Joe Dolan is the managing editor of FantasyGuru.com and a host for SiriusXM Radio. A former writer for PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Joe still contributes to the site with on-camera segments and written columns. He can be heard hosting "SiriusXM Fantasy Football Gameday" every NFL Sunday from 1-7 PM on Sirius 210, XM 87.
The question this week is obvious. Is Mark Sanchez a legitimate fantasy option, and how does he affect the value of the Eagles as a whole?
If you're just coming into this column to get this answer, then let's make it quick for you: yes, Mark Sanchez is a legitimate fantasy option and you can start him this week. But what makes him a legitimate fantasy option? Let's look at the offense as a whole, with relation to how Nick Foles performed this season.
In a standard scoring system that punishes one lost point for a turnover (interception or fumble) and awards four points for a passing touchdown, Foles was the No. 14 fantasy quarterback at 17.8 fantasy points per game in the seven games he both started and finished (meaning, not counting his game against the Texans when he got hurt). He averaged nearly 300 yards passing per game and had 12 touchdowns to nine interceptions over that span. But there's no doubt the turnovers were hurting him. Cut his turnovers in half and Foles is averaging nearly a full point per game more in the standard scoring system. However, the point is to illustrate that Foles, even while turning the ball over at a much higher rate than last year, was a viable fantasy starting quarterback. At times, he was even a great one.
That brings us to Sanchez. I've got admit, I was never a fan of Sanchez for fantasy purposes when he was a New York Jet. In his four years as a starter in New York, Sanchez never finished with more than 16.5 FPG (2011) in the same standard scoring system. In three of his four years, he was actually below 14.5 FPG (including below 10 FPG in 2012). In his career year, his stats were buoyed by six rushing touchdowns, which typically hold more value for a fantasy quarterback than a passing touchdown. But that wasn't in the Eagles' system.
What this boils down to, for me, is a belief in the Eagles' offense. Currently, the Eagles rank No. 2 in the NFL with 72.4 offensive plays per game run, behind only the Colts (74). That's six more plays per game, on average, than the highest Sanchez saw in his four-year run with the Jets. Moreover, Sanchez's 202 yards passing in his first game with the Eagles, in which he played the equivalent of three quarters, was already more than he threw for in 34 of his 62 regular-season starts with the Jets. His 9.2 YPA in his one game with the Eagles soars above his 6.5 YPA career average. Again, it's on only 22 pass attempts, never even close to enough to make a full judgment, but I don't think this is just indicative of a small sample. Sanchez's success compares favorably to the success Foles had in this offense.
And here's the thing – Foles was a good fantasy option even though he was turning the ball over at a much higher rate than we saw from him last year. Turnovers have always been an area where Sanchez has struggled, at least in his time in New York. He had two in his first game as an Eagle, and 91 in his 62 regular-season games as a Jet (1.47 per game). But this year, Foles' rate of 1.62 turnovers per game is actually higher than Sanchez's career mark as a Jet. And to top it all off, Sanchez threw two touchdowns on his first three red-zone pass attempts of the season – Foles was 5 of 39 in this category this year. And Foles maintained strong fantasy relevance despite that fact (Foles' YPA this year was 6.4, below Sanchez's mark in New York, as well).
What this tells me is that Sanchez is surrounded by a better team than he had in New York, behind a better line, with better offensive coaching that's more conducive to success. If I had Foles and was generally rolling with him, I'd have no qualms about picking up and starting Sanchez this week. If I have Jeremy Maclin, I'm not worrying. If I have LeSean McCoy, I'm probably psyched, since Sanchez's athleticism may add a little bit to the zone read elements of this offense. And you can even throw in the chemistry he may have with Jordan Matthews given all their work together this summer, and you should have a team that, as Kelly said, shouldn't miss a beat offensively.
How does the loss of DeMeco Ryans affect the Eagles' defense from a fantasy perspective?
