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Team Previews

Philadelphia Eagles 2021 Fantasy Football Preview

by Kyle Dvorchak
Updated On: July 20, 2021, 1:31 am ET

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2020 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 5,354 (25th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 334 (26th)
Offensive Plays: 1,066 (Sixth)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 663 (Fourth)
Rush Attempts: 403 (23rd)
Unaccounted for Targets: 50 (26th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 76 (20th)

Coaching Staff

Four years removed from their only Super Bowl win as a franchise, the Eagles fired the coach that got them there, Doug Pederson. Eagles GM Howie Roseman and Pederson clearly had philosophical differences about the future of the franchise, so Roseman replaced him with Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni. He brought Jonathan Gannon from Indianapolis to be the Eagles’ defensive coordinator and followed that up by hiring Shane Steichen, who previously served as the Chargers offensive coordinator, to fill the same role in Philadelphia. Steichen was the quarterbacks coach for three of Philip Rivers’ Pro Bowl seasons and is often referenced as one of the contributors to Justin Herbert’s Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. Although Siriani will be the one calling the plays in Philly, Steichen’s presence is a win for second-year passer Jalen Hurts.

Sirianni will likely take a page out of the Frank Reich playbook and work toward a balanced approach on offense. Reich leaned run-heavy when dealing with uncertain quarterback play and Sirianni is expected to carry that with him to Philadelphia. If he and Steichen can maximize the efficiency of their mobile quarterback, the Philadelphia offense could look like a discounted version of Baltimore's unit from a fantasy angle. If Hurts doesn’t progress or Sirianni fails to maximize his quarterback’s potential, this offense could quickly fall into disrepair.

Passing Game

QB: Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, Nick Mullens
WR: Devonta Smith, Travis Fulgham
WR: Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins
WR: Greg Ward, John Hightower
TE: Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz

The success of Philly’s passing attack ultimately rests on Hurts’ shoulders. His brief stint as the starter last year was less than promising as he completed just 52-percent of his throws and Pro Football Focus gave him the 38th-best passing grade. However, his college tape showed a player physically capable of hitting throws at all levels and smart enough to avoid the mistakes that tend to plague “toolsy” quarterbacks. He averaged 11.3 yards per attempt in his final collegiate season and his mark of 12.2 adjusted yards per attempt stands as one of the 10 best college seasons by that metric. Hurts' production at Oklahoma — and Alabama, to a lesser extent — shows that he has the skills necessary to be a successful passer but projecting that onto him in his first season as a full-time starter is a stretch. Add in a run-heavy approach based on his ability to beat defenses with his legs and the passing attack in Philadelphia may ultimately be underwhelming.

With Jalen Reagor flopping as a rookie, the Eagles added Alabama’s Devonta Smith with the No. 10 pick. Smith’s doubters will point to his 6’/170 frame and modest breakout age as causes for concern but his jaw-dropping numbers speak volumes. He racked up 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns in his senior season at Alabama, becoming the first receiver to win the Heisman Trophy in nearly 30 years. Smith’s talent is undeniable but his team’s passing output will be an issue. Due to the low expectation for the Eagles’ weekly passing output, Smith will need a dominant target share as a rookie to pay off his WR32 cost in fantasy drafts. Selecting Smith is simply a bet on talent above all else.

Beyond Smith, the receiver depth chart in Philly gets murky. Reagor should be the starter opposite Smith in two-receiver sets but his rookie campaign was comically weak. He posted 396 yards in 11 games and struggled to earn more than a rotational role at times. Reagor, the No. 21 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, was a coveted prospect at one point. He broke out as a sophomore at TCU, topping 1,000 receiving yards and scoring a total of 11 times. His lackluster rookie campaign rightfully deflated any hype for a second-year breakout but Reagor is now free in fantasy drafts. His odds of hitting are low but he makes for an intriguing rebound candidate based on his nonexistent cost.

