Fantasy Football Target Practice: The 2020 Philadelphia Eagles
The next installment in the Target Practice series is the Philadelphia Eagles. Last season, Carson Wentz played at least one game without the following players because of injury: Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard, and Miles Sanders. Projecting forward this offense in 2020 is going to look vastly different than it did in 2019 given the injuries to the offense and the addition of several new faces in the offense via the NFL Draft and trade. The team added Jalen Reagor in Round 1 of the NFL Draft, John Hightower in Round 5, and Quez Watkins in Round 6. They also added veteran speedster Marquise Goodwin via trade.
With all of these changes in the offense, how will the targets be distributed? Let’s dive in.
The Eagles’ situation is unique, primarily because of the injuries from 2019. On the surface, it looks like the team has a ton of vacated targets (about 8.5 targets per game), but their vacated targets are going to come from role players or honestly, back up players from 2019. The team vacates a total of 128 targets, 9th most in the NFL. Nelson Agholor signed a one year contract with the Las Vegas Raiders, Jordan Howard signed with the Dolphins in free agency, and Darren Sproles retired. Mack Hollins was also cut in the middle of the 2019 season, as was Jordan Matthews. The team really didn’t lose targets from starters in 2019. How will the targets be distributed in 2020 with the influx of talent back into the lineup? The Eagles have passed the ball at a top 10 rate each of the past two seasons – getting these target projections correct is going to be crucial to the success of fantasy football players in 2020.
Alshon Jeffery – Floor: 40 / Ceiling: 80
Over the past two seasons with Philadelphia as the team’s WR1, Alshon Jeffery has averaged 7.3 targets per game. On a 16-game pace, that equates to about 117 targets in a season. But, if you’ve read my injury report write up in the Ultimate Draft Kit, then you understand why the target floor is so low for Jeffery in 2020. He’s coming off a December Lisfranc surgery, which is very likely to force Jeffery to start on the PUP list. The second thing working against Jeffery from a target share perspective is that we’ve only ever seen him play one game with DeSean Jackson, and that came in Week 1 last year. In that game, Jackson went 8/154/2 on nine targets. It’s a small sample size, of course, but there’s reason to question how many targets Jeffery could see in this offense if Jackson is back on the field and Jeffery isn’t 100% early in the year.
DeSean Jackson – Floor: 60 / Ceiling: 110
Speaking of DeSean Jackson, he went absolutely B-nanas in Week 1 of the 2019 season. Then, he suffered an abdominal and groin muscle injury, which forced him to miss the rest of the season after attempting to rehab. Ultimately, he was forced to undergo sports hernia repair surgery – more details on that here. Now entering 2020, DeSean Jackson is healthy, and I fully expect him to get off to a hot start yet again. However, Jackson hasn’t played 16 games in a single season since 2013 and has been a major question mark in terms of health for the vast majority of his career. Projecting a 16-game season seems unlikely, but he’ll have every opportunity to start the season as the team’s WR1. To reach his ceiling, he’ll likely need to put together at least 14 games.
Zach Ertz – Floor: 120 / Ceiling: 155
Since 2015, Zach Ertz has seen no less than 106 targets in a season, and in that season, he only played 14 games. Ertz’s chemistry with Carson Wentz is undeniable, and he’s locked in as the team’s top receiving option yet again for 2020. Last year, with Jeffery and Jackson on the shelf (which could easily happen again), Ertz saw a sizable bump in targets, finishing with a total of 138 on the season after playing in 15 games (missed one week due to fractured ribs). Over the past five seasons, Ertz has averaged 124 targets. Barring injury, he’s likely to be right around that mark yet again in 2020, and he should push for right around 90 receptions and 900-1,000 yards yet again.
Dallas Goedert – Floor: 55 / Ceiling: 95
Since entering the NFL over the past two seasons, Dallas Goedert has seen 44 and 87 targets, with a massive jump in targets coming in year two. What’s the old adage? TEs don’t breakout until year three, and while Zach Ertz is still in town, it’s entirely plausible that Goedert yet again sees another jump in targets, especially considering the injury history of DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. Last year, the Eagles were second in the entire NFL in targets to the TE position as a whole (39%). If either Jackson or Jeffery miss time, this trend will continue as Ertz and Goedert make up one of the best TE tandem groups in the league.
Jalen Reagor – Floor: 40 / Ceiling: 80
Jalen Reagor, the rookie WR out of TCU, was taken with the 21st overall pick in the NFL Draft, but will he be a focal point of the offense in year one? If we go by historical data, most likely not. Moreover, head coach, Dough Pederson, said this in June, “Right now, he’s going to come in and he’s going to learn one position and he is going to learn from DeSean Jackson and learn everything he can.” I interpret this to mean that Reagor is likely to start slow in his rookie season, especially with the limited amount of time to work directly with Carson Wentz given the crazy nature of this offseason. The talent is there, but the opportunity might not be there right away, capping Reagor’s target share ceiling.
Miles Sanders – Floor: 50 / Ceiling: 80
Our fearless editor, Kyle Borgognoni, has done excellent research showing that vacated targets go to the RB position most often. All offseason when debating whether or not Sanders is worthy of a second-round pick in fantasy drafts, the primary argument has been, “Well Miles Sanders only really produced because of the injuries to the wide receiver position.” If you’re reading this paragraph, then clearly you’ve caught on to the fact that Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson are major injury risks, and moreover, Marquise Goodwin was sent to the injured reserve last year because of a knee injury, and he’s got a history of concussion. Vacated targets? Check. Elevated injury risk to the WR position? Check. Sanders saw 63 targets last year and wasn’t even the full-time starter until November.