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NFL Team Preview: Miles Sanders, Jalen Hurts lead Eagles team full of questions

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We’re previewing every NFL team to get you ready for the 2021 season. Our analysts will tackle pressing fantasy questions and team win totals, in order from the squad with the least amount of fantasy relevancy all the way to the most talented team. Next up, the 23rd-ranked Philadelphia Eagles.

While offseason additions like Kenneth Gainwell and Kerryon Johnson aren’t immediate threats to Miles Sanders, is he a fade with more competition, ranked appropriately as RB14 or a potential draft value? 

Andy: Sanders is being appropriately ranked and drafted in a range at which we don't expect or need him to be an every-down, every-series player. If you can land him as a mid-pack RB2, I'm willing to sign off. Gainwell is the latest Memphis back to fascinate the fantasy community, and he's a quality receiving threat, but I view him as much more of a threat to Boston Scott than Sanders. Kerryon has been a rough watch and brutally inefficient (3.5 YPC) over the past two seasons. Sanders was plenty productive during Hurts' starts last year, averaging over 100 scrimmage yards per game, so I'm not particularly concerned about the QB situation. Again, if you draft Sanders as a second RB and don't spend a top-25 pick to do it, I'm on board. 

Dalton: Sanders is a good player with a lot of theoretical fantasy upside, but I’m fading him given his competition and injury concern. This backfield also has Boston Scott and Jordan Howard as options, so there are definite concerns of a committee. Jalen Hurts could help Sanders’ YPC, but having a dual threat as a QB is another real concern, as it will limit his targets in the passing game and provides a huge threat to lose goal-line touchdowns. I completely get the upside, but since I also worry about his durability, Sanders is a pass for me at his ADP.

Liz: Fantasy managers might believe Sanders to be an every-down back, but it doesn’t appear NFL coaches agree. At least not if we’re being objective regarding the new regime’s recent moves. This backfield is more crowded than a golf course on Father’s Day. The team drafted pass-catching specialist Kenneth Gainwell (51 of 61 targets for 610 yards in 2019 at Memphis) and then added former Lion Kerryon Johnson, with Jordan Howard and Boston Scott already on the roster.

Sanders is talented, but he dealt with injuries (numerous sprains, particularly to his knees in both 2019 and 2020) and struggled with productivity (8 drops) in 2020. The offense didn’t help him, but with Jalen Hurts available to vulture at the goal line, and the rest of the backfield liable to steal opportunities, it’s unlikely Sanders will average more than 15 touches per contest. He’s a high-end RB2 for me. I’d take him after Najee Harris but ahead of De’Andre Swift.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13: Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (26) rushes for a touchdown during the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles on December 13, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Miles Sanders could see his fantasy upside capped thanks to a crowded backfield and a mobile QB capable of finding the end zone. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jalen Hurts was the fantasy QB8 over the final five weeks of last season. What is his floor and ceiling with a whole offseason to prepare, and will he be a proactive pick for you? 

Dalton: Hurts’ floor is low given his small track record, but his ceiling is a top-three fantasy QB given his rushing upside. Hurts put up video game type numbers rushing in college (including 1,300 yards and 20 rushing scores his final season), and he was equally as aggressive running when he took over in Philadelphia. The Eagles upgraded their offensive line and drafted DeVonta Smith during the offseason, helping his situation as well. I have Hurts at the top of my second tier of fantasy QBs, right there with Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Justin Herbert. I’ll be proactively picking him for sure.

Liz: At Hurts’ ceiling, he’s a top-five fantasy option. At his floor, he gets benched mid-season. With so little pro-tape available there are obvious questions about his ability, particularly as a passer (59.2 true completion percentage). But his situation is also rife with unknowns.

New HC Nick Sirianni’s comments regarding his system and subsequent lack of interest in adjusting it to match Hurts’ skill set is concerning. Plus, Hurts has the least favorable strength of schedule among fantasy QBs in 2021. Reuniting with DeVonta Smith and gaining another pass-catching weapon in Kenneth Gainwell help, but if Sirianni doesn’t go RPO heavy, Hurts is likely to struggle. His rushing upside is what’s keeping him inside my top-10. Let’s hope he gets to show it off.

Andy: Hurts rushed for 272 yards and three scores over his four starts at the end of 2020, so we can feel comfortable with his weekly scoring floor. Those rushing yards will basically always be there. A healthy O-line and much improved receiving corps will boost his fantasy profile in no small way. DeVonta Smith is simply a massive addition to this team, which had no one who resembled a No. 1 receiver last year. 

All of this is to say that yes — emphatically YES — Hurts will be a proactive pick for me. He's an easy top-8 fantasy QB with top-3 upside. 

First-round pick Devonta Smith is the highest-ranked Eagles receiver (in the WR4 range), while Dallas Goedert is the middle of the TE1s. How are you attacking this pass-catching group, if at all, this draft season?

Liz: Current reports continue to speculate on Ertz’s 2021 landing spot, strongly suggesting he won’t be in Philly this fall. That would obviously elevate Goedert, as he’s perhaps the most veteran pass-catching option in a corps of relatively green talent. While it’s admittedly a small sample size, Goedert drew an average of 7 looks per game with Hurts as the starter. Even if that number dips a bit (and assuming health), Goedert still figures to clear 110 targets on the season. Given the scarcity of the position, I’d be more inclined to prioritize Goedert (my TE6) over Smith (my WR41).

Andy: I want Smith wherever I can land him. He's a technician, a clear candidate to reach triple-digit yardage and challenge for the rookie lead in receptions. I'm well above consensus on him, pretty much driving him into that WR4 range by myself. It shouldn't surprise anyone if he actually produces WR2-level fantasy stats in his first season. 

I've got nothing bad to say about Goedert, but he belongs to a tier of tight ends that I always seem to bypass. If I don't land one of the position's top-5, I'm generally waiting for the closing rounds, eying an Irv Smith or Jared Cook. 

Dalton: I have Goedert as my TE7 and could easily see him having a better fantasy season than Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts as well. I still expect Zach Ertz and the Eagles to part ways, and Goedert could quickly go from sharing reps at tight end to leading Philadelphia in targets. Jalen Hurts should provide an upgrade for the offense over Carson Wentz, who somehow led the NFL in sacks and picks last year despite playing only 12 games. Goedert is a good athlete about to see a big jump in volume in Year 4, so he’s someone to target at an ugly tight end position.

Philadelphia Eagles projected 2021 fantasy contributors

QB: Jalen Hurts

RB: Miles Sanders / Jordan Howard / Kenneth Gainwell

WR: Devonta Smith / Jalen Reagor

TE: Dallas Goedert

Philadelphia Eagles O/U on 6.5 win total from BetMGM

Dalton: OVER. This line feels right, and while I don’t love the juice (-150), I couldn’t stomach the under with 17 games played now. The Eagles upgraded their offensive line during the offseason, and while I could see them finishing last in a competitive NFC East, Philly is plenty capable of splitting with each team in its division this season. I’m a Hurts believer too.

Follow Andy: @andybehrens

Follow Liz: @LizLoza_FF

Follow Dalton: @daltondeldon

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