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One of the top free agents remaining has officially found a new nest. Alshon Jeffery has signed a one-year, $14 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. This comes off the heels of the team acquiring Torrey Smith, and completes a total revamp of one of the league's worst wide receiving groups from 2016. Carson Wentz went fom having a dearth of playmaking pass-catchers, to suddenly looking at a whole new flock ready to take flight. Don't worry, I'm deleting my account after that one. Anyway, let's get on to the fantasy analysis.
Wentz's rookie season started out okay but was undone by his own throwing mechanics regressing and his wide receivers routinely letting him down. Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor tried to serve as outside receivers but failed miserably. If you combine their stats from 2016 you get 143 targets, 72 receptions, 757 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. For the sake of comparison, if you treat that duo as one receiver, among players with 120-plus targets in 2016, the DGB-Agholor amalgam would have ranked 24th in both catches and yards ... out of 25 players (Dennis Pitta had fewer yards, Brandon Marshall had fewer receptions). Jordan Matthews did his best to help the passing offense, but as we've noted before, it is very difficult to run an NFL offense entirely through a slot receiver. Now, thanks to these savvy free agent acquisitions Wentz has a No. 1 and No. 2 receiver and Matthews will be allowed to more freely play from his natural position in the slot.
It's interesting, but I guess not too surprising, that Jeffery only commanded a one-year deal from the Eagles. No one was willing to invest long-term in him at his market price given his recent injuries and suspension, so Jeffery took the money and another "prove-it" deal. This could be good news for fantasy, as Jeffery will have millions of reasons to put up massive statistical numbers this season. Over the last four years, the No. 1 wide receiver in Doug Pederson's offenses has commanded an average of 20.9 percent of the team targets. If Carson Wentz throws around 600 passes, as he did last year, we can reasonably expect Jeffery to see around 120 looks. He saw 140-plus in 2013 and 2014 -- when he was a top-12 fantasy wideout each year -- so it might serve fantasy players better if they view Jeffery at the high end of the WR2 pool now that he's in Philadelphia. From 2013 to 2015, Jeffery averaged 9.4 targets per game, but that total dipped to 7.8 per game in 2016, his least effective fantasy season. It's also worth remembering that Jeffery enjoyed the presence of a still-in-his-prime Brandon Marshall running on the opposite side of the field for his best years. Torrey Smith and Jordan Matthews will not command the same attention that peak Marshall did, putting more of an onus on Jeffery.
Lastly, let's not forget that both Zach Ertz and Matthews each saw north of 100 targets last year, and Smith will command some looks as well. Jeffery will have plenty of fantasy value this year, but not up to par with how we used to view him. The potential is there for Jeffery to put it all together, dominate as the Eagles' No. 1 wideout and earn himself a fat new contract. Yet, there are very real risks for another injury-riddled season made worse by erratic quarterback play and a lack of consistent targets. Fantasy owners will have plenty of questions to ask themselves before pulling the trigger on Jeffery come draft season.