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Fantasy Forecast: 2021 Philadelphia Eagles

Our latest in the 32 Teams in 32 Days series, @Spydes78 gives you a complete rundown on the Eagles and their offensive weaponry from a dynasty perspective. #FlyEaglesFly

2020 Recap

The Philadelphia Eagles 2020 season was, to put it mildly, a disappointment.  Things began to unravel early and the team never regained composure.  

The unrest began in the spring when general manager, Howie Roseman, was accused of straying off-script with his draft selections.  Via media leaks, disgruntled scouts anonymously outlined alleged organizational dysfunction. They claimed that the draft board was discarded in favor of exorbitant analytics and direct ownership input.  Among the many consequences of this arrangement, the Eagles shamefully passed on Justin Jefferson, the all-world rookie wideout.

The team’s troubles seemed to cascade down from the front office.  Due to mounting injuries, budding franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz, was forced to take the field with 14 unique and ever ebbing offensive line combinations.  Protections broke down often, and Wentz played so poorly that he did not survive the season. During Week 13’s loss to Green Bay he was permanently replaced by rookie quarterback, Jalen Hurts.  

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Doug Pederson began 2020 as a head coach less than 3 years removed from hoisting the club’s first Lombardi trophy. However, abysmal performance and a high profile quarterback controversy caused confidence in the leader to wane. By season’s end, Pederson was relieved of his duties after reportedly being unwilling to acquiesce to ownership demands for offseason staff changes.  

A 4-11-1 season closed with trade demands from a disgruntled quarterback, a leadership void at the top of the coaching staff, and rumors swirling about a deep sense of unrest within the foundations of the organization.  Not great.

Quarterback:

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Jalen Hurts

One of the most hotly contested assets of the offseason, Jalen Hurts becomes the focal point for an Eagle team in transition.  Free from the shadow of Wentz, look for Hurts to be given every opportunity to prove his worth during the 2021 campaign.  But does the second year signal caller have what it takes to be a top flight dynasty asset in the long term?  Let’s explore.

Pros:

  • Running ability:  One of the greatest assets for a fantasy quarterback to possess is the mobility to log a consistent rushing floor.  Hurts has wheels and he is not afraid to rely on this aspect of his game.  According to Pro Football Reference, in 4 games started, Hurts rushed for 272 yards on 46 attempts for an average of 5.9 yards per attempt.  To put this figure into perspective, Lamar Jackson, the modern day gold standard for mobile quarterbacks, boasts a career average of  6.0 yards per attempt.
  • Leadership:  Though difficult to quantify, there is an undeniable “it factor” that can often be the difference between success and failure for quarterbacks.  This characteristic is essential to establishing oneself as a team leader.  Hurts undeniably has a magnetic personality that fosters the loyalty of his teammates.
  • New energy:  A new coaching staff led by Nick Sirianni brings with it structural changes to technique and scheme.  But perhaps the most significant revision is one of a spiritual nature.  Offseason accounts have indicated that the first-time head coach is obsessed with passion, competition, and accountability.  The fresh energy seems ideally suited to a young quarterback looking to anchor himself with the franchise.
  • DeVonta Smith connection:  In search of a superstar talent, the Eagles returned to the wide receiver well in this year’s draft with their selection of Alabama’s DeVonta Smith.  And though Jalen Hurts finished his collegiate career with Oklahoma, he too spent 3 seasons with the Crimson Tide.  As former teammates, I look for the chemistry and timing between these two to become an immediately evident asset.

Cons:

  • Limited sample size:  For all of the impressive flashes that Hurts was able to display in 2020, the fact remains that he started only 4 games.  Though no fault of his own, it is often dangerous to project based on such a small data set.
  • Passing limitations:  One statistic that is sure to fuel debate on Jalen Hurts is his lowly 2020 completion percentage of 52%.  Though accuracy was never an issue for Hurts during his collegiate career, completing just north of half of your passes will not cut it in the pros.  Additionally, critics have pointed to a reluctance or inability for Hurts to advance through his progressions before opting to tuck and run.  With Sirianni reportedly installing a modernized West Coast style offense, there is sure to be a premium on timing, accuracy, and patient progressions.  Hurts will need to prove that he can adapt and improve in this regard.
  • Consistency:  In 2020, Jalen Hurts was dramatically inconsistent, particularly comparing the first half of games to the second.  A fast starter, Hurts completed 39 of 66 attempts (59.1%) for 5 touchdowns and only 1 interception during the game’s opening quarters.  Remarkably, after halftime things never quite looked the same.  Completing 38 of 82 attempts (46.3%) with only 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions in the second half of games, it’s fair to say that Hurts struggled to close things out.  
  • Weak franchise commitment:  Perhaps the most significant concern for Hurts as a long term dynasty asset is the loose commitment on behalf of the Eagles.  They’ve gone on record in saying that Hurts was drafted as a high-end backup for Carson Wentz. They had no intention of utilizing him as a franchise-defining starter.  Though they’ve clearly prioritized giving him a fair evaluation in 2021, they have also quietly assembled an arsenal of future draft capital.  With the very real likelihood of holding 3 first round selections in 2022, Philadelphia will surely have the freedom to invest in whichever quarterback they see fit to lead their franchise.  Hurts will need to clean up on the concerns outlined in order to be that quarterback.

