Anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019 witnessed one of the worst rashes of injuries in recent memory. It was so bad, Greg Ward was leading the way at wide receiver over the final month. Greg Who? Exactly.
Looking at the start of the 2020 campaign being less than two weeks away, Philly finds itself in a similar situation. Veteran Alshon Jeffery (foot) is coming off of midfoot surgery and hasn’t seen the practice field as of the end of August. He is nearing a return, per head coach Doug Pederson, but the term “soon” isn’t precise. Then the question is how much rust will the 30-year-old need to shake off when he finally returns from the physically unable to perform list.
Then there’s DeSean Jackson, whose season lasted all of three games last year. The Eagles traded for fellow speedster Marquise Goodwin, but he opted out of the season. First-round pick Jalen Reagor also is a burner; however, a shoulder injury has his early-season status in doubt. A partially torn labrum could cost the rookie a month or so, per media reports, but one has to wonder if it will impact his range of motion once he returns to action. More importantly, how much will Reagor’s development be stunted in an already abbreviated offseason? Time will tell, but he has a former NFL player as a father, which could help offset the problem.
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While Reagor and Jeffery have been out, fifth-round rookie John Hightower has emerged as a training camp standout. Following a remarkably poor rookie season, 2019 second-round selection JJ Arcega-Whiteside has been equally as impressive in training camp. JJAW appears poised to start at split end in Week 1, with Hightower serving as his immediate backup and spell. It isn’t a lock just yet, but all signs point to that being the case. The “Z” receiver, or flanker, will be Jackson, and Ward is expected to man the slot in the opener. Upon his return, Jeffery should reclaim the starting X role.
Philly’s system is heavily reliant on the tight end position, and the Eagles have a pair of great ones at Carson Wentz’s disposal. Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are able to coexist and even thrive, which helps alleviate some pressure on the receiving corps when its less than 100 percent.
Another means of taking pressure off of the wideouts is relying on running back Miles Sanders. He’s a capable receiver out of the backfield and figures to be ready for a significant leap on production on the ground. Standing in his way could be two key injuries along the offensive line in recent months.
Fantasy football takeaway
So long as Wentz stays healthy, which is a serious question mark, the receivers can make a difference in fantasy games. Arcega-Whiteside has the most to prove, although his leash arguably is the shortest after such a disappointing rookie year and with the way Hightower has performed.
Hightower has a hint of appeal in best-ball formats, since Jackson is basically guaranteed to get hurt at some point. The rookie’s worth skyrockets if Arcega-Whiteside cannot perform during games like he has in practice. JJAW is an intriguing flier, though, and there’s even upside in drafting him in the final round or two of single-year setups. He ultimately may prove to be the best option of the lot.
D-Jax is an injury waiting to happen, and his ideal utility is in best-ball leagues where his annual one monster effort is assured to be in a starting lineup. Yet, gamers will continue to invest a late redraft pick in hopes Jackson has one last quality season in the tank.
Ward isn’t worth a draft spot in any format, but he proved useful in a pinch last year, should this receiving group experience more injury hardships in the coming months.
All told, there’s not much in the way of concrete fantasy football production to be found among Eagles receivers. The offensive design spreads the ball around to backs and tight ends enough to interfere with consistent production from the No. 2 or even third receiver, and it will take yet another injury to have a clearer picture of where to invest heavily. By then, it probably will come in the form of a waiver claim.