2013 Team Outlook: Philadelphia Eagles
WR DeSean Jackson, WAS - Gamble (high risk)
Have you heard the one about DeSean Jackson as a home run threat who strikes out about as much he goes yard? What about him as a combustible option that seemingly loses focus on the field more often than a far-sighted camera operator with their glasses? Sadly both versions have proven true, including last season when he finished with 45 receptions for 700 yards and two touchdowns. The numbers were down in part due to Jackson missing five games and landing on the IR with fractured ribs. Of course, the previous season when he played 15 games, the shifty one only scored four times and finished under 1,000 receiving yards. Here's the good news: just about everyone outside of the Jackson household has doubts, meaning he's likely to be drafted outside the WR2 range. As a third receiver and in this potentially high scoring offense, that's not a bad gamble to consider (especially in non-PPR leagues). When he's at full blast, Jackson is one the scariest playmakers in the league. Still, put all the factors together - including a new offense - and Jackson is indeed a gamble.
WR Jeremy Maclin, KC - Dynasty Only
Update (7/27): The Eagles confirmed Maclin tore the ACL in his right knee and will the miss the entire 2013 season. Never quite the fantasy producer everyone imagines - zero 1,000 yard seasons - but still a playmaker, not to mention Philly's most consistent wide receiver. Projected into WR3/4 range along with DeSean Jackson. Now Jackson is the only Eagles WR in that range. No Maclin means defenses can regularly keep a safety over the top on Jackson, as the expected drop-off to Jason Avant or Riley Cooper is significant. The mystery surrounding what the heck will happen with Chip Kelly's offense, now more mysterious.
Profile - The fantasy community for the most part is still monitoring the Eagles' new look under Chip Kelly for any clues about future results. That explains why Maclin and DeSean Jackson are seeing their ADPs drop compared to where they would have been picked previously. In the case of the up-and-down Jackson, that seems fair. As for Maclin, he's the steadier of the two and the more accomplished play-in, play-out receiver. He's also never had a 1,000 yard season as a receiver, though he's averaged at least seven touchdowns over his last three years. Also worth noting with Maclin is that we can (for now anyway) play the "hey, he's a free agent, so you know he'll play better" card. The term risk has been used often with the Philadelphia players; Maclin is no exception and yet he's a rather safe bet to post numbers in the low-WR2 to WR3 stud range.
WR Jason Avant, KC - Deep-league Only
Update (7/27): The Eagles confirmed Maclin tore the ACL in his right knee and will the miss the entire 2013 season. No Maclin means defenses can regularly keep a safety over the top on Jackson, as the expected drop-off to Avant or Riley Cooper is significant. Not exactly a playmaker, Avant has caught at least 51 passes in three straight seasons, but only two touchdowns in that span. Perhaps his fantasy value receives a modest boost, but except another receiver (or tight end) to emerge as Philly's second pass-catching target. The mystery surrounding what the heck will happen with Chip Kelly's offense, now more mysterious.
Profile - Under the previous administration, owning Avant was often the same: catch just enough passes to intrigue, not enough to use. Last season in 14 games, the 6-foot target (plays bigger than his listed height) averaged 3.8 receptions and 46 yards. There were some games where he was close to becoming fantasy viable, but there were none where Avant actually scored. Over the last three seasons, he only scored two touchdowns total. There's the rub, or has been. Perhaps the Eagles' new look will boost Avant's numbers, but there are plenty of mouths to feed. Outside of the truly deep leagues, Avant is waiver wire option (but is an option to consider if DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin miss games).
WR Damaris Johnson, TEN - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
The buzz surrounding the 5-foot-8 sparkplug was mounting even before Jeremy Maclin's season-ending knee injury. Now that the Eagles' second receiver job is up for grabs, expect chatter about Johnson's exploits to reach another level. Whether college football's all-time leader in all-purpose yards can play a meaty role on the NFL level is the question. As a rookie, Johnson averaged 13.5 yards on 19 receptions while his lone touchdown came as a punt returner. On paper, his shifty style makes for a great fit in Chip Kelly's up-tempo schemes, more than Jason Avant or Riley Cooper. Now the training camp opportunity exists to show that Johnson can make the transition from potential to production.
WR Arrelious Benn, JAX - Not Draft Worthy
8/7: And down goes Benn, the second Eagles receiver out for the season with a torn ACL. Injuries have derailed his once hopeful career and at this point it is unlikely Benn ever returns to fantasy rosters. As for the Eagles, this loss is more about depth, but shouldn't impact the starting lineup.
The Eagles' fourth receiver job looks like a battle between Benn -- a former high pick that flamed out during his three seasons with the Bucs -- and Riley Cooper -- a 6-foot-4 red zone threat who caught three touchdowns last season. Injuries have sapped Benn's production, forcing him to miss half the games last season when he caught only four passes. Considered an imposing target when entering the NFL out of Illinois, Benn has good size at 6-foot-2 and is a decent route runner. Based on potential, he probably has the edge in the WR4 race; from a fantasy perspective, it's a shrugs scenario either way.
WR Riley Cooper, --- - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
8/7: It goes without saying that Cooper hasn't had a good few weeks. SInce the Eagles have welcomed him back into the fold, we'll move on from the ugliness and focus on the football. There is also a reason why Philly kept him on the roster: they're running out of bodies. With his size and route-running ability, Cooper is an interesting talent and one the Eagles might have to rely on considering their limited options. If he emerges as a starter, it is conceivable he's a draftable WR5, but circle back in a couple of weeks.
Somebody is about to pick up a whole bunch more targets now that the Eagles confirmed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is out for the season after tearing tore the ACL in his right knee. That someone could be Cooper, who offers red zone size, though has remained a fantasy tease. He did catch a career-high 23 passes last year, three for touchdowns. The Eagles' WR2 position is certainly one to watch during training camp. So far the viewing has been a bummer.