We are now down to our last team for the 2017 Fantasy Postmortem series. The purpose of this column is to briefly examine the state of each NFL team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes, with an eye towards the 2018 season.
Without further adieu, the final team for coverage is:
Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
In just his second NFL season, Carson Wentz finished as the overall QB5 despite missing three games after tearing his ACL in Week 13, and was just one touchdown pass behind Russell Wilson‘s league leading 34. Wentz also narrowly edged Wilson in fantasy points per game (21.8 vs. 21.7) and likely would have finished as 2017’s top fantasy quarterback had his season not been cut short. Backup Nick Foles was left to pick up the pieces after Wentz’ injury, and was largely unimpressive during the remainder of the regular season outside of a four touchdown performance in the Eagles’ Week 15 win against the hapless New York Giants. Much to the surprise of almost anyone who follows professional football, Foles stepped up in a big way over the Eagles’ three playoff contests, averaging 323.7 yards per contest while throwing six touchdowns and committing just one turnover during that span as the Eagles captured their first ever Super Bowl victory. Despite Foles’ historic heroics, Wentz remains the Eagles quarterback of the present and future, and by all accounts appears on track to be under center for Week 1 2018 in September. Wentz can tentatively be drafted as a Top-5 fantasy quarterback assuming no setbacks, and if there are, the Eagles (and Wentz owners) will have Foles as a fallback option.
When the Eagles signed LeGarrette Blount via free agency last year, significant regression from the 18 rushing touchdowns, he scored in 2016 seemed like a foregone conclusion, though finding the end zone just three times in 2017 came as quite a surprise for the bowling ball running back. Additionally, Blount’s usage faded over the final five weeks of the regular season as the Eagles ramped up the involvement of Jay Ajayi, whom the team acquired from the Dolphins last October. Ajayi went on to average 5.8 yards-per-carry in seven games between Weeks 9 and 16, in addition to leading all Eagles running backs with 84.7 total yards per contest during their postseason Super Bowl run. Blount has since signed on with Detroit during free agency, leaving Ajayi as the Eagles’ primary bruiser at running back. Ajayi should be able to post mid-tier RB2 numbers in the Eagles explosive offense, though their tendency to involve all of their running backs in the game plan may limit his upside.
It took a Darren Sproles injury to get preseason standout Corey Clement on the field, who scored six regular season touchdowns, and posted 108 total yards and a score in the Super Bowl. Clement should maintain a role heading into 2018, though the Eagles did re-sign Sproles last April, with whom Clement will have to compete with for passing down/change-of-pace work. Sproles was the Eagles’ running back snap leader through two games last season before suffering a torn ACL and broken arm in Week 3. While the team has insisted they don’t intend to pare down the soon to be 35 year-old Sproles’ workload, it’s hard to imagine the aging scatback being a significant fantasy contributor coming off a serious injury. Second-year fifth round pick Wendell Smallwood popped up briefly on the fantasy radar with 159 total yards and a score across Weeks 3 and 4 before a knee injury knocked him out the following two contests. The missed time allowed Blount and Clement to establish themselves as the Eagles’ primary running backs until the Ajayi trade rendered Smallwood a healthy scratch for the remainder of the season. Heading into training camp, Smallwood is not guaranteed a 2018 roster spot.
Initially brought in via a one-year free agent contract in 2017 (later extended to four years/$52 million last December), Alshon Jeffery’s fantasy value last season was propped up by scoring 9 touchdowns, as his 49.3 receiving yards per game average was his lowest single season mark since 2012. Like many Jeffrey’s teammates, he did manage to catch fire during the postseason, totaling 219 receiving yards and scoring three times in as many games. After the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory, it was reported Jeffery had been playing most of 2017 with a torn rotator cuff, and would need surgery. As of now, Jeffery is tentatively expected to be ready for Week 1 of the 2o18 season, and has the look of a solid WR2 who will experience some lean weeks playing in the Eagles’ spread-the-wealth offense. The third year was the charm for Nelson Agholor, who up until last summer was on his way to bust territory after accumulating just 59-648-3 in two seasons since being the 20th pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Still just 25 years old, Agholor should have some room for growth playing in an offense in which his strengths as a slot receiver are being maximized. Unlike Jeffery, Torrey Smith was a 2017 free agent signing (three-years $15 million) who didn’t stick around, as he was shipped to Carolina last March in exchange for CB Daryl Worley (who himself was promptly cut due to an off-field incident). A deep threat who apparently doesn’t get deep very often any more (12.4 yards-per-catch over the last two seasons), Smith will battle for a 2018 situational role with the Panthers. Smith’s departure would have opened the door for 2017 fourth-round pick Mack Hollins to assume no. 3 wideout duties, however, he’ll be competing with veteran Mike Wallace, who was signed during 2018 free agency last, and led the Ravens in receiving yards in each of the past two seasons.
A perennial underachiever in the scoring department, Zach Ertz finally broke the door down with eight touchdowns in 2017, while also leading the Eagles in all major receiving categories. Though minor injuries have been a concern for Ertz recently (five missed games over the past three seasons), he’s firmly established himself as QB Carson Wentz’ safety valve and go-to option in the red zone (Ertz’ 18 targets inside the 20-yard line tied Nelson Agholor for the team lead). Ertz heads into Summer fantasy drafts as the consensus TE3 behind Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce. During the two games Ertz sat out injured, backup tight end Trey Burton’s star burned bright, as the 26-year old tallied seven catches for 112 yards and three scores combined over those contests. Burton was able to cash in this past March via a four-year $32 million free agent contract with the Chicago Bears, where he’ll look to make the jump into the TE1 ranks himself as their starter.