You’ll see Alshon Jeffery on a lot of “don’t draft” lists this summer. I was higher on Jeffery than most coming into the year—he was one of my outlier picks in our annual Rotoworld Draft Guide (found next to Dwayne Johnson at your local Stop & Shop). Despite my initial optimism, I’m starting to see why so many of my colleagues have jumped ship on Alshon.
I’ll admit, my Draft Guide ranking was a tad aggressive—Jeffery was my WR16, sandwiched between Amari Cooper and Stefon Diggs. I’ve since lowered Jeffery to a slightly more conservative 22nd, but now, even that might be pushing it. Jeffery has yet to practice since undergoing offseason shoulder surgery (he played through a torn rotator cuff last season) and if Ian Rapoport’s sources are correct, the 28-year-old could be in danger of missing the Eagles’ season opener against Atlanta on September 6. Missing a game or two early in the year would certainly be an inconvenience to fantasy owners, but not necessarily a deal-breaker. Alshon’s days of being a consensus WR1 are probably over but the South Carolina alum remains a red-zone monster—his nine receiving scores last year tied for fourth-most in the NFL—with weekly WR2 upside.
However, Jeffery isn’t healthy right now and may not be for the foreseeable future. The longer his injury lingers, the better the chance he ends up on the reserve/PUP list, which would cost him the first six games of the regular season. And even if he does make it back for Week 1 or shortly after, expecting Jeffery to immediately reclaim his role as the focal point of Philadelphia’s passing attack would be naïve. The former Bear will obviously have significant rust to shake off after missing the bulk of training camp and could be at risk of aggravating his balky shoulder at any time.
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This continues a frustrating trend for Jeffery, who has developed a nasty habit of disappointing his fantasy owners. Though Jeffery was rejuvenated somewhat by last year’s move to Philadelphia, that doesn’t erase his suspension-shorted 2016 campaign or his injury-ravaged 2015 season.
Jeffery is a household name and certainly the most talented pass-catcher in the Eagles’ receiving corps (apologies to Mike Wallace and Nelson Agholor) but it’s been four years since his last 1,000-yard season and five since he made his first, and so far only, Pro Bowl appearance. During his breakout 2013 season, Jeffery topped 100 yards receiving on five occasions including a pair of 200-yard games against Detroit and Minnesota. Including the postseason, Jeffery’s high-water mark last year was 92 yards in Week 2. His efficiency was also lacking—even with MVP candidate Carson Wentz throwing to him for most of the year, Jeffery caught fewer than half (47.5 percent, to be exact) of his team-high 120 targets. Maybe it’s time to give up the ghost and accept that Jeffery, despite his immense physical gifts and past achievements, has entered the decline phase of his career.
Jeffery’s star may have faded some but let’s not forget what he did in the playoffs last year, pacing the Eagles with 219 yards and three touchdowns over three postseason appearances. He was a difference-maker in Super Bowl LII, dusting overmatched cornerback Eric Rowe (who inexplicably drew the start over Malcolm Butler) for 73 yards and a touchdown as the Eagles topped New England in thrilling fashion. And though Jeffery’s yardage totals were pedestrian (at least compared to his usual standards), he still fared reasonably well versus top competition, holding his own against many of the league’s best secondaries including the Broncos (84 yards, two touchdowns), Rams (52 yards, one touchdown) and Vikings (85 yards, two touchdowns). It’s important to keep in mind that most, if not all, of those performances came while Jeffery was at much less than 100 percent.
Jeffery’s shoulder could bother him all year—sports medical expert Dr. David J. Chao cautions that rotator cuff surgery typically entails a 6-to-9-month recovery—but fading the wideout completely might be an overreaction. Alshon lasted until the 71st pick in an expert mock I hosted for the Online Draft Guide two weeks ago, which is obviously much later than his early fourth-round ADP on Yahoo (39.4). I wouldn’t go overboard, but if Jeffery somehow fell in my lap in the sixth or seventh round, I could accept that.
With Jeffery’s status uncertain, now might be the time for fantasy owners to invest more heavily in Nelson Agholor and, to a lesser extent, Mike Wallace. Agholor set career-highs in every receiving category last year while emerging as the team’s primary slot receiver, a role previously filled by Jordan Matthews. The 2015 first-rounder played a big role down the stretch, drawing nine or more targets in four of his final seven games including Super Bowl LII, when Nick Foles targeted him a team-high 11 times.
