The Philadelphia Eagles enter the 2021 NFL season with haughty aspirations. The team drafted Heisman-winning receiver DeVonta Smith, managed to keep Zach Ertz on the team, and welcomes back Jalen Hurts for what they hope can become a second-year breakout.
Perhaps most refreshing of all for Eagles fans? There’s a new coaching regime in place. Gone are the days of Doug Pederson. Former Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni was hired to replace Pederson, and with him he brought a large swath of new coaches.
But was this enough? Can the Eagles thrive in 2021 and, perhaps more importantly, what can be made of their fantasy football outlook?
Make sure to check out all of our other 2021 Fantasy Football Previews.
Quarterbacks – Jalen Hurts
Hurts has yet to be formally introduced as the Eagles’ starter, but there is minimal competition around him. The former Alabama signal-caller should be in command of this offense for the entire season, using his mobility to help open up the offense and create plays. Hurts certainly showed rushing potential in limited action last season, logging 354 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
His passing ability was on-and-off; the now-23-year-old had a mere 52 percent completion rate and six-to-four touchdown-to-interception ratio. But on a more positive note, over his first three starts, he averaged 282 passing yards, 1.67 passing touchdowns, and 0.67 interceptions per game. He even looked solid in Week 17, when he posted 72 passing yards, two rushing touchdowns, and one pick before being benched in a questionable move. During the span of these four starts, Hurts was the QB7. If you remove that weird Week 17 performance and just look at the small sample from Weeks 14 to 16, he was the QB3.
Heading into 2021, the fantasy football community seems divided on Hurts. Plenty of people are pounding the table for the Eagles quarterback, especially with the selection of Smith and return of two talented tight ends. But the interceptions are a real concern, and it is fair to wonder if teams are going to catch on to holes in his passing game and capitalize on these. Hurts has a current ADP of QB12, which seems a bit high. I would be hesitant to draft him as my first quarterback. Instead, players with a lower ADP like Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield, or Trevor Lawrence might be safer picks. You can still draft Hurts as your second quarterback and hope he explodes. Be cautious when treating him as a QB1, though.
Running Backs – Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell
Sanders has been somewhat of a letdown through his first two pro seasons, failing to exceed 870 rushing yards in a single season. Through 12 games in 2020, he carried the ball 164 times for 867 yards. He added 28 receptions for 197 yards through the air. Sanders also found the end zone a total of six times while fumbling on four of his rushes. While his rushing yards increased slightly from 2019, his involvement in the passing game took a huge step back (509 receiving yards in 2019, 197 in 2020). He finished the year as the RB23 with 156.4 points. His average of 13.0 points per game ranked 17th among running backs (minimum four games).
Moving forward, Sanders should be viewed as a low-end RB2. We don’t really know what to expect from him in an offense led by Hurts and Sirianni. Plus, the new regime’s decision to add rookie Kenneth Gainwell to the mix further complicates the matter. In the end, Sanders is going to be one of the most avoided players in fantasy. Someone will take him around his ADP of RB20, so his draft position won’t fall too much. But a large portion of fantasy owners would likely rather have someone like Myles Gaskin, Darrell Henderson, or Travis Etienne, all of whom are being drafted after Sanders.
We’ll get to Gainwell in a minute, but Boston Scott also factors into the mix. In fact, it has been suggested that Scott might even split touches with Sanders in 2021, which would send massive shockwaves throughout the football world. Currently being drafted as the RB73, Scott logged 105 touches, 586 scrimmage yards, and two touchdowns last season. He had 449 yards and five touchdowns through just 11 games in the year prior. I wouldn’t reach on Scott as a top-48 running back. However, his current ADP projects him to go undrafted. He is definitely someone you should focus on targeting in the final round or two of a 16-round draft. You might just luck out and get FLEX production from him.
Gainwell presents an interesting piece of the puzzle. Hand-picked by the new coaching regime in the fifth round of the draft, Gainwell is a talented receiving back who could see a significant workload during third-down sets this season. Unlike Scott, Gainwell’s ADP of RB68 values him fairly appropriately. (This number should rise a bit now that the Eagles have cut ties with Gainwell’s top competitor, Kerryon Johnson.) A must-own in dynasty, Gainwell is even worth rostering in the depths of your redraft league. He’s a key passing-down back and there is optimism that he could carve out a Tarik Cohen or James White role in just his rookie year. It helps that he has the new regime on his side, which is something that Sanders and Scott do not have.
