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Philadelphia Eagles fantasy football draft preview: It's literally getting Chippy out here

Chip Kelly took over for a good coach at Oregon and made it great. Can he do that with the Eagles, will the offense work at the pro level and can any of these "sleepers" turn back into actual productive players this year?

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One of my least favorite football clichès would have to be when two teams are drawing a lot of personal foul penalties and throwing little punches and jabs and the announcers say that "ohhhh, it's getting chippy out here!" We are literally watching a sport where players are meant to hit each other as often and as hard as they possibly can.

Every single football game is "chippy" on some level.

However, with the Eagles this year, there will be some actual "Chippy-ness" thanks to the hiring of Chip Kelly out of the University of Oregon (No, I'm not above a bad pun. Not even close.) There are eight teams this year that are starting out with new head coaches and it's become increasingly apparent which direction the NFL as a cohesive entity is moving in: Seven of those coaches are considered to be "offensive" coaches.

Only Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley has spent time on the defensive side of coaching. The only exception to that is Kelly, who was the defensive coordinator for John Hopkins back in 1993. He is not in Philadelphia to fix the defense, though; he was brought here to try and revolutionize professional offenses in the same way that he did at Oregon.

Mike Bellotti is considered to be the guy who turned the Ducks into a force to be reckoned with after four double-digit win seasons, six bowl victories, seven Top 25 finishes and the outright Pac-10 title in 2001. It took Bellotti 14 seasons to accomplish all of that.

In four seasons, Chip Kelly had four double-digit win seasons, two Pac-10 titles, one Pac-12 championship, two Rose Bowl trips (Bellotti never went to the Rose Bowl) and a BCS national title game appearance.

If Bellotti sparked life into the program, Kelly lit a nuclear bomb inside of it. (That's what you do with nuclear weapons right? Light them like Wile E. Coyote?) What chance does he have to do the same for the Philadelphia Eagles?

Once again Kelly takes over for a long-tenured head coach who was considered to be very successful, even if he fell a little short. Andy Reid spent 14 seasons as the coach of the Eagles. He led them to eight double-digit win seasons, nine playoff appearances, one Super Bowl appearance and four straight appearances in the NFC championship game. But you know what's better than four straight appearances in the conference championship game?

Just one, single, little championship. Reid couldn't get there with Philadelphia and his career-worst 4-12 finish in 2012 pushed him out the door. Luckily for Kelly, he didn't leave the house empty (in addition to puns: metaphors).

Even with the season-ending injury to Jeremy Maclin, there is a lot of talent left on offense. Whether or not Kelly's offensive strategies can be successful in the NFL, or if the Eagles can finish .500 or better, remains to be seen, but there's plenty to like here from a fantasy standpoint. Here's a look at presumed starters and predictions for Kelly's inaugural professional season.


Michael Vick, 33

2012 stats: 204-of-351, 58.1%, 2,362 yards, 12 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 6.7 yards per attempt, 78.1 QB rating, 46.03 QBR, 62 carries for 332 yards and one touchdown, 11 fumbles, 28th in DYAR (-82)

Just how much Kelly's NFL offense resembles his Ducks offense, we don't know yet, and the preseason isn't a good indication of how it will look exactly and how effective it will be. Even Kelly admits that:

"Yeah, this is still a work in progress. We’re a ways away from anything," said Kelly. "That’s what the preseason is all about is you get four opportunities to do some different things. Everybody in every group — whether it’s offense, defense or special teams — is all learning a whole brand new system, so you can’t throw everything on them, there has to be a layered effect as it goes in. There are some subtle tweaks as we keep moving, but it will be that way during the season because the defenses you face are different, so what you ran against one team will be different than what you ran against another team because the looks are going to be different."

Philly looked different against the Jaguars than it did in the first two preseason game because the Jags were playing well on defense and Lane Johnson had his hands full with Jason Babin. How successful Vick is this year depends heavily on the offensive line's ability to be in the right place at the right time and each lineman being able to hold down his assignment. Obviously, that's why the Eagles chose Johnson with the fourth overall pick.

But he's still just a rookie and that's why he'll be manning the right side with Jason Peters on the left. As a unit, can they properly block for what will presumably be a run-heavy offense? The Eagles have the potential to have one of the best lines in the NFL, but they'll need to stay healthy -- something that they had issues with last season. It doesn't seem like Johnson is ready to step onto the left side if Peters suffered another injury.

