The Eagles 2020 season was about as strenuous as could be. Quarterback Carson Wentz was angry before the season started after the team selected Jalen Hurts in Round 2 of the NFL Draft. A list of injuries a mile long, mainly along the offensive line, led to the Eagles setting an all-time NFL record for the most different starting offensive line combinations in one season. Then, Wentz was benched for Hurts, causing a massive rift in the locker room between Wentz and former head coach Doug Pederson. Hurts performed well to keep the Eagles in the fight for the division until the last week of the season. Then an inexplicable benching of Hurts in a close Week-17 game was the final nail in the coffin on the 2020 season for the Eagles.
Massive changes followed the season. Pederson was fired and Wentz was traded to the Indianapolis Colts just three years after the Eagles won Super Bowl LI over the New England Patriots. The Eagles hired Colts offensive coordinator, Nick Sirianni to be the new head coach. In the months since his hiring, Sirianni has been asked multiple times if Hurts is the starting quarterback and he has failed to name him the starter. However, with only one other quarterback on the roster, Joe Flacco, the chances are high that Hurts will be the Week-1 starter.
Free Agency Impact
The Eagles free-agent period is more about who left the team than who signed. Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackon, Malik Jackson and Vinny Curry departed a roster that was in desperate need of an infusion of youth. However, Greg Ward Jr., the team leader in receptions (81) over the last two seasons, was retained on a one-year deal. Boston Scott was also kept on a one-year deal to help the backfield depth behind the presumed starter Miles Sanders.
In an odd sense, the big landing of the free-agent period for the Eagles was Flacco. Areas that Hurts struggled in during his time as a starter last year were his accuracy and pocket presence. Flacco enters 2021 with a career completion percentage of 61.7 and he is someone who made a living in the pocket as a quarterback that did not have a lot of mobility. At 36-years-old, he is at the tail end of his career but could be an excellent mentor to Hurts. Flacco has spent the last three years in the mentor role between his jobs with the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos and New York Jets. However, each year he seems more involved on the sideline with the young starter. If Flacco can continue to do that, it will take pressure off the new coaching staff and the Eagles to help speed up Hurts’ complete transition to the NFL style of play.
Philadelphia entered the 2021 draft needing one thing desperately: help at the wide receiver position. After a trade down to 12 with the Miami Dolphins and trading back up to pick 10 with the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles were able to take, arguably, the best receiver in the draft DeVonta Smith. The Heisman Trophy winner and Hurts’ teammate at Alabama was just what the doctor ordered for the Eagles to help start rebuilding the offense. He will be the Eagles' top target at wide receiver on Day 1 and give Hurts a familiar face to target on Sundays. His presence will also free up last year’s first-round pick Jalen Reagor for more opportunities, and they will complement each other nicely in an offense that is poised to be much more explosive in 2021.
In the fifth round, the Eagles selected running back Kenneth Gainwell from Memphis. It was a surprise to some that he was still available due to his explosive play-making and pass-catching ability he displayed in college. Still, he fits the Eagles' new coaching staff ideally. Sirianni was the offensive coordinator for one of the best dual-threat backfields in the NFL last year, with the Colts using Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines in different situations to keep teams guessing. Expect Sirianni to deploy Sanders and Gainwell the same way with the Eagles.
Dynasty Fantasy Football Players to Target
1. DeVonta Smith: This one is a no-brainer. If not the best, Smith had one of the best years by a wide receiver in the history of college football in arguably the best conference in college football. He already has a rapport with Jalen Hurts from their short time together at Alabama. Of course, he will have the defense’s attention, but the target volume will make Smith a top fantasy option for years to come.
2. Miles Sanders: A rough second season for Sanders will have him slipping down in value to some, but do not waver. As stated earlier, the Eagles set a record in 2020 with the most offensive line combinations in NFL history for one season. Sanders still totaled over 1,000 total yards and six touchdowns. Help at the wide-receiver position will open him up even more, and expect Sanders to have a big year in 2021.
3. Jalen Hurts: Presumably the starter in 2021 he will have value, but this feels like a prove-it year for Hurts; otherwise, he might be moved elsewhere, which is why he is not higher. The Eagles have two first-round picks next year, and if they finish toward the bottom of the league again, there is a thought they could move on with the new coaching staff who did not bring him in. When he is on the field, though, Hurts will be a fantasy superstar for you. His rushing ability is elite, and that alone puts him near the top 10 already. Proceed with caution on the long-term view of Hurts, but with short-term fireworks for your team.
4. Jalen Reagor: The 2020 first-round pick dealt with a thumb injury that held him out for five weeks plus having to be eased back into the swing of things on his return, but we saw in flashes the talent Reagor has. Going into 2021, with more stability in the locker room and at the quarterback position, playing on the opposite side of the field from Smith, and staying off of the injury list will make Reagor someone you can buy low on now who could pay off nicely.
5. Dallas Goedert: Officially, he missed five games in 2020. He was knocked out early in Week 4, missed four games, had only one target on his return in Week 8, and then sat out Week 17, so, essentially, he only has that stat line of a nine-game season, and he nearly topped all of his career highs. This could finally be the year we get the breakout we have all been waiting for from Goedert, especially if Zach Ertz is moved before Week 1.
Fantasy Football Sleeper: Kenneth Gainwell
In a perfect world, Gainwell would have ended up somewhere like Arizona, where he is behind the incumbent starter, eventually surpass him and become the lead back. However, he lands in probably the next best option with the way Sirianni’s offense will work. As noted earlier, think Nyheim Hines. Last year, Hines had 152 total touches with 63 catches, 862 total yards and seven touchdowns. Gainwell might not reach those numbers in Year 1, but he will see work in the backfield and the slot during his rookie season, and he will use his explosiveness to make some huge plays for the Eagles and your fantasy team.