2021 Philadelphia Eagles Fantasy Team Outlook: Jalen Hurts has QB1 Upside

A fantasy football breakdown of the Philadelphia Eagles by high-stakes legend Shawn Childs.
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Coaching

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The Eagles have three straight postseason appearances under Doug Pederson, including a Super Bowl title in 2017. He lost the team on both sides of the ball last year, leading to Philadelphia making a change at head coach. They brought in Nick Sirianni to run the team. He spent the past three seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Colts while having 12 years of coaching experience in the NFL.

Philadelphia fell to 26th in points scored (334 – 51 fewer than 2019). They ranked 24th offensive yards, compared to 7th, 14th, and 14th over the previous three seasons.

Shane Steichen will run the offense, which was the same position he held for the Chargers in 2019 and 2020. Most of his 10 years of coaching experience came in Los Angeles and San Diego.

The Eagles gave Jonathan Gannon the keys to run the defense. He spent the last three seasons in Indianapolis as their cornerbacks’ coach. Gannon is the third lead coach in Philadelphia who is under the age of 40. His path to the NFL started with the Falcons in 2007 (defensive quality control) before transitioning to a scout. From 2012 to 2017, he worked in the Titans and Vikings systems.

Philly allowed 418 points (20th) last year, which was their third year of regression. The Eagles finished 19th in yards allowed.

Free Agency

The only offensive player added in free agency was Joe Flacco, who takes over the backup quarterback job.

Philadelphia signed S Anthony Harris, LB Eric Wilson, and DE Ryan Kerrigan to their defense.

Harris worked his way from a low-level rotational player in 2015 to a full-time starter in 2019 and 2020. He is a sure tackler who plays well in run support. Over the past three seasons, quarterbacks rarely looked his way for completions.

Wilson is a second player coming from Minnesota’s defense. He made 16 starts in 2020, but his results were unimpressive. At best, Wilson helps in coverage while missing too many tackles to be an asset against the run.

Kerrigan gave Washington eight impressive seasons rushing the quarterback. His best play against the run came from 2016 to 2018. His playing time slipped over the last two years, leading to his move to Philadelphia.

The Eagles didn’t resign CB Nickell Robey-Coleman and S Jalen Mills.

Robey-Coleman tends to allow short yards per catch and minimal damage in scoring while working out of the slot in coverage on most plays. His run defense faded in 2020 with many missed tackles.

Mills made growth as a player after switching to safety in 2020. His issues in coverage came over the long field, where his lack of speed exposed him. Mills handled himself well in press coverage.

Kevin Patullo Sounds Like Nick Sirianni's Right Hand Man

Draft

The first order of business in the 2021 NFL Draft was to secure a play-making deep threat at wide receiver. The Eagles selected WR DeVonta Smith with the 10th overall pick. He can run a sub 4.40 forty-yard dash, but Smith lacks size (6’0” and 175 lbs. He makes up for this shortfall with great route running, extreme quickness, and open field ability.

In the second round, Philadelphia added C Landon Dickerson. He works hard at his game on and off the field with the vision to slow down potential blitzers. Dickerson lacks range, pushing him into the quick-hitting run-blocking category. His anchor plays well against power while gaining his edge with strength. Dickerson does have a history of battling injuries.

The Eagles focused on rebuilding their defense with six of their final seven choices – DT Milton Williams, CB Zech McPhearson, DT Marlon Tuipulotu, DE Tarron Jackson, S JaCoby Stevens, and DE Patrick Johnson.

Williams doesn’t have the ideal size (6’3” and 285 lbs.) to control the interior of the line against the run. He gains his edge with power to create early wins with the vision and feel to up his success. His hands keep linemen at a distance. Williams plays with a high motor while needing to improve his skill set in the pass rush.

McPhearson puts in his time to improve his mental game. He gets in trouble in chase mode while still needing to improve his technique in mirroring pass routes. His ceiling looks lower in coverage due to questions with winning jump balls and defending the long field out of the press. McPhearson helps in run support, but his tackling isn’t on par.

Tuipulotu is a second defensive lineman added by the Eagles who wins with his hands and power. He continues to work at his craft, and the improvement shows on the field. His role will be limited in the pass rush while lacking the motor to shine in the game's most significant moments in the fourth quarter.

Jackson fits the strength theme that Philadelphia found important with the additions this year on the defensive line. He brings multiple moves to help create space and wins against the run and the pass rush, but Jackson losses steam in the pass rush when forced outside due to a questionable first step and finishing speed. His best success comes from pass-rushing on the inside created by wins with his arms.

