Foles Gold fantasysharks.com Nov 15 '12
First and foremost, Nick Foles is a rookie quarterback. What rookie quarterbacks in recent memory have been adequate weekly fantasy starters? We're currently blinded by the success of rookies Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III and second-year player Cam Newton, but has anyone else had much fantasy success in their first year in the league? Despite his team's success, Ben Roethlisberger was not a fantasy asset. Neither was Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford or Peyton Manning. What do all of these guys have in common? They're all early first-round picks, something Foles is not. So even if you don't buy into the scouting argument below, history tells you he is not a good investment, either.
That said, I'm not just saying Foles isn't the answer to the 2012 Eagles problems; he's not any answer to any of their problems. I'm speaking from a long term perspective. If given the starting job in 2013, he is looking at a career trajectory that would have mirrored Kevin Kolb's had he stayed in Philadelphia. What's funny is Kolb is now playing in Foles' backyard, as Foles was the signal caller at the University of Arizona before being drafted by the Eagles in Round 3 this year.
While it would be unfair to point at the team's record (19-19, 12-15 in conference play) as an indictment of Foles, as the offense was potent under his leadership, but he is not without blame. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes in his three years as a starter and increased his number of touchdowns each season. However, a look at the tape says there's more to this story.
He won't fool anyone; he knows he's a statue in the pocket. However, unlike most quarterbacks that are not fleet of foot, Foles does a poor job of moving the pocket, something an immobile quarterback must do to be successful. Tom Brady does it, so does Peyton Manning, and his brother Eli Manning. Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer used to, but have been regressing in this regard in recent years and it's shown on the field. This is not a skill that gets developed at the pro level, it's learned when players get here.
He does not have good foot work to begin with, which makes this ability to move the pocket all the more challenging. With the speed of the game, Foles is going to find it incredibly difficult to adjust. His internal clock must be shorter than most (regardless of the state of his current offensive line) because he can't change position in the pocket, making pass rushers adjust to him and then adjusting his throw to the spacing inside the pocket.
This weakness is compounded by Foles' inability to read the field. His college offense was very simple - every play was a pre-snap read. This was the Arizona Wildcats' best method at masking Foles' deficiencies. If he knows where he's going with the football he can maintain proper footwork and use his big arm to rifle the ball in there for a completion. The problem is once the play is in motion, the game goes too quickly for Foles. He gets confused, doesn't know what to do with the football, his footwork breaks down, and he is prone to making sloppy throws.
This is something that just can't be worked through in the NFL like it can in college. Not every play will go according to plan post snap, and this is when Foles' weakness emerges. Instead of working to the second and third option, he knows he is not effective at working through his progressions so he would throw it in wide receiver Juron Criner's direction and hope for the best. This was the best decision for the Wildcats because Criner was exceptional at bailing him out consistently, but it is not going to do any good in helping Foles develop as a quarterback at the next level.
When he wasn't going to Criner he was checking down to options at the line of scrimmage. Similar methodology being utilized, the defense is letting him dump it and then swarming to the ball carrier. The offense can move down the field doing this, but it's difficult to score without special playmakers. This attack helped contribute to Foles' impressive completion percentage. Unfortunately, it also led to a very concerning yards per attempt. It improved each season in school, but it topped out at 7.4, which is a decent average in the NFL but not in college.
People who watched the Philadelphia Eagles game this past Sunday surely noticed similar tunnel vision for Jeremy Maclin. If the initial play wasn't there, Foles zeroed in on Maclin and leaned on him to bail him out. This can work for the short term (good news Maclin owners), but long term it will not. This is a big reason why the Wildcats got routinely crushed against better opponents or when Criner was not on the field. Good defenses adjusted to Foles' tunnel vision and he had no bail out without Criner on the field. This problem will only compound at the NFL level.
A carryover effect from the issues identified above is Foles' ability to bounce back off a bad play. He doesn't have it. The best quarterbacks have short memories - they won't repeat bad mistakes but they also don't let them affect their next play. The same is not true with Foles, his bad plays come in bunches. Rattle him with a few jaw-rattling hits or jump a couple of his checkdowns and things unravel around him. These are the sorts of mental meltdowns that cause quarterbacks to lose their jobs and coaches to get fired. It's not as if Foles has only been guilty of this a few times either, this occurred frequently throughout his collegiate career.
When the going got tough, Foles clamped up. This was on full display when the Eagles were in comeback mode late in the game this past weekend. Deep in their own territory needing a last-second miracle drive, Foles did the one thing he absolutely could not do, and then compounded the error...twice. First, he took a sack, without any timeouts to boot. Additionally, he held onto the ball way too long staring down field as he couldn't identify the open receiver. Finally, he was caught by surprise (which is surprising given how long he held onto the ball) as he dropped the ball before hitting the ground as the Dallas Cowboys wrapped up the ball for the game-winning touchdown. Vintage Foles - when the team needs a play and things are not going well around him he makes the backbreaking mistake that clinches the loss.
This is the type of player that is not going to get much of a leash from his coach even while he has the job. The run game, yes, even one coached by Andy Reid, will be leaned on heavily and complimented with the short passing game. The short passing game will be challenging as defensive backs will be squatting on every route looking to jump it as the threat to go up top is non-existent when a coach doesn't trust his quarterback in five- or seven-step drop backs and he is not athletic enough to effectively and consistently bootleg. This prevents Foles from doing everything that he can do because his best asset is his strong arm, but if his coach can't trust him in the pocket then he can't trust him to wait for the big play to develop. It's an impossible situation for all involved, and, unless the defense does a complete 180, there really isn't any way for them to be successful doing it.
Therefore, those Foles owners out there, dynasty owners anyway, this is your opportunity to sell. Do not expect much. He was acquired very cheaply and you should not expect much more coming back. Maybe try to upgrade your fifth-round rookie pick to a second or target an injured reserve player like Vincent Brown to stash for next year. It isn't much, but it is an improvement, something Foles won't be. Redraft owners? Hopefully you didn't use waiver priority to pick him up. You won't get anything for him via trade, so just send him back to the pool and hope another owner uses him against you. There really is nothing positive that will come from this for the Eagles or your fantasy team. Sometimes the best moves are the ones that just aren't made at all.