Hi everyone and welcome to the fantasy off-season. It was a wild ride in 2017 and I’m still recovering, but there’s no real off-season in the dynasty world. In the summer I made projections for every IDP in the league I thought would be relevant. You can go back and read all of the 2017 IDP Projections here.
I was right in some places. I was wrong in some places. But either way, it’s important to be accountable and honest so I can figure out why and make adjustments in the future. I’ll be going through every team and noting where I was right and where I was wrong. To do that I’ll show what my projections were, how players actually performed, and how big the discrepancies were.
I’m writing this on the Tuesday before Super Bowl, so this article could read very differently in a few days time. Either the Eagles fierce defense helped them win a first title against the greatest franchise of our time or the season offered much but ended with crushing disappointment. We’ll see soon enough.
The Hallmark of the 2017 Eagles was the defensive line (for me even more so than Carson Wentz) and it all started inside. Fletcher Cox was the top tackle in my preseason rankings. Although he was a phenomenal player on the NFL field, he did fail to manage the numbers I hoped for. His solo prediction was way overoptimistic with him only managing 15. Prior to 2017, he’d averaged over 37 a season and never managed fewer than 27 so this was a shockingly low number for him even factoring in two games missed. Cox also underperformed against assists (with seven fewer) and sacks (two under).
Timmy Jernigan was far less impressive as a real player but also finished well below targets. He was 12 solos, two assists and two sacks short. My working hypothesis is that the Eagles were simply ahead so much that opposition teams had far less opportunity to run against the team. And the Eagles were so good against the run that oppositions were forced to explore alternative avenues.
It’s worth noting that Beau Allen finished extremely close to predicted totals. Okay, they were low but I just like a man that can rock a pink bow in his hair like that. I have daughters.
This was such a strength of the team with four legitimately good options that the team could rotate to keep everyone fresh. Jim Schwartz always favors a rotation approach but this was pretty perfect for him.
Brandon Graham was the lead dog of the unit and finished pleasantly close to benchmarks. He managed 33 solos (bang on), 14 assists (three under), ten sacks (three over) and three batted passes (bang on). Vinny Curry managed eight more solos and four more assists than projected but finished bang on with three sacks.
Derek Barnett impressed as a rookie and managed eight more solos (but five fewer assists) and three more sacks. Chris Long went under the radar this season but managed 19 solos (11 over), nine assists (three over) and five sacks (three over). Those are pretty impressive with just 495 snaps.
I want to start with Nigel Bradham here as he’s the simplest. He played just 85 snaps more than I expected and put up numbers that were pretty close. He finished five solos over, bang on with 27 assists, two sacks under, two passes defended over and two interceptions under. A little up and down but close on everything.
Behind Bradham, the Jordan Hicks injury played havoc. He failed to get anywhere near the benchmarks with just 268 total snaps whilst Mychal Kendricks was thrust into a leading role. I try to account for the usual wear-and-tear rate of IDP injuries, but season-ending ones are black swan events. They’re extremely disruptive for those of us in the projection game.
Cornerback has been a hit and miss position for me during this process but luckily the Eagles was a very good unit. I was in the right ballpark for the four top options here – although it’s worth noting that they outperformed as a group against passes defended and interceptions. That’s a good indicator of better quality play than expected.
Ronald Darby was the one player who failed to beat his PD target. Given he only played 382 snaps (due to injury) and finished close to tackling stats, I can endure that. Jalen Mills was the big win here. He managed 51 solos (four under), 13 assists (six over), 14 PDs (three over) and three interceptions (two over). I think that’s a very good level of accuracy for a tough position. Patrick Robinson and Rasul Douglas were also close – albeit both did extremely well in coverage play stats.
On the surface, this looks okay. Both Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod finished close on most stats. But underneath the surface there was a decent-sized error. I expected Malcolm Jenkins to play the deep role with McLeod at strong. In reality, it was mostly the other way around.
This explains the big error which was solo tackles. Jenkins managed 19 more than expected whilst McLeod had 15 fewer. If their targets had been flipped over (as they should have been) then they’d both be close across the board. It just goes to show that even if your numbers are right, failing to understand depth charts can throw you way off.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this was a Super Bowl-worthy defense. It wasn’t as dominant as the recent Broncos or Seahawks title-winning units but it was amongst the strongest in the league and for my money had the best defensive line.
I look forward enormously to seeing them play in the big game as well as moving towards the 2018 season. I expect Chris Long to leave the team and Derek Barnett to move up the rankings. Jordan Hicks should be fit again and Sidney Jones could be a good upgrade at corner. I’m not much of a believer in year-to-year defensive strength but this team might be the exception.
Thanks for reading.