Value:

  • Sleeper Dynasty SF ADP (as of 6/29/21):  46.0 (QB12 overall)
  • Buy/Hold/Sell:  Sell. While there is no doubting Hurts’ upside, the aforementioned concerns are very real.  As he is currently valued as a top tier QB, I fear that his value may already have peaked, and thus I would advise that you cash out while public sentiment is at a high point.

Running Back:

(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Miles Sanders

Emerging from the shadow of Saquon Barkley at Penn State, Sanders was once viewed as a treasured asset in dynasty.  However, inconsistent production has led some to question whether he is capable of cementing himself as a trusted running back option.

Pros:

  • Explosion:  Sanders has tremendous burst and is capable of breaking off a big gainer at any point in the contest.  Indeed, it is not at all uncommon for him to string together a series of meager gains before taking one to the house on a defense that foolishly believed him to be contained.
  • New scheme:  With a new coaching staff in town, it is difficult to discern any aspects of the playbook with complete confidence.  However, based on the available data, it is reasonable to suspect that more balance may be on the way. The Eagles’ offense desperately needs it.  Under the previous regime, the Eagles were excessively dependent on the pass, rushing on only 40.3% of the available plays in 2020.  In contrast, Nick Sirianni, as offensive coordinator of the Colts, rushed on 45.4% of available downs earning the league’s 9th highest run percentage.
  • Offensive line:  Ironically, one the Eagles’ downfalls in 2020, could prove to be one of their best assets in the coming season.  Injuries ravaged last season’s unit, crippling the offense.  However, prolific starters Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks are returning to full health.have already been participating in the offseason program.  Additionally, a camp battle is brewing at left tackle. Upstart Jordan Mailata will compete with Andre Dillard, a former first round pick also sidelined in 2020 by injury.  With health, these pieces along with All-Pro stalwart center Jason Kelce have the potential to form one of the league’s most dominant lines.

Cons: 

  • Injuries:  In two seasons as a pro, Sanders has had some difficulty staying healthy.  During that short time he has accumulated 4 documented injuries (knee [twice], ankle, and hamstring).  To Sanders’ credit, he has missed a total of only 4 games due to injury, an indicator of his toughness.  However, it is fair to question his effectiveness when banged up so frequently.
  • Limited touches:  Due to the aforementioned injury history, the Eagles seem to question whether Sanders has the build to withstand the punishment of a lead back in the modern game.  They have consistently capped him at roughly 15 touches per game.  With this plateau on playing time in place, owners will be far more dependent on Sanders’ ability to create chunk plays in order to stay competitive.
  • Poor receiving:  One troubling aspect of Sanders’ play in 2020 was the dramatic dropoff in receiving stats.  As a rookie in 2019, Sanders hauled in 50 receptions (at a 79.4% catch rate) for 509 yards and 3 touchdowns.  However, in 2020, he collected only 28 receptions (at a 53.8% catch rate) for 197 yards and 0 touchdowns.  Perhaps this plummet can be written off to a poor season as a team. Regardless, these numbers will need to rebound for the sake of Sanders’ dynasty value, particularly in PPR formats.

Value:

  • Sleeper Dynasty SF ADP (as of 6/29/21):  48.9 (RB20 overall)
  • Buy/Hold/Sell:  Hold. Sanders is not without warts, but with a new coaching staff in town, there’s far too much potential to sell him.  Conversely, his value as the 20th overall back seems fair at this point of his career, so I also cannot advocate for him as a buy in the absence of any reasonable discount.
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Kerryon Johnson

Kerryon Johnson was released by the Lions and then unexpectedly claimed off of waivers by the Eagles in early May. After a disappointing couple of years, what does this former 2nd round draft pick have left to offer?