Stevens projects as a rotational-run defender who will have the most value attacking the line of scrimmage. His long speed puts him at a disadvantage if asked to cover or chase over a big part of the field. He has playmaking skills when in range to get his hands on the ball. Stevens needs to improve his vision and tackling.

Johnson has the tools to add value against the run on early downs. His hands and technique set the foundation for his wins with power. He does struggle to break free from blockers when stalemated in his pass rush. Johnson finds daylight to reach the quarterback, but his attack lacks depth in moves to help him finish the job at a higher rate.

In the fifth round, Philadelphia took a swing with RB Kenneth Gainwell.

He fits the scatback profile (5’11” and 200 lbs.) while offering impact speed (sub 4.40 forty-yard dash). His vision and quickness are the critical factors for him to break into the second level of the defense. Gainwell follows his blocks well with gas to hit a seam quickly. Over the long field, he made plenty of big plays in college.

In the NFL, faster cornerbacks will slow him in the open field. He plays bigger than his size in pass protection, but Gainwell does need to prove he can handle blitzers at the next level. His pass-catching ability helps his chances to get on the field.

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Offensive Line

The Eagles moved to 9th in rushing yards (2,027) with 16 rushing touchdowns. They averaged 5.0 yards per carry while gaining over 20 yards per rush in 12 runs. Five of those plays reached the 40-yard mark.

Philadelphia finished with only 22 passing touchdowns with a spike in interceptions (20). They fell to 26th in passing yards (3,728) while gaining only 6.2 yards per pass attempt. Their offensive line allowed 65 sacks.

LT Andre Dillard

In his second season after getting drafted 22nd overall in 2019, Dillard missed the whole season with a torn biceps. In his limited playing time in his rookie season, he struggled to make an impact in any area.

His athletic style tied to his plus footwork gives him an edge at left tackle. He projects well in pass projection while needing more time to develop his skill set in the run game.

LG Isaac Seumalo

Seumalo missed seven games last year due to a knee injury. When on the field, he regressed in run blocking while too much pressure. The Eagles drafted him in the third round in 2016. His starting job is at risk to incoming rookie Landon Dickerson.

C Jason Kelce

Kelce remains one of the better centers in the league. He has a high floor in run blocking, but his pass-blocking regressed for the second straight season. Part of his slide came from injuries around him on the offensive line. Kelce came to Philly in the sixth round in 2011. He played well in eight different seasons.

RG Brandon Brooks

Brooks played exceptionally well over his first four seasons with Philadelphia, but he missed 2020 with a torn Achilles. He minimizes the damage in sacks while ranking highly in each year in the league in pass projection. His run blocking came in at an elite level after showing regression in 2018.

RT Lane Johnson

The injury bug hit Johnson as well last year. An ankle injury that happened late in 2019 flared up over the summer, leading to surgery in August. He battled a knee issue and shoulder injury midseason before landing on the injured list with his ankle issue that required surgery again in early December.

When on the field, Johnson played at a high level in pass protection. He has a long resume of being a dominating run blocker, but his lack of health led to a poor season in that area in 2020. Johnson is a former first-round pick (2013).

The Eagles have one of the better offensive lines in the league when healthy. However, they need their left tackle to earn his expected value this season while also having a question at left guard. If the left side of the line plays well, Philly will be that much better running the ball while creating a longer passing window.

Offense

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The Eagles ran the ball about 40 percent of the time last year. Game score forced them to the air too often, but their offensive line could keep their quarterback upright while providing a shorter passing window. The change at quarterback and the return to health of their offensive line should push Philly near the top of the league in rushing production.

Quarterback

Jalen Hurts gave Philadelphia a spark at quarterback over three games late in his rookie season. From Week 14 to Week 16, he gained 1,085 combined yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. His ability to run (38/238/1) was a significant factor to his success when adding the Eagles’ problems on the offensive line.

Hurts passed for over 300 yards (338/3 and 342/1) in his second and third starts while completing 11 passes over 20 yards (three gained 40 yards or more).

Hurts had one of the more interesting quarterback careers in college football. He earned the starting role for Alabama early in 2016, which led to 2,780 passing yards with 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His success on the ground (191/954/13) helped the Crimson Tide go 14-1 with a loss to Clemson in the national championship game.

