The first major injury of the NFL’s preseason has occurred with Philadelphia losing wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to a knee injury.
Maclin will miss the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL in his right knee. His loss leaves a huge hole in Philadelphia’s starting lineup.
Entering the final season of his rookie contract, Maclin was expected to be a major contributor to the Eagles offense this season, as he attempted to play his way into a lucrative contract extension.
He now faces an uncertain future having failed to reach the 1000-yard mark in any of his five seasons in Philadelphia. He may instead need to sign a short-term, prove-it type of contract.
While Maclin has never had a 1000-yard season, he is a talented player capable of putting together a Pro Bowl quality season. Any time a team loses a wide receiver of his calibre, its quarterback takes a fantasy hit.
Unless the Eagles sign a veteran wide receiver such as Brandon Lloyd, there does not appear to be another wideout on the roster capable of topping 1,000 receiving yards. Michael Vick moves to more of a lower-tier QB with Maclin out.
Cooper, Avant and Benn are the current front-runners to replace Maclin in the starting lineup. While Avant has a more proven track record and has been a consistent third receiver in Philadelphia, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Eagles chose to make Benn, acquired in a trade with the Bucs this offseason, or Cooper a starter and leave Avant in his long-time backup role.
Frankly speaking, neither player is an attractive option as a fantasy starter. The talented Benn offers more upside but more risk given his injury issues and inconsistency. Right on cue, Benn injured his left knee on day 1 of training camp and spent day 2 on a stationary bike.
Entering his fourth year in the league, Cooper has done little to suggest that he is capable of fulfilling that role. He hauled in 23 receptions, 248 yards and 3 touchdowns in eleven games last season but may be a favorite of the coaching staff due to his blocking ability.
DeSean Jackson figures to get more targets with Maclin out, increasing the chances that he can realize on his immense potential. The enigmatic Jackson has game-breaking ability but hasn’t shown it on a consistent basis over the past few seasons. While he remains a WR3, he now has a higher upside and less risk.
The outlook for the team’s TEs looks brighter, but that seems a moot point given that it appears incumbent Brent Celek, free agent signee James Casey, and rookie second-round pick Zach Ertz will likely share the role.
Look for new head coach Chip Kelly to rely more heavily on the running game, which bodes well for the fantasy prospects of LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown. McCoy in particular hasn’t been getting a lot of fantasy love in 2013, and Maclin’s absence increases his value while Brown now offers more solid flex potential in 12- and 14-team leagues.