Free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft have come and gone. Now, it’s time to fully embrace the 2022 offseason by breaking down each team's fantasy football aspirations before fantasy-draft season truly gets underway in August.
What follows is a fantasy-focused breakdown of the Philadelphia Eagles, focusing on key questions like:
- Are we underrating Jalen Hurts’ overall fantasy QB1 potential?
- Should fantasy investors buy into Miles Sanders at his affordable cost?
- Will both A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith ball out in 2022?
Every fantasy-relevant player from the Eagles will be covered in the following paragraphs. Make sure to check out the PFF Team Preview Landing Page through early July for more all-encompassing fantasy football coverage.
Notable offseason moves
From the front office, to the coaching staff, to the roster: Every 2022 NFL team will be different than its 2021 version.
However, the 2022 Eagles are banking on continuity among their coaches: Head coach Nick Sirianni, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon are all back for their second season.
The larger question facing the offense is what version we’ll see. The Eagles ranked fifth in situation neutral pass-play rate (67.1%) in Weeks 1-7 last season, but then shifted course and worked as the NFL’s single-most run-heavy offense (46.8%) in Weeks 8-18. While Sirianni implied the Eagles would continue to be a run-first offense back in March, it’s tough to see them not asking Hurts to do more through the air after adding BFF/alpha No. 1 WR A.J. Brown. Regardless of their eventual pass-play rate: Expect the Eagles to move quickly, as they ranked fifth in situation neutral pace last season (Football Outsiders).
Additionally, the Eagles have made plenty of changes to their roster. The following quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends have either joined or left the Eagles in some way, shape, or form this offseason:
- RB Jordan Howard: Remains an unrestricted free agent. He racked up seven separate regular-season games with double-digit touches in 2021, averaging a rather robust 4.7 yards per carry along the way.
- WR A.J. Brown: The Eagles traded the No. 18 and No. 101 overall picks in order to acquire AJB, who then signed a four-year, $100 million contract including $57 million guaranteed to lock down his future in Philadelphia. He should immediately be considered the best wide receiver in the division.
- WR Zach Pascal: Signed a one-year, $1.5 million fully-guaranteed contract to presumably compete for the offense’s No. 3 wide receiver spot. Pascal started 44 games with the Colts over the past four seasons, although he was never leaned on as a primary pass-game option and boasts underwhelming career-high marks in receptions (44), receiving yards (629) and receiving touchdowns (5) despite his overall lack of competition.
The one draft pick addition the Eagles made to their skill-position corps was sixth-round TE/WR Grant Calcaterra. The only reason why Calcaterra fell so far in the draft is because of his scary concussion history. On the field, he's a pure pass-catching tight end who has the sort of size (6-foot-4, 241 pounds) and speed (4.62-second 40-yard dash) to give a majority of linebackers and safeties problems in one-on-one coverage. Of course, the Eagles’ crowded depth chart at tight end, combined with the reality that the fantasy track record of players not selected inside of the draft's top-three rounds isn't pretty, means Calcaterra almost certainly won’t be a factor in fantasy land in 2022.
Quarterback: Jalen Hurts (Ian’s fantasy football QB6), Gardner Minshew (unranked)
First of all: Hurts wasn’t nearly as bad as you think he was as a passer in 2021. Overall, he ranked 16th in PFF passing grade (73.4) ahead of guys like Jimmy Garoppolo and Russell Wilson, averaged a more than solid 7.1 yards per attempt (16th) to top Patrick Mahomes, and even his adjusted completion rate (73.5%) ranked 21st ahead of guys like Mac Jones and Josh Allen.
This isn’t to suggest Hurts is a better pure passer, or quarterback period, than anybody listed; just realize life isn’t always all that smooth when throwing to a wide receiver group consisting of a rookie-year version of DeVonta Smith, 2020 sixth-round pick Quez Watkins and, I mean come on, Jalen Reagor.
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 17, 2022
The list of wide receivers Hurts has had the “privilege” of throwing to over the past two years is simply sad. The Eagles were one of just nine offenses to post a catch rate of 75% or worse on 20-plus yard passes that were deemed catchable by PFF. Hurts had to deal with the fifth-highest percentage of dropbacks where not a single pass-catcher was considered open by PFF.
it’s unfair and inaccurate to put all the woes of the Philadelphia passing game solely on Hurts’ shoulders.
Hurts’ big-time throw rate and turnover-worthy play rate match up most similarly to Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson and Daniel Jones when looking at every quarterback’s first two seasons since 2015. The man is hardly a liability when throwing the football, even when evaluating his 2021 performance from the context of PFF’s more stable year-over-year statistics:
- Passing grade from a clean pocket: 76.6 (No. 22 among 38 qualified quarterbacks)
- Passing grade on standard dropbacks (from within the pocket): 69.9 (No. 21)
- Passing grade on first/second down: 79.4 (No. 9)
- Passing grade with no play action: 79.0 (No. 12)
- Passing grade on passes at/beyond the sticks: 82.2 (No. 19)
History tells us quarterbacks run less as they get older, but the man has a long ways to go before falling off the top of the mountain. Overall, Hurts is fresh off posting the sixth-most productive rushing season by a quarterback *ever* in terms of total fantasy points from purely rushing production. Consider: 2021 Hurts scored more fantasy points on the ground than any single-year version of Mike Vick ever did. This sort of dual-threat goodness has helped Hurts finish as a fantasy football QB1 in 74% of his starts over the past two seasons — the highest mark in the league.
