2016 fantasy football depth charts: Philadelphia Eagles
A new coach, a new offense, maybe a quarterback competition -- there's a lot of intrigue surrounding the Eagles' offense this year, says Jeff Ratcliffe.
2016 fantasy football depth charts: Philadelphia Eagles
Much to the delight of many Eagles fans, the three-year Chip Kelly experiment is officially over. Doug Pederson takes over as head coach and brings back the West Coast system that Andy Reid used during his tenure with the team.
Under Kelly, the Eagles ran an up-tempo scheme that averaged 74.5 offensive snaps per game last season. That’s going to change significantly this season, as the Chiefs ran just 64.1 plays per game on the offensive side of the ball last season with Pederson at offensive coordinator. To be fair, Reid called the shots, but Pederson is going to run a very similar offense. This will certainly put a damper on the fantasy prospects of this team, as we’re likely to see in the range of 160 fewer plays this season.
Philadelphia Eagles projected 2016 offense with 2015 grades
The Eagles will enter the season with Sam Bradford as their starting quarterback with the plan to give second overall pick Carson Wentz a redshirt season as the No. 3 quarterback behind Bradford and free agent signee Chase Daniel. There was a lot of hype surrounding Bradford at this time last year. With expectations high, his ADP soared to the 10th quarterback taken in fantasy drafts. Well, he failed to return value, finishing the year as the 23rd fantasy quarterback, with the lowest points per dropback number of any full-time starter (0.38). Bradford is currently going as the 31st quarterback in 2016 drafts, which could be a reflection of both his lackluster play and a sentiment that Daniel or Wentz could end up under center at some point this year.
Concerns abound, not just about Philadelphia’s quarterback situation, but also about the ripple effect on the wide receivers. Jordan Matthews is coming off a strong statistical season, where he finished 19th among wide receivers in fantasy scoring – though it should be noted that his total was somewhat inflated by two Week 17 touchdowns. Matthews ran almost exclusively out of the slot under Kelly, and struggled on the outside in offseason practices. With the Eagles likely to run fewer three-wide receiver sets than they did under Kelly, Matthews could see 200 fewer snaps if he doesn’t earn a job on the outside. While that would certainly be far from optimal, Matthews will still benefit from running less predictable routes than he did in Kelly’s offense.
At this point it’s tough to trust Matthews as anything more than a WR3, and it’s even more difficult to trust anyone else from this wide receiver corps. Nelson Agholor is coming off a very disappointing rookie season and is dealing with off-field issues stemming from an incident at a strip club back in June. Agholor is expected to open camp as the No. 2, but not everyone is convinced that he’ll stay there. Some have even gone as far as putting Rueben Randle ahead on the depth chart. Randle isn’t a sexy fantasy name, but he’s coming off a relatively productive year with the Giants where he scored eight touchdowns and finished as fantasy’s No. 28 receiver. He’s the dark horse in this wide receiver group.
[Where can you get the various Philadelphia receivers in fantasy drafts this year, and what kind of team can you build around them? Check out our PFF Draft Master tool and try a mock draft, complete with offensive line grades, full projections and all the PFF data.]
The most productive receiver in Philly might not even be at wide out. Zach Ertz is coming off an extremely productive season where he saw triple-digit targets, but he’s getting largely overlooked by the fantasy community because he only found the end zone twice. Entering his third professional season, Ertz is extremely well suited to this offense, and should play a similar role to what Travis Kelce does for the Chiefs. He’s a breakout candidate who can be drafted as a value as the 10th tight end off the board.
While there were some rumblings in the offseason that we could see a committee situation in the Eagles’ backfield, Ryan Mathews appears to be the clear No. 1 entering training camp. Mathews split time with DeMarco Murray last season, but was very productive with his opportunities. He ranked fourth among running backs in fantasy points per opportunity, and runs of 15-plus yards accounted for 37.5 percent of his rushing total. He’s also a capable receiver out of the backfield, as he showed earlier in his career with the Chargers. Mathews is a good bet to be undervalued when fantasy drafts roll around.
Darren Sproles remains the third-down back in this offense. He finished sixth among running backs last season with 73 targets, and is a strong bet to repeat in the top 10. However, his limited work as a runner – just 83 carries last season – caps his fantasy value, especially in standard scoring. Rookie Wendell Smallwood is also in the mix along with Kenyon Barner. Smallwood has an intriguing skillset and 4.4 wheels, but he also struggled in pass protection during Eagles OTAs. Still, if Mathews got hurt, Smallwood would be the favorite for early-down work and should be considered Mathews’ primary handcuff.
Philadelphia is also shifting schemes on the defensive side of the ball, moving back to a 4-3 defense under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. While this seemed to be the move that would finally free Brandon Graham, it may actually be a bigger benefit to Vinny Curry. Graham ran with the second team in OTAs, and is more likely to be a rotational player than an every-down option. As of now, Curry is the best bet for IDP success, and is a potential breakout candidate. Fletcher Cox will shift to defensive tackle, which certainly helps in DT-required leagues. He remains on the DL2 radar. At linebacker, Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks both figure to play every-down roles. Both players are in the LB2 mix with the slight edge going to Hicks. Malcolm Jenkins is coming off a top-5 fantasy year at defensive back. His volume will go down with Chip Kelly gone, but Jenkins still deserves back-end DB1 consideration.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.