QB Nick Foles
(2013 QB Rank—#17, 22.5 FPts/G)
As a tall, slow and lumbering pocket passer, Nick Foles didn’t fit the part of a quarterback that would thrive in the Chip Kelly system, but after he took over for an injured Michael Vick, he certainly proved otherwise. It turned out that Kelly’s system didn’t necessarily need an athletic quarterback that could take off and gain yards with his legs, as was the case at Oregon, but could be mastered by a smart, accurate and tough quarterback as well. Surprisingly, Foles did do enough with his legs to end the season with 225 yards and three scores on the ground. More impressively, Foles put up 2,891 passing yards with 27 touchdowns against only two interceptions. Foles accomplished that in basically 12 games, as he threw a mere four passes while replacing Vick in Week 4. The second-year quarterback finished eighth in completion percentage (64.0), first in yards per attempt (9.12), and first in quarterback rating (119.2). Foles’ miraculous season ended with him winning the Pro Bowl MVP, and left fantasy owners salivating over what he may do with a full offseason of preparation as a starter and with 16 starts potentially awaiting him in 2014. On a points per game basis, Foles was the sixth-best quarterback in fantasy football last season and it’s easy to argue that he has room for improvement. Although he loses his offense’s top receiving weapon from last season in Desean Jackson, he gains veteran Jeremy Maclin – who returns from an offseason ACL tear – in addition to rookie Jordan Matthews and former Saints running back Darren Sproles. Foles could potentially end up being overdrafted in upcoming drafts, but it’s hard not to like his chances of finishing as a top-five fantasy quarterback.
RB LeSean McCoy
(2013 RB Rank— #2, 17.5 FPts/G)
LeSean McCoy thrived in the Chip Kelly offense, rushing for 1,607 yards and nine touchdowns while adding 52 receptions for 540 yards and another two scores through the air. The Eagles finished 13th in plays from scrimmage with their fast-paced offense and will look to speed things up again in 2014. McCoy was a major part of that offense with 314 carries and 52 receptions. There has been some talk of lessening McCoy’s load a bit this season, but it’s hard to see a major dip especially if the team does manage to run more plays this season than it did last season. McCoy is one of the more exciting players in the league with the ball in his hands and his ability to stop and change directions with unbelievable cuts and jukes is reminiscent of the great Barry Sanders. McCoy’s production initially declined when the team made the switch at quarterback from Michael Vick to Nick Foles, but it quickly rounded back into form after a few weeks. McCoy will turn 26 this month, so he’s really just entering the peak of his prime years. McCoy is a player to seriously consider as early as the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy drafts this season.
RB Chris Polk
(2013 RB Rank—#75, 5.7 FPts/G)
Chris Polk started the season ranked third on the running back depth chart, but passed Bryce Brown while averaging an impressive 6.5 yards per carry in his limited action. Polk is one of the most valuable handcuffs in fantasy football since he has the talent to thrive and will see plenty of carries in an offense that finished fourth in rushing attempts in 2013. Polk’s shoulder issues, which caused him to go undrafted out of Washington, should be resolved after a surgery in the offseason. The team seems confident enough in his health that they shipped off Brown in a draft day trade. At 5’11” and 222 pounds, Polk is a power back that rarely fumbles and can grind out yards inside. It would likely require a LeSean McCoy injury for Polk to have any value – outside of handcuff value – in all but the deepest of leagues. If the McCoy owner leaves him on the waiver wire, though, Polk could be a difference maker in fantasy leagues should an opportunity arise.
RB Darren Sproles
(2013 RB Rank—#35, 7.1 FPts/G)
When Darren Sproles was released by the New Orleans Saints in a cost-cutting move, it was hard to imagine that he could possibly maintain his value at age 31 in any other setting. Luckily for him and his owners, he probably landed in the second-best location for his fantasy value. In standard leagues, Sproles is probably not worth the price that his name recognition will cost you, but in PPR leagues, he should have another productive season as the Eagles look to him to help fill the void left when Desean Jackson was released. Sproles may not see the 70+ receptions that were commonplace during his three years with New Orleans, but 60 receptions is likely a solid baseline to use when projecting his 2014 season. While LeSean McCoy is healthy, Sproles will likely be used in the backup running back role, seeing a handful of carries per game. If McCoy was to go down, though, it’s unlikely Sproles’ role would increase. He’d likely still be a change of pace back to Chris Polk.