The following season, Hurts saw most of the quarterback action during the regular season, but Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench to steal the show in a win over Georgia in the championship game and eventually the starting job in 2018.

Between 2017 and 2018, Hurts passed for 2,846 yards with 25 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also ran for 1,022 yards and 10 touchdowns on 190 carries.

After a transfer to Oklahoma, he went 12-2 with his best success throwing the ball (3,851 yards with 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions), leading to a 69.7 percent completion rate. The Sooners worked him hard as well in the run game (233/1298/20).

Fantasy Outlook: In the early draft season, Hurts is the 11th quarterback drafted. His ability to run sets a high floor and adds consistency to his game in the fantasy market. Philly has top pass-catching talent at tight end, and they added a pair of explosive first-round wide receivers over the past two drafts. I’m confident that Hurts will run the ball between eight and 10 times in most games, leading to 800-plus yards on the ground with at least seven scores. With 225 passing yards and 1.5 passing touchdowns per game, I expect 4,500-plus combined yards with over 30 scores. He has an excellent chance of outperforming Josh Allen due to more weapons in the passing game, and his price point is much more favorable.

Other Options: Joe Flacco

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Running Back

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Despite injuries on the offensive line, the Eagles running backs gained 4.90 yards per rush. Game score led to a drop of 100 carries with regression in chances and success in the passing game (60/438/1).

Miles Sanders

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Injuries cost Sanders four games over different parts of the field. When at his best, he gained over 100 combined yards in three matchups (131, 112, and 136), highlighted by his one impact game (29.60 fantasy points) and two successful showings (21.10 and 23.90 fantasy points). The Eagles gave him over 20 touches in only his first two starts (23 and 22).

In his rookie season in 2019, he flashed a high floor in pass-catching (50/509/3). However, Philadelphia struggled to get him the ball via the air last year, leading to 28 catches for 197 yards on 52 targets with a low catch rate (53.8). Over his 343 carries, Sanders averaged 4.9 yards with nine rushes over 20 yards, and five of those plays reach 40 yards.

He started the year with a hamstring issue, followed by a midseason knee issue that flared up again in Week 17.

Fantasy Outlook: The structure of the Eagles’ offense will change in 2021 due to a running quarterback and a new coaching staff. Sanders offers big-play ability, with a rebound in catches expected. Jalen Hurts lowers his ceiling scoring and overall touches. His opportunity in 2021 should be 250 touches for 1,300 combined yards, eight to 10 scores, and 40-plus catches. His early ADP (30) prices Sanders as a mid-range RB2.

Kenneth Gainwell

After a minimal opportunity (143 combined yards with one touchdown and six catches) in his red-shirt freshman season, Gainwell excelled in 2019 once given the keys to Memphis’s running back job. He finished with 2,059 combined yards with 16 touchdowns and 51 catches. Gainwell followed in the footsteps of Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard, who also shined for the Tigers.

Fantasy Outlook: He projects to be a third-down back with breakaway speed and value in the passing game. Gainwell should slide into a backup role with Philly while also adding insurance for Miles Sanders.

Boston Scott

In his four chances to start last year, Scott gained 304 combined yards with no touchdowns and nine catches. Over his 12 games, he gained 282 combined yards with two touchdowns and 25 catches.

Scott gained 1,228 combined yards with nine touchdowns and 20 catches in his best season at Louisiana Tech.

Fantasy Outlook: His yards per rush (4.4) and yards per catch (8.5) should earn him more chances in 2021 off the bench, but Kenneth Gainwell will fight him for the back role.

Other Options: Kerryon Johnson, Jordan Howard, Jason Huntley

Wide Receiver

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Over the last few seasons, Philadelphia featured their tight ends in the passing game, leading to below-par chances and production for their wide receivers. In 2020, the Eagles completed 166 of 294 targets (56.4 percent) to their wideout for 2,082 yards and 14 touchdowns. From 2018 to 2020, wide receivers gained short yards per catch (12.1, 12.1, and 12.5).

DeVonta Smith

In each season at Alabama, Smith improved each of his stats. His window for playing time and chances were limited early in his college career due to the Crimson Tide having exceptional depth and talent at wide receiver (Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and Jaylen Waddle). After showing growth in 2019 (68/1,256/14), Smith won the Heisman Trophy last season after catching 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. He capped off the year with three explosive showings (15/184/2, 7/130/3, and 12/215/3), with the latter coming in the national championship game.