Vick had his least effective season as a runner in 2012; his 5.4 yards per carry was the lowest of his career outside of a small sample in 2009. He was even less effective as a passer. He expects to run more this year, but can the 33-year-old who has taken his share of professional hits make it through a full season, or are we nearing the end of a "dramatic" career?

I wouldn't count on Vick to be the quarterback of my fantasy team. Which, believe it or not, makes him a pretty good sleeper pick. Three years ago he was maybe the most valuable player in the game.

2013 Prediction: 240-of-400, 3,000 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 90 carries for 675 yards, three touchdowns

Nick Foles, 24

2012 stats: 161-of-265, 60.8%, 1,699 yards, six touchdowns, five interceptions, 6.4 yards per attempt, 79.1 QB rating, 11 carries for 42 yards, one touchdown, eight fumbles, 45.3 QBR (28th), -166 DYAR (30th)

Foles did not win the starter job, but he started the Eagles' fourth preseason game as most of the first string sat. There's plenty of time for him to prove himself worthy of being an NFL starting quarterback, but he was still pretty awful last season. Perhaps if given an opportunity in Kelly's offense, he can shine.

With Vick as the starter, that opportunity could be closer than we think.

Matt Barkley

Rookie, fourth-round pick out of USC, 3,273 yards passing, 63.6% completions, 36 TD, 15 INT as senior

Getting a guy in the fourth round who not long ago was thought to be worthy of the number one pick is a very solid get for Kelly and the Eagles. Then again, he fell this far for a reason.

Running backs

LeSean McCoy, 25

2012 stats: 12 games, 200 carries for 840 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, two touchdowns, 54 catches for 373 yards, three touchdowns, -34 DYAR (35th), 48% success rate, four fumbles

If the football universe balances itself out, nowhere was it more evident than with LeSean McCoy last season. Or perhaps that's just fate messing with our heads.

McCoy was a very high draft pick going into 2012 drafts based on his 17-touchdown performance the year before. Add in his 48 catches and three receiving touchdowns and McCoy scored 20 times with just one fumble. You can't be greedy and ask for a repeat of that, but maybe 15 or 16 touchdowns would be fair?

How about two?

McCoy was injured for part of the year but that hardly makes up for a 15-touchdown loss on the ground from 2011, nor does it explain the four fumbles. Once again expectations are high, not because of what he did the year before but because of the new guy calling the shots. Not just Kelly, but offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is the same guy involved the year before in the drafting of running back Trent Richardson for the Browns with the third overall pick.

The Eagles are going to run it and McCoy is the center of that offense. Could McCoy be the Fantasy MVP?

2013 Prediction: 280 carries for 1,400 yards, 10 touchdowns, 60 catches for 500 yards, three touchdowns

Bryce Brown, 22

2012 stats: 115 carries for 564 yards, four touchdowns, 4.9 YPC, 13 catches for 56 yards, four fumbles

Same amount of fumbles as McCoy, 126 fewer touches.

How does a player like Brown slip through the cracks? Because the ball slips through his. Nobody would deny the talent of Brown as a runner, but turnovers are far too costly to allow on such a regular basis. I'm not sure you could ever trust Brown with 300-400 touches in a full season, but he's only 22 and players can fix issues like this.

If you draft McCoy, you've still got to get Brown. The offense is far too reliant upon the running game to not have a player of his caliber just in case.

Chris Polk

If Brown doesn't fix his fumbling issues, Polk is a great sleeper to keep an eye on. Injury concerns are the only thing that kept him from being drafted in 2012 and if he had a clean bill of health, he may have gone fairly high. At this point he appears to be healthy and that's probably why the team felt comfortable trading away Felix Jones.

Wide receivers

DeSean Jackson, 26

2012 stats: 45 catches for 700 yards, two touchdowns, 51% catch rate on 88 targets, 19 DYAR (70th)

Overrated or underrated? That's the question here.

Overrated: Jackson has gone over 100 yards only four times in the last two seasons. He has caught a touchdown in only six of his last 26 games. He hasn't scored a special teams touchdown at all in the last two seasons. He hasn't caught over seven passes in a game since November 2009. He doesn't have a player like Maclin to draw the defense's attention away from him.

