InsideTheEagles.com

Fantasy Football Expert

Kurt Leimbach

2008 Fantasy Preview – YOUR Philadelphia Eagles

Camp is about to begin in the NFL and I can't wait! It's been a long offseason for the Birds, thinking on what could have been in 2007 if a few more bounces had gone our way, with rumors of possibly getting a stud WR circling before the draft, picking up CB Asante Samuel, trading out of the 1 st round of the draft yet again, and some internal strife with CB Lito Sheppard making up most of the headlines for the Eagles so far in 2008.

From a fantasy perspective, not much has changed on the offensive side of the ball. Most starters from last year's team will return, and all will start the year healthy. The Eagles as a team ranked 6 th in the league with 358.1 total yards/game, 10 th in the league with 234.7 passing yards/game and 8 th in the league with 123.4 rushing yards per game. Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan are both a year older, but still check in as a solid set of bookend tackles on a generally strong offensive line. The key for the Eagles this year will be the health of Donovan McNabb. McNabb missed a few games in 2007 and struggled in the early part of the season. However, McNabb finished the year strong, posting a 6:1 TD to Interception ratio in December and completing more than 65% of his passes. Although the Eagles did not pull off a big trade for a top-flight WR, the offense should still be in the upper half of the league statistically and there are quite a few players that will be drafted and make impacts in fantasy leagues.

Looking at the Birds' skill position players, I'll go through our offensive options who are likely to be drafted in your leagues, listing their 2007 statistics, their 2008 Average Draft Position (ADP) from www.fantasysports.yahoo.com, and give an analysis as to whether I think they will over or under perform that ADP.

QB:

Donovan McNabb (Age 31)

14 Games Started, 61.5 Completion %, 3,324 Pass Yds, 19 TD, 7 Int, 236 Rushing Yards, 5 Fumbles Lost, 89.9 QB Rating

ADP: 57.0, 8 th QB taken

When he played last year, McNabb was productive and finished the year with almost a 90 QB rating. He is generally trusted by fantasy owners so far as he averages out to be a late 5 th round pick and the 8 th QB taken overall. His health is a concern, as McNabb has not played a full season since 2004, and he isn't the rushing threat that he once was. McNabb has learned to do a lot of things with a less than stellar receiving corps however, and has been fairly consistent as a producer. McNabb seems like a safe pick if you miss out on the top tier of QBs in Brady, Romo and Manning.

RB:

Brian Westbrook (Age 28, turns 29 on 9/2/08 )

15 Games Started, 1333 Rushing Yds, 7 Rushing TD, 90 Rec, 771 Receiving Yds, 5 Receiving TD, 1 Fumble Lost

ADP: 5.0, 4 th RB taken

Westbrook has been the true dynamo of the Eagles' offense the last 2 years, and leads the NFL in touches over that timeframe with 694. He missed only 1 game last year and totaled more than 2000 yards from scrimmage. However, I feel that Westbrook has a few question marks heading into the 2008 season. He is unhappy with his contract situation and as mentioned above, has seen a very heavy workload the last two seasons. I don't doubt that Westbrook will be a high scoring fantasy player when he does play, I have my questions as to whether he will be able to put together a whole year in the backfield this time around. I don't think that he is a very safe pick in the early first round. The Eagles added Lorenzo Booker to spell Westbrook a bit, but their styles are not that dissimilar, so Westbrook will see a heavy workload until he gets worn down.

WR:

Kevin Curtis (Age 30)

16 games started, 77 Rec, 1110 Receiving Yds, 6 TD

ADP: 73.3, 27 th WR taken

Curtis had a great 1 st season with the Eagles, racking up more than 1100 receiving yards and having a couple of really huge games. Along with those huge games, Curtis tended to disappear at times. Curtis had 3 games with at least 100 receiving yards and a TD (Week 3: 221, 3; Week 6: 121, 1; Week 13: 111, 1), and also 4 games with less than 30 receiving yards (Week 2: 28; Week 4: 21; Week 10: 20; Week 14: 26). That said, Curtis improved on his consistency as the season progressed, tallying less than 6 fantasy points in a standard scoring league (1 pt for 10 yards, 6 for TD) in only two weeks from Week 11 through Week 17. Curtis seemed to grow much more comfortable being split out wide after being mostly a slot receiver for his tenure in St. Louis, and figures to occupy a true “wide-out” role again this year with rookie DeSean Jackson running from the slot. Grabbing Curtis in the 7 th round as a second or third wide receiving should be a profitable play, as his speed and propensity to big games will pay dividends and he could finish the year as a top 50 player.