One thing I don't want to do is to underestimate the impact of the Foles and Ryans injuries on the Eagles as a whole. I think it's obvious that the loss of both players will have an impact well beyond the stat sheets. But from my perspective, the reason I like the Eagles' defense is the aggressive coaching of coordinator Bill Davis, who has a lot of faith in his players in his second year heading the unit. Even with Ryans out, I will expect Davis to bring relentless, complicated pressure schemes at Cam Newton this week. The return of Mychal Kendricks to the fold is really key in that regard. Kendricks is having an excellent year when he's been on the field. Davis' blitzes create sacks and turnovers, the only real way to guarantee fantasy production from a defense. And this week, against a struggling Newton, I'd expect the Eagle defense to have some fantasy success.
Around The League
|FantasyGuru.com's Week 10 Flex Rankings: 31-60|
|31||WR Mike Evans, Buccaneers||46||WR Michael Floyd, Cardinals|
|32||WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals||47||WR Justin Hunter, Titans|
|33||WR Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers||48||TE Martellus Bennett, Bears|
|34||WR Sammy Watkins, Bills||49||WR Steve Smith, Ravens|
|35||WR Golden Tate, Lions||50||RB Tre Mason, Rams|
|36||RB Joique Bell, Lions||51||WR Anquan Boldin, 49ers|
|37||RB Lamar Miller, Dolphins||52||WR Odell Beckham, Giants|
|38||RB Steven Jackson, Falcons||53||WR Eric Decker, Jets|
|39||WR Torrey Smith, Ravens||54||WR Terrance Williams, Cowboys|
|40||WR Mike Wallace, Dolphins||55||RB Darren McFadden, Raiders|
|41||WR Martavis Bryant, Steelers||56||WR Michael Crabtree, 49ers|
|42||RB Reggie Bush, Lions||57||RB Darren Sproles, Eagles|
|43||RB Chris Ivory, Jets||58||WR Jordan Matthews, Eagles|
|44||WR Percy Harvin, Jets||59||WR Brandin Cooks, Saints|
|45||WR Marques Colston, Saints||60||WR Doug Baldwin, Seahawks|
Who are the key buy low/sell high players of the week?
BUY LOW ON ...
RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles – I'm not saying anything controversial here by suggesting that McCoy could win people their leagues. If it's possible for McCoy to be "quiet," he's quietly producing right now. He's now topped 100 yards rushing in two of his last three games and he has topped 80 yards in four consecutive games for the first time in his career. The issue is that he isn't really catching the ball, nor is he scoring touchdowns (he has only 1 on the year). With the offensive line returning two key cogs in Jason Kelce against the Texans and Evan Mathis this week, plus and the potential that Mark Sanchez actually helps this run game, it's a great time to buy on McCoy, especially if his owner in your league is panicking about the lack of TDs. Chris Polk could be a vulture near the goal line, but the official word from me is that this is your last chance to buy low on McCoy.
SELL HIGH ON ...
WRs Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, Texans – It's not exactly "selling high" on Andre, as the Eagles totally shut him down last week, but it is selling high on Hopkins, who had a strong game and continues to out produce the Texans' more senior receiver. The reason I'm suggesting to make this move is because it's possible you can package either guy into a deal with another player to seriously upgrade a weak spot in your starting lineup for the stretch run. And honestly, I'd rather not deal with a late-season quarterback switch, because the Texans have benched Ryan Fitzpatrick for Ryan Mallett, who has about zero meaningful regular season NFL experience. It's possible the switch works really well – reports indicate Andre's a big fan of Mallett – but if it's possible to capitalize on name value or strong play over the Texans' bye week, I'd take that opportunity.
Who are the notable most added and dropped fantasy players of the week?
WR Martavis Bryant, Steelers (added in over 26,000 NFL.com leagues) – Bryant, a rookie receiver out of Clemson (he played with Sammy Watkins there), wasn't even active until Week 7, a healthy scratch because he apparently had to learn the NFL game. Well, he's a fast learner. Bryant's now scored five touchdowns in his first three NFL games, and his snaps have increased in each game – from 34 percent in Week 7 to 39 percent in Week 8 to 49 percent in Week 9. Normally, I advise against chasing touchdowns, because it's a futile exercise in fantasy football. But Bryant's snaps are going up and he's providing Ben Roethlisberger with a dynamic downfield threat to add to the all-around game of Antonio Brown. I'm not saying he's a no-brainer start every week, but he's a really useful bench/flex option to have in a good matchup.
