Here’s the thing with the Eagles – we don’t really know how they’re going to try and win games to start the year. We saw the two extremes from this squad last year, showcasing a robust 63% overall pass rate over the first six weeks of the season and then leading the league in overall rush rate the remainder of the season with an insanely low 44% overall pass rate. We know why they chose to approach things differently last year, we know they have the projected top overall offensive line in the league heading into 2022, and we know they went ham in free agency to acquire A.J. Brown to run with DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, and Dallas Goedert. Which side wins, the run or the pass? Furthermore, the team has been aggressive through free agency over the previous two seasons on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the secondary. They’ve brought in Darius Slay, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Marcus Epps, and James Bradberry during that timeframe, each of whom will begin the season as starters. Add it all up and your guess is as good as mine, but most signs point back to a run-balanced approach and aerial game capable of inflicting massive damage through both yards after the catch ability and deep strike play-making ability. Although pace of play can’t be considered a “sticky” statistic year-over-year, one of the more predictive pace statistics is first-half pace of play, and the Eagles ranked ninth in that category last season (fifth overall). So, my most educated guess is fast-paced, run-focused, with the talent and explosiveness through the air to inflict heavy damage all at once.
Oh man, where to even begin on the ground? The “RB1” on this team is very likely their quarterback, the “RB1 on paper” might miss this contest with a hamstring injury (Miles Sanders), and the team recently brought in ex-49er Trey Sermon to join Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott as “more than depth” pieces. On the other side, the Lions did some work this offseason to bolster their 4-3 base defense, drafting Aiden Hutchinson second overall to pair with Michael Brockers, Alim McNeill, and Charles Harris up front. As in, the Lions might not cede 21.4 points per game to opposing running backs like they did last year (second worst in the league), particularly considering they only gave up 57 total receptions to the position last year (tied for the fewest in the league). At best, this Eagles run game is a three-headed monster with Hurts, Sanders (or Scott), and Gainwell, and at worst it’s a four-headed monster.
As I alluded to above, I don’t expect we’ll see volume be the primary contributor to fantasy goodness from the Eagles this season. As such, we want to look for opportunities to target this unit at low ownership and largely fade them if they are expected to carry anything resembling heavy ownership. Any one of Brown, Smith, Watkins, or Goedert can wreak havoc on five to seven targets, which is honestly the likeliest range of targets for each of them on a given week. Brown would be the most obvious player to see volume higher than that range on a weekly basis. Furthermore, this Lions secondary ceded the most yards per pass attempt (7.6) and second most yards per completion (11.6) in the league last season. More on this situation below in the DFS+ Interpretation section.