Fantasy football

Eagles continue to be nightmare for fantasy football players

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Eagles continue to be nightmare for fantasy football players

The Eagles are very good at real football; the Lombardi Trophy at the NovaCare Complex is proof of that. 

They’re far less good at fantasy football. 

This isn’t something new. The Eagles were incredibly balanced during the 2017 season — it was really one of their strengths — so banking on one player to put up big numbers didn’t make sense. 

The Eagles didn’t have a 1,000-yard receiver or a 1,000-yard rusher, becoming the first Super Bowl champion without one since the 2003 Patriots. Doug Pederson was more than happy to spread the ball around and his quarterbacks shared that approach. 

Including the playoffs, the Eagles scored 551 points last season, the 25th most in any season in NFL history. And they did it without superstars putting up ridiculous individual numbers. 

It seems like fantasy football experts are expecting more of the same in 2018. At least that’s what it looks like in a 12-team fantasy football mock draft from ESPN. This 12-team draft went 16 rounds and the Eagles were noticeably absent from the early portion. 

In fact, the first Eagle to come off the board was Zach Ertz in the fourth round (No. 39 overall). Twenty four teams had a player taken before the Eagles and three (Chiefs, Saints, Vikings) had three taken before Ertz went as the third tight end off the board.  

Eventually, the Eagles started getting drafted: Alshon Jeffery (fourth round, 25th WR), Jay Ajayi (fifth round, 24th RB), Carson Wentz (seventh round, sixth QB), Nelson Agholor (ninth round, 42nd WR), Corey Clement (10th round, 47th RB), Darren Sproles (12th round, 53rd RB) and Jake Elliott (16th round, seventh K). 

Jeffery didn't have great numbers last season and is coming off a major shoulder injury. Injury is also a reason Wentz went where he did. Agholor put up numbers last year, but can fantasy owners trust him? And the running backs? Good luck figuring that out. 

It’s pretty telling that the Eagles’ best offensive players were available relatively deep in the draft. It might drive fantasy football players nuts, but the Eagles’ balance is what makes them so special. 

Fantasy football impact of Jay Ajayi trade

Fantasy football impact of Jay Ajayi trade

The Eagles' acquisition of Jay Ajayi has pretty big fantasy implications in Philly, Miami and for anyone who has a running back from one of the two teams.

Let's dive in:

Jay Ajayi
For me, this move does not alter Ajayi's rest-of-season stock much. Yes, he's moving to a much better offense, but he'll also be giving up the volume he had in Miami.

In seven games this season, Ajayi has averaged 22 touches (20 carries, two catches). Aside from quarterback runs, 86 percent of Miami's carries this season came from Ajayi.

The Eagles have been much more balanced on the ground. They've had 202 carries from non-quarterbacks and LeGarrette Blount has led the way with 100.

Now, part of the reason the Eagles have handed the ball off to so many different backs is that they've lacked a true No. 1. Ajayi is closer to a No. 1 than anyone on the roster. He figures to get more than the 50 percent of carries that Blount has accrued. But Ajayi's number won't be anywhere close to the 86 percent of carries he was getting in Miami.

The assumption here is that Ajayi receives about 60 percent of the Eagles' running back touches from here on out. He'll need to pick up the offense and he'll need to impress in pass blocking. At the goal line or in short yardage, Blount will still get his carries; that's what he is here for.

So really, Ajayi's fantasy outlook is close to unchanged. He's in a better situation to put up points but won't have the bell cow status he had in Miami. Fewer touches but better touches.

The thing is, Ajayi's fantasy owners are so frustrated with him at this point (no touchdowns, 3.4 yards per carry) that they'll welcome any change.

LeGarrette Blount
This obviously downgrades Blount the rest of the season. He's still a touchdown-dependent RB2 or flex option, but now you won't be able to count on him reaching 15 carries or 50 yards on a weekly basis. 

For Blount, though, the downgrade is slight. His only path to fantasy points is with 1-yard TDs, which are unpredictable — you can't exactly forecast when a pass interference call is going to occur in the end zone.

Blount averaged 8.65 fantasy points per week the first eight games. I'd peg his weekly average moving forward at 5.5 to 6.5.

Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams
Folks will rush out this week to grab both of the Dolphins' remaining running backs. At this point in the season, free-agent auction bucks aren't as valuable, so if you're really hurting at RB, you might as well spend some dough on one of them.

Drake is listed as the No. 2 running back, but Williams has been Miami's preferred option in passing situations. Given how awful the Dolphins' offense is, neither figures to make much of a fantasy impact moving forward.

One final note
Jarvis Landry appears to be very available in a trade before today's 4 p.m. deadline. He's in the final year of his rookie deal and will command mega-bucks in free agency so the Dolphins would be wise to get something in return for him.

A trade to literally anywhere in the NFL except Cleveland (or maybe Baltimore) would put Landry in a better fantasy situation.

And even if Landry stays in Miami, his situation is a little better for the rest of the season. With a weaker running game, Miami will be forced to involve him even more with short passes.

Here's a fun tweet from injured Odell Beckham Jr., a former LSU teammate of Landry's.

