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  • Wentz owners shouldn't be freaking out too much over losing their starting quarterback, because there are plenty of replacements out there. But the impact on the rest of the Eagles’ players ... that's a different story.
By Michael Beller
December 13, 2017

Losing Carson Wentz to a torn ACL obviously isn’t great for his fantasy football owners, but it’s also not the end of the world, because there are perfectly capable streamers available in nearly every league. They may not be as good or reliable as Wentz over a 13-game sample, but in a one-game setting with the right matchup, they can be just as good, if not better. 

Wentz’s injury, however, will be felt across the Eagles roster. Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Jay Ajayi, Nelson Agholor and LeGarrette Blount—all of whom could be fantasy starters in Week 15, depending on league size and depth—are now tied to Nick Foles for the rest of the season.

Foles is the sort of backup who can keep a good or great team afloat, but isn’t going to be putting any group on his shoulders and carrying them the way Wentz was. Given the strong roster around Foles, we can expect league-average play from him. Eagles fans certainly shouldn’t be giving up hope, and fantasy owners invested in the Eagles offense shouldn’t be writing off their guys with Wentz on the shelf.

In the Week 15 Target and Snap Report, we’ll take a look at how the move to Foles from Wentz affects the fantasy-relevant players on the Eagles. For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume that Foles is able to meet that league-average expectation, and that the loss of Wentz does not completely torpedo the Eagles offense. We will also stipulate that the offense won’t be as effective without Wentz. Third-down conversions are one of the keys to any offense, and few quarterbacks this season picked them up as efficiently as Wentz. Fully half of his completions on third down went for first downs, the highest rate in the league. He also moved the chains on third down with his legs 13 times, tied with DeShone Kizer for second among quarterbacks. Foles isn’t going to match those marks. Still,  it helps that the Eagles play a soft schedule the rest of the season, with games against the Giants, Raiders and Cowboys. Each player will get a grade for their fantasy value over the next two weeks: up, down or neutral. We’ll start with the most important players and work in descending order.

NFL
Carson Wentz’s Injury Throws NFC Playoff Race Wide Open

Jay Ajayi: Up

Ajayi’s fantasy prospects increase more than any other player’s with Wentz out. The team finally gave him some significant run in the Week 14 win over the Rams. Ajayi led all Eagles backs with 15 carries for 78 yards. He led the backfield in snaps for the second straight week, but this time he did so by a wide margin. Ajayi played 43 of the Eagles 91 snaps against the Rams. Clement played 27 snaps, while Blount played just 15. It wasn’t merely the snap rate where Ajayi dominated his teammates, either. Blount got seven carries in the game, totaling 12 yards. Clement was effective as a receiver, but ran for just 24 yards on six carries. It should be clear who the best runner is on the team.

That’s crucial for the Eagles over the next three weeks. The Eagles are 11-2, one game ahead of the Vikings for homefield advantage in the NFC. They still need a couple of wins to guarantee the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Philadelphia, and Ajayi is likely their best healthy offensive player. He has played five games with the team, running for 307 yards and a touchdown on 44 carries, good for 6.98 yards per carry. In that same timeframe, Blount has rushed for 229 yards on 52 carries (4.4 ypc), and Clement has picked up 159 yards on 31 totes (5.13 ypc). None of those is a bad number, but Ajayi’s is a world apart from the others, and he has also ripped off the team’s biggest runs in its last five games. In other words, you may not see him cede quite so many touches, especially carries, to Blount and Clement in the coming weeks.

Goal-line carries could remain frustratingly meager, with Blount always a strong option in short-yardage situations. Clement will remain active in the passing game, even if the Eagles pare back some of what they did with Wentz. Still, the Eagles seem ready to hand Ajayi much of the responsibility for the offense, as they should. The Giants rank 31st against running backs in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA), while the Raiders rank 26th. Ajayi could be getting ready to put his fantasy owners on his back.

Zach Ertz: Down

The good news for Ertz owners is that neither the Giants nor the Raiders can stop tight ends. The two defenses rank 28th and 19th, respectively, in tight end aFPA. The Giants are particularly terrible against the position, allowing 11 touchdowns to tight ends this year. Ertz is still going to be a nightmare cover for both of these teams.

The great news for Ertz owners is that he has turned himself into one of the best tight ends in the league. Yes, Wentz has helped him find a new ceiling, but Ertz was on his way before his second-year quarterback became an MVP candidate. He put together consecutive 800-yard seasons the prior two years playing with Sam Bradford and rookie-year Wentz, who was nothing like the quarterback we’ve seen this season. And, again, Foles has been a punchline previously in his career, but he’s not some hopeless case. This isn’t Brock Osweiler. Foles is certainly good enough to make proper use of his top-flight tight end.