Pros:

  • Pass protection:  Through 3 seasons of his professional career, Johnson has clearly not delivered on the promise that his high draft capital once held.  He has however earned himself an exemplary reputation around the league in one key aspect: pass protection.  For an Eagles team that struggled to keep the quarterback clean in 2020, this unique skill is coveted. In fact, that trait may just earn Johnson enough reps to have fantasy significance in the upcoming season.
  • Short yardage:  Barring injuries, Johnson is not likely to assume a lead back role with the Eagles.  However, his stature (5’11”, 211lb) and blocking presence may earn him a role as a short yardage specialist.  If things play out this way, Johnson may achieve some success as a touchdown vulture near the goal line.

Cons:

  • Injuries:  Kerryon Johnson began his 2018 rookie campaign with tremendous promise, amassing an impressive 5.4 yards per carry average.  However, his rookie campaign was tragically cut short when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 11.  In 2019, Johnson returned to action only to have his season end prematurely yet again due to a meniscus tear.  By 2020, the Lions had turned their focus elsewhere. By selecting D’Andre Swift in the 2nd, the team had telegraphed a demotion for Johnson in Detroit.

Value:

  • Sleeper Dynasty SF ADP (as of 6/29/21):  254.0 (RB76 overall)
  • Buy/Hold/Sell:  Buy. At his present ADP, Johnson is essentially a no-cost asset.  If you are looking to fill out the back end of your running back corps, why not take a shot on a guy like this?  He’s still only 24 years old, has shown promise in his early career, and will likely be given opportunities to contribute with the Eagles.
(Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Kenneth Gainwell

Another from a recent string of successful Memphis running back products, Kenneth Gainwell is a rookie that had many buzzing prior to the 2021 NFL Draft.  However, after falling to a muddled Eagles backfield in the 5th round, some question whether Gainwell can become immediately relevant.

Pros:

  • Pass catching:  Given the aforementioned receiving weakness in Miles Sanders’ game, Gainwell appears ideally suited to contribute to the running back corps.  He earned acclaim for his hands at Memphis. With the former Colts offensive coordinator at the helm, many have speculated that Gainwell may be in line for a Nyheim Hines-type role in the offense. Given that Hines amassed the 24th most PPR fantasy points in 2020, this is no insignificant comparison.
  • Pass protection:  By now, you are probably starting to sense a common theme for the offseason additions to Philadelphia’s backfield.  They clearly have prioritized players that can help to preserve the quarterback.  Gainwell is certainly no exception.  He is a more than willing blocker and, for his size, was remarkably successful at this trait during his collegiate career.  It’s cliché for a reason, fantasy success is a function of playing time.  And, coaches trust running backs that can pass protect.
  • Vision:  Measurables are definitely important in prospect evaluation.  But even the most athletic back needs to be able to read the landscape.  Gainwell excels at play diagnosis.  On film, he reads his blocks, makes the right cuts, and utilizes open space efficiently.

Cons:

  • Undersized:  While not prohibitively diminutive, at 5’9” and 200lb size is a bit of a concern for Gainwell.  It will be interesting to see if the Eagles opt to utilize him as a 3rd down back, and thus maintain his physique.  Or, if they try to add mass via strength and conditioning, which would be indicative of bigger plans.  At his present size, the potential for injury is of slight concern.

Value:

  • Sleeper Dynasty SF ADP (as of 6/29/21):  141.9 (RB41 overall)
  • Buy/Hold/Sell:  Buy. Gainwell offers so much and is currently being discounted only by the crowded situation with the Eagles.  I can easily see him assuming an immediate role similar to that of Hines in Indianapolis.  At that type of floor, he deserves to be valued higher than RB41.

Wide Receiver:

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

DeVonta Smith

He may be small in stature, but DeVonta Smith looms large come game time.  Before taking a single pro snap, the heralded Heisman winning rookie has drawn lofty comparisons to NFL great, Marvin Harrison.  So what sets this young man apart?  

Pros:

  • Route running:  Any worthy wide receivers coach will tell you that the quickest path to NFL relevance is executing on polished routes.  Tacticians like Davante Adams, Keenan Allen, and Calvin Ridley have all risen to prominence based on their ability to separate through crisp routes.  With Alabama pedigree and eye popping film, Smith has route running chops comparable to any of these stars.
  • Hands:  Getting open is of little significance if you are unable to haul in the pass.  Fortunately, Smith is as gifted with his hands as he is in his route running execution.  With the ability to collect seemingly any pass in his vicinity, Smith is the perfect antidote to quarterback inaccuracies.
  • Mindset:  As a Crimson Tide product, Smith comes to the NFL pre-programmed with the work ethic necessary to succeed.  Early reports from OTA’s indicate that Smith has been humble and eager to improve.  For a wideout of such high acclaim, it would be easy to fall into the trap of reading press clippings.  To the contrary, Smith has seemingly set upon a quiet path of leadership and accountability amongst his young colleagues.  