WR Jeremy Maclin
(2013 WR Rank—N/A)
Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL in late July last offseason, forcing him to miss the entire 2013 season. He signed a one-year deal in February to stay with Philadelphia where he can likely build up his market value in the Eagles’ high-flying offense. He has reportedly looked fantastic in OTAs and is expected to be 100 percent for training camp. Maclin has averaged 860 yards over the course of the four NFL seasons, but he has never surpassed 1,000 yards in a season. There’s a very good chance that will change this season, as Maclin is likely to be the main beneficiary of Desean Jackson’s departure. He should lead the team in targets. Maclin isn’t the prototypical WR1 type at only 6’0”, 198 lbs., but he has enough speed and direction to find open spaces and make things happen after the catch in the complex Chip Kelly passing attack. Like Jackson did in 2013, Maclin should have a career year with this offense.
WR Riley Cooper
(2013 WR Rank—#24, 8.3 FPts/G)
Riley Cooper made headlines during the last offseason as a result of being caught on tape using a racial slur. To his and his teammates credit he was able to move past it quickly and rewarded his teammates faith in him by helping the Eagles reach the postseason as their second-best wide receiver. On the way, he put up a 47-833-8 stat-line and was an integral part of the rushing attack as well due to his skills as a blocker. Cooper, who isn’t known for his blazing speed was able to average 17.8 yards per reception due to his strong frame (6’3”, 222 lbs.) and the trust of his quarterback, Nick Foles, who wasn’t afraid to put the ball up where Cooper could go up and fight for it. This season may be a little tougher for Cooper without Desean Jackson’s downfield speed drawing safety coverage. The team was impressed enough with Cooper’s game, though, to sign him to a five-year $25 million contract this offseason. He should also see himself in the starting lineup once again. With Jackson’s departure and with a full season of Foles throwing him the ball, Cooper could be in for an even bigger season in 2014.
WR Jordan Matthews
(2013 WR Rank—N/A)
The Eagles selected Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews with the 42nd overall pick in the NFL Draft. Based on some reports, he has already looked like the best wide receiver on the roster and is slated to start the season in the slot and possibly push Riley Cooper on the outside. Matthews is the all-time leader in catches and yards in the Southeastern Conference history, despite playing for a team that wasn’t known for its prolific passing attack. It’s always a risky proposition to draft a rookie wide out in redraft leagues, but Matthews surely has some sleeper appeal based on his talent and situation. The majority of his fantasy value is likely to come later in the season once he becomes familiar with Chip Kelly’s offense.
TE Zach Ertz
(2013 TE Rank—#20, 4.7 FPts/G)
The tight end position is one of the more difficult transitions from the college ranks into the professional game. Zach Ertz didn’t put up eye-popping numbers (36-469-4), but he showed enough promise on the field that the big leap could be in store during his sophomore campaign. His position coach recently compared him to Hall of Famers Shannon Sharpe and Ozzie Newsome, and while that may be too heavy praise for the youngster, Ertz has the size and athleticism to make plays on Sundays. Many of the Philadelphia beat writers have cited Ertz as a big part of the team’s plans to replace Desean Jackson’s production. A TE1 fantasy season should be in store for Ertz in 2014.
WR Brent Celek
(2013 TE Rank—#14, 5.4 FPts/G)
There was a time when Brent Celek paid dividends to owners who waited before selecting a tight end in fantasy drafts. Those days are no more, however. Celek was reduced to the role of a blocking tight end last season in the Chip Kelly offense and that is not expected to change in 2014.