by Dan Trader (@RotoNostra)
In fantasy football, only single players are highlighted and given room to shine, regardless if they’re on a great or horrible team in real life. So what I chose to do instead of standard power rankings was take a look at all 32 NFL teams and rank them based on their fantasy relevance for the 2016 season in standard leagues, considering their current rosters, systems and surrounding conditions as criteria. Much can change between now and the opening of the regular season, but the following rankings are merely opinions from my perspective based on the current state of affairs and are ranked in the order in which I would invest in them, not based on which teams will have the best records at the end of the season.
The rest of the rankings can be found here.
First of all, the toppling of the Chip Kelly era needs to be depicted in an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Moving on, a new age is being introduced under former Andy Reid understudy and offensive coordinator Doug Pederson. In addition to the former regime relocating to San Francisco is the removal of Kelly’s notoriously, and often annoyingly, nationally-emphasized up-tempo scheme, and the dawn and installation of a new phase and system.
To sum up the reasoning behind my ranking in a nutshell: I, personally, am not expecting very much from Philly in 2016, mainly because Philly is a team transitioning head coaches with a rookie quarterback in a new system (in the best scenario), all amidst a terrible 2015, significant turnover during the offseason and questions at talent and depth. My rationale also stems from lack of certainty and stability at the quarterback position, regardless of who is named starter. But if Wentz doesn’t turn out to be their long-term answer, I don’t see much success on their horizon for years to come.
That being said, even the teams with the worst records have players who put up fantasy points.
Other than Doug Pederson as the new HC, the next most notable change is the new offensive coordinator, Frank Reich. The Eagles will be the first to point out that Reich spent a few of his formative years with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, because during which time, in his first year as quarterbacks coach, despite obviously not being the only contributing factor in his development, Manning was named the NFL MVP.
But more recently, and more notably, Reich spent the previous three seasons in San Diego with Philip Rivers, with two of those years operating as the OC. Reich helped Rivers obtain a career high (and the second highest in the league) in passing yards in 2015 with 4,792, and during his tenure as OC, the Chargers ranked third in completions with 822 and fifth in net passing yards with 8,869.
Assuming you were paying attention during draft day, the Eagles put much of their foreseeable future on the line by securing the “second best” QB in the class on the heels of a new contract for Sam Bradford. Perhaps the true intention is and always has been all along for Wentz to learn under Bradford for a year. As of this moment, the starting signal-caller is undeclared and an open competition.
But Bradford isn’t exactly one I would call a model for a successful quarterback. He may have put up decent yardage totals towards the end of last season, but still far from being even a reliable fantasy stream in favorable matchups, despite Philadelphia attempting the 6th most passes in 2015, due to poor QB protection and overall QB play.
Aerial Attack Lacking
As far as the passing game goes, we already basically know what to expect from Jordan Matthews, who I’d be more comfortable with in my flex, on my bench, or not on my fantasy squad at all than drafting with the intent of occupying a premier WR spot. I’m not even sure his position on the squad is secured long-term and there is much room for improvement in the rest of the receiving corps as well. Reuben Randle was added into the mix during the offseason along with Chris Givens, who may provide production from a streaming capacity, but neither exactly screams fantasy upside. I am holding out hope for Nelson Agholor, though I won’t be holding my breath for too long.
Some feel that if Pederson’s system is anything similar to what we’re familiar with under Andy Reid, WRs are not a point of emphasis, being that Kansas City went how many games without a wideout scoring a passing touchdown from 2014-2015?
Despite previous short comings in the receiving game, Pederson’s intentions seem pretty clear with the addition of Reich. I just see the ball being spread out as much as it can be this season and don’t see it translating into anything beyond pedestrian production in 2016 due to a lack of offensive talent.
Reasons to be Optimistic
It’s only a matter of time before Wentz is under center and there are possible beacons of hope for the future from my perspective. There is a decent amount of investment in the offensive line, but if Wentz is successful in Philadelphia, I think Zach Ertz will have a lot to do with it. Entering his fourth pro season, Ertz presents a ton of fantasy upside in a shallow pool of players if he can stay healthy, but could be especially beneficial for Wentz by providing the safety and security that tight ends and rookie quarterbacks are notorious for. Durability is a concern, however. But the ability is definitely there in spades.
Ryan Mathews is currently also in position for a big season as the lead back. Durability has always been Mathews’ biggest concern also however, so it’s definitely a situation to monitor this off-season, as it’s unclear how the RBs will be used in their current form. But Mathews will most likely be a draft day bargain with decent volume on his side. The chances of having an opportunity to draft him in later rounds are pretty high, barring any changes this summer. Regardless of whether his team is good or not, he’s currently penciled in as the lead back on an NFL team. So if you can ever obtain volume like that on the cheap then you have my blessing.
Wendall Smallwood is someone to remember, as the rookie was the only back drafted this year and could be poised for a big time opportunity given Ryan Mathews’ proclivity for injury. Darren Sproles is still in the picture too but isn’t a back the offense can lean on. Let’s not forget that Kansas City’s run-game has consistently ranked among the top of the league under Pederson’s watch with Jamaal Charles, but he executed efficiently with Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West also. So it will be interesting to see how the run-game translates in Philadelphia with the absence of an elite talent such as Charles.
Pederson also brought in Jim Schwartz this offseason as the defensive coordinator, who boasts pretty impressive statistical accolades as such during time spent with the Titans and Bills. The defense will need to be stout to take pressure off Wentz.
Whether you believe the price they paid for Wentz outweighs the upside or not, it seems as though Philadelphia’s upper-management is headed in the right direction for the future. But apart from Ryan Mathews or Zach Ertz, or players like Smallwood or Agholor in dynasty leagues, the Eagles’ offense is not one I’d have high hopes for or heavily invest in in the 2016 season. They could provide a pleasant surprise towards the end of the season assuming everything goes according to their plan, and as we all know, with big changes, unknown talent starts to emerge, and there will definitely be opportunities for players to step up and contribute.