Underrated: He's one of the most explosive players in the NFL. He can turn any play into a touchdown, from starting at any point on the field. He only returned one punt last year but is expected to return them again this season. The running game should be what draws attention away from him and could allow for a lot more single-man coverage. Running bubble screens to Jackson could be very dangerous.

Probably somewhere in between.

2013 Prediction: 60 catches for 1,000 yards and five touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, one punt return touchdown

Riley Cooper, 26

2012 stats: 23 catches for 248 yards, three touchdowns, 49% catch rate on 47 targets

Cooper has had opportunities at the NFL level and come short. In his 40-game career, he's caught 46 passes for 679 yards and five touchdowns. It seems as though he is not nearly as valuable as Avant, a rather underrated player last season.

2013 Prediction: 30 catches for 350 yards and two touchdowns

Jason Avant, 30

2012 stats: 53 catches for 648 yards, no touchdowns, 70% catch rate on 77 targets, 124 DYAR (34th)

People so rarely accept a person who will do a job "about as average as you could possibly ever expect." People want to see greatness or failure, because with greatness or failure at least we know how to evaluate you. That's why it seems like a football player will get released if he's put up an average of 457 yards per season in a seven-year career.

But not Jason Avant, apparently.

However, taking a deeper look, Avant was one of the few players in the league to catch at least 70 percent of his targets. His DYAR ranked ahead of guys like Torrey Smith, Percy Harvin, Mike Williams, Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne. Actually, he led the category for the Eagles last season.

Despite that, he still finished with fewer than 700 yards and he has never had more than three touchdowns in a season. I can't see a good reason to expect that to change now at 30.

2013 Prediction: 50 catches for 600 yards, one touchdown

Damaris Johnson, Jeff Maehl

Johnson is the sleeper here. The 2012 undrafted free agent is only 5'8 but he's speedy and returned a punt 98 yards for a touchdown last year. He stands a good chance of making the roster and perhaps even moving up the depth chart if Cooper and/or Avant are unsuccessful.

Tight ends

James Casey, 29

2012 stats: 34 catches for 330 yards, three touchdowns, 77% catch rate on 44 targets, 59 DYAR (19th) with Texans

If you think a 70 percent catch rate is good, how about 77? The former Texans tight end/fullback was one of Kelly's first signings and there's a strong indication that the tight end could be a key to the Eagles offense this year. After all, why do they seemingly have so many good ones?

You could expect to see two of them out on the field at any given time. Casey is used to that, having shared with players like Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen in Houston.

2013 Prediction: 50 catches for 500 yards and four touchdowns

Brent Celek, 28

2012 stats: 57 catches for 684 yards, one touchdown, 66% catch rate on 87 targets, -25 DYAR (39th)

With twice as many targets, Celek was much less successful. He gained just 7.8 yards per target and one touchdown, but again, the Eagles were just a really bad team last season.

Can Celek show that he was negatively affected by the overall poor play around him rather than vice versa? He's just two years removed from 811 yards and five touchdowns.

2013 Prediction: 50 catches for 600 yards and four touchdowns

Zach Ertz, Emil Igwenagu

Ertz: Rookie, 35th overall pick out of Stanford, 69 catches for 898 yards, six touchdowns as senior, 6'5, 249 lbs, 4.68 40-yard dash

Ertz may need a season to get acclimated, but he has enormous upside. Especially in this offense. As is a common theme on the Eagles: He's a good sleeper.

Team Defense

A local Philly food chain didn't name a burger after Chip Kelly because of his defensive prowess. I am not sure that anybody will be naming anything after the Eagles' current defense. At least not anything that you'd want to look at.

Philadelphia was 29th in scoring defense, 15th in total defense, allowed the most passing touchdowns in the league and forced the second-fewest turnovers. Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Jason Babin (gone) tied for the team lead in sacks with 5.5. What did they do to change that?

Not much.

Well, unless you count addition by subtraction by getting rid of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Which may very well be pretty valuable.

There's no reason to believe that the defense is worth drafting, nor that there are any IDP standouts here with the exception of DeMeco Ryans, maybe. Besides, you didn't come to an Eagles preview (or a game for that matter) to watch the defense.

You came here to get Chippy with it.

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