2020 Very? Deep? Sleeper? (S5, E4) – WR Greg Ward, PHI
*After I wrote/edited/set to publish this today…news hit of Jalen Reagor’s injury that will keep him out of action for maybe Weeks 1-2? It doesn’t really affect what you’re about to read, but just noting – it was news before publishing, and I didn’t feel the need to change anything about this because of it.
This is a combination ‘Very Deep Sleeper’ report + ‘Rewind’ study. My ‘rewind’ studies entail me going back and walking through the player’s prior season and looking at all their game tape/snaps/touches, etc., to see what we see…to see what I might have missed.
I don’t know if this is a Very Deep Sleeper or flushing out an overheated/bust prospect at this stage of the writing. We’re going to find out together by the end. I need to re-study this case.
It’s easy to have missed something here.
We’ve gone from…
-Greg Ward as a hot recruit runner-passer QB for the University of Houston, who played sparingly as a freshman in 2013.
-In 2014, the Houston head coach (who was dumped at the end of the season) replaced it’s pocket passing QB John O’Korn, who was coming off a nice 28 TD/10 INT/8-5 season – replacing him with the never started before sophomore Ward.
-Ward would shine as the Cougars starting QB. In 2015, he completed 67.0% of his passes with 17 TDs/6 INTs while running for 1,114 yards and 21 rushing TDs…his best season.
-Ward was thought to be an interesting mobile-QB prospect in college, but at 5’11”/185 and an NFL not-fully-ready for his style, Ward started pre-Draft working out as an ‘athlete’/WR and ultimately went undrafted.
-The Eagles signed Ward as an undrafted free agent in 2017. He went in the practice squad his rookie 2017.
He earned a ‘future’s contract’ for 2018 but didn’t make the team and once again went on the practice squad.
In 2019, the Eagles signed him to a one-year minimum deal…he once again didn’t make the team but found his way back to the practice squad.
In last November 2019, with the Eagles scuffling to get to .500 and trying to win the NFC East, and with DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey hurt/out and many other journeyman WRs failing to matter for the Iggles…Ward was forced off the practice squad and into playing Week 12 – where he caught 6 passes for 40 yards.
Ward was a reliable hand the rest of the season, becoming a starting slot WR in Week 15 and into the playoffs.
The Eagles never intended for Ward to be a starter…or ever on the 53-man roster. Ward never intended to be a wide receiver after a nice college career at quarterback. Life is funny sometimes.
The late 2019 activity by Ward was lightly applauded and then everyone went back to figuring out who the Eagles would draft in 2020 to be their slot WR…because, certainly it couldn’t/wouldn’t be Ward.
Out of nowhere, reports from August 2020 training camp kept popping up that Ward had become connected to Carson Wentz and him starting as the slot WR, while highly drafted rookie Jalen Reagor saw more time as an outside WR.
Could Greg Ward be the starting slot WR for the Eagles in 2020?
Could Ward then be a fantasy football ‘sleeper’ for 2020?
OK, time to go watch a lot of tape…
I had to admit, I wrote off Ward too. I focused on Reagor and anyone else in Philly…not Ward, for 2020. I scouted Ward as a mobile QB in 2017, he was a gamer but not electric. His measurables did not catch my attention one way or the other from his 2017 Pro Day (5’10”/182, 4.59 40-time, 6.90 three-cone). He was a generically ‘solid’/OK athlete…not good or great or bad or bust…just a dime-a-dozen athlete profile I’ve seen a million times. But I never really saw him work as a WR. I saw him working in the past few NFL preseasons and I saw that he was OK, but never anything I got excited about/changed my mind on. He was like a ghost; he didn’t exist as a player of concern at all for me.
…and now he might be the Week 1 starting slot receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020.
I guess I need to pay attention now.
‘Paying attention’ means, I had to start from square one – I went back and looked at his Weeks 12-17+ tape from last season. I also went back and watched some of his work in college…to see/get reacquainted with how good/dominating (or not) an athlete that he was. I wanted to find out how excited we should get about a Greg Ward starting slot WR for Philly in 2020, for fantasy football purposes.
My general reaction: I don’t see anything that exciting about Greg Ward. I’m looking and seeking…I just don’t see any reason to get excited. I wanted to see it…I couldn’t see ‘it’.
I mean…Ward’s not terrible. He can catch the ball pretty well. He’s not a bad athlete. He’s just more ‘sound’ than anything else. He’s nothing special after the catch. He’s not a master of getting open. He’s not physically imposing. He doesn’t have breakaway speed.
I went back and watched his time at QB at Houston…same thing. It was nice…for college. Pretty mobile. Smart, savvy runner with good college wheels but there was no ‘wow’ factor. He’s just solid/sound moving around. A good ‘football player’, as they say.
Ward is a useful NFL player…I can see why he’s making his way in Philly. Works hard. Tough-minded. Not afraid to work the middle of the field. Is somewhat elusive with the ball. A good solid football player…like a nice #4-5 WR to fill-in as needed. However, he’s potentially starting as a slot for a beleaguered Philly WR group…and I don’t think it’s because he’s one of the 32 best slot WRs in the NFL, or top 100 WR in general.
As a ‘forced’ (because Philly is so shallow at WR) starter, he’s a PPR hopeful…for 3-4-5-6 catches in games, but I don’t think you’ll get a ton of yards or TDs to go with. He might have a game or two where he’s hot and gets a TD with it and everyone wants to jump in on him, but he’ll be back on your bench or on waivers in no time. Jalen Reagor was drafted because the Eagles have to know there’s not a huge future with Ward in the slot. However, Reagor isn’t instantly special either…and he is a rookie, which gives an advantage to the three-years in the system guy (Ward), early on.
So, there sits Ward. He’s about as FF-exciting as a Russell Gage or Danny Amendola or Randall Cobb or Dede Westbrook. Guys who are playing/seeing targets, have some bigger catch count games…but in the end it’s a lot of 5-37-0 type FF-boring games. Not anything to get super excited by for fantasy. And Ward is likely going to be replaced as soon as Philly has an option (Reagor or otherwise).
Ward’s best attribute right now is ‘Philly sucks/is dinged up at WR, so an opportunity has been created’.
Not a ringing endorsement.
Not a ‘Very Deep Sleeper’, per se. Just a guy.