Last year Alabama used him on many plays where he started behind the line of scrimmage to take advantage of his speed and quickness. His movements and frame had a DeSean Jackson feel, but Smith will get many more chances over the short-areas of the field. I expect him to own an edge out of the slot, and he will get off the line better than expected against press coverage for his size and strength.

Fantasy Outlook: In mid-June, Smith projects as the first Eagles’ wide receiver drafted with an ADP of 91. His speed gives Philadelphia a much-needed weapon while also already having experience playing with Jalen Hurts. Smith is on a path for 65 catches for 900 yards and five to seven scores in his rookie season.

Jalen Reagor

In his rookie season over 11 games, Reagor caught 31 of his 54 targets for 396 yards and one touchdown. He gained fewer than 60 yards in every game while gaining over 20 yards on four catches.

His college career started with 33 catches for 576 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman in 2017. The following year, he led the team in receiver production (72/1061/9) despite playing with three different lower-tier options at quarterback. Texas Christian struggled to throw the ball in 2019 (53.4 percent completion rate), which led to Reagor turning in a below-par season (43/611/5).

TCU used him on fades at the goal line, but his burst off the line didn’t look special at the goal line. He will win his fair share of jump balls in the end zone. Reagor shines the most with the ball in his hands when seeing daylight. His acceleration through the second level of the defense is impressive when given space to make plays. He’ll challenge defenses in the deep passing game.

Fantasy Outlook: No one will fight for Reagor on draft day based on his ADP (149). His ceiling remains an unknown while owning the talent to make a big push forward. In college, he had weakness in his catch rate (51.7), which paints him more as a deep play threat early in his career. Tempting by his first-round draft value in 2020, but Reagor needs more time to develop. Next step: 50 catches for 750 yards with five touchdowns.

Greg Ward

Over the past two seasons, Ward worked as a chain mover for the Eagles off the bench. He caught 81 of his 119 targets for 673 yards and four touchdowns. His yards per catch (8.3) fall closer to a running back category than a starting wide receiver.

In 2020, he gained over 60 yards in one game (8/72/1) while having his best opportunity over the first nine games (37/282/3).

Fantasy Outlook: Ward should be found in the free-agent pool in almost all leagues. I see him as a 5/50 type player with low upside in scoring. He may flash as times when given a starting opportunity.

Travis Fulgham

Fantasy owners thought they hit fantasy gold with Fulgham in 2020. His season started in Week 4 with two catches for 57 yards and one touchdown. He produced starting stats over the next four games (10/152/1, 6/75/1, 5/73, and 6/78/1).

After a bye week, defenses caught up to Fulgham, leading to emptiness over his final eight games (9/104 on 23 targets).

Over his final three seasons at Old Dominion, he caught 122 passes for 1,955 yards and 18 touchdowns on 233 targets. His best year came in 2018 (63/1,083/9).

John Hightower

Hightower brings speed (4.43 forty) to the wide receiver position with some open field ability. His challenge comes vs. press coverage while not having the best hands to win in close quarters. His route running is trailing at this point in his career.

In his rookie season, he caught 10 of 29 targets for 167 yards.

At Boise State, Hightower finished with 82 catches for 1,447 yards and 14 touches on 138 targets over two seasons.

Other Options: Quez Watkins, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Jhamon Ausbon

Tight End

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The tight end opportunity in Philly remained high in 2020, but their production (107/1,207/7) came in below 2018 (154/1,561/12) and 2019 (150/1,573/12). The lack of health for Zack Ertz was a big part of the tight end regression.

Dallas Goedert

After an excellent game in Week 1 (8/101/1), fantasy owners had high hopes for Goedert. He struggled the next game (4/30) before getting injured (ankle) in Week 13, costing him four weeks. From Week 10 to Week 16, Goedert caught 32 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns on 46 targets with two strong showings (5/77/1 and 7/75/1).

He was on pace for 67 catches for 762 yards and five touchdowns. His top season (58/607/5) came in 2019.

Fantasy Outlook: This year, Goedert is the seventh tight end drafted with an ADP (90). The new coaching staff should still feature the tight end in their game plan, but their role could diminish. His value/opportunity hinges on Zach Ertz regaining his form. Start the bidding at 60 catches for 700 yards and five touchdowns.

Zach Ertz

From 2015 to 2019, Ertz consistently ranks as a top-tier tight end. He caught 431 passes for 4,572 yards and 28 touchdowns while peaking in 2018 (116/1,163/8).

