Fantasy Reaction: Eagles-Steelers Observations

Fantasy Reaction: Eagles-Steelers Observations

Eagles Observations (Written By: Stephen Albertini)

I cringe every time LeSean McCoy touches the ball during the preseason.

The Eagles’ offensive cornerstone (and projected No. 1 overall fantasy pick) has been battling nagging injuries all preseason, much to the chagrin of his potential fantasy suitors. First, it was the toe that pained him in New England last weekend, then it was the thumb last night against Pittsburgh. He sprained his right thumb in the first quarter against the Steelers, went in for X-rays, and then returned to the sideline. He scored a 22-yard touchdown before the injury occurred and tallied 50 total yards. Stay tuned for updates, but don’t let Shady’s thumb, toe or other ailments deter you from drafting him high. He was in pads at the end of the game chatting it up with the other players, tucking the ball tight like Darnell Jefferson in The Program.

Kenjon Barner, another former Oregon Duck who reunited with his old coach Chip Kelly this past week, saw the field for the first time as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s a name to keep an eye on, partially due to Chris Polk’s lingering injury issues and partially because he contributes as a returner on special teams. Polk, who played well in relief of McCoy last season, missed Thursday night’s game and is in danger of being cut.

The Eagles’ two starting receivers, Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, both played last night. Maclin was active, catching six passes for 43 yards and surviving what looked like a horrific injury scare. Late in the second quarter, Maclin tried to plant and cut on a route and immediately dropped to the floor. He lay on the field, grasping at his knee and writhing in pain. It was hard not to think that he was lost for the season. Him going down last night wasn’t what people wanted to see from their No. 1 wide receiver, especially after missing all of last season with an ACL tear.

If Maclin can stay healthy, he has tremendous potential in what appears to be another top-five offense in Philadelphia. The other starting receiver, Cooper, looked like he was still acclimating himself to real game speed. He dropped what would have been a touchdown after beating Ike Taylor on a great post route. The ball hit both of his hands and fell to the grass. He reeled in three of his five targets.

There was a moment, when Maclin was on the ground, when Jordan Matthews almost became a legitimate fantasy option this season. As Maclin was yelling out profanities, I was visualizing Matthews shooting up draft boards nationwide. It was ultimately for naught as Maclin eventually got back up and returned, but it doesn’t change the fact that Matthews could potentially be a factor in this offense. He bounced back from an off-kilter opener in Chicago with a great performance in Foxboro last week, in which he caught nine passes for 104 yards. He, like Zach Ertz, is a talented player in a very crowded offense.

Ertz caught both of his targets for 24 yards and Matthews caught two passes for 16 yards. Both will be on the field plenty in 2014. Matthews, barring a Maclin injury — which isn’t completely out of the equation, is still a little while away from being a consistent fantasy contributor. I’ve written about Ertz at length in the past and my opinion hasn’t wavered.

Kelly’s first team offense looked sharp for the second straight week. No wonder why he’s diving head-first into a pool of ice.

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Steelers Observations (Written By: Carmen DelMastro)

So, by now you’ve probably heard about Le’Veon Bell and LeGarette Blount’s current substance abuse situation. You know the one where two NFL running backs get caught smoking weed and throw in a little DUI — just a regular Tuesday night for some NFL stars. But don’t worry, I’m sure Roger Goodell will have it all straightened out before he hands out Josh Gordon’s looming suspension. If you drafted Bell already, don’t be alarmed. As a first offender, he should only get two, maybe four games and your fantasy team should be in good enough shape to survive until he comes back. If you still haven’t drafted, you could probably get Bell a little later now since owners will be less inclined to draft him. I can’t stand behind Blount as much as I stand behind Bell because I’m not investing into Blount this fantasy season and for good reason.

Blount has only rushed for 1,000 yards once in his career and that was as a rookie. I’m also not buying into his production late last year, which is always a fantasy trap in my opinion. He has never scored double digit touchdowns and he’s a definite liability to do something stupid to jeopardize his playing time.

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We saw what Bell and Blount are going to give you against the Eagles. They’re going to nickel and dime you and try and wear opposing defenses down.

But someone who I am investing in and whom I have been constantly beating myself up over the past couple of weeks is rookie running back Dri Archer. Now, with Bell and Blount both up against it, I feel even better about the possibilities for Archer in 2014. If we go by Blount’s theory that “they didn’t sign me to sit me,” then why waste my time writing the rest of this piece. I’ll tell you why Mr. Blount, as I feel safe enough to say this since you aren’t anywhere close enough to sneak a right jab across my chin. Talent always rises to the top and Archer is superior to you. I mean, have you seen this guy run? I know some of his touches have come against backups, but my god is he fast. His 4.26 40-yard dash at the combine put him on immediate notice. Since 1998, the Steelers only have seven receptions of 40+ yards by a running back. Archer has already recorded two this preseason.

I understand that’s he’s not the biggest guy in the stadium at 5’8″, 173 pounds and we know he’s not running the rock 20+ times a game. But speed like that is hard to ignore. Just ask Darren Sproles how his NFL career has panned out with his size and speed.

The Steelers can’t afford not to utilize Archer all over the field and it was nice to see him getting more time with the ones as a receiver. If my memory serves me right, offensive coordinator Todd Haley was able to get 63 receptions out of Tim Hightower in 2009 and Hightower doesn’t have half the ability Archer does. Archer is a weapon that the Steelers haven’t had in their backfield for a long time and there’s no reason why he won’t make an immediate impact in their sub packages. As fantasy owners, we love the big play ability of players and Archer has game breaker written all over him. He is the ultimate late round flier, especially if you are in deeper leagues.

Stephen Albertini
Written by Stephen Albertini