Cons:

  • Undersized:  Weighing in at a generous 6’0” and 170lbs, size has always been the only concern for DeVonta Smith.  Quite simply, he’s small and there are limits to how much mass he can conceivably add to his compact frame.  Thus, injury concerns will likely follow him until he can establish durability in the pro game.

Value:

  • Sleeper Dynasty SF ADP (as of 6/29/21):  69.1 (WR21 overall)
  • Buy/Hold/Sell:  Hold. You can probably infer from my breakdown above that I have high expectations for DeVonta Smith.  And, if you were fortunate enough to land him in your rookie draft, you should be quite pleased with that investment.  However, I cannot advocate for you to go shopping for him at his current lofty price tag.  At current ADP, he is being valued higher than fellow wideouts Chase Claypool, Kenny Golladay, and Courtland Sutton just to name a few.  That’s a steep price to pay for a player yet to touch the field.
(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jalen Reagor

What a difference a year makes!  Last year at this time, Reagor was a highly desired rookie with 1st round capital poised to breakout on an Eagles offense in dire need of a dominant wideout.  And while the Eagles offense is still in need of a commanding receiver, Reagor is not presently considered by many to be a candidate to fill that role.  So what should we make of Reagor in his sophomore campaign and beyond?

Pros:

  • Open-field elusiveness:  Reagor struggled in many capacities during his rookie season.  However, one area where he showed promise was in his ability to elude defenders in open space.  Look for the new coaching staff to pick up on this trait, and create more opportunities via schemes to capitalize.
  • Slot reps:  During an offseason Zoom session with the media, Reagor indicated that the Eagles intend to utilize him far more out of the slot in their new offensive alignment.  Given his unique skill set, it would seem that he would be more ideally suited to this new placement.  Once viewed as inferior to an outside job, players like Julian Edelman and Tyler Lockett have redefined the significance of the slot role.  And, it’s conceivable that a move to the slot will help to unlock Reagor’s true potential.  However, it is worth noting that Jalen Hurts will need to develop an ability to advance fully through his progressions in order to maximize Reagor’s slot aptitude.

Cons:

  • Limited target share:  Based on the draft capital and preliminary reports regarding utilization, it seems clear that DeVonta Smith immediately has become the alpha wide receiver for Philadelphia.  And while this may be a great move for the team, it certainly seems to be a limiting factor for Jalen Reagor.
  • Inability to separate:  Regardless of the quarterback, Reagor had significant struggles getting open in 2020.  To reference the same Matt Harmon quote as the above linked article, the Reception Perception pioneer ominously declared that “Jalen Reagor’s 40.8 percent success rate vs. man coverage is the second-worst mark recorded in Reception Perception history.”  This is obviously not a promising harbinger for the young receiver.
  • Injuries:  Reagor struggled with injuries throughout his rookie campaign.  The first of which was a late August shoulder dislocation suffered during training camp.  He did, to his credit, rebound to play in the season opener. However, camp absences for a rookie in need of development can be crippling.  By Week 2, he had sustained a UCL tear to his thumb which required surgery.  The thumb injury would keep him sidelined for 5 games, and his season never seemed to get back on track.  Certainly a full and healthy offseason will be paramount for Reagor to deliver in 2021.

Value:

  • Sleeper Dynasty SF ADP (as of 6/29/21):  128.3 (WR49 overall)
  • Buy/Hold/Sell:  Sell. Though it is unconventional to sell an asset at a depressed value, I fear that Reagor has only begun to plummet.  I don’t foresee an overall target opportunity in the Eagles offense that will inflate Reagor’s value, and frankly I have concerns about the talent.  Based on Sleeper’s present ADP, some other receivers in this zone include Brandin Cooks, Jarvis Landry, and Will Fuller.  I would gladly trade Reagor for any of these proven contributors before the shine has completely worn off of the asset.
(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Travis Fulgham

Now reduced to a footnote on the 2020 season, waiver savvy owners look back fondly on the Fulgham-mania that defined Weeks 4-8 for the Eagles.  But as quickly as he came onto the scene, he again disappeared, quieted for the remainder of the season.  So who is Travis Fulgham and will there be a Second Act?

