News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Examining the impact of Jalen Reagor's injury

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor suffered a slight tear in his labrum during practice Sunday, according to the Forth Worth Star-Telegram's Drew Davison. The good news is that the injury won’t require surgery, so the No. 21 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft is tentatively expected to miss only about four weeks.

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Starting the season on the sideline is never good, but at least the Eagles won’t be without their potential stud rookie for more than the first month of the season. Reagor isn’t in the clear, though; the injury could make him more susceptible to continued dislocations.

Reagor was reportedly tearing up training camp, even drawing a comparison to Julio Jones from quarterback Carson Wentz. The Eagles’ franchise quarterback would clarify those comments, but there are clearly high Year 1 expectations for Reagor.

With Reagor sidelined, the injuries are (again) piling up at receiver for the Eagles. Marquise Goodwin opted out and Alshon Jeffery (foot) remains on the PUP list, leaving Wentz with the following top-six weapons at wideout ahead of Week 1:

    • DeSean Jackson: Jackson caught eight of his nine targets for 154 yards and a pair of scores in Week 1 against Washington but went on to play 14 total snaps the rest of the season. The 33-year-old led the league in yards per reception in 2018 and will be on the field in three-receiver sets when healthy this season. He is always a threat to pop off for a big week, and he should be considered the favorite to lead the group in targets.
    • Greg Ward: The former AAF talent caught 28-of-40 targets for 254 yards and a score in seven games last season. His involvement was largely due to the team’s plethora of injuries on offense; the Eagles hardly planned to feed him 30 targets over the final four games of the season. Ward put forward decent enough performances against Washington (7-61-1), the Cowboys (4-71-0) and Giants (6-43-0), but it’s still tough to expect more than a No. 3 or No. 4 spot in Wentz’s pecking order, considering the options at tight end and running back.
    • J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: Arcega-Whiteside did pretty much nothing of note as a rookie, which is incredibly concerning for his future outlook, as the Eagles were desperate for any decent pass-catchers in 2019. His average of 0.55 yards per route run ranked 139th among 144 wideouts with at least 100 snaps in 2019. JJAW could very well have a prominent Week 1 role, but he’ll need to vastly improve his ability to separate in order to provide any sort of consistent production.
    • John Hightower: Hightower earned the 16th-best receiving grade on deep balls in college football over his final two years at Boise State. Overall, his nine deep scores with at least a step of separation in that span tied for the second-most in the nation. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Eagles get Hightower’s speed (4.43-second 40-yard dash) on the field sooner rather than later if JJAW continues to struggle.
    • Quez Watkins: Watkins is another of the Eagles' speedy (4.35-second 40-yard dash) rookie wideouts. Still, he (upper body) is banged up at the moment and will most likely spend the majority of the season on the bench.
    • Deontay Burnett: Forgettable stints with the New York Jets (10-143-0) in 2018 and the Eagles (2-48-0) in 2019 have the former USC receiver on the roster bubble. Still, Burnett has earned a fair amount of training camp hype and could make it through final cuts, considering the mass amount of injuries at the position.

Look for Jackson to play as many snaps as he can handle, JJAW and Hightower to split snaps to an extent at the other outside spot, and Ward to handle most of the slot work when the offense wants to go with three-receiver sets.

That’s the thing about this Eagles offense: Don’t expect them to force the ball to these backup wideouts just because the likes of Reagor, Jeffery and Goodwin are unavailable. Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert form anyone’s idea of the best tight end room in the league.

Nov 24, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (86) before a game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lincoln Financial Field. Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Ertz didn't quite replicate his historic 2018 campaign last season, but a season-long 88-916-6 line on 135 targets was hardly a problem for fantasy managers. Don’t expect Ertz to stop functioning as this passing game’s No. 1 option; his nine targets per game in 2019 was the highest team-best mark by any non-wideout, and even a moderate reduction in pass-game opportunities would still leave Ertz among the position’s top-five target hogs.

Still, we nearly saw a passing of the guard toward the end of 2019, as Ertz narrowly out-targeted Goedert (57 to 49) after the Eagles' Week 10 bye. The Eagles’ rising third-year tight end would be an instant top-five pass-game option if Ertz were forced to miss time. Either way, Goedert is likely the biggest beneficiary in volume from the Reagor injury, considering the likelihood that we see this offense lean less heavily on three-receiver formations.

Overall, Wentz ranked just 24th in dropbacks with three or more wide receivers on the field in 2019.

Goedert was a legit fantasy TE1 following the Eagles’ Week 10 bye last season:

The 2018 second-round pick possesses the sort of natural receiving ability to truly thrive in this wide-open offense. Wentz leads the NFL with 39 passing scores to tight ends since 2016. Goedert joins George Kittle as the only two tight ends to rank in the top 10 in PFF receiving and run-blocking grade since 2018.

The only offenses to enable two top-12 PPR tight ends have been the 2011 Patriots and the 2019 Eagles.

While DeSean Jackson remains a solid upside fantasy value, the true winner from the Reagor injury in terms of increased target share should be Goedert. The PPR TE16 in ADP deserves to be prioritized as a top-12 option at the position. Keep an eye on Goedert’s upper-body injury, but it’s not believed to be anything serious. He has a real chance to provide borderline TE1 production week in and week out even after Reagor returns to action, and he carries league-winning upside in the event Ertz misses time.

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