Last year nine teams had three or more fantasy starters in the top 60 and it is likely that it’ll continue to be that way in 2014. This series: Dressed for Success, will look at NFL teams going into 2014 that have assembled the right players to be a treasure trove of fantasy studs.
2013 was Chip Kelly’s first season as an NFL head coach, replacing long time head coach Andy Reid. From the very first game, the Eagles displayed a remarkably efficient offense that every fantasy owner should still be excited about owning players on the Eagles going into next season. While the Eagles didn’t run the most offensive plays in the NFL, the team tied with the Broncos for first in average yards per play with 6.3 yards per play. In fact, the number of offensive plays run is not a sure indicator of fantasy production; the Bills ran the third most plays in the NFL, but ranked 25th in total fantasy output.
Going into next season, I am really excited for Nick Foles, mildly excited about LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, and cautiously optimistic about Riley Cooper, and Jeremy Maclin.
Nick Foles is the most intriguing sleeper pick for QB, because it’s hard to tell if he is really talented or just a product of Kelly’s system. The Eagles QBs combined for the third highest fantasy totals by QBs by team (Peyton Manning’s Broncos had 496.8; Drew Brees’ Saints had 437.5, and Vick and Foles’ Eagles had 415; the next best was Andy Dalton’s Bengals at 377.1). For fantasy purposes though, this abstract discussion of who created who probably doesn’t matter. If Foles is actually good, you might be getting the next Aaron Rodgers. In his 11 starts, he’s mustered 10 multi-TD games, with three TD runs. If he isn’t that good, you’ll be getting the benefit of him being part of an extremely efficient system, maybe channeling Matthew Stafford when his value was based on throwing the ball a ton. That is of course if Philadelphia doesn’t run him out of town first. (Read this story on how folks in Philly think Sanchez will fare).
The other knock that Foles has against him, following DeSean Jackson’s trade, is the lack of proven receivers on offense. Riley Cooper had a few amazing games in the middle of the season, but failed to break 75 yards after week 10. Jeremy Maclin is coming off an ACL surgery on a knee he previously had surgery on before has never had a 1000 yard season, but has had one double digit TD season. However, with QBs in fantasy football, the talent around you doesn’t have to be phenomenal; think of the NFL adage “some QBs make WRs better.” As long as Maclin and Cooper could stay healthy for most of the season, I expect Foles to resume playing at a high level. And worry not about Desean, we can be sure DeSean will be leaving some dirt at “the Linc” come next season. The skinny of it is probably this: not everyone throws for seven TDs in a game, even if it’s against the Raiders. You want a QB who can at least exploit a bad team.
With the unknown being so uncertain it’s hard to draft Foles early, but fortunately you probably won’t have to. The trend of waiting to draft a QB will probably continue into next season so you can safely pick him up in middle rounds after the PDA trinity of Peyton, Drew, and Aaron and running QBs have gone. Those in leagues that reward for big-plays should further consider bumping up Foles because the Eagles led the league in 20+ yard passes at 80, with the Broncos coming in second at 68.
The running game in Philadelphia is just as intriguing as the passing game. In 2013, LeSean and Bryce Brown combined for second most productive running game in terms of yardage. With Darren Sproles in the mix, its easily imaginable that this offense can produce two fantasy relevant RBs. In this up-tempo offense, it’ll be easy for Sproles to make separation with opposing linebackers, even if he’s lost a step or two with age. Lesean is still going in the first round and he’s a worthwhile RB to get in the first considering the Eagles tied for the second most running TDs in the league last year. Sproles however is going to slip in standard scoring, less so than PPR, but I wouldn’t let him go past 9th round in standard or 8th round in PPR.. He has more potential than whichever handcuff you are tempted to get at that point in the draft.
I do like Zach Ertz’s potential to be a good TE in 2014. Ertz outgained Celek in yardage and catches during the season, but scored fewer TDs than Celek. But if 2013 is any indication, I don’t see Ertz breaking into the top 5 of TEs because the targets between him and Celek seem to go back and forth from game to game. There are better TEs to be had unless you’re waiting till the double digit rounds of your draft to be picking a TE.
You might have ethical dilemmas about drafting Riley Cooper, like when, I out of principle will not draft players who went to USC (in terms of degrees of socially detestable behavior, Riley Cooper’s Chesney induced comments and attending USC, pretty much the same). But really, Cooper does have some upside, not just as a PPR machine, but also in standard. Last season, Cooper flashed some long play-making abilities. In eight games, Cooper had at least one catch for over 20 yards, with four being over 40 yards. He can be a safe pick in either standard or PPR; I’d be comfortable taking a chance on him in the 7th round as a WR3. Believe in second chances; believe in Cooper; don’t let friends go to USC.
Maclin is a prototypical example of health risk versus reward players. If Danny Amendola taught us all anything last year, it’s that we should never be drafting injury prone receivers in the fourth round. Personally, Maclin hasn’t shown enough consistent production to go anywhere before the sixth; coupled with the injury history; I would only be willing to spend a 9th round pick at most to gamble on Maclin.
The last stat I’ll share is Philadelphia’s turnover difference: +12 turnovers, fourth best in the league. The short and skinny is that teams that get the ball or maintain the ball more, can produce more fantasy stats. The Eagles are looking like a well put together team and can help your fantasy team look pretty... fly. The city of Philadelphia is ready for winners, and what is this about their being a jail in the stadium?
PLEASE CHECK OUT TEAM 4 of 32: