Chip Kelly is both the answer and question for everything Eagles, which leads to an opposing and often confusing dynamic. Why will the Eagles’ offense improve this year? Chip Kelly’s offensive creativity and ingenuity, that’s why. But then why do you think the Eagles will fail this year? Chip Kelly, because his offensive creativity and ingenuity is little more than a college ball gimmick. That’s why.
What we know or at least think we know about Kelly’s offense will influence fantasy forecasting. But while we can at least make educated guesses about how much Kelly’s uptempo spread will effect the future fortunes of, say, LeSean McCoy, we have a pretty significant barrier at the most important offensive position. Namely, we don’t know who the quarterback will be, and the quarterback is pretty important.
That’s a problem, and for fantasy purposes, the riskiest QB on Kelly’s roster may actually be the best fake QB. On with the uncertainty then…
Notable Additions: James Casey
Notable Draft Picks: Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz
The Marquee men (the elitest of the elite)
LeSean McCoy (ADP: 8.3): Let’s start with some basic reflection and memory work, and I’ll remind you that even in a shortened season when he missed four games and therefore received just 200 carries, McCoy still finished with 1,213 all-purpose yards in 2012 (840 rushing, 373 receiving). Prorating numbers is dangerous, but for the record, that rushing pace would have given McCoy 1,120 yards over a full season, a hypothetical number that would have been his second highest single-season mark.
That’s pretty alright in a year when the Eagles’ offense as a whole was habitually dysfunctional, and for much of the season Andy Reid was coaching in a failed attempt to save his job. There’s now optimism around McCoy’s usage going forward under Kelly, mixed in with a mild sprinkling of concern.
Mostly, there’s joy. Pure joy, especially after McCoy shared a few of the offense’s dirty little secrets back in early May, saying there’s an abundance of motion using multiple running backs, and the end goal is to get the ball in the hands of quick, agile playmakers like himself in open areas.
Kelly has said that he’s not necessarily bringing his entire playbook over from Oregon. But if he brought the pages that led to running back De’Anthony Thomas’ 701 rushing yards on 92 carries, but more importantly, 445 yards on 45 catches with 16 total touchdowns, that would be nice. McCoy’s career high in receptions came in 2010 when he finished with 78 catches on 90 targets, which he turned 592 receiving yards (also a career high). He may not quite reach that height of PPR league stud status, but hovering around 60 catches seems entirely within reach.
Or maybe it doesn’t when we consider the crappy half of Kelly’s offense that will have the fastest pace since paces were measured. That half’s name is Bryce Brown, but more on him below (TEASER ALERT).
DeSean Jackson (ADP: 84.6): Jackson has been the living, breathing, walking, and talking embodiment of the notion that all but the elite wide receivers are boom/bust options. And that’s fine, and perfectly normal. But it doesn’t make it any less maddening.
He’s a vertical speedster who doubles as a dangerous threat as a return man. Put those two things together, and our boy can provide some wild times. Despite a shortened season and only 11 game appearances to work with while hauling in 45 receptions, nine of those catches went for 20 yards or more. Also, Jackson’s average longest catch each week was 30.4 yards.
Yeah, that definitely sounds like a guy who will post many high digits. Because speed.
The hope, though, is that Kelly’s system takes away from some of Jackson’s busting. We mainly saw the booming in 212, which was terrific. But he’s only a year removed from logging six games with 40 yards or less.
The Middle Men (middle-to-late round options)
Jeremy Maclin (ADP: 99.8): As much as it’s fun to slobber over pace and tempo, and to write those two words at least 87 times in this preview, the fact remains that Kelly’s offense still leans towards the run. Stretching vertically will happen, and it’ll primarily happen through Jackson. And that leaves Maclin…somewhere.
It likely leaves him in the same place he’s been for quite some time, although Maclin is convinced the times are a changin’, and he’s about to receive a greater role in the offense. He’s a fine WR3, and if there’s a matchup you feel can be exploited easily, then maybe his ceiling temporarily rises to low-end WR2 status. But any higher than that for a wide receiver who still hasn’t reached the 1,000-yard plateau through four seasons could end in tears.
Michael Vick (ADP: 119.5): This is the epicenter of the confusion. Right now with training camp set to begin, Vick and Nick Foles are publicly even in their quarterback competition, though I remain convinced that this competition is the furthest from the true definition of the word. Kelly hasn’t named a starter because that’s not a very smart thing for a new head coach — and especially an innovative and pioneering coach — to do before he’s even seen his players in pads.
You hate Vick. You hate owning him, you hate his face, and you may even oddly hate his toes (we don’t pass judgement here). You’re entirely justified in that rage, because of both his brittle nature which won’t go away due to his improvising style, and that thing about him turning the ball over 17 times over just 10 starts last year. But just accept and embrace those flaws, because for the fantasy production of all involved, Vick is the best option to start for the Eagles. He has a much stronger arm, and he can run in an offense which will continually put him in a position to be successful on the ground.
The injuries and mental lapses which lead to turnovers are part of the Vick package, and although the latter can be managed, it’ll never go away. But remember that despite those flaws, Vick still averaged 13.4 fantasy points per game last year. That’s not great, and it’s not even good. It’s average, but if he wins the job, at his current ADP that makes Vick the perfect high-upside late-round QB option under Kelly.
If you have the testicles to wait until about the 11th round, starting Vick isn’t crazy if you’re fully stocked at every other position.
Bryce Brown (ADP: 91.1): Like Bernard Pierce, Brown is technically a handcuff, but he doesn’t fit the usual description for that term in the vast fantasy football lexicon. Again, Kelly’s offense is one which will likely make getting the ball into the hands of playmakers in open areas a high priority, and although he’s behind McCoy on the depth chart, Brown has the sort of speed which ideally suits those mystical open areas. That blaze led to his 347 rushing yards over just two games in weeks 12 and 13, and three carries of 30 yards on more despite only 115 opportunities.
This is both a problem for McCoy, and the McCoy owner. While there will be more than enough touches for McCoy, the versatility of Kelly’s offense and the usage of multiple running backs could strip him of some extra looks. What’s even more difficult is being the guy who spends a top 10 pick on McCoy, because you’re then obligated to roster Brown too. Normally this isn’t a problem, but spending a pick on a handcuff before the 10th round isn’t enjoyable. Since you secured your RB2 alongside McCoy within the first three rounds (hopefully), Brown will sit and occupy a roster spot and return little value.
But this is an opportunity to manage risk, and there’s simply too much of it lingering if you buy high on McCoy, and then pass Brown.
Nick Foles (ADP: undrafted): There are writers and practice watchers who think Foles is ahead in the QB battle right now, mostly because he looked really good while wearing shorts in the spring sun. If eventually those voices are proven to be correct, the production potential of all involved could suffer.
While his arm may have improved, Foles’ arm strength doesn’t nearly match Vick’s. Then there’s also the obvious lack of running ability which subtracts from the upside of whoever is under center, and the ceiling of the offense as a whole with the quarterback a more conventional passer, instead of a mobile threat. Although he’s repeatedly said that a set of fast-moving legs isn’t essential, the foundation of Kelly’s offense is more suited to Vick, and it would drastically change without him.
Foles is only a late-round flier if he’s named the starter, and ideally an early waiver claim if he proves to be effective with the many weapons around him.
Brent Celek (ADP: undrafted): I explored/complained about the Eagles’ toxic fantasy mess at tight end with more depth back in late May. Even though he finished with a pretty fine 684 yards last year despite the overall offensive dumpster fire in Philly, Celek may be more of a “No. 1 tight end” than a No. 1 tight end.
Kelly spent a second-round pick on Zach Ertz, who is in many ways a Celek clone, and he’s therefore a threat to the veteran’s targets (Celek was targeted 88 times last year). Then there’s James Casey (see: directly below), whose skillset is far more diverse.
Toss in Kelly’s now famous three fingers quote regarding his tight end usage (he’ll commonly use three in the same formation), and predicting the most productive option at the position is an exercise in wild speculation. The end game here is to stay away, unless you’re a passionate advocate for tight end streaming.
The Menial Peons (sleepers, flex plays, and matchup plays)
James Casey (ADP: undrafted): Casey separates himself (barely) form Ertz and Celek with his Swiss Army-ness. As primarily an H-back in Houston last year he often lined up the backfield, and as our Alen Dumonjic noted recently, that’s where he was highly effective on screen passes and quick routes to the flats. Casey’s minimal fantasy value is tied to how much Kelly uses James’ unique skillset that makes him a sort of larger (OK, much larger) Danny Woodhead.
Zach Ertz (ADP: undrafted): Remember that stuff I wrote about Celek? Yeah, read that again.
The Mop-Up Men (deeeep sleepers and handcuffs)
Jason Avant (ADP: undrafted): There’s little here, and since he’s set to battle Damaris Johnson and Arrelious Benn in training camp, Avant’s roster spot isn’t guaranteed. But with Kelly’s quick-strike passing used to complement the running game, the slot receiver who emerges out of that gaggle will have some reaching deep sleeper value.