The bad news for Ertz owners is that the offense just doesn’t have the same ceiling, especially through the air, without Wentz. Like most tight ends, Ertz does most of his touchdown scoring on plays that start close to the goal line. All seven of his touchdowns this season have come on red-zone plays, with four of them on snaps from inside the 5-yard line. Foles is unlikely to produce as many red-zone trips as Wentz did, and Ertz is likely to be the most negatively affected pass-catcher by fewer possessions getting into scoring range.

The actionable news for Ertz owners is that you’re not going to do any better. Even if we use a generous 70% ownership-rate threshold as a cutoff for potential streamers, you’re not going to find a better tight end than Ertz available in your league. The highest-scoring tight ends available in more than 30% of leagues are Vernon Davis, O.J. Howard, Austin Hooper and Tyler Kroft. No matter what you think of Foles, it should be clear that Ertz is your best bet. Add it all up, and Ertz’s value over the next two weeks is down slightly from where it would’ve been with Wentz under center.

Alshon Jeffery: Neutral

Jeffery has had a strong first season with the Eagles, catching 52 of his 106 targets for 732 yards and eight touchdowns through 13 games. He has come on strong of late, with six of his eight touchdowns in his last six games. While that suggests a growing rapport with Wentz, and, in turn, jeopardized fantasy value without his starting quarterback, there’s reason to think he won’t be as adversely affected as Ertz.

First are the two matchups that he has on deck. The Giants and Raiders feature two of the league’s worst pass defenses. While the Giants have been hopeless against tight ends this year, both of them have been nearly as bad against wide receivers. The Giants rank 27th in wide receiver aFPA, while the Raiders rank 26th. Neither is going to present Jeffery with a significant challenge.

More importantly, Jeffery has derived much of his fantasy value this season from finding the end zone. He has yet to top 100 yards in a game in an Eagles uniform, and has hit the 80-yard mark just twice. Touchdown dependency may not be ideal, but it actually helps insulate Jeffery’s value in this case. It’s not as though his fantasy owners were counting on huge yardage from him the way that, say, Adam Thielen owners are doing with the Vikings WR1. Jeffery’s yardage floor with Wentz wasn’t all that high. It likely can’t get any lower with Foles.

Unlike Ertz, Jeffery is a threat to score from almost anywhere on the field. He has two touchdowns of 30 yards or longer, including a 53-yarder against the 49ers in Week 8. Jeffery isn’t quite as dependent on consistent red-zone trips for his touchdown upside as is Ertz, and that’s why he’s better equipped to retain all of his fantasy value in a post-Wentz world. He may not have the same ceiling, but his WR2 floor is intact.

Nelson Agholor: Down

Agholor benefitted from Wentz’s ability to extend plays more than anyone else on the Eagles. Think of his 58-yard touchdown against the Redskins back in Week 1, his 72-yard touchdown against the Cardinals in Week 5, or his 51-yard catch against the Seahawks in Week 13. All of those came after Wentz escaped pressure in a way that simply may not be part of Foles’s repertoire. That alone is worth downgrading Agholor for the next two games.

What’s more, Agholor was Wentz’s best weapon down the field. He has 13 deep targets this season, catching seven of them for 311 yards and three touchdowns. Those seven catches are responsible for 45.3% of Agholor’s fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues this season. Wentz, meanwhile, has been one of the most effective deep passers in the league, ranking seventh in accuracy rate (completions plus drops, divided by attempts) and quarterback rating. Losing a quarterback with Wentz’s particular skills hurts a player with Agholor’s particular skills.

Agholor was no more than a borderline WR3 with Wentz. Without him, it’ll be tough to lean on him with much confidence.

LeGarrette Blount: Neutral

No matter who the quarterback in Philadelphia is, the writing on the backfield wall was already clear. Jay Ajayi was taking over. Wentz? Foles? It doesn’t much matter. Ajayi is likely to earn more of the work out of the backfield, mostly at Blount’s expense. The reason we’re giving him a neutral grade is because he’s likely to remain the goal-line back, and he’s not going to be completely squeezed out of the offense between the 20s. If he continues to get six to eight carries per game and hogs all the goal-line work, his value won’t be any different than it would’ve been with a healthy Wentz. That also means that, no matter the quarterback, Blount wasn’t, and isn’t, worth starting in most formats.

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