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Fantasy Implications - Alshon Jeffery to Philadelphia


Is it Christmas? It sure feels like Christmas! NFL free agency has been inching closer, and on Thursday it finally arrived in all its glory. While many dominoes are still left to fall, some of the big names have already joined new clubs.

Among the more interesting transactions, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, to be joined by Torrey Smith on the opposite side. What's the fantasy fallout?

Keep tabs on Rotoballer's NFL page for the latest reaction and analysis to free agent moves in order to stay ahead of the game.

 

Alshon Jeffery's Impact in Philadelphia

Let's start with the teams' offensive situations. At first glance, things look good.

Team Plays Pass Att
'16 Bears 967 559
'16 Eagles 1080 609

 
While the Bears ranked just 30th in total plays and 22nd in pass attempts, the Eagles finished third and sixth respectively. Put differently, Chicago averaged about 60 plays per game, and in total Philadelphia had 113 more plays. That's like playing almost two more complete games. At this point of our analysis, there's plenty of available volume, and that's a great thing.

What about Jeffery himself? Pro Football Reference provides some career numbers.

Year Age G Tgt/G Y/R Rec/G Yards/G
2012 22 10 4.8 15.3 2.4 36.7
2013 23 16 9.3 16 5.6 88.8
2014 24 16 9.1 13.3 5.3 70.8
2015 25 9 10.4 14.9 6 89.7
2016 26 12 7.8 15.8 4.3 68.4
Career Career 63 8.4 15 4.8 72.2

 
His 2016 numbers are very close to his career averages, and are quite respectable. The big concern of course is his ability to stay healthy (and out of trouble). It certainly seems like he's just as productive as ever though, so if he can stay on the field, Philadelphia should be quite pleased with what he brings to the table.That is, assuming his play isn't dependent on his quarterback.

Don't worry, it isn't. In his career, Jeffery has primarily caught passes from three QBs:

That rate of efficiency isn't far off what Amari Cooper, T.Y. Hilton, and Odell Beckham managed in 2016. I think it's also safe to say that, while Carson Wentz is a little rough around the edges, it's not like Jeffery has been playing with elite QBs. He should be effective with Wentz.

 

Carson Wentz

Speaking of Wentz, the Jeffery signing is clearly great news for him. Last year the Eagles gave 74 targets to Dorial Green-Beckham and another 69 to Nelson Agholor. Heck, Josh Huff, Bryce Treggs, and Paul Turner managed almost another 50 between them. Put it all together and that's 186 targets that went to demonstrably ineffective receivers. Jeffery will get 130 - 140 targets, a number that would completely push those marginal players out of the rotation.

Jordan Matthews, the Eagles leading but over matched receiver from last year, looks a lot better as the No. 2 option with a legitimate No. 1 next to him. Add in Zach Ertz and Wentz has three good weapons to work with instead of two. That should make defending the Eagles more difficult, which helps Wentz quite a bit.

During his time in Chicago, Jay Cutler averaged about 3.5 more fantasy points per game when Jeffery played vs. when Jeffery didn't play. A similar boost, say three points per game, would lift Wentz from fantasy irrelevance to a borderline QB1 based on last year's numbers.

 

Jordan Matthews & the Rest of the WR Corps

Signing Jeffery (and also Torrey Smith) really hurts Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor the most. Agholor's contract is such that he's quite likely to keep his roster spot. But not his playing time. Green-Beckham is legitimately in danger of being cut. Doing so would cost the Eagles nothing against the cap, although I think they'll wait until closer to the season in case of any injuries elsewhere. For dynasty purposes, neither has any value at the moment.

What about Jordan Matthews? I actually don't think the signing of Jeffery hurts him much. He's averaged about 115 targets per year, and that number is still attainable even if Jeffery commands 140 or so. Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Jacksonville, New Orleans, the New York Jets and Giants, Oakland, and Washington all had two WRs with similar target shares.

That means Matthews floor should be safe, and he should be a solid WR3, maybe a WR2 next year. No, he won't be a WR1 like I thought he might be when he came out of college. But that shipped sailed long before the Jeffery signing. Matthews is what he is, and that should be unaffected by Jeffery.

 

Conclusion

There's a lot of moving parts here. We haven't even discussed the Torrey Smith signing (I think he has little if anything left). The only losers from a fantasy perspective are those left standing without a seat when the music stops: Green-Beckham and Agholor.

I think Wentz is a clear winner. For as long as Jeffery stays healthy, Wentz has a legitimate receiving corps to work with. Jeffery is a winner too, assuming he stays healthy. There's reason to doubt that, based on the last two season. He also had conditioning concerns coming out of college, and earned a PEDs suspension last year as well. So owning Jeffery hasn't gotten any less risky in that regard. But I think it's a lateral move for him in terms of QB play, and a solid move in terms of target upside. Jordan Matthews may not be a winner, but he isn't a loser either.

Oh, two more winners: Bears WRs Kevin White and Cameron Meredith. Their QB situation is murky, with Mike Glennon not being the most experienced starter, and their team plays a low volume offense. But they're the top two options and should have plenty of targets available to work with.




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