By Michael McCarthy

The Eagles were one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses last season, and they figure to be just as explosive in 2014.

In 2013, 2013 Philly decimated opponents, leading the league in rushing with 2,566 yards and adding another 4,110 yards through the air. Coach Chip Kelly is a fantasy football gold mine, but which of his pawns are worth playing with?

Many worry that the departure of DeSean Jackson will thwart Philly’s quest for the most potent offense in football, but the team’s second round pick this year is more than ready to laugh in the face of critics. Jordan Matthews, a team captain at Vanderbilt, re-wrote both his school’s receiving highs and the SEC’s setting records for career receptions with 262 and receiving yards with 3,759. Yet Matthews is just one tool in Nick Foles’ arsenal.

Nick Foles, Quarterback

Expectations for Philly’s new face of franchise quarterback are at an all-time high after the former Arizona Wildcat set an NFL record for touchdown to interception ratio in a single season with 27 scores with only two interceptions.

Though Foles played in only 13 games last season after taking over for the injured and ineffective Michael Vick, extend his stat totals to a full 16 games and you have a more than viable fantasy starter. Had Foles started every game for the Eagles last season, he would have hit 3,558 passing yards with 33 touchdowns making his average draft position of the eight quarterback taken a nice bargain.

LeSean McCoy, Running Back (photo above)

The man they call Shady casts a large shadow over his counterparts at the running back position. A two-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro, McCoy dazzles opponents with his shiftiness and breakaway speed. Behind one of the best offensive lines in the game today, McCoy should have no issue replicating his 2,146 yards from scrimmage he accrued in 2013.

Riley Cooper, Wide Receiver

When he is not attending Kenny Chesney concerts, Cooper has proved to be quite valuable as a possession receiver. The 2013 season was a banner year for Cooper as a part of the Eagles’ rejuvenated offense as he set career highs with 47 receptions, 835 yards, and eight touchdowns. Though the Eagles will implement a balanced attack spreading the ball around to four or more receivers and two tight ends, expect Cooper to receive the lions’ share of the targets within the red zone making him a boom or bust style of fantasy acquisition.

Jeremy Maclin, Wide Receiver

The largest uncertainty facing the offense entering 2014 is a 26 year old receiver out of Missouri. After missing all of last season with a torn ACL, Maclin returns to the team ready to improve on his 2012 receiving totals of 69 receptions for 857 yards and seven scores. Expect Maclin to take the starting spot left vacant by Jackson, with Matthews ready to fill in the slot receiving duties. If healthy, Maclin will be a great WR-2 option this season.

Zach Ertz, Tight End

The Eagles’ 2013 second round pick from Stanford dazzled in his rookie campaign as he and counterpart Brent Celek combined for 971 yards on 68 receptions with 10 scores. Expect Ertz to continue to flourish in Kelly’s system, taking over more of the receiving roles from the veteran Celek as the season wears on.

Ertz’s current average draft position has him as a fringe fantasy roster addition as he is currently ranked as the 12th tight end and 115th pick overall. Should he fall in drafts, Ertz will be a tremendous value pick late.

Biggest Fantasy Surprise: Jordan Matthews

What is not to like about a guy who is spending his time between OTA’s and training camp working with two of the game’s greats? Matthews has been working with Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Cincinnati’s AJ Green to improve aspects of his game and learning tips on how to keep his production level up all season long. Matthews has already been named the slot starter in Philadelphia, and is a steal as he is currently being drafted as the 64th wide receiver.

Biggest Fantasy Disappointment: Darren Sproles

No one is knocking the veteran’s ability on the field, it is just difficult to find a place for Sproles within this high powered offense outside of the return game, not to mention his injury history. Sproles will certainly field his fair share of kickoffs and punts, but there does not seem to be much room for carries in the Eagles’ backfield for a 31 year old rusher who struggles when actually carrying the football. While Sproles will absolutely see time as the third down back, his carries will be limited throughout the 2014 season.

How the Schedule Impacts Philadelphia’s Fantasy Options

Things will start off quite nicely for owners of Eagles’ players entering 2014, as the team’s first three opponents allowed 478, 449, and 336 points to opposing teams respectively in 2013. Playing in the NFC East does not hurt either due to the fact that the Giants, Redskins, and Cowboys gave up a combined 1,293 points last season.

The negatives from this schedule come from the NFC West, as Philadelphia will play last season’s first, third, seventh, and 13th defenses from last season. The Eagles also have a game against the Carolina Panthers, the second ranked defense in 2013. Despite this difficult slate of games, Chip Kelly’s offense should not regress heading into 2014 even without Desean Jackson.

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