Best and worst fantasy plays of Eagles-49ers

Best and worst fantasy plays of Eagles-49ers

Carson Wentz is the No. 2 fantasy quarterback through seven weeks, trailing only Alex Smith.

So if you've got Wentz, you're 100 percent starting him this week against the hapless 49ers. The only fantasy quarterback I'd even consider starting over Wentz this week is Drew Brees, who faces the Bears at home. The Saints' home field is the offensive equivalent of Coors Field in baseball.

And yes, that means that I'd start Wentz over Tom Brady (vs. Chargers) this week. 

On to some of the tougher fantasy plays of Eagles-49ers:

WR Alshon Jeffery
We're at the point now where benching Jeffery is a legitimate option. If you're in a league that starts three wide receivers, you're probably starting Jeffery. But if you start two wide receivers and a flex, there are just so many players performing at a more consistent level than Jeffery.

Jeffery has shown rust all season. He isn't gaining separation deep down the field and he's not coming up with tough catches on jump-balls, aside from the sideline fade he caught late in Monday night's win.

Would you believe that Jeffery has now gone 18 straight games without reaching 100 receiving yards? Would you believe that he's scored just four times in his last 19 games?

With the way Wentz is spreading the ball around and heavily involving Zach Ertz on intermediate routes and in the red zone, Nelson Agholor inside the 20 and Mack Hollins on deep passes, Jeffery has become an increasingly risky start.

The 49ers are a dream matchup for any skill player. They've allowed the most fantasy points in the NFL to running backs, the second-most to quarterbacks and the 10th-most to wide receivers.

Still, temper the expectations for Alshon this week. I thought he was poised to break out against a depleted Redskins secondary and it never materialized.

I'd start Jeffery this week over Demaryius Thomas, T.Y. Hilton and DeSean Jackson.

I would not start Jeffery this week over Chris Hogan, Amari Cooper, Doug Baldwin, Kelvin Benjamin or Adam Thielen.

Projected stat line: 4 catches, 55 yards

• • •

RB LeGarrette Blount
This right here? This is a Blount game.

The forecast calls for torrential rain on Sunday, and given that Wentz is relatively inexperienced playing in those kinds of conditions, the Eagles could rely heavily on the running game against San Francisco.

The 49ers are dreadful against running backs — they've allowed 1,325 total yards and nine TDs. Granted, a lot of that was caused by Ezekiel Elliott last week and Blount isn't nearly that type of dual threat.

Still, expect a high-volume game from Blount, who gained just 29 yards on 14 carries in Week 7.

I'd start Blount this week over Carlos Hyde, Doug Martin, C.J. Anderson and all of the Patriots' running backs.

I would not start Blount ahead of Lamar Miller or Joe Mixon.

Projected stat line: 22 carries, 110 yards, TD

• • •

TE Zach Ertz
The 49ers have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're a good defense vs. TEs. It's more so the byproduct of so many other skill players doing damage against them.

Ertz is matchup-proof, which he proved against the Panthers with two touchdowns against a defense that typically stifles tight ends. 

If you have Ertz, you're starting him. Let's not even waste time explaining why.

Projected stat line: 6 catches, 66 yards, TD

• • •

RB Carlos Hyde
The Eagles' run defense is on a historic stretch of limiting running backs. It could suffer a bit with Jordan Hicks out for the season, but the Eagles still have so many players who can collapse the pocket, run blitz effectively and tackle in the open field.

Hyde should accumulate some numbers this Sunday out of sheer necessity from the 49ers. I mean, C.J. Beathard is this team's starting QB. Just don't expect huge production. 

With Matt Breida getting more and more involved, the possibility exists that Hyde has a goal-line carry or two vultured away.

Projected stat line: 80 total yards

• • •

WR Pierre Garcon
Garcon is the only 49ers skill player I like this week because San Fran is expected to be behind by a lot early in the game and forced to pass. 

Garcon always plays well against the Eagles. The last eight times he's faced them, he's averaged five catches for 60 yards. He's scored four TDs in the last six meetings.

Because the Eagles limit opposing running games, it means they face more pass attempts. It seems probable that Garcon will see double-digit targets in this one.

Projected stat line: 7 catches, 86 yards, TD

• • •

WR Nelson Agholor
I've said in this space several times this season that Agholor is a risky start because he's so touchdown-dependent. The guy's averaging 3.4 catches per game, but he has five TDs. 

But at this point, with how well Agholor has caught slants and converted red-zone opportunities, he's a legit WR3. 

I'd start Agholor ahead of Mohamed Sanu, all Redskins receivers, Danny Amendola, Jordan Matthews, Paul Richardson and Ted Ginn Jr. 

Projected stat line: 4 catches, 60 yards

• • •

Other thoughts:
• The idea that the Eagles will run the ball a lot Sunday would benefit more than just Blount. It could also lead to a TD for Wendell Smallwood, but I'd advise starting Smallwood only in deep, 12-team leagues.

• The Eagles' defense is a top-3 play this week. The only two defenses I'd start ahead of them would be the Vikings (vs. Browns in London) and Chiefs (home vs. Broncos on Monday Night Football).