Last year he struggled over his first six games (24/178/1 on 45 targets) before missing five games with an ankle issue. Ertz never found his form over the final five weeks (2/31, 2/8, 2/69, 3/33, and 3/16).

Fantasy Outlook: Fantasy owners have passed the starting job to Dallas Goedert based on Ertz’s ADP (160). He has a long resume of success, and his failure last year came from his injury. If the summer reports remain positive, Ertz projects as a high TE2 who will rise in drafts as the season approaches.

Other Options: Richard Rodgers, Caleb Wilson, Jason Croom

Kicker

Jake Elliott

There is plenty of upside potential in the right leg of Elliott, but he needs the Eagles to create more scoring chances. His best opportunity (31 field goal attempts and 42 extra points) came over 15 games in his rookie season in 2017.

Last year, he had the worst season of his career. Elliott went 14-for-19 in field attempts with two missed extra points in 26 tries. His struggles came from 50 yards or more (2-for-5 and 11-for-20 in his career).

Fantasy Outlook: Elliott may be in a dogfight to keep his job in 2021. He won’t be drafted in many leagues while needing to regains his previous form.

Defense

The Eagles dropped to 23rd in rushing yards allowed (2,012 yards), with opponents averaging 30.1 rushes per game. They allowed 4.2 yards per carry with 13 touchdowns and 13 runs over 20 yards.

Philly pushed up to 15th in passing yards allowed (3,798) while allowing 7.8 yards per pass attempt. Quarterbacks tossed only 27 touchdowns with eight interceptions while being sacked 49 times. The Eagles did allow 12 completions over 40 yards.

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DE Brandon Graham

In his eleventh year in the league, Graham finished with 46 tackles and eight sacks. His play remains at a high level against the run, despite missing too many tackles over the past two seasons.

DE Derek Barnett

Over his first 48 games after getting drafted in the first round in 2017, Barnett has 101 tackles and 19.5 sacks. He set career-highs in tackles (34) in 2020. His game remains an asset in run support.

DT Fletcher Cox

Cox had a rebound in his pass rush (6.5) while securing 41 tackles. He remains a top player vs. the run while regressing over the previous two seasons.

DT Javon Hargrave

Hargrave lost his way against the run in 2020, which came after two excellent years. His pass-rush reached a higher level in 2018 and 2019 (10.5 combined sacks).

LB Alex Singleton

In his first season with starting snaps at the age of 26, Singleton made 120 tackles with two sacks, one interception, one defended pass, and one touchdown. He showed risk in coverage, and his run defense came in below-par. His job could be at risk.

LB Davion Taylor

Taylor continues to develop his game, which is built on speed (4.49 forty), strength (21 reps in the bench press at the NFL combine in 2020), and athletic ability. He is undersized (6’0” and 228 lbs.) for the linebacking position. His lack of experience takes on a looker feel in play development, leading to mistakes in coverage and poor timing on some plays in run support. If he figures out the mental part of the game, Taylor has the tools to be an upside defender.

In his rookie season, Taylor saw minimal playing time.

LB Eric Wilson

In his first season with starting snaps for the Vikings, Wilson struggled against the run partly tied to a rise in missed tackles. He’ll chip in with some sacks. Wilson finished 2020 with 122 tackles and three sacks.

CB Darius Slay

In his first season with the Eagles, Slay lost his way in coverage, leading to only six defended passes and the most receiving yards allowed of his career. His value in run support faded over the past three seasons.

CB K’Von Wallace

Wallace needs some work in pass coverage, which is hurt by questionable decision-making and change of direction quickness. He’ll attack the line of the scrimmage in run support with the talent to get the quarterback when his number is called in a blitz package. His next step is improving his playmaking in coverage. Wallace had minimal playing time in his rookie season.

S Anthony Harris

Each year in Minnesota, Harris pushed his way to more playing time. He brings a sure tackling style with plenty of help against the run. Harris set a career-high in tackles (104) last year while failing to secure an interception (nine combined in 2018 and 2019).

S Rodney McLeod

McLeod adds value in pass coverage from the safety position while consistently picking up more interceptions than touchdowns allowed. His run defense faded since 2016.

The defensive line remains strong in Philadelphia. The second level of the defense looks to be in transition while needing to step up against the run. The Eagles need one player to step up at cornerback to slow down the passing game. Possible matchup fantasy value while being drafted as a backup defense in 2021.

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