Fantasy football 2013 draft preview: Philadelphia Eagles team report
Fantasy football draft season is fast approaching. Prep to win your league with SI.com's ongoing preview, including team-by-team breakdowns that examine each club's key fantasy storyline and much more.
Key fantasy storyline
No one really knows what to expect out of the Eagles this season. Chip Kelly brings the high-octane offense that turned Oregon into a powerhouse to the pros, which could either be a great fit given his personnel, or could flop in disastrous fashion. It feels like there's no in-between. Michael Vick is coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons, but we all remember 2010, when he turned the NFL into his own personal playground and led his fantasy owners to many a championship. LeSean McCoy dealt with injuries last year and was a spectacular first-round bust, but the talent remains and the new system appears to suit his skills. The same goes for DeSean Jackson, but the Eagles are thin at wide receiver after Jeremy Maclin's season-ending ACL tear. Simply put, there's a wide range of possibilities in Philadelphia this season.
Some of the uncertainty was lifted in the team's first preseason game last week, and if it can carry over to the regular season, Vick just might duplicate his 2010 efforts as "biggest fantasy steal." Kelly has sworn since day one that the quarterback competition is wide open, but if Vick's performance against the Patriots is any indication, he'll be under center Week 1. He looked right at home in Kelly's offense, showing off what he can still do with his arm by going 4-of-5 for 94 yards and a touchdown, a 47-yard hookup with Jackson. He clearly outplayed Nick Foles, and though it was just one preseason game it's hard to imagine anyone but Vick starting in Kelly's offense.
Not only does Vick have a coach likely to take advantage of his best traits, he has a fantasy owner's best friend: a terrible defense. The Eagles did not improve much on a unit that ranked 29th in points allowed last year, and that will likely put the onus on Vick and the offense this season. It might give Kelly and Eagles fans headaches, but it's exactly what you want to see if you take a chance on Vick in 2013. Additionally, offensive line play was a problem last year, so the Eagles used the fourth pick on the draft on tackle Lane Johnson from Oklahoma. He's the type of player who can turn around an entire unit by being the anchor. If everyone falls in place behind him, Vick should have much better protection this season.
Vick, McCoy and Jackson are just the type of versatile, speedy athletes Kelly sought while at Oregon. Their presence on the roster is likely part of the reason the Eagles went after Kelly with such vigor this offseason. If his offense transfers to the NFL, the Eagles could be a sleeper in the NFC East, and Vick could come from outside the preseason fantasy starting ranks and elevate himself to stardom once again.
|Philadelphia Eagles' 2013 schedule|
|Including a look at how the Eagles' upcoming foes fared defensively in fantasy last season|
Stats via FFToday.com
The NFC East did not feature its usual level of defensive play last season, but that could easily turn around in 2013. The Cowboys fired Rob Ryan and brought in Monte Kiffin, moving to a base 4-3 defense. The Redskins will get Brian Orakpo back, and teaming him with Ryan Kerrigan could make a huge difference for a secondary that really struggled last year. The Giants did not generate the sort of quarterback pressure to which we've become accustomed in the Tom Coughlin era, but the personnel is there to get right back to their previous dominance. Philly draws the AFC West and NFC North, resulting in tough matchups against the Broncos and Bears, whom they play Week 16, fantasy championship week. Team defense fluctuates from year to year, but this appears to be a schedule of average difficulty.
QB: Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley
RB: LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk, Felix Jones
WR: DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson, Jason Avant, Ifeanyi Momah, Russell Shepard
TE: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor, Emil Igwenagu
|Philadelphia Eagles' 2012 defensive rankings|
Like the Cowboys, the Eagles are transitioning on defense, moving to a 3-4 from a 4-3. The strength of the defense is in its linebackers, and that's where IDP leaguers will find some value on this team. Connor Barwin had 11.5 sacks with the Texans in 2011 before falling off to just 3.5 last year. He's a great talent, though, and fits in perfectly with the new scheme. Trent Cole starts opposite him at the other outside linebacker spot, making the switch from a 4-3 defensive end. He had three consecutive double-digit sack years, a streak that ended last season when he got to the quarterback just three times. DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks start on the inside, and Ryans could be worth a look in IDP leagues.
The line looks a lot different, which isn't a surprise given the move to 3-4. The Eagles went out and added Isaac Sopoaga to play nose tackle. He had previously been a key player for the 49ers before getting bumped out of the starting lineup last year. Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton are expected to start at the ends, though Clinton Geathers will get a lot of playing time, as well.
Change is afoot in the secondary, too, with the failed duo of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie out of town. This is a good thing for the Eagles; As Chris Burke pointed out in his NFC East preview, Philly allowed the most passing touchdowns in the league (32) despite facing the second-fewest passing attempts. Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams are the new starters on the corners, joined by Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips at safety. This new foursome has a real chance to upgrade the entire defense, and the safety pairing of Chung and Phillips could turn into a strength.
For now, fantasy owners shouldn't consider the Eagles team defense an option. However, it could grow into one, especially for those of you who play the matchup-based defense carousel, if it adapts to its new 3-4 scheme.