Reggie Brown (Age 27)

16 games started, 61 Rec, 780 Receiving Yds, 4 TD

ADP: 112.5, 37 th WR taken

Brown, like Curtis, gained a bit more consistency as the year progressed. Brown was virtually invisible through the Eagles' first 4 games, tallying games with 14, 23, 27 and 17 yards through the first 4 weeks. With the arrival of Kevin Curtis in 2007, Brown transformed his game into that of a possession receiver, upping his catch total from 46 to 61, while dropping his Yards per Catch from 17.7 to 12.8. Curtis and DeSean Jackson will clearly make up the “speed” portion of the Eagles' passing game while Brown and TE LJ Smith will appear to patrol the middle and be relied upon for shorter pickups and gaining first downs. This approach limits Brown's value as he won't have as many chances to rack up big plays and in turn catch TD passes. Brown's current draft position as the 37 th overall wide receiver, being taken in the 12 th round, might be a little high and he probably won't be a player who will significantly outperform his preseason rankings.

TE:

LJ Smith (Age 28)

9 games started, 22 Rec, 236 Receiving Yds, 1 TD

ADP: 134.7, 23 rd TE taken

Smith had a terribly down year in 2007 being plagued by injuries. He outright missed 7 games and was clearly limited in a great many more. Smith's ineffectiveness yielded a trickledown effect felt throughout the whole offense in terms of being able to score points when close to the endzone – the Eagles finished 6 th in the league in terms of total yards, but only 24 th in red zone efficiency. Smith has reportedly practiced without incident so far and his groin and knee appear to be healthy. After signing a healthy offseason contract to the tune of $4.5M and playing on a 1 year deal, Smith will definitely be looking to have a bigtime rebound year to get paid by someone come the end of this season. Smith as the 23 rd TE taken could be a huge value pick, as he has a good chance to greatly outperform his draft position and get back to his pre-injury production levels of around 50 catches, 600 yards and 5-6 TD.

DEF:

288 Pts allowed, 37 Sacks, 11 INT, 8 Fumbles Recovered, 0 Return TD

ADP: 119.5, 21 st DEF taken

Key Offseason Losses: DE Jevon Kearse, OLB Takeo Spikes, CB William James-Peterson

Key Offseason Additions: DE Chris Clemons, DT Kan Klecko, DT Trevor Laws (R), CB Assante Samuel

Last year was fairly forgettable for the Eagles' D, especially in terms of consistency. The team had a few games where they just could not stop anyone and then others where they were impenetrable. The team did not have great success getting to the QB, as only DE/LB Trent Cole (12.5) had more than 4 sacks. Adding Trevor Laws and Chris Clemons to the line and Assante Samuel should help on that front with added pressure and better coverage in the defensive backfield. Additional QB pressure also yields more turnovers as the opposition will be forced to make quicker reads and decisions. Samuel has been a tremendous ballhawk the past few years and is truly a franchise-type acquisition for the Eagles' defensive backs. He has 16 interceptions over the last two seasons. Brian Dawkins was not healthy last year and looks to bounce back for another run as the general of the defense. I think the Eagles' defense will have a much better year this year and will increase the number of turnovers they force. Last year the Eagles were last in the league with only 19 turnovers created. This will be the key for their success, in both fantasy and reality and I think the Eagles have a great chance to be a top 10 defense this year and vastly outperform their current average draft position.

All told, there is certainly some fantasy gold on the Eagles. They are in a tough division but have a lot of pieces in place to build on last year's strong finish and make another run at a division title and help you win a fantasy title

KLeimbach34@yahoo.com

 













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