The 2013 Philadelphia Eagles were full of surprises. Chip Kelly’s up-tempo, record setting offense seemed to prove it could work in the NFL but perhaps the biggest surprise was the team’s success in transitioning from an even front to much more of an odd man look. The personnel seemed to be mis-matched without a proven nose tackle and with Trent Cole playing most of his snaps from a two point stance. Add to that an almost entirely new secondary and the Birds seemed destined for failure. While their final yardage totals weren’t pretty (29th), they finished in the middle of the pack in points allowed after a rough start. But, this is #NoTeamD country. How do the Eagles’ players breakdown individually for 2014? Let’s take a peek.
Nose Tackle – The 2013 season started with Issac Sopoaga in this spot but didn’t end that way. The Eagles had to be pleasantly surprised by the play of rookies Bennie Logan and Damion Square in the middle of the line, but from a fantasy perspective, there isn’t much value here. Even in leagues that require a DT/NT, Logan is no more than a bye week/injury fill in.
Defensive End – I have to admit, I believed Cedric Thornton and Fletcher Cox were in the mis-matched category in 2013. But great a scheme actually produced some value from these two youngsters. Cox is easily the higher profile player and is more valuable in big play leagues, with a 6-9 sack ceiling. In tackle heavy leagues, he’s in the same neighborhood with Bennie Logan, unfortunately. Thornton is the opposite, boasting DL2 production in tackle heavy leagues with 1-2 sack potential.
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Inside Linebackers – DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks man these spots for Philly and offer great value in any format. Ryans has long been a much better fantasy performer than he is on the field, consistently grading out in the bottom half of the league at his position. For our purposes, Ryans is a LB2 regardless of your scoring, notching 100+ solos, 2 INTs, and 4 sacks in 2013. Kendricks’ value is slightly less in tackle leagues (LB3+ range) but his 4 recoveries, 3 INTs, and 4 sacks make him a nice young player in big play formats.
Outside Linebackers – At this spot, we look at Trent Cole and Connor Barwin. Cole’s transition to OLB got off to a VERY slow start and caused a little bit of panic in Philly. A strong second half (eight sacks) gave him some nice value in big play leagues, but his struggles against the run make him an emergency only play in tackle leagues. Barwin’s biggest enemy to fantasy value is that he’s so good in run support and pass coverage. He only notched four sacks in 2013 and his role will likely remain the same in 2014. My last caution with these two players in 2014 is that the Eagles have made no secret of the fact that they want to add an impact edge rusher at some point, meaning one or both of these guy could potentially lose more snaps this year.
Safety – At another position to expect upgrades, we’re examining Nate Allen, Patrick Chung, and Earl Wolff. Allen came into 2013 under much scrutiny and handled himself quite well. He doesn’t offer much in big play league value and while he’s waiver wire fodder in tackle leagues, he proved to be a nice add in a bye week/injury fill in role. Chung was just flat out bad in 2013 and no one expects him to be back in 2014, opening the door for Wolff in his second year. Wolff again didn’t offer much in value in either format but did show flashes in tackle heavy scoring. But as I stated earlier, play the waiting game here as the Birds will look at all options to upgrade both safety positions.
Cornerbacks – In their first years with the club, both Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher performed quite well. Both were asked to support the run while providing solid coverage. Williams value was spotty in tackle leagues but his gambling style always makes him attractive in big play leagues. Fletcher offers owners the opposite value, finishing as a Top 10 option in tackle heavy leagues that require CBs, while only forcing three turnovers. Another name to watch, especially in big play leagues, is slot corner Brandon Boykin. Boykin is an under sized CB who gets picked on at times but has come up with a nice amount of turnovers in his two NFL seasons.
Inside The Numbers – A look at the numbers backs up my read on the Eagles’ front seven. The Birds’ ILBs are where it’s at in tackle heavy formats, notching almost 28% of the team’s total tackles (4th among 3-4 defenses) in 2013. They also were second with nine total sacks from the interior. All of the other numbers were average across the board. In the secondary, the safety numbers were well below average in tackle % but did produce some good weekly numbers. The Eagles’ corners were 6th in total tackles and 11th in tackle percentage, meaning they support the run well and make the tackle when they allow a completion, a nice combination for IDP success.
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