The Eagles eked into the playoffs last year with a 9-6-1 record, benefiting from an unlikely victory by Oakland over Tampa Bay in Week 17, and eventually reaching the NFC Championship game for the fifth time in the last ten years. This year, some major sports publications have picked the Iggles to win Super Bowl XLIV. So how does that translate into success on the fantasy gridiron?
QB: Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb
RBS: Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy
WRs: DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Hank Baskett, Reggie Brown
TE: Brent Celek
PK: David Akers
Quarterback: After playing all 16 games in 2008, Donovan McNabb set a career high last year with 3,916 passing yards while also throwing 23 TDs and 11 INTs. He threw for over 300 yards thrice and recorded multiple TD games seven times. At age 32, McNabb is set to begin his 11th season under center and while he remains a top-10 QB, he will not lead your team to a fantasy football championship. In 2009, McNabb’s ever-evolving cast includes two rookies, a newly starting tight end, and a cast of thousands at wide receiver (Continuity and Familiarity were released during the offseason, however). The reality is that McNabb has thrown 20+ TDs only four times in 11 seasons. He threw 30 TDs only one time and that was when he and Terrell Owens were making mincemeat of opposing secondaries. Furthermore, his rushing production in the last five years has paled in comparison to what he amassed in his first five years. View McNabb as a low-risk, medium-reward option and look to take him as the 8th-10th QB off the board.
Running Back: Last year was either feast or famine for Brian Westbrook owners. Westbrook, who played superbly in six games, also missed two games due to injury, was removed in Week 3 for an injured ankle, and basically forgot to show up in Weeks 10, 11, 12, and 15. Moreover, Westbrook turns 30 this year, which is typically the point at which most RBs see their production sharply decline. Finally, his value added in Points Per Reception leagues took a hit last year as he recorded only 402 yards receiving (almost 300 yards less than expected). Westbrook is an exceptional talent and remains a top-10 selection on draft day, but I do not recommend targeting him. The Eagles drafted LeSean McCoy (one of the few NFL players with four capital letters in his name) out of Pittsburgh as the eventual successor to Westbrook, but he has limited fantasy value in redraft leagues. Draft McCoy only as a handcuff. Head coach Andy Reid doesn’t employ a running back by committee philosophy, so Westbrook remains the beast of burden.
Wide Receiver: The Philadelphia Eagles haven’t had a WR1 since TO left town, and that is not likely to change in 2009. The only receiver with a shot to break that trend is DeSean Jackson. Jackson has an outstanding ability to create separation and rack up yards after the catch. Look for him to catch another 60 balls and to go over 1,000 yards receiving, but he must find the end zone more often if he is going to be more than a low-end WR2. Kevin Curtis is back healthy in 2009 and looks to get back to his 2007 form when he caught 77 passes for 1,110 yards. Cutting into his production will be rookie Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, and Hank Baskett. Maclin was a stud at Missouri and could eventually become a standout WR in the NFL — if available, draft as a WR3 with upside. Maclin is also expected to assume kick return duties. Jason Avant and Hank Baskett each caught over 30 passes last year. Avant endeared himself to coaches and fans alike with his numerous third-down catches, extending drives on a regular basis. Neither, however, is likely to make a significant fantasy impact in 2009. Reggie Brown, the former second-round pick in 2005, saw his catches and playing time decrease significantly in 2008. He is not worth drafting in any format.
Tight End: After years of enduring L.J. Smith and his frequent tendency to drop passes, the Eagles turn to Brent Celek. Celek took over at TE towards the end of 2008 and made an immediate impact. He recorded six catches and 131 yards against Seattle, 10 catches in the playoffs, and two TDs in the NFC Championship game. Scoop up Celek ahead of Visanthe Shiancoe, Jeremy Shockey, Zach Miller, and the like. Expect top-10 stats from him this year.
Place Kicker: David Akers is a perennial solid fantasy option. Though he has lost some distance on his leg, he remains consistent in all kinds of weather and in 2008, had career highs in FGM (33), FGA (40), XPM (45), and total points (144). Most magazines have Akers ranked in the top three. While I am not buying into that or expecting a repeat of last year’s performance, Akers should be in the top eight.
IDP: Trent Cole is the model of consistency on the Eagles defensive front line with eight sacks in 2006, 12.5 sacks in 2007, and nine sacks in 2008. He also forced eight fumbles during that time. Although Jim Johnson recently fell victim to cancer (rest in peace, Jim), it is expected that his protege, Sean McDermott, will continue to model the blitz-heavy schemes that marked Johnson’s career. The addition of Ellis Hobbs and Sean Jones to shore up the secondary will only contribute to the defense’s ability to blitz and that will continue to create sack opportunities for Cole. Stewart Bradley was primed for a big year, but he’ll miss the 2009 season with a torn ACL.
In sum, while the Eagles may have a championship squad this year, their fantasy outlook is mediocre at best. Jackson is the most likely candidate to break out, Celek provides the best value, and Akers and Cole provide the most consistency. Stay away from Westbrook if you can and whatever you do, enjoy the draft and the upcoming season!
Joey Litz has been playing fantasy sports since the late 80s - back when it was all referred to as rotisserie and as commissioner, kept track of the leagues with a USA Today and a pencil. It's a passion of his during the NFL season. Thanks to the Fantasy Cafe for providing a forum for enthusiasts like us to get together. You can find Litz posting in the Cafe forums as joejlitz.
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