As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: The Screaming Eagles.
After leaning into the underdog role and silencing the haters, the Eagles are looking to dominate again in 2018. So, which player has the most BOOM (return on investment) potential this fall?
Brad – CARSON WENTZ. Though Nick Foles was Philly’s hero last February, the Prince Harry doppelgänger still owns the keys to the castle, deservedly so. Some have pointed to his unrepeatable 7.5 TD percentage as a reason to avoid, but the number was inflated due an average workload (440) and remarkable red-zone efficiency (No. 8 in RZ completion percentage). Matching or exceeding last year’s 33 passing TD total isn’t much of a stretch. It seems doubtful he averages 33.8 or fewer attempts in Year 3.
Wentz’s goal is to be under center for Philly’s regular season opener against Atlanta. Doug Pederson, though, is in no rush to overexert the franchise cornerstone. If reports remain positive through the summer, he should reward owners with consistent 20-point week-to-week efforts in one of the NFL’s best offenses. He looked rather spry earlier this week in OTAs. At his 89.5 ADP, the minimal risk is worth it.
Liz – NELSON AGHOLOR. The Eagles’ slot man was more than twice as productive in 2017 than he was in 2015 and 2016 combined. A top-twenty fantasy producer last year, Agholor was money in the red zone, hauling in the third most RZ receptions (13) and scores (9). In fact, between Weeks 1 and 14, with Carson Wentz under center, Agholor was looked-to in the red zone every week but two.
Additionally, after the team’s bye and once Jay Ajayi was included in the offense’s plans, Agholor’s volume increased. In his third year, the USC alum averaged more than 7 targets per contest down the stretch. Through increased confidence and improved mechanics, Agholor became a trusted weapon. That doesn’t figure to end, especially given the fact that Mike Groh – his wide receivers coach (who has been credited with the former first round pick’s turnaround/breakout) – is the team’s new OC.
On the flipside, which player should owners avoid like a goose on a golf course?
Liz – COREY CLEMENT. I’m not doubting Clement’s skills. His Super Bowl performance was epic and he’s likely earned himself a larger role in 2018. But as Brad points out below, Doug Pederson loves himself a rotation. Plus, the Eagles brought back Darren Sproles, who was the starter before getting hurt last year. They also added UDFA Josh Adams. Someone will get cut, but carrying five RBs on the roster is a real possibility in Philly.
Bottom line: If you’re drafting best ball then grab some CC, but if you’re looking for a reliable pass-catching back in PPR formats, then please don’t draft the Wisconsin product (ADP = 159.28) ahead of Theo Riddick (ADP = 181.06).
Brad – JAY AJAYI. Last season, parts of my body were forever compromised because of Ajayi. His failure to deliver much hyped numbers Week 11 against Dallas forced yours truly to endure the unrelenting heat of a single tortilla chip smothered in Carolina reaper powder. Never forget, Jay. Never forget.
Pederson is the mad conductor on an RB Tilt-a-Whirl. If you’re into stomach-churning spins, by all means, ignore the following commentary. If not, and investing in any Eagles RB is sure to lead to regurgitation. Good luck trying to accurately predict exactly what the timeshare-committed coach will do.
Best guess, Ajayi is a likely candidate to head up Philly’s backfield rotation, an RBBC chair slated for around 200 carries. He’ll occasionally flash, but many of his secondary metrics from 2017 don’t offer much encouragement he’ll profit (47.8 ADP, RB22). Last season, he ranked No. 20 or lower in yards created per carry (RB20), fantasy points per opportunity (RB115), elusive rating (RB22) and total yards after contact (RB32). Most discouraging, he averaged 3.1 yards per carry against basic base front defenses, which he confronted 61.5 percent of the time. And that was behind the fourth-best run-blocking line according to Pro Football Focus. Throw in his minor role in the pass game and a repeat of his RB31 standing while an Eagle is probably in the cards. Rookies Rashaad Penny, Derrius Guice and Sony Michel, available at nearly an identical price, each possess more upside.
TRUE or FALSE: Drafting Zach Ertz ahead of Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, regardless of format, is more genius than crazy.
Brad – FALSE. As high school teachers say time and time again, “If any part of the statement is false, then it is false.” I fully support bypassing Gronk at his early Round 3 ADP for Ertz a couple rounds later, but dodging Kelce is an emphatic “NO!”
This isn’t a dig at Ertz. He’s a trusted weapon (23.1 target share in ’17) equipped with reliable hands and a proven track record. It’s a matter of preference. If zeroing in on a tight end early drafts is your forte (It’s not mine), Kelce is arguably the safest option. He’s a rock in KC’s offense who’s sure to be the ultimate safety valve for a young, inexperienced Patrick Mahomes. Recall last year he ranked top-five in several advanced categories including contested catch rate (TE5), fantasy points per route (TE4), red-zone target share (TE3) and yards after catch (TE3). Another campaign at or north of an 80-1050-6 line is reachable. And, no, Sammy Watkins’ presence doesn’t frighten me. He’ll be on the trainer’s table by Week 6.
Liz – TRUE. Sacrilege, I know. But hear me out. Sure, the presumptive TE1 is Gronk, but after a slew of injuries and subsequent surgeries is it that crazy to expect a changing of the guard?
And as for Kelce? Well, Sammy Watkins was added to the receiving corps. And the Chiefs’ new QB has a penchant for throwing deep.
I know change is hard, and that Ertz’s breakout came later than many had hoped/anticipated, but he averaged 14.5 fantasy points per game last year! He did that by being equal parts productive (5.2 air yards per target) and efficient (2.14 yards per pass route). I think he builds on that with Carson Wentz back to health by Week 1.