2021 Stats (Rank)
Total Offense: 6,119 yards (14th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 45 (15th)
Offensive Plays: 1,075 (14th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 525 (32nd)
Rush Attempts: 550 (2nd)
Unaccounted for Targets: 57 (5th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 36 (32nd)
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni proved a lot in his first season as the team's boss. Through seven weeks, Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen forced Jalen Hurts to play hero-ball. He averaged 34.6 passing attempts plus 9.4 carries per game through seven weeks. Philly averaged a respectable 22.7 points per game but sat at just 2-5. They were also giving Hurts no support on the ground. The Eagles ranked dead last in running back carries to that point in the season. From Week 8 onward, they became the league's premier run-first team. Sirianni's squad ran the ball on 57 percent of their plays. Over the course of a full season, that would have been the highest rate for a team since 2009. To the extreme dismay of every nerd on Twitter, the shift to a run-first approach worked. The Eagles boosted their weekly score by nearly six points. After the shakeup, they ranked fourth in dropback EPA per play and sixth in rushing EPA per play. Though the success of this move points toward another season of the Eagles establishing the run, it could just as easily be a sign of Sirianni's willingness to adapt to the talent he has at hand. Despite the old-school mentality, Philly also played fast. Football Outsiders had them ranked fifth in situation-neutral pace. After trading for A.J. Brown and getting DeVonta Smith in a role that better suits him, it's reasonable to give Sirianni credit for being flexible and project the Eagles to throw more often in 2022. They will still be a balanced team, but that will also entail playing fast and efficient football.
Hurts is far from a complete passer, but he showed clear signs of improvement in his second season. His completion rate jumped by nine percent and his yards per attempt saw a slight uptick. He also made far fewer mistakes, taking sacks and throwing interceptions at lower rates compared to his rookie season. Looking at some advanced stats, Hurts may have improved even more than we give him credit for. He went from finishing second-to-last in completion percent over expected (-8.3 percent) in his debut to coming out slightly positive (.1) in CPOE last year. Unsurprisingly, when Hurts came in as a first-year backup on a team lacking receiver talent, he didn't look ready. Give him an offseason as the starter and some receiver help and he takes the next step. One more year in a new system under his belt, plus an alpha receiver in the fold, and we should expect more progress from the elite dual-threat.
The Eagles traded the No. 18 pick plus a future third-round pick for the right to pay Brown $100 million. The plan is obviously for him to be their top receiver, and he's proven capable of that before. Last year, despite playing through numerous injuries, Brown finished third in the NFL in air yards share and seventh in target share. The former Titan is also historically efficient, being one of just three receivers to average more than 10 yards per target on at least 250 targets in the past 25 years. Brown is going from a run-first offense where he was the clear No. 1 receiver to a run-first offense where he is the clear No. 1 receiver. He goes half a round later in fantasy drafts than he did last year...for some reason.
The concern with DeVonta Smith when he entered the NFL was his size and how he would be used. A 175-pound receiver leading the nation in catches on screens plays could be construed as a scheme-dependent player. Smith quickly silenced the haters by finishing seventh in the NFL in deep target rate, with over 30 percent of his looks coming on targets 20 or more yards downfield. Smith also played outside for the vast majority of his snaps and ranked 53rd in yards per route run versus man coverage. He wasn't elite versus man, but he ranked between Brandin Cooks and Amon-Ra St. Brown. That's fine company to have and shows he can handle the physicality of NFL corners. With Brown hogging targets in Philly, Smith's projection isn't going to look ideal, but I don't mind betting on his talent to win out despite the ambiguous situation at the moment.
Free agent signing Zach Pascal will compete with Quez Watkins for slot snaps. For Hurts's fantasy value, Watkins would be the better option to start. Watkins caught 43 balls last year, and 28 percent of those catches went for 20 or more yards. He also recorded the longest catch of the season, a 91-yarder that was somehow not a touchdown. Watkins could make a decent flyer to pair with Hurts in best ball drafts.
After the Eagles moved on from Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert finally became the every-down player fantasy degens had been begging to see. He posted a 41/614/2 receiving line across his final 10 games, a pace that would have put him over 1,000 yards if it sustained over a full season. That was with a rookie receiver as his only competition for targets, but he also put out that pace when the Eagles were the league's most run-heavy team. The only drawback to this split was Goedert's lack of red zone usage. He saw one red zone target and no end zone targets after Ertz was traded. Unless that changes, Goedert will likely be boxed out of a top-six finish at his position.
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After a promising rookie season, things haven't gone Sanders' way in recent years. He has missed nine games in the past two seasons, didn't score a touchdown on 163 touches in 2021, and his receiving work has fallen off a cliff since his debut. Sanders hasn't been shy about his displeasure with the workload either. Speaking on a podcast this offseason, he said "I need more opportunities" when asked what he needs to get better at. Sanders even went as far as to say, "Don’t pick me up on fantasy no more." With Kenneth Gainwell taking receiving work from him and Jalen Hurts stealing plenty of goal line touches, Sanders is a tough sell as anything more than an RB3.
Gainwell, on the other hand, has the upside of catching passes and splitting work with Sanders on early downs. Gainwell ranked sixth in targets per route run as a rookie. He played nearly 20 percent of his snaps lined up in the slot or out wide. As a runner, Gainwell out-performed Sanders in yards after contact per attempt and missed tackles forced per carry. The one edge Sanders held was his breakaway speed. He trailed only Rashaad Penny in breakaway run rate (carries of 10 or more yards). That's a useful skill for his NFL outlook, but it could mean he is once again stuck racking up yards at a high clip without winning fantasy matchups. At their respective prices, Gainwell is a far better bet.
There is one point working in favor of both backs. Philly's offensive line is a strong contender for No. 1 in the NFL. Pro Football Focus has them with the top rank heading into the season and it's easy to see why. In just his second year of action, Jordan Mailata elevated his game from strong to elite. PFF ranked him as their No. 3 tackle after he allowed just three sacks across 14 games. At right tackle, Lane Johnson has consistently turned in top-end seasons and excels as a run-blocker. With the center of their line anchored by Jason Kelce, there isn't a weak spot on this unit. Even the depth is phenomenal, with Jack Driscoll and Andre Dillard among their backups who could start on lesser rosters.
PointsBet Over/Under: 9.5
The Eagles' offense is one of the most talented in the NFL. They have an elite line with a receiver duo that could turn out to be one of the best in the league. Their quarterback is the lynchpin to it all coming together and he has already shown the ability to up his game once. It won't be surprising if he does it again. PointsBet's line of 9.5 wins is on the money. I'd lean to the over but don't see much value there. The Eagles winning the NFC East at +175 is more intriguing. Given my conviction on Brown's talent matched with an ascending quarterback, taking Brown to win Offensive Player of the Year at +8000 is my favorite bet to make for the Eagles.