing game that people are excited about is tight end Zach Ertz, and for good cause. Ertz posted the third highest FPPRR out of all tight ends in 2013 and carries a strong score in C.D. Carter’s equity scores for tight end value. The real question is just how much of a role increase will he have as a sophomore?
Ertz played on half of the offensive snaps or more only four times as a rookie because Brent Celek was such a pivotal piece of the rushing attack. Ertz didn’t disappoint in that area, but Celek should still be involved plenty when the Eagles want to run the football, which is often. The additions of Matthews and Sproles, two players that will eat into his target level, also cloud things a bit. The good news is that his cost is unlikely to move significantly from here on out, so you still have an element of possibly being able to buy in a year early if you desire, but Ertz falls into an area of the draft where I either already have a tight end or I’m inclined to just wait longer.
Pay The Foles Toll
Of course, instead of trying to sort out just who will be the flavor of the week at receiver, you can just draft Nick Foles and make a play on everyone. Foles was another guy that Kelly tried to give us warning signs about early on even though Michael Vick began the season as the starter. Once Vick went down, Foles took fantasy teams on his back for the rest of the season that were playing the waivers up until that point or picked him up as insurance for Vick himself.
Foles posted an incredible 11.6 adjusted yards per aimed attempt (AY/AA), a ridiculous .75 fantasy points per aimed throw (FPAT), and had six games with 20 or more rushing yards, all enabling him to notch a usable start percentage that was equal to Peyton Manning for fantasy football. Foles’ season was so rare in terms of actual adjusted yards per attempt, that it placed him in pretty prestige company. It was only the third time ever that a quarterback had an adjusted yards per attempt total over ten yards with at least 200 pass attempts.
[table id=159 /]
That’s not bad company to keep, especially accomplishing the feat at four years younger than each of those future Hall of Famers. Of course, two big words surrounding Foles’ outlook for 2014 are regression and sustainability, but Jon Moore at least wants you to explore the idea that could be be even better going forward.
One of the things often overlooked concerning volume is that inefficiency can create volume. Matthew Stafford has been aiding his own volume for the past two years with his own ineffectiveness; Andrew Luck did the same as a rookie and there are many more examples. In conjunction with their run game, Foles was so efficient last season that he stifled his own volume, similar to Russell Wilson in Seattle, but on a much larger scale.
While his touchdown to interception ratio (27:2), touchdown rate (8.5 percent), and adjusted yards per attempt (10.5) are in fact unlikely going to be repeated in 2014, regression in those areas will generate an increase in raw volume naturally to a degree. Will that volume be enough to make him the best fantasy quarterback in the league, something he was pacing towards to close 2013? Unlikely, because this passing game stems from what the rushing attack creates, but he shouldn’t regress in those areas to the point where it caps his output.
As crazy as his 2013 season was, his cost still hasn’t gone crazy because of it. Foles can be had in the sixth round or later in drafts, which is about right for what I see him doing this season. On a team that should operate in comfortable game scripts frequently, I would rather pay up for Foles than wait for the tier of Robert Griffin, Cam Newton, or Matt Ryan if I’m buying a mid-round quarterback. I likely won’t be purchasing any quarterbacks in that area, but I feel confident in Foles delivering a top-six season at the position and will be pursuing him in auction leagues when that tier of quarterbacks doesn’t carry the same opportunity cost.
Even if the fantasy relevance of the pieces involved in this offense is up and down, investing in the Eagles’ offense is easy because you’re really making a play on Chip Kelly. After all, just like we do as owners in fantasy football, Kelly has the same plan.
2014 Fantasy Relevant Projections
Best Option to Crash through their projection without injury: Maclin – If he’s full strength and used in some capacity to how Jackson was a year ago, Maclin could be a great value at his current cost.
Biggest Risk to fall through their projection: Sproles – just how much he will be used is still unknown and could much too sporadic for weekly use, causing you to burn a roster spot all season on a brand name.
Best Waiver Wire Option: Matthews – he’s the one receiver who could really hit the ground running given his role in the offense early. If Maclin were to go down or not regain form, he could flourish inside and outside in this system.
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