Ultimately, the Eagles would have already made the switch to Minshew or more heavily invested in the position during the offseason if Hurts was anything other than their quarterback of the present. It’s fair to wonder if he’ll still be the man under center come Week 1, 2023, but for now fantasy investors should happily fire up the rising third-year talent as the sixth-best option at the position. The only quarterbacks I’d take ahead of Hurts: Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson. There’s legit overall QB1 upside here if Hurts takes a leap as a passer, while status quo should still be enough to produce oodles of top-12 finishes thanks to that good ole rushing floor.
Running back: Miles Sanders (RB25), Kenneth Gainwell (RB57), Boston Scott (RB67)
Last season, Sanders registered 144 rush attempts and caught 29 passes in 13 games. He gained a solid enough 940 total yards on these touches but didn't find the end zone even once.
Only 10 running backs have managed to rack up 100-plus touches without a score since 2010. Only one found the end zone more than three times the following season. While Sanders largely made it through the offseason unscathed with the Eagles refraining from adding to the position and choosing not to re-sign Jordan Howard, the larger problem continues to be the presence of Hurts.
Hurts easily led the Eagles with 13 goal line carries last season, while Scott (10) and Howard (6) also worked ahead of Sanders (5) inside the 5-yard line. While Hurts (7 goal line scores) was certainly a factor, both Scott (7) and Howard (3) also managed to find the end zone on plenty of occasions. Hurts vultured Sanders plenty near the goal line, but the Eagles were still one of just four offenses to give their running backs 20-plus carries inside the 5-yard line.
The good news for Sanders: He won the snap battle inside the 5-yard line in 12 games when healthy last season.
- Sanders (15 goal-line snaps)
- Scott (8)
- Gainwell (4)
- Howard (1)
The Eagles managed to feed him 15-plus combined carries and targets in six of his 12 games, which isn't great, but it does reflect the reality he was leaned on throughout the season despite his lack of scoring success. Philadelphia has more reason than ever to feed Sanders the rock until the wheels fall off with 2022 being the final year of his rookie deal.
Sanders has been forced to deal with hamstring, knee, and ankle issues over the past two regular seasons. He also broke his hand in Week 16, 2021. A fully healthy 2022 would be welcomed with open arms by Eagles faithful and fantasy investors alike; he’s a prime zero-RB option given his availability in the sixth and seventh rounds of summer drafts. The presence of Gainwell doesn’t help the receiving ceiling available inside of what again figures to be a run-first offense, but it’d be shocking to see Sanders fail to put up bigger numbers with 225-plus touches in 2022. Seventeen of 27 offenses with a run-heavy quarterback have produced a top-30 running back in PPR points per game; Sanders' price tag is already being heavily discounted by Hurts' presence under center.
Gainwell fell out of favor with the offense during the middle of the season as they transitioned to a run-first attack, but he did catch back on in Week 18 as well as in the Eagles' Wild Card loss to the Buccaneers due to the extreme negative game script at hand. While it's a positive the Eagles gave Gainwell 10-plus carries on three occasions, Scott remains the favorite to see most of the work when Sanders is sidelined and remains the preferred handcuff. Ultimately, Gainwell’s lack of a best-case scenario leaves him idle in my RB5 tier, while Scott is less of a three-down handcuff than most and should only be drafted in especially deep formats.
Wide receiver: A.J. Brown (WR12), DeVonta Smith (WR40), Quez Watkins (unranked), Zach Pascal (unranked), Jalen Reagor (unranked), Greg Ward (unranked)
AJB is one of the game’s very best wide receivers. This isn’t up for debate:
- PFF receiving grade: 91.2 (No. 3 among 108 wide receivers with triple-digit targets since 2019)
- Yards per route run: 2.61 (No. 4)
- Yards per reception: 16.2 (No. 8)
- Yards after the catch per reception: 6 (No. 6)
This elite efficiency has helped make Brown one of fantasy’s finest producers over the years. Overall, he’s one of just 18 wide receivers with 15-plus PPR points per game since 2019.
The million dollar question is just how high Brown’s ceiling might be in this offense. It’s fair to consider Hurts a downgrade from Ryan Tannehill as a pure passer, but obviously Brown is more than accustomed to working inside of a run-first offense.
