After spending their first-round draft pick on their left tackle of the future, Andre Dillard to protect Carson Wentz for the next decade, day two saw the Philadelphia Eagles load up on offensive weapons for Wentz to play with. In the second round of the draft, they added running back Miles Sanders with the 53rd overall pick of the draft. Four picks later, with their second pick of the second round they selected wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
The biggest winner of the day for the Eagles is Carson Wentz. He now gets to throw the ball to Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, DeSean Jackson, Dallas Goedert, Nelson Agholor and Arcega-Whiteside. The Eagles boast one of the deepest and most talented collection of pass catchers in the entire league. They can beat you on all levels of the field and are going terrorize defenses when they enter the red zone. Wentz has fallen down the dynasty QB rankings since his stellar 2017 season due to injury concerns that caused him to miss the end of the 2017 and 2018 seasons. His current QB7 rankings per DFFs April mock drafts present a (relative) buy-low window.
Before the draft, I ranked Wentz in my top tier of quarterbacks that also includes Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield, and Deshaun Watson. The addition of Arcega-Whiteside and Miles Sanders only bolsters my resolve on this ranking. If the Wentz owner in your league doesn’t value him similarly, the time to buy is today.
Nelson Agholor is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Wentz. Already the third or fourth option on the offense the addition of more viable options for Wentz to target just exacerbates the target crunch Agholor was already facing. At the start of last season, Alshon Jeffery missed the first three weeks while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery allowing Agholor to be a target hog. He produced decently but not enough to command the 23% target share he earned without Jeffery during those first three weeks.
The final 13 weeks of the season his target share dipped to 14%, per FFStatistics player split tool. Trading for Golden Tate, another slot receiver, during the season showed how little faith the Eagles held in Agholor. Playing on the final season of his rookie contract this is also likely his last season in Philadelphia as well.
The addition of Miles Sanders doesn’t bode well for Jordan Howard, Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, or Corey Clement. Each of these running backs is playing on the final season of their contracts and based on the minuscule dead cap hit associated with cutting any of them there is no guarantee all of them even make the Eagles 2019 roster.
Clement and Smallwood have at least shown to be effective, in small spurts, at both running and receiving, while Josh Adams doesn’t possess the same versatility. While Howard is also not a strong receiving threat, he is a better between-the-tackles runner than Adams and the Eagles did trade for him last month. Howard is the only running back from that quartet that’s worth owning in fantasy, the rest are waiver wire fodder.
The Other Guys
The selection of Arcega-Whiteside is an interesting move. From the film I’ve watched (tonight), combined with what I’ve read about him, he seems to be a similar player to Jeffery. Jeffery is under contract through the 2021 season but carries a large cap hit. His contract seems challenging to move on from, but when you dig deeper via Spotrac, you see the Eagles can cut him after this season and save up to $13 million, depending on when they release him.
Jeffery has yet to exceed 843 receiving yards in his two season with the Eagles, hardly justifying what would be the sixth highest salary for wide receivers in 2020, in his age 30-year-old season. If you own Jeffery and are thinking long-term, it’s a good time to put some feelers out in your league to see what you can get in return for him.
Zach Ertz could see fewer targets, specifically goal-line targets based on Arcega-Whiteside’s touchdown scoring prowess. Ertz should still be a top-four tight end in 2019 and going forward. DeSean Jackson could also see fewer targets but largely isn’t affected by this addition.
The New Guys
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is adept at creating separation at the catch point and high pointing the ball. He’s 6’2″, 225 lbs. and was ranked highly by PFF. He ranked as their third highest graded wide receiver and ranked top 11 in receiving grade, yards per route run, passer rating when targeted and explosive plays.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 10, 2019
As noted earlier, he is similar to Alshon Jeffery with his ability to box out defenders to secure contested catches. He scored 28 touchdowns in just 33 games during his college career. He scored 14 touchdowns and averaged 16.8 yards per reception in his final season at Stanford. It may be difficult for him to make an impact during his rookie season, but Arcega-Whiteside will be the Eagles WR1 no later than 2021 and perhaps as soon as the 2020 season. I haven’t processed the entirety of the NFL Drafts first three rounds, but right now I’d place him in the middle to the end of the first round of rookie drafts.
Miles Sanders is my RB2 of this class. He does step into a crowded running back situation in Philadelphia, but that’s a short term concern. The four running backs seen as an impediment to him touching the ball are all free agents after this upcoming season, and the only running backs signed beyond 2019 will be Sanders, Boston Scott, and Donnel Pumphrey. Pumphrey and Scott aren’t worth mentioning. Even if Sanders doesn’t see a huge workload in 2019, a point that I do not concede, by the way, the backfield is his alone in 2020.
You’ll hear many analysts state that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson loves to use a running back by committee approach. This is false. Pederson had used the committee approach because the running backs that have been on his roster during his time as a head coach had necessitated this approach. None of these players had the draft capital of Sanders, nor the physical attributes of Sanders. Pederson studied at the feet of Andy Reid for many years and watched as Reid featured one running back season after season.
Historically the Eagles have not invested highly in the running back position. This is the first time they’ve drafted a running back in the first two rounds since they drafted LeSean McCoy in the second round of the 2009 draft. Someone much smarter than me whose name eludes me once noted that NFL teams only tell the truth twice. During free agency, with the money they spend on a player, and during the NFL Draft with the capital they invest on a player. The Eagles spending a second-round draft pick on Sanders is the Eagles telling you that they have found their featured, three-down, bell-cow running back.
Sanders had just one season to show what he could do as the starter while at Penn State. He sat behind Saquon Barkley his first two years but in he showed true three-down ability in his final season with 24 receptions in addition to his 1,274 rushing yards. Because he sat behind Barkley for two years he has very little wear on his body with only 276 rushing attempts in college.
At 5’11” and 211 lbs. he has the build to withstand the rigors of being a three-down back, and as a 76th percentile SPARQ-x athlete, he certainly has the physical attributes to do so as well. Sanders possesses average to above average footwork, elusiveness, and balance. He has the ability to create yards for himself but also is patient enough for his blocks to set up. He lacks top end speed but based on his other skills he’ll still be able to succeed in the NFL. He needs to clean up his fumbling issues, but that’s coachable. Landing with the Eagles and their reloaded offense should allow for consistent scoring opportunities and I expect at least 10 rushing touchdowns a year from him.