RB Branden Oliver, Chargers (dropped in nearly 22,000 NFL.com leagues) – The Chargers are on their bye this week and Oliver has really struggled to get going as of late, totaling only 55 rushing yards on his last 26 carries over the Chargers' last two games. With Ryan Mathews projected to return from his knee injury shortly after San Diego's bye, fantasy players are concerned that Oliver's run as a fantasy-relevant back is over.
INJURIES TO WATCH
Tony Romo, Cowboys – Romo (back) made the trip to London with his team, and he was limited in practice on Thursday. It appears he has a decent shot of playing this week. If he doesn't go against Jacksonville, it'll be Brandon Weeden.
Fred Jackson, Bills – Jackson (groin) has been limited in practice this week, but coach Doug Marrone said his veteran star is not yet ready to play. We'll see if anything changes over the weekend.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins – Miller (shoulder) has been limited in practice this week but there doesn't seem to be any concern about his availability for this weekend.
Rashad Jennings, Giants – Jennings (knee) was limited in practice on Thursday but he isn't expected to play in Seattle this weekend. It'll be another start for Andre Williams, but Peyton Hillis is the better receiver and blocker and may see more snaps.
Montee Ball, Broncos – Ball (groin) returned to practice this week on a limited basis. But if he returns this weekend against the Raiders, I wouldn't expect him to dig into Ronnie Hillman's role too significantly.
Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson, Saints – Thomas (shoulder/ribs) and Robinson (forearm) haven't practiced this week and it looks like it'll be another week of Mark Ingram against the 49ers.
Doug Martin, Buccaneers – Martin (ankle) looks like he'll miss another game. It'll be the Bobby Rainey and (finally!) Charles Sims show.
Sammy Watkins, Bills – Watkins (groin) was injured in practice this week and it appears he'll be a game-time decision against the Chiefs.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – Calvin (ankle) has been full-go in practice this week and is expected to return to action against the Dolphins this weekend.
Cecil Shorts, Jaguars – Shorts (hamstring) has missed practice time this week and could miss the Jaguars' game against the Raiders.
Harry Douglas, Falcons – Douglas (foot) has been limited in practice this week but is expected to play this weekend against Tampa.
Kenny Stills, Saints – Stills (thigh) has been limited in practice this week but is expected to play against the 49ers.
Donnie Avery, Chiefs – Avery (groin) has been limited in practice this week and has a chance of returning to action against the Bills this week.
Martellus Bennett, Bears – Bennett (ribs) was limited on Thursday but is expected to be full go this week against the Packers.
Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew, Lions – Both Ebron (hamstring) and Pettigrew (foot) were limited in practice this week and could return to action against Miami.
Charles Clay, Dolphins – Clay (knee) is expected to play against the Lions.
QB: Mark Sanchez, Eagles – What, you think I wrote all of those words up there for nothing? I'm a believer. I think you can comfortably roll with Sanchez as your starter on Monday night.
RB: Frank Gore, 49ers – This may hurt to do, but the Saints are not a tough defense to play against, and the Niners have to try to get the ball out of Colin Kaepernick's hands as much as they possibly can.
WR: Brandin Cooks, Saints – As a microcosm of the entire Saints offense, Cooks has flat-out sucked for fantasy on the road/ He has 20 catches for 186 yards and a touchdown on 26 targets in five games, with a miniscule 9.9 FPG average. But at home, Cooks has posted 23/224/1 on 28 targets in three games, with 19.8 FPG in a PPR. He's home in four of his next five, including this one against the Niners.
TE: Owen Daniels, Ravens – My favorite TE streamer of the week, Daniels is a really important part of the Raven offense, and the Titans defense is very beatable.
QB: Alex Smith, Chiefs – Streaming this week? I wouldn't consider Smith, who has to travel to Buffalo and play one of the NFL's most underrated defenses.
RB: Carolina RBs – I think I say this once every month or so, but I hate this backfield. Stay away against the solid Eagles run defense.
WR: Rueben Randle, Giants – Randle is being peppered with targets, but he's doing very little with them, and he now draws the Seahawks.
TE: Mychal Rivera, Raiders – This is personal preference for me. Rivera is a very popular add this week, as he's seen 20 targets and 15 catches over the last two games. But he had only one catch in the two games prior to that – I'd rather chase those numbers on a team that isn't the Raiders.