The following table denotes the top-scoring PPR running back, wide receivers and tight end on a per-game basis from offenses with a run-heavy quarterback since 2010. “Run-heavy” was defined as 80 rush attempts in a season (5 per game).
|Team + Season||RB1||WR1||WR2||TE1|
|PHI + 2021||36||40||82||8|
|BAL + 2021||39||23||59||1|
|BUF + 2021||28||9||46||9|
|ARI + 2021||8||19||32||10|
|BAL + 2020||29||43||79||4|
|NWE + 2020||31||53||81||56|
|ARI + 2020||23||5||51||27|
|BUF + 2020||39||3||31||29|
|HOU + 2020||13||8||17||25|
|SEA + 2020||11||10||12||35|
|BAL + 2019||10||48||88||5|
|BUF + 2019||27||23||36||35|
|ARI + 2019||13||31||45||45|
|HOU + 2019||39||5||38||25|
|BAL + 2018||31||55||63||18|
|CAR + 2018||3||43||49||14|
|HOU + 2018||23||4||45||38|
|BUF + 2018||41||47||70||43|
|CAR + 2017||13||25||48||32|
|SEA + 2017||81||16||50||7|
|BUF + 2017||9||48||73||11|
|BUF + 2016||4||52||66||19|
|CAR + 2016||25||35||55||5|
|CAR + 2015||15||34||68||6|
|BUF + 2015||7||14||59||17|
|SEA + 2015||34||15||49||11|
|KAN + 2015||41||18||82||9|
While Sanders is basically being priced in line with these findings, Brown’s status as a near consensus top-12 wide receiver is far steeper price to pay. Just seven of the 27 WR1s studied managed to finish higher than 14th, and they were in offenses led by Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson, Kyler Murray or Russell Wilson.
AJB is objectively a stud, but he has far more questions in terms of volume, quarterback and continuity than I’d like for a true top-10 wide receiver. I'd rather take lower-ADP guys like Tee Higgins and Keenan Allen thanks to their superior offensive environment. Ultimately, Brown is my WR12 and someone that I won’t be reaching to take inside of the top two rounds of drafts, but fire away if one of the game’s most-talented receivers ever slides into Round 3.
Then there’s Smith, who was good, not great, as a rookie. Don’t get me wrong: Smith flashed all sorts of route-running goodness throughout the season.
DeVonta Smith is good at football pic.twitter.com/0iByu9wOLH
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) November 24, 2021
Still, this wasn't enough to help him finish as better than the WR42 in PPR points per game, just narrowly ahead of guys like Jakobi Meyers (WR43), Marvin Jones (WR44) and Kendrick Bourne (WR45). This was despite carrying gaudy target and air yard shares as the undisputed No. 1 wide receiver in this passing game.
Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson in 2020 are the only run-heavy quarterbacks to enable two top-30 wide receivers on a per-game basis since 2015. There have been 10 instances of multiple top-48 receivers; don't expect Smith to fall off the face of the Earth. Still, the lack of a true ceiling at hand makes it tough for me to get Smith higher than 40th in my ranks. I'd rather take a chance on arguably lesser talented receivers like Darnell Mooney, Treylon Burks, Drake London and Skyy Moore, among others, thanks to their superior potential to finish as their passing game’s No. 1 wide receiver.
Don't expect Watkins, Pascal, Reagor or Ward to supply more than the occasional solid week as the offense's No. 4 (at best) pass-game option.
Tight end: Dallas Goedert (TE10), Jack Stoll (unranked), Tyree Jackson (unranked), J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (unranked), Richard Rodgers (unranked), Grant Calcaterra (unranked)
Goedert took over as the Eagles’ undisputed No. 1 tight end in Week 7 last season after Zach Ertz was traded to the Cardinals. He went on to post the following production:
- Week 7: 3 receptions-70 yards-0 TD (5 targets), PPR TE14
- Week 8: 6-72-0 (7), TE4
- Week 9: 3-43-0 (6), TE22
- Week 10: 2-28-0 (2), TE26
- Week 11: 5-62-0 (8), TE13
- Week 12: 1-0-0 (3), TE54
- Week 13: 6-105-2 (6), TE2
- Week 15: 7-135-0 (9), TE5
- Week 16: 2-28-0 (4), TE29
- Week 17: 6-71-0 (7), TE5
- Wild Card: 6-92-0 (12)
Overall, Goedert tied with Ertz as the TE4 behind only Mark Andrews, George Kittle and Travis Kelce during this stretch. Clearly, there’s a bit of a floor here; it’s criminal to not feed a talent like Goedert eight-plus targets in a game more consistently. Still, Goedert remains one of the league’s few tight ends with a real chance to finish as a top-two option in their offense’s passing game.
Run-heavy quarterbacks have produced far more top-12 tight ends (12) than running backs (7) or wide receivers (8) since 2015. It’s fair to be optimistic about Goedert’s upside in 2022 given it will be his first full season as an every-down tight end. However, I lean toward guys like Rob Gronkowski, Dalton Schultz, T.J Hockenson and Ertz as preferred fantasy options thanks to their status as similarly-talented players in better and more voluminous passing games. Goedert's status as the TE8 over at Underdog Fantasy is a bit steep; I'd rather wait for three rounds and snag Gronk, or play the late-round tight end game with guys like Robert Tonyan and Irv Smith.
It’s unlikely any of these backup tight ends would see a similar role as Goedert if he were to miss time. The offense turned to a three-player committee at the position in Week 18 with Goedert resting for the playoffs; none of these backups are likely to be on the fantasy grid in 2022.