Wide Receivers – DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins
Selected in the first round of the draft, Smith is a must-watch player this season. He polarized the football community during the draft process thanks to concerns about his size (6-foot-1 and just 175 pounds). But in the end, the measurables don’t matter if he performs at a high level on the football field. The 22-year-old debuted by catching two of four targets for 19 yards in Week 2 of the preseason. He’s a really intriguing option at his ADP of WR31, but with one caveat: he should not be drafted before Courtland Sutton (WR32) or Jerry Jeudy (WR34). If these two players are off the board, though, and Smith falls a few spots lower than his ADP? Snatch him up. He’s going to be a key playmaker who sees a good chunk of volume in his rookie campaign.
Reagor is another first-round pick of the Eagles. He struggled in his rookie season, fetching just 31 catches for 396 yards and one score over 11 games. He finished as the WR88 for the full season, as well as the RB61 over the eight games after the Eagles’ bye week. Given the poor quarterback play and state of the offense, it would be unfair to declare Reagor a bust already. All eyes should be on how he can perform this season. He should still be rostered on every team in dynasty formats. However, you can leave him on waivers in redraft, where he currently has an ADP of WR80.
Watkins is worth mentioning here since he projects as the team’s No. 3 receiver this year. He’ll be on the field in three-receiver sets, and he has clearly constructed a rapport with Hurts already. The two connected on several big plays in training camp, as well as a 79-yard touchdown in Week 1 of the preseason. However, he has just one catch through parts of two preseason games, so volume is clearly lacking. He currently has an ADP of 76, which is a fair price tag. I won’t be drafting him, but once my drafts conclude, I will run to the waiver wire and start “watching” him. He could quite possibly have fantasy relevance by Week 5.
Travis Fulgham and Greg Ward will also see involvement in the passing game, but they don’t carry enough fantasy significance to warrant drafting them in most leagues. You can comfortably leave them on waivers.
Tight Ends – Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz
Heading into the offseason, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Zach Ertz was done in Philadelphia. As such, it came as a surprise to see him maintain normal involvement and participation in training camp and the first two preseason games. He might not be the Eagles’ top tight end option, but he will certainly compete for a large workload and carry fantasy involvement into the season.
Goedert is the top guy here. He averaged 53 receiving yards over his final seven games last season, logging a total of two touchdowns over this span. He ended up as the TE6 during this stretch, though he finished the year as the TE20. While he wasn’t phenomenal, three factors bode well for Goedert going forward. First, the offense was shaky last year and should be better in 2021. Second, the 26-year-old stood out as a top target for Hurts in the back half of the 2020 season. Finally, he has proven that he can produce even in a system where Ertz is stealing his targets.
Despite all of this, though, I’m a bit hesitant to take him at his current ADP of 89th overall. This puts him around the eighth round of drafts. Players like Trey Sermon, Ryan Tannehill, Tyler Boyd, and Antonio Brown are all players with lower ADPs who might be safer investments considering their positional values. While Goedert is probably the eighth-best tight end in fantasy heading into this season, it’s his overall ADP that bothers me the most. I would feel much more comfortable if I can get him as a late ninth- or early 10th-round pick.
Ertz also factors into the equation as a solid depth option who could make a nice pairing if you decide to wait on a tight end. While I don’t want him as my No. 1 tight end every week, he has shown that he can produce in the past. Let’s ignore a 2020 that was far from normal for everyone (and even more awkward for the Eagles). Looking at just 2019, you will see that Ertz averaged 61.1 yards and 0.4 touchdowns per game. He finished as the TE3 from Weeks 1 through 16 before missing Week 17. It’s tricky to project top-12 numbers from him this season. However, his current ADP of TE16 is fair. If you draft Ertz and pair him with someone like Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, or Adam Trautman, you will be set up for a season of success at the tight end position.
This is a defense I want to avoid from a fantasy perspective. They allowed 26 points per game last season, and that was in a division that featured the Giants (led by Daniel Jones with no Saquon Barkley), Cowboys (no Dak Prescott), and Football Team (revolving door at quarterback). Darius Slay helps hold the unit together with his prowess in the secondary, but this is a team that forced just 12 fumbles, 10 recoveries, and eight interceptions last year. Their ADP of 341 ranks 27th among defenses. Don’t even consider this unit unless you’re in a crazy deep league with 28 teams or deeper.
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