Fantasy football team previews: NFC East

2021 record: 9-8

Notable coaching and system changes

The Eagles cleared the decks of the Doug Pederson era following the 2020 season, and new head coach Nick Sirianni was given the unenviable task of rebuilding a franchise that essentially dismantled the core of the team the won the Super Bowl four years earlier. Sirianni and his staff did a solid job of building up the offense around a young quarterback and haven’t made significant changes heading into the second season of the new regime.

Key free-agent additions

  • WR A.J. Brown (trade with Tennessee Titans)
  • WR Zach Pascal (Indianapolis Colts)

Key free-agent departures

  • RB Jordan Howard (unsigned)

Key draft additions

  • TE Grant Calcaterra, SMU (6th round)

Quarterback preview

The Eagles are at a critical point with quarterback. He led all NFL QBs in rushing last season (784 yards) despite playing the last month with a significant ankle injury. Nobody questions his toughness, but he has yet to take his game to the next level in terms of reading a defense and identifying open receivers soon enough.

The addition of Brown is a huge statement to see what Hurts can do with an elite talent at wide receiver. Having Gardner Minshew as a veteran backup is a strong insurance policy if Hurts is injured or ineffective.

Hurts has solid QB1 potential after finishing 10th last year. Don’t automatically expect a monster season, however, as the team likes to run and he’s still developing.

Running back preview

Miles Sanders is an underrated player because he hasn’t been able to make it through a full season the last two years, missing nine games in that span with a variety of injuries. While his rushing attempts have dropped in each of his three seasons, his yards per carry have gone up each year. If he can stay healthy, he has the chance to be a difference-maker.

Boston Scott has been a solid backup and last season scored seven rushing touchdowns on just 87 attempts. Another player with upside is second-year man Kenny Gainwell, who emerged as the best receiving threat in the Eagles backfield.

While Sanders has the ability to be a dominant back, the offense seems to run more effectively with a committee that makes a star out of none of them.

Sanders is a strong RB2 option, but the competition in-house will make it difficult to push him into RB1 status, because Philly is at its best sharing the wealth in the backfield.

Wide receiver preview

The trade for A.J. Brown was a game-changer, because the offense has missed out on having a consistent one-two punch of big-play threats. Brown joins second-year man Devonta Smith, who posted solid numbers as a rookie (64-916-5). Quez Watkins has emerged as a bona fide vertical threat who can complement Brown and Smith, which will be needed because Jalen Reagor still has Eagles fans lamenting that the organization passed on Justin Jefferson in 2020.

Brown is a legitimate No. 1 talent and Smith is one of the better WR2 options, which will put a lot of pressure on Hurts to make the most of their respective talents. Hurts has a close personal relationship with Brown, but this also is a receiver with a history of knee injuries and durability concerns. He could prove to be overvalued in fantasy, so if you want him, realize it won’t be cheap.

Tight end preview

Last year, the Eagles broke up one of the most dynamic tight end tandems when the team sent Zach Ertz to Arizona at the trade deadline, leaving Dallas Goedert as the go-to guy, and he excelled when given the opportunity.

JJ Arcega-Whiteside has moved from receiver to tight end and presumably will be utilized seldomly as he learns the ropes.

It’s rare when a sixth-round draft pick gets the chance to make an early impact, but Calcaterra could be that guy. He doesn’t bring much value as a blocker, but he is the best route runner and pure athlete in this year’s draft class and will likely line up as a slot receiver more than as an in-line blocker. Expect him to battle for time with Arcega-Whiteside.

For the first time in his career, Goedert enters a season as a secure, weekly TE1 option, because he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder to see Ertz.

Sleeper/breakout candidates

Hurts has been a roller coaster of a player, who can produce huge plays but make the huge mistakes that kill a drive and lose a game.

With the additions the team has put around him the last two seasons, it’s a watershed moment for Hurts. If he takes his game up a notch with improved complementary talent, he can be in the top six or so fantasy QBs.

Bust potential/overvalued players

It’s hard to imagine waking up every day and seeing the advancements other receivers in the WR-rich class of 2020 have accomplished, while Reagor has had difficulty cracking the starting lineup. The Eagles had to bring back veteran players to provide depth behind Smith last year, because Reagor couldn’t get the job done and may be on the roster bubble at cut-down day if someone shines in the preseason.

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