The Eagles have a cast of ancillary receivers that could see time throughout the year. Greg Ward has been a mainstay of the rotation over the past two seasons but his complete lack of playmaking ability keeps him firmly off the fantasy radar. Ward played all 16 games last year and tallied just 416 yards. Travis Fulgham was in the midst of a breakout, posting 435 yards in his first five starts for the Eagles, but was abruptly pulled from the lineup after two quiet games. He posted 104 yards in his final eight games of the year. Reagor and Smith are presumed to be the top duo in Philly and with first-round picks invested in both, the Eagles are going to make every effort to ensure that is the case. However, if Reagor can’t progress in his second year or Smith starts slow, Fulgham could take on a significantly larger role. Fulgham isn't a player worth drafting but he is a name to monitor for waiver wire purposes.

As of the writing of this preview, Zach Ertz is still on Philadelphia’s roster but it seems wildly improbable that he will remain employed by the Eagles through Week 1. The veteran tight end has a $12.7 million cap hit and did not show up to camp amid rumors of a trade. Assuming he is gone, Dallas Goedert will finally take on a starting role. After returning from an ankle injury last year, Goedert looked the part of a premier fantasy tight end. He led the Eagles with a 22.9-percent target share and trailed only Reagor in air yards. Goedert finished ninth in yards per target among tight ends (min. 50 targets) despite slogging through weak quarterback play throughout the year. A highly regarded prospect with prototypical size, Goedert (6'5/256) will get the chance to post a top-five fantasy season at his position if his team can field a competent passing attack in 2021.

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Running Game

RB: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell
OL (L-R): Andre Dillard/Jordan Mailata, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson

The Miles Sanders breakout party was quickly derailed in 2020. He missed four games while dealing with a myriad of injuries, running for 867 yards when healthy. Though it was a disappointing fantasy outing, Sanders still flashed his home run speed throughout the year. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry and had three attempts that went for more than 70 yards. Sanders struggled as a receiver out of the backfield, routinely dropping easy receptions when his team needed to find a consistent threat underneath for Carson Wentz. The Eagles addressed that issue by adding Kerryon Johnson and Kenneth Gainwell this offseason. Johnson is a solid pass-blocker while Gainwell is a dynamic receiving threat. Johnson will compete with Jordan Howard for a roster spot but neither player figures to be a notable fantasy option. The winner of their camp battle will simply spell Sanders on early downs and get some run as a blocker. Gainwell, on the other hand, is an intriguing flyer, particularly for ZeroRB squads.

The Memphis back racked up 1,459 yards on the ground in 2019 while adding another 610 through the air. He caught 51 passes and scored three receiving touchdowns in his second collegiate campaign. Gainwell opted out of the 2020 season and slipped to the fifth round of the draft. He’ll compete with Boston Scott for receiving work and could put Scott on the roster bubble with a big showing in camp. Unlike Scott, Gainwell’s ceiling includes being a dynamic runner, which is concerning for Sanders’ fantasy outlook. If Gainwell unseats Scott, he’ll be eying the starting role next. That makes Sanders a risky proposition in the early rounds of fantasy drafts.

The best way to tap into Philly’s ground game may simply be by betting on Hurts as a runner. Even if his passing prowess isn’t up to par, Hurts is going to dominate opposing defenses with his legs. In less than four full starts as a rookie, Hurts totaled 46 carries for 272 yards and three scores. Over the course of a full season, that would be good for more than 1,000 yards and a dozen scores. This was also behind an offensive line decimated by injuries. With a healthier group of veteran blockers supporting Hurts, he’ll be competing with Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray in most rushing stats. If he is allowed to start the full slate of games, it's hard to find a way to rank Hurts as anything other than a QB1.

Win Total

Sportsbooks aren’t awfully optimistic about the Eagles heading into 2021. PointsBet has them lined at 6.5 wins. Philadelphia’s team typifies volatility, with questions at quarterback and receiver, plus concerns around the health and age of their offensive line. They struggled on defense last year, allowing an above-average amount of points and yards per game, and were unable to make any big acquisitions via free agency or the draft to bolster that unit. In a season with 17 games, 6.5 wins is a surprisingly low number for a team that features a high-upside quarterback and multiple first-round receivers. However, if things don’t pan out for Hurts, a seven-win season could be a pipe dream. This line looks right but if I had to take a stand, I’d back Hurts and the over. 

Kyle Dvorchak

Kyle Dvorchak is a writer for NBC Sports Edge and half of the other sites on the internet. He loves most Big 12 quarterbacks, misses the XFL and can be found on @kyletweetshere.