The Lurking Behemoth: The Eagles Under Chip Kelly
We're probably not the first people breaking this news to you, but Chip Kelly has had a change of heart and he will be the next head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Take a minute to absorb all of that. A deep breath or two, and now relax. Let's get into what this means for the Eagles.
The most interesting place to start is with Michael Vick, fantasy killer and all-around...controversial fellow. Nobody can deny the raw skills that he has - even if his tires have more than their fair share of wear and tear - and the conventional logic holds that he'll thrive under the spread offense of Kelly.
With that said, does Vick still have the wheels and more important, durability to handle that kind of impact? Likely not. Kelly had the fortune of dealing with athletes like Dennis Dixon and Darron Thomas at the on-set of their careers, where he could utilize their immense speed advantage while knowing they could bounce back from the hits that an option QB must take.
What does that mean for Vick, then? It's likely that the Eagles offense will not be the same spread as Oregon - no NFL team is likely to jump all the way into that deep of a pool - but San Francisco and in-division rival Washington have shown that it's possible to succeed with elements of zone-read, provided the QB is still a legitimate throwing threat. Whether or not this offense will succeed ultimately boils down to whether or not Vick can still throw the ball, a point certainly up for debate.
Last year, Vick was our No. 25 rated QB in our advanced metrics, performing just below Brandon Weeden. Not a good look. His scheme-agnostic future doesn't look all that bright either; his top comparables are Brian Griese (2001), Tarvaris Jackson (2011), and Matt Cassel (2009), none of whom proved to have significant passing success in subsequent seasons. The good news is that Kelly's offense overwhelmingly favors him in comparison to Nick Foles; he'll be given every chance to regain his role as the solid starter.
Unbelievably Early Prediction: Like this past year, Vick goes a bit too early in most drafts due to his potential and the potential of the team around him. Unless he finds a fountain of youth or until the Eagles offensive line improves dramatically, I'd stay away from him until late, maybe into the seventh and eighth rounds. Don't draft him as your QB1; draft him as a QB2 with huge upside. The potential for him blowing up for a week and being a sell-high trade chip is nearly unparalleled in the QB ranks.
The big question mark here is just how much Bryce Brown will be mixed into the McCoy rushing stew, but for the sake of argument, let's pretend the load is all back on Shady's shoulders. You don't need to be a sports-related data mathematician to observe the kind of big numbers that LaMichael James, LaGarrette Blount, Kenjon Barner, and others have put up in a Duck uniform. Any good spread offense is meant to expose gaps for speed players to exploit and while Shady isn't the fastest back in the league, he's quick and shifty enough to take huge advantage.
Additionally, a hallmark of Kelly's offense is to get skill players involved in a variety of roles; DeAnthony Thomas - ostensibly listed as a RB - this past year led the team in receptions and was third on the team in rushes. This is consistent with a trend that saw James and Blount get heavily involved in the passing game, which leads me to believe that Shady will remain extremely valuable in PPR-friendly leagues, as Kelly is likely to use McCoy's versatile skill set in a variety of ways.
McCoy's injury is not worth poring over - he'll be fine. You can also be equally dismissive of any thought of a significant performance regression, as Shady has been too good and too consistent for that to be a significant worry. In fact, last year's injury-plagued season aside, he's been in the top-five of our RNEP advanced metrics each of the past four years, contributing more than three TDs each season to the Eagles' offense over a league-average RB...and that's just on the rushing side of the coin. The Eagles line continues to be problematic, but the spread will somewhat negate that weakness, as it is specifically designed to not require a fantastically talented group in front.
Unbelievably Early Prediction: McCoy goes in the top five of most drafts and in most formats.
Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson
Here it gets interesting. There are generally two roads that could be traveled here. The first says that rush-first spread offense will strongly take hold - ala the Redskins - leaving limited opportunities for WRs to make a big impact. The second says that a true implementation of Kelly's spread is impossible in the faster NFL and thus will have to be modified, with the WRs experiencing more space and freedom thanks to the defense having to focus more on the exotic run formations and possibilities.
Without the benefit of a crystal ball, my bet is the latter. While I expect neither Maclin nor Jackson to return to their previous career peaks, the mind boggles at the various ways both receivers could be used. Jackson's versatility could be leveraged in the same way McCoy can be used in a number of formations, giving him the unpredictability and big-play potential he hasn't had in years. Maclin is in the same boat, albeit with less water; he is likely to benefit from the confusion that the offense creates, picking apart defenses at the seams and in single-coverage downfield.
With all of that said, I can't see the Eagles putting up a ton of yards through the air, and with Celek and McCoy taking up a few targets and yards each, neither Maclin nor Jackson grades out higher than a low-end WR2 in my book. Maclin will likely have better value in PPR-friendly formats, but I don't trust either to be a huge playmaker on your roster.
Unbelievably Early Prediction: Jackson and Maclin end up in the fifth/sixth round, with Jackson owners banking on the potential and pairing him with a stable WR1 and Maclin doing the opposite, pairing him with a risky WR1.