Fantasy Focus: Draft Day Decisions
As the red clock ticks down and gets closer and closer to zero, analysis paralysis kicks in. It’s not real life—you know that—but it has real life implications. You’ve been a dedicated fan for so long, yet here lies another apparent test of your allegiance.
Questions abound, and you don’t know the answer to even one of them. Should I draft the guy on my favorite team? I think he’s better, but aren’t I biased? Now I’m not sure if he’s better, but wouldn’t a real fan pick him?
The struggle is real in fantasy football, and I’m here to help you. After reviewing ESPN’s fantasy assessments of several Eagles—ESPN was picked because of their enormous popularity—I’ll let you know if ESPN is underrating the player, overrating the player or is spot on. All numbers in the player charts are ESPN’s 2015 projections.
DEMARCO MURRAY (Overall: No. 9 | Position: No. 8)
ESPN’s analysis: “Here’s what we know: 1) Murray leaves the NFL’s best O-line, but Philly’s unit is good; 2) he was injury-prone before 2014 and is coming off the sixth-most touches ever in a single season; plus, Mathews will steal work; 3) Murray proved he could be a complete power RB last year; 4) this craziness is sure to inject major uncertainty going forward.”
My take: Overrated. People who are concerned about Murray’s production this year are correct to worry, but are wrong in their reasoning. Murray’s workload last year doesn’t bother me, but the Eagles’ depth at running back does. Mathews will steal plenty of red zone carries (read: touchdowns) from Murray, and the Eagles plan to use Darren Sproles more as a receiver than they did last year. Murray is a great back, but Chip Kelly won’t hesitate to substitute Mathews in to keep Murray fresh.
JORDAN MATTHEWS (Overall: No. 31 | Position: No. 15)
ESPN’s analysis: “All but four of Matthews’ 98 targets — and all eight of his touchdowns — came out of the slot. Although his snap and target counts figure to rise, especially with Jeremy Maclin now in Kansas City, it appears Matthews will be ticketed for a Marques Colston-like role as long as Chip Kelly is in charge.”
My take: Underrated. Although the Eagles will spread the ball around, they won’t do it as much as people think. Matthews has developed into a nice security blanket for the quarterbacks and will be the go-to guy. Josh Huff hasn’t been that impressive in training camp and the preseason, and Nelson Agholor is still a rookie who has dropped some big-play balls.
RYAN MATHEWS (Overall: No. 67 | Position: No. 31)
ESPN’s analysis: “Given Chip Kelly’s preferred tempo, there’s enough work for Murray to start and Mathews to see 10 to 12 touches per game. But let’s face it, bodies will drop: Sam Bradford’s injury woes are legendary, Murray is coming off a 449-touch season and Mathews missed 10 games last year. If everyone stays upright, this has the makings of a great power-running offense. But that isn’t going to happen.”
My take: Underrated. Mathews will get more carries than ESPN projects and will be a respectable flex option. However, his week-to-week performance will be tough to predict because it’s difficult to predict which touchdowns he’ll take from Murray. Draft him higher than No. 67, but be cognizant of his potentially uneven production.
NELSON AGHOLOR (Overall: No. 73 | Position: No. 32)
ESPN’s analysis: “He’s good after the catch (17 forced missed tackles, sixth most among FBS WRs) and has exceptional hands (76 percent catch rate, best among WRs with 105-plus targets). … But because Philly projects to be a run-heavy offense that spreads around its targets, Agholor will likely fall short of being fantasy starter material.”
My take: Spot on. Agholor has shown big-play potential between his speed and explosiveness, but I doubt he turns into a fantasy starter in his rookie year. He’s worth drafting and stashing on your bench in case Matthews gets hurt or Agholor is better than expected, but don’t take him with high expectations.
ZACH ERTZ (Overall: No. 111 | Position: No. 8)
ESPN’s analysis: “He sure gets a lot of hype for a guy who barely outscored Rams TE Jared Cook in fantasy last year. … Consider, though: In Kelly’s attack last season, Ertz played only 50 percent of his team’s offensive snaps, as Brent Celek reinvented himself as an indispensable run-blocking mauler.”
My take: Spot on. Ertz is talented, but I doubt he’ll be thrown at enough to warrant taking him as a top-five tight end. When the Eagles get into the red zone, Chip has two excellent running backs to hand the ball off to, an outstanding receiving option out of the backfield and a big target in the slot. The Eagles have too many red zone weapons for Ertz to score more than a handful of touchdowns.
CODY PARKEY (Overall: No. 156 | Position: No. 6)
|1-39 Yards||40-49 Yards||50+ Yards||Total||XPs|
ESPN’s analysis: “Parkey’s average kicking distance at home was 37.4 yards, helped by four successful attempts beyond 50 yards, which suggests Chip Kelly trusts his young kicker to convert from distance. On one of the league’s most productive offenses, Parkey is often in a position to produce.”
My take: Spot on. When you combine Parkey’s accuracy with the Eagles’ high-powered offense, you get a top-shelf kicker. He’ll certainly be top-10 at his position, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he slipped into the top-five.
SAM BRADFORD (Overall: No. 178 | Position: No. 16)
ESPN’s analysis: “You know what sounds like a recipe for carnage? Taking Bradford — an ACL tear waiting to happen under normal circumstances — and having him run around in Chip Kelly’s system. … For as long as Bradford stays healthy, we think he’ll make this Eagles offense look great. … The right fantasy strategy with Bradford is to use him for as long as he’s upright, but make sure you’ve got a strong backup.”
My take: Underrated. Unlike everyone else, I’m not worried about Bradford’s left knee. He’ll rarely run the ball and he won’t take a ton of shots behind the Eagles’ offensive line in passing situations. I view him as a top-10 fantasy quarterback, so once you get into that No. 11-15 range, he’ll be a good value pick.
EAGLES D/ST (Overall: No. 221 | Position: No. 14)
ESPN’s analysis: “You can’t expect the touchdown figures to stay at [last season’s] level, but don’t completely write off the Eagles as a streamer option. They feature one of the NFL’s most aggressive special-teams units and are a weekly threat for big defensive plays, with emerging talents (DE Fletcher Cox, ILB Mychal Kendricks) and big-name offseason pickups (ILB Kiko Alonso, CB Byron Maxwell) patrolling all three levels.”
My take: Underrated. The Eagles’ defense will be average at worst, and their special teams will most likely be above average. I view them as a top-10 defense/special teams unit and could see them making a push to crack the top-five. They have one of the top front-sevens in football and their secondary appears to be much improved. Kenjon Barner has shown his big-play ability as a return man and Sproles isn’t too bad back there either.