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Eagles Crowded Backfield Will Frustrate Fantasy Owners in 2017

Wendell Smallwood compressor

Eagles Crowded Backfield

One of the more difficult backfields to figure out this fantasy football season has been that of the Philadelphia Eagles. The offense looks energized with sophomore quarterback Carson Wentz at the helm, leading many to believe that the Eagles could be more competitive than what sportsbooks like BetNow.eu had been projecting. Fantasy Football owners have been trying to get a read on who will be the lead dog in the backfield in this underrated offense, and so far, it’s been anyone’s guess. While it’s hard to read too much into preseason games, the Eagles rushing attack has been average at best throughout the preseason, and with final roster cuts coming soon, someone will likely go. The team will employ a running back by committee format in 2017, but have too many players currently on the roster. A cut or trade could generate more touches for someone in this offense.

Eagles Running Backs
  • LeGarrette Blount
  • Darren Sproles
  • Wendell Smallwood
  • Donnel Pumphrey
  • Corey Clement
  • Byron Marshall

Recently, Eagles beat writers took a stab at the final roster with a rumor that veteran LeGarrette Blount might not make the team. Those rumors were quickly squashed by Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson when he said Blount will be “a big part of our offense.” and that “The guy’s a beast of a runner.” The coaches comment led many to believe that Wendell Smallwood needed a big game and that he could be on a roster bubble. However, OC Frank Reich seems very much in his corner. Reich was quoted in saying “You know, I think Wendell is a true three-down back,” and added “He is a very versatile back who knows protections very well, who runs good routes, who catches the ball well. And then I think he’s a slashing runner on first and second down, so we like that combination.”

Smallwood rushed four times for 28 yards in the Eagles’ third preseason game. Smallwood only played on third down on the Eagles’ first drive, but he was the feature back for most of the remainder of Philly’s first-team time on the field. Smallwood got blown up on a second-drive blitz-pickup attempt by Dolphins SLB Lawrence Timmons resulting in a Carson Wentz sack.

Fantasy Breakdown

I wrote a similar article on the Eagles wide receiver group a few weeks back, one in which I regret not mentioning a gut feeling I had. In the article I talked about Jordan Matthews being the odd man out and that the team would need to be creative in getting him the ball. What I should have said was that I think JMAT could be a candidate for a trade. Within days of that article being published, Matthews was dealt to the Buffalo Bills. Now, looking at the Eagles running back group, this feels like the same sort of situation. The Eagles have promising depth with Corey Clement and Donnel Pumphrey and may be trying to shop one of them or deal Wendell Smallwood. Blount is signed to a one year deal and isn’t worth much of anything through trade. He would also cost just about the same in dead money if he were cut.

Darren SprolesDarren Sproles is 34 years old and has been rested throughout the preseason. Sproles was overused last year, and the team will likely reduce his role in 2017.

If I had to guess, I would say Wendell Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount will split the workload in 2017, with the team splicing in Sproles in the passing game or as a situational weapon on the offense for the first half of the season. However, there is a good chance Wendell Smallwood could take over the starting RB job as the season progresses. Smallwood might be a buy low fantasy investment player once the season starts. He has the most upside on the roster, but with Blount as the goal line back it’s hard to get too excited.

That all being said, I’m not convinced the team is happy with their current running back group; they will probably tolerate the players they have on the roster this season but be open to the idea of trading for someone if a great deal becomes available. There is a good chance that someone emerges from this crowded backfield, but considering no one has really looked all that impressive, it’s probably best to avoid the whole situation at your fantasy football draft this season.

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