Fantasy Football Take-Shopping: Who could be the biggest winner on Eagles offense from Kellen Moore hire?

It’s June. No one has nor does anyone need “the answers to the test” yet — to use a silly analogy that somehow makes the very unserious pursuit of understanding and projecting NFL teams and players seem like some profound quest.

We’re writing thoughts in pencil and merely take-shopping, for now.

That makes for a perfect backdrop to discuss one of the most difficult puzzles to solve with the current, limited offseason information we have: How will Kellen Moore’s offense mesh with the Eagles' personnel?

Philadelphia boasts a star-laden roster on offense that should be strong in the trenches, despite the loss of Jason Kelce, but the original core of players was present during an unprecedented collapse in the second half of last season.

Moore has generally been well-regarded as a play-caller, but he’s at an inflection point in his career based on how 2023 played out; his Chargers tenure was anything but a success, while his former team in Dallas enjoyed a strong season after Mike McCarthy took over the full play-calling duties.

Essentially, these two parties need the best out of each other in a critical season for this franchise. You can tell yourself a story about how this works out perfectly, but at the same time, the ways it won’t mesh are just as readily apparent. This one could go either way. As such, it’s critical to examine the main players and units involved here to decipher the range of possible outcomes.

It’s a particularly fascinating time to examine the Eagles' running game. Not just because of Kelce's departure and how that will impact their Tush Push short-yardage success but also because this front office just made an out-of-character move to pay big money to a running back.

Howie Roseman has typically assembled backfields with low-cost moves to form a team. Signing Saquon Barkley to be a workhorse back with a top-five positional salary is well outside of expectations.

Philadelphia will be dropping Barkley on top of a desirable rushing ecosystem. The Eagles lead the NFL in rushing success rate and rushing EPA over the past two seasons combined. They got a great run out of Miles Sanders, who flopped in Carolina, and D’Andre Swift just had a career season in this backfield. The Eagles have a proven track record of elevating backs.

The fact that this team sought out a workhorse back who should be a difference-maker at the position ought to tell us something.

The Eagles have been primarily an outside-zone rushing team. The Eagles ranked eighth in zone rushing rate (51.4%) in 2023, per Fantasy Points Data, but 18th (44.7%) the year before. Moore’s Chargers sat at 44.5% in 2023 and his Cowboys at 44.8%. We’re in the same neighborhood regarding how we assume this run game will be structured, with a varied approach to multiple concepts. Undoubtedly, the offensive line talent and ancillary blockers in Philadelphia are closer to Moore’s Dallas units than what the Chargers ran out last season.

Barkley isn’t coming off his best season amid a broken Giants offense, but it is worth noting that in his dynamic 2022 campaign, he was much more productive on man/gap scheme runs than in zone. Per Fantasy Points Data, Barkley posted a 54.8% success rate on gap runs and 36.8% on zone runs. The fact that we’ve seen both the Eagles and Moore be able to mix and match their run game ideas is positive for Barkley’s outlook.

The Eagles front office wanted to target a back that could better weaponize their already efficient rushing game of old. Part of that rationale might have been that Barkley allows them to be a more explosive, “at you” power run game after they skewed more finesse in 2023.

Barkley will require a second-round fantasy investment this season, but the more I examine this part of the marriage between Moore and the Eagles, the more I can see the upside for this portion of the offense.

Here we arrive at a far more exciting and complex assessment. The past two quarterbacks we’ve seen operate in Kellen Moore’s offense are Dak Prescott and Justin Herbert.

It’s hard to overstate how different those players are from Jalen Hurts.

The Eagles' passing game has been mostly good during Hurts’ tenure as the starting quarterback, but anyone could see they hit a point of stagnation last season. The static route concepts of the old offense were part of the problem, but Hurts hasn’t always been willing to matriculate over the middle of the field. Their plan against pressure was generally lacking, and the results were an outright disaster when facing the blitz. That’s an interesting part of the discussion to consider, with the retirement of Kelce — who handled most of the calls and checks at the line — coinciding with the hiring of a new coordinator.

Kellen Moore has typically entrusted his quarterbacks to command the line of scrimmage by making checks and audibles at the line. His playbook is stocked with full-field reads and under-center play-action concepts that take advantage of the middle of the field. Quite frankly, none of that sounds like how Hurts has operated as a starter in the league. But is that an issue of, "He can’t do it," "He hasn’t yet evolved to be able to do it" or "He just has not been tasked with doing it yet in his career"?

Moore’s arrival sets up a clear inflection point in the development of Hurts. He’s sharp enough not to try to completely fit a square peg in a round hole. There will be a certain level of catering the offense to the quarterback. However, if Moore intends to keep 60%-70% of his typical design and philosophy of offense, we’ll need to see a much different version of Hurts than what we’ve gotten through his career.

That can be a good thing.

Change and evolution were needed in the Eagles' offense. What worked during their best days of 2022 couldn’t be the norm forever. What Moore will bring from a structural standpoint is crucial to maximizing this talented roster. Hurts just needs to be able to take his game to new heights in pure dropback situations in a more traditional NFL passing game. If he can do it, this can be the best season of Eagles offense in the past five years, and his life will be much easier. If he is stuck on the same level we’ve seen during his successful run as the starter, there will be an oil-and-water effect in this marriage between play-caller and passer.

The final portion of the marriage that’s key to discuss is what happens in the wide receiver room. In both of Moore’s previous stops, we’ve seen the best wide receiver on the roster maximized by moving around the formation with heavy slot usage to give the quarterback layup targets. So much of what CeeDee Lamb was tasked with in Dallas mapped well onto Keenan Allen in Los Angeles.

Either A.J. Brown or DeVonta Smith could play this position, but my guess is that Brown will take on most of that role.

Smith has been a pure perimeter player during his time with the Eagles and at Alabama, taking most of his snaps at the X-receiver spot. Brown can and does win in that position as well. However, he brings slot versatility from his collegiate days and is the type of rare physical player you want to get on the move on crossing routes and run-after-catch opportunities just as much as you want him to win against press-man coverage on vertical routes.

Of the two star receivers, Brown is the better overall player, and he brings more role versatility.

Brown won’t be used exactly like either Lamb or Allen was in Moore’s former stops, but if he runs more of those layup routes over the middle, and Hurts develops as a passer there, Brown could be in for a career-best year. Remember the numbers Brown put up to start last season? There’s no reason we can’t see those stretched out for a full season.

Smith’s role in this shouldn’t be underplayed, though. Part of the issue in both the Chargers' and later the Cowboys' passing games under Moore was that they lacked a vertical outside receiver who could consistently beat man coverage. Those plays were there to be made, and the route concepts were good; the players just couldn’t get it done. That won’t be an issue for the Eagles. Smith’s specialty is separation and route execution. So while he might not get the same layup targets Brown projects for in this scheme, he’ll be just as critical in pushing the passing game toward his ceiling.

There won’t be any sort of discount on Brown while he’s in the prime of his career, but Smith currently goes outside the top 20 receivers in early best-ball drafts. After a slight letdown season last year that had little to do with him and more to do with the Eagles' offense hitting roadblocks, he could be a solid value in 2024 if this all comes together for Moore and his new team.