Friday, June 1, 2012

32 in 32: Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles used the shortened free agency liberally before the 2011 season, taking a very "Miami Heat" approach to their roster and paying dearly for it. There are fundamental differences between basketball and football that prevent one team from buying winning seasons, most notably the difference that one or two players can make for a team. The Eagles grabbed a bunch of players who are very good at their individual positions, especially on defense, hoping that they could work with the less-than-mediocre players who would be starting at all of the other positions. If you look at the Eagles' statistics compared to their opponents, they win every category handily...with the exception of their -14 turnover ratio. That is unbelievably low, and they got rid of Asante Samuel, who accounted for 20% of their interceptions last season. Samuel is far better than DRC, who recorded as many interceptions as I did watching the games in my living room. Regardless of their defensive situation, the Eagles do have a lot of wonderful players on their team and could be poised for a nice season. I don't know how they played to cap to have this opportunity, but they should be much better if they can keep Mike Vick upright.

Speaking of Vick, I do think he will have a bounce-back season this year. He is getting old for a running quarterback, but he took such a stride forward from the pocket-passer standpoint in 2010 that I think he can live with running the ball less. If Vick can limit his turnovers, he should be able to throw for 3,500 yards, 24 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and then rush for another 600 yards and 5 scores. Those numbers add up to a good-but-not-great season from a guy who has serious difficulty playing 16 games a year.

Of these Eagles receivers, I would put DeSean Jackson at the top of the list. Sure, I might dislike his attitude and his antics, but this is a guy who has broken 1,000 yards on only 47 catches. Imagine what would happen if he actually put some effort into his game. If he can get to 70 catches this season, he should get ~1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those numbers are strong, especially from a guy that you might be able to grab in the 6th-8th round. Jeremy Maclin is the other Eagles receiver who will be drafted pretty early in most drafts. I think some analysts have him ahead of Jackson, but I don't think the upside on Maclin is as high as it is on Jackson. Maclin has never broken 1,000 yards in a season and has never had more than 70 receptions. He is a much more traditional receiver who needs 90-100 catches to have an amazing year, but his game will definitely be more consistent than Jackson's will be. Jason Avant might be worth an 11th or 12th round pick, purely on the possibility that Jackson or Maclin will get hurt. Avant should notch 600 yards and 2 TDs if these other guys stay healthy. The best kept Eagles secret is still Brent Celek. This guy has been a stellar tight end over the last three seasons and I would be surprised if he didnt get 800+ yards and 5-7 touchdowns this season. Those are solid numbers from a guy not considered one of the top tight ends in the game, and he could be the best value tight end come draft day.

Saving the best for last, LeSean McCoy should be a top 5, if not a top 3, pick in every draft. There are not enough positive things for me to say about this player. Do not pick Aaron Rodgers before LeSean McCoy. No matter what you think Rodgers might do, LeSean will do more. This is a back who can compete with Rodgers and Brees for points each week. Imagine having the ability to match your RB1 against Aaron Rodgers. Shady McCoy is the real deal. I could pick Arian Foster and Ray Rice ahead of him, but I would not fault anyone who picked Shady first. The man scored 20 touchdowns last season. He is 23 years old. I would happily trade back out of the 1st overall spot to 4th overall if I know McCoy will be there.

This defense will get drafted for its ability to create sacks, but should do better with interceptions this season. You would think, at least, given the number of sacks they accumulate. Alex Henery is a decent kicker, he will probably be drafted.

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