Wallace is entering his age-32 season and obviously carries risk as a prototypical boom-or-bust deep threat, but he can still bring it, as evidenced by the 748 yards he registered with Baltimore last season. Second-year wideout Mack Hollins isn’t quite on the redraft radar yet, but if Jeffery’s absence stretches into the regular season, he’ll be a name to watch for on the waiver wire. He’d also make for an appealing DFS dart throw, depending on the matchup. Jeffery’s injury further cements Zach Ertz as a top-three option at the tight end position while also elevating running backs Darren Sproles and Corey Clement, who are both known for their pass-catching prowess.
Not that the Eagles are sweating any of it. After finally rewarding their long-suffering fan base with a Lombardi Trophy in February, Jeffery missing the first two weeks of training camp isn’t keeping anyone up at night. It’s all gravy for the reigning champs.
Quick Hits: Saquon Barkley exited Monday’s practice with an apparent left leg injury. Luckily Giants coach Pat Shurmur said it’s only a “mild strain” … Donald Penn has agreed to a restructured contract with the Raiders. The veteran tackle underwent foot surgery in December and is still recovering … Bears first-round LB Roquan Smith officially ended his holdout Monday, agreeing to a four-year, $18 million deal (fully guaranteed) with a fifth-year team option for 2022. Now that Smith has put pen to paper, all 32 first-round picks from this year’s draft are under contract … LeSean McCoy’s ex-girlfriend Delicia Cordon has filed a lawsuit against him. Last month, Cordon was assaulted in a home invasion that she alleges was arranged by McCoy. As of now, the Bills running back has not been charged with any crime … Seventh overall pick Josh Allen worked as the Bills’ second-team quarterback behind A.J. McCarron during Monday’s practice session. In doing so, he moved ahead of Nathan Peterman, who was demoted to third-string … Zay Jones shed his non-contact jersey at Monday’s practice. The Bills wideout underwent two offseason knee surgeries with his most recent operation coming in May … Speaking to the media Monday, Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said Peyton Barber is “our starter.” Barber led Tampa Bay with 423 rushing yards a year ago but figures to face competition from second-round rookie Ronald Jones … The Dolphins were without two of their top wide receivers at Monday’s practice. DeVante Parker sat out with a hand injury while Kenny Stills remained sidelined with an ankle issue … San Francisco struck a deal with former Redskins and Cowboys running back Alfred Morris on Monday. The Niners needed backfield depth following injuries to Jerick McKinnon (knee) and Matt Breida (shoulder) … Allen Robinson will suit up for the Bears’ third preseason game Saturday at Denver. Robinson, who is coming off a torn ACL, was a spectator for Chicago’s first two preseason contests including last week’s loss to Cincinnati … According to Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune, second-round rookie Anthony Miller is “forging his place” as the Bears’ preferred slot receiver. So far Miller has caught one pass for a loss of one yard over 18 preseason snaps … Per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, third overall pick Sam Darnold has received the “bulk” of New York’s first-team quarterback reps at practice the past two days. The USC alum impressed in his Jets debut Friday against Atlanta, completing 13-of-18 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown upon entering in the second quarter … Terrelle Pryor revealed he suffered a broken ankle in May. Pryor resumed practicing earlier this month, though he’s expected to sit out Thursday’s preseason game against the Redskins … Gareon Conley resumed practicing Monday following a two-week absence. The 2017 first-rounder strained his hip on the first day of Raiders training camp … According to Jim Wyatt of Titansonline.com, Rishard Matthews’ absence has opened up first-team reps for Tajae Sharpe at Titans training camp. The UMass alum showed flashes as a rookie in 2016 (41 catches for 522 yards and two touchdowns) before missing all of last year with a foot injury … Chad Kelly, the final pick of the 2017 draft, has surpassed Paxton Lynch on the Broncos’ quarterback depth chart. Lynch hasn’t shown much since arriving as a first-round pick in 2016, delivering a 76.7 quarterback rating with four touchdowns and four interceptions over five NFL appearances including four starts … Owner/GM Jerry Jones expects Randy Gregory to play in the Cowboys’ season opener at Carolina on September 9. Gregory was reinstated last month following a year-long suspension for repeated violations of the league’s substance abuse policy … Dallas Goedert resumed practicing Monday after suffering a minor elbow injury over the weekend. The second-round tight end corralled four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown in his preseason debut last week against the Steelers … QBs coach Ken Zampese said the Browns have a plan for Baker Mayfield and are “sticking to it.” The first-round rookie shined in Thursday’s preseason opener, completing 11-of-20 passes for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 20-10 win over the Giants. Despite Mayfield’s impressive play this summer, the Browns remain adamant that Tyrod Taylor is their starting quarterback … Josh Rosen will get reps with the first-team offense in Friday’s preseason tilt with New Orleans. The tenth overall pick labored through a sluggish debut on Saturday, throwing for just 41 yards on 6-of-13 passing against the Chargers.
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