Pros:

  • Dominant stretch in 2020:  During that famed five week stretch in 2020, Travis Fulgham amassed 435 receiving yards (81% of his season total) on 29 receptions, netting 4 receiving touchdowns.  Perhaps a receiver of inferior talent could have a fortuitous week and post an impressive but hollow stat line.  But to dominate for five straight weeks seems to portend actual ability. Thus, Fulgham should be regarded as more than a simple fluke.
  • X receiver reps:  With Reagor’s move towards increased slot play, a natural vacancy is created at the outside “X” position.  Fulgham is ideally suited to play outside, and faces minimal competition to win this starting spot.  With defenses likely to prioritize coverage of rookie phenom DeVonta Smith, Fulgham should face winnable matchups in this role.
  • Decent size:  At 6’2” and 215lbs, Fulgham is far from being an imposing wideout.  However, in comparison to the smaller receivers in the Eagles receiving corps, his modest size sets him apart.  Plus, he has already demonstrated an ability to translate this size and physicality into wins at the catch point.

Cons:

  • Pedigree:  In contrast to Smith and Reagor who were selected with 1st round draft capital, Fulgham is of a meager investment.  Drafted originally by the Lions with a 6th round selection in 2019, he has already been cut twice (Lions and Packers) before being claimed off of waivers by the receiver hungry Eagles.  He is currently on a minimal contract with Philadelphia which offers no long term commitment.
  • Maturity Concerns:  After such a dominant stretch in 2020, many have been left to wonder exactly what happened to Travis Fulgham?  Reports from the team have alleged that Fulgham struggled to deal with his success.  Questions about work ethic ended up putting him in the doghouse of former head coach, Doug Pederson.  Thus, a healthy Alshon Jeffery was awarded the starter reps upon his return, relegating Fulgham to the anonymity from whence he came.  Fulgham will need to learn from this experience, and put forth consistent effort to stay in the good graces of his new boss.

Value:

  • Sleeper Dynasty SF ADP (as of 6/29/21):  NA (lower than WR131 overall)
  • Buy/Hold/Sell:  BUY! Fulgham has shown the ability to dominate as a receiver in the NFL.  At age 25, he has a very real opportunity to win a starting outside receiver role in 2021.  He’s currently being valued below guys like Blake Proehl, Khalil McClain, and Jonathan Adams.  Sure, he may falter.  But at the current price point, the return is absolutely worth the paltry investment.  Grab a few shares today and thank me later.

Tight End:

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Dallas Goedert

Zach Ertz’s likely departure from the Eagles has been the league’s worst kept secret throughout the offseason.  And though Ertz is still presently rostered by Philadelphia, his high salary would seem to forecast an imminent exit.  If and when this separation were to occur, the focus at tight end immediately shifts to budding talent, Dallas Goedert.  Shadowed by Ertz during his limited career, will 2021 be the year that Goedert makes the leap to stardom?

Pros:

  • Hands:  Routinely making circus catches as a prospect out of South Dakota State, one of Goedert’s renowned traits throughout draft evaluations was his sure handedness.  In the NFL, he has continued to exhibit this trait posting a 69.9% catch rate over his 3 year career.
  • Scheme:  Nick Sirianni has publicly lauded the mismatches created by an athletic tight end.  In Indianapolis, he utilized Mo Alie-Cox, a converted basketball player, to great effect in this regard.  With little competition for the top spot (assuming that Ertz plays elsewhere), Goedert would seem to be in line for a significant role in the new offensive scheme.
  • Run blocking:  Dallas Goedert is an excellent run blocker.  This may not be immediately translatable to fantasy relevance. However, it is undisputed that being a well rounded contributor can only help a player stay on the field.  And logically, the more reps a player garners, the greater his possibility to contribute to the stat sheet.  Goedert should see no shortage of opportunities.

Cons:

  • Injuries:  The only negative that has clouded Goedert’s evaluation has been the injury bug.  Though he has missed only 5 total games due to injury over his 3 year career, he has often played at less than 100% which has limited his utilization.  With Zach Ertz in tandem, the Eagles could often hide these inefficiencies.  However, as the lead tight end, Goedert will need to be consistently healthy enough to deliver top performance.

Value:

  • Sleeper Dynasty SF ADP (as of 6/29/21):  91.0 (TE8 overall)
  • Buy/Hold/Sell:  Hold. Goedert is a high upside asset on the precipice of an upward leap in 2021.  However, as a top 10 asset, he is not likely to ascend much higher in value.  If you have held him on your roster to this point, now is the time to reap the rewards for your patience.  Enjoy the contributions of a budding young star and focus on improving your roster elsewhere.

I thoroughly enjoyed bringing you this piece, and would love to continue the conversation on the Eagles’ outlook for 2021 and beyond.  Please feel free to comment below or contact me @Spydes78 on Twitter.  And also, stay tuned to @DynastyNerds for a steady pipeline of content from our eminently qualified staff to carry you through your offseason.  Enjoy the grind!

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