In 2016, the Eagles’ fielded one of the most haphazard and misguided receiving corps in the entire NFL.

That will change in 2017.

On the “opening” day of free agency, the Eagles signed two new wideouts to the team: Alshon Jeffery (one-year, $14M deal) and Torrey Smith (three-year deal, worth up to $15M, but essentially amounts to a one-year deal). Philadelphia now owns one of the league’s most high variance pass catching trios in all of football.

Jordan Matthews is obviously the mainstay out of the slot where he ran 70% of his routes in 2016, but Zach Ertz’s production has been up and down throughout his career. Meanwhile, Alshon struggled through more injuries and a four-game PED suspension in 2016. Then of course there is Torrey Smith, fantasy football’s ultimate mirage. Smith was nothing short of entirely disappointing in San Francisco, finishing as the WR66 and WR93 (PPR points per game) over the past two years.

Carson Wentz ultimately needed more weapons and GM Howie Roseman went out and got them in Jeffery and Smith. But how can we expect Philadelphia to distribute targets with all of their new toys?

 

Don't worry, Carson. I'm coming.

The Lackluster 2016 Eagles

In truth, Wentz’s target allocation in 2016 was something out of a horror film. The Eagles’ lack of pass catching weapons after Matthews and Ertz in 2016 was absolutely horrendous:

Name

Position

Targets

Target Share

Jordan Matthews

WR

116

19%

Zach Ertz

TE

106

17%

Dorial Green-Beckham

WR

74

12%

Darren Sproles

RB

71

12%

Nelson Agholor

WR

69

11%

Trey Burton

TE

60

10%

Even though Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor are expected to remain on the team in 2017, at least for the start of camp, the additions of both Jeffery and Smith will send both Agholor and Green-Beckham deservedly down the depth chart. If we reduce Green-Beckham and Agholor’s roles entirely into dust, the Eagles effectively have 143 open targets (23% of team share) from the 2016 campaign.

What’s more, Agholor amazingly led the Eagles in red-zone target share in 2016. Wentz’s pass catchers seriously could not have been any more of a disaster:

Name

Position

Red-zone Target Share

Nelson Agholor

WR

17%

Zach Ertz

TE

16%

Jordan Matthews

WR

15%

Darren Sproles

RB

15%

Dorial Green-Beckham

WR

14%

Trey Burton

TE

8%


Eagles Episode 2017: A New Hope

As the expected primary receiver, Alshon Jeffery should have a ton of target leading potential in Philadelphia. At worst, the Eagles’ moves at receiver should free up around 30% of their red-zone target share and about 23% of their team targets from 2016 if we strip away Green-Beckham and Agholor’s opportunity from last year. With zero movement in Matthews and Ertz’s target allocation from 2016, that is a fantasy WR1 (top-12) role.

Jeffery’s signing was expected, but Torrey Smith is certainly a wild card. At 28-years-old, Smith is still young for a six-year veteran – but he has proven that he is nothing more than a deep threat at this stage of his career. In fact, per PFF, 23.4% of Torrey Smith’s total targets over the past two years with the ‘Niners have been on throws traveling at least 20 yards in the air. For reference, Smith’s 23.4% deep target rate would have been the ninth-most in all of 2016 (among qualifying receivers).

With both moves, the Eagles signaled that they are throwing all the support they can muster at Carson Wentz. They should after Wentz basically had to throw 607 passes at papier-maché in 2016. Joking aside, there is no doubt the Eagles’ passing offense will look a lot different and be a lot more fun in 2017. Nabbing Jeffery was a move Philadelphia had to make while Torrey’s signing could prove fruitful if Wentz and Smith can get on the same page on some deep throws. At the least, he should open up space for Jeffery, Matthews, and Ertz underneath.