The Fantasy Breakdown – NFC East Edition
Welcome to the ultimate Fantasy Breakdown! As we approach the regular season, when most fantasy football drafts are taking place, we are here to break it down team by team and player by player for every team in the NFL. Let’s continue our look at the NFC by examining the NFC East.
America’s Team. Dem Boys. The Dallas Cowboys are among the most loved and hated franchises in all of sports. When healthy, the Cowboys still boast one of the top three offensive lines in the NFL. They’ve finally added a *cough* star wide receiver and the defense looks better than it has in years. Unfortunately, all of that has been overshadowed by Zeke’s pending holdout. If this bleeds into the regular season, it could end up being enough to knock the Cowboys out of contention for a playoff bye.
Here is a player by player breakdown:
Dak Prescott – It may have been just one video, but the competition between Dak Prescott and former Houston Texans quarterback David Carr on NFL Total Access still has me shook. I was on the side of Dak being an above average NFL quarterback, and even though his pass accuracy leaves a lot to be desired, this is still true because of what Dak can do with his legs. For fantasy football purposes, I like Dak as a late QB option if I’m going to wait until the QB run has passed and am trying to combine two players as streaming options. Rather than burning a single digit round pick on Mahomes, Mayfield and the like, I’m totally fine scooping up Dak and Cousins or Rivers in the back end of my fantasy football drafts.
Ezekiel Elliott – The only question about Zeke this year is “will he play?” Zeke is the lynchpin of the Cowboys offense, and in my opinion, is the 2nd best all-around running back in the NFL. Assuming Zeke gets signed before the regular season and plays 16 games, he is a lock, stock, top three overall pick in standard leagues. In PPR leagues, he is still a top-four running back along with Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, and Christian McCaffery.
Tony Pollard – During Zeke’s holdout, Tony Pollard has been the biggest beneficiary. He has had a lot of run in the preseason and has impressed teammates and coaches. Pollard has been evaluated as a “jack of all trades but master of none.” He’s a versatile player who can run and catch and shows excellent patience at the point of attack. I would recommend investing in Tony Pollard at about rounds 10 to 12, and maybe higher if you took Zeke with your first round pick. For whatever amount of time Zeke is out, Pollard is a top five fantasy running back and maintains some flex appeal when Zeke does return.
Amari Cooper – Amari Cooper is on my untouchable list. Cooper is the model of inconsistency from the wide receiver position, often busting for weeks on end before dropping a 200-yard game. The fact that Cooper is now dealing with plantar fasciitis in his foot makes me even less inclined to spend high draft capital on him. I may have to eat my words if Cooper somehow becomes a consistent WR1, but I just don’t see that happening.
Michael Gallup – In just eight starts last season, Michael Gallup was able to accumulate 33 receptions for 507 yards and 2 touchdowns. Averaged out over a 16 game schedule, if he repeats the same level of production, he will just crack 1000 yards. Considering his late ADP, this makes Gallup a valuable draft pick as a potential breakout star heading into his sophomore season.
Randall Cobb – I’m more interested in Randall Cobb in PPR leagues than I am in standard leagues, but either way, I’m mildly interested. It seems like an eternity has passed since Randall Cobb popped off for 1287 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he’s downgraded quarterbacks moving from Green Bay to Dallas. However, if he’s hanging around in the double digit rounds, I’ll take a shot on Cobb on the off chance that he stays healthy.
Jason Witten – Witten is a decent option in PPR leagues, as he routinely has done enough to stay relevant, but not enough to be a top 5 tight end. The best ability is availability, and Witten was a model of toughness before retiring in 2017, as he had played in every single Cowboys game since 2004. Now that he’s had a full year off, Witten should look refreshed, which means I’m willing to take him late as a PPR streaming option if I miss out on the top tight ends.
Cowboys DST – The Cowboys defense is an excellent late round defense to target, as they boast the best linebacker unit they’ve had in years. The combination of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, peppered in with Sean Lee, makes the Cowboys linebackers a dangerous unit. The only real question with the team remains in the secondary, but they can alleviate this by having a solid pass rush. Dallas ranked 7th in overall rankings in 2018 and based on what they’ve done with the roster, I expect them to finish similarly in 2019.
The Philadelphia Eagles have moved on from their Super Bowl MVP quarterback and thus starts a new era in the city of brotherly love. Well, sort of. The Eagles destiny will hinge on the health and availability of their young, superstar quarterback, Carson Wentz. The roster is one of the deepest in the NFL, displaying solid to excellent depth at nearly every position (except maybe the quarterback position now that Nick Foles is gone). If Wentz can just stay healthy, the Eagles are likely to compete with Dallas for the division title, or at least a playoff berth.
Here is a player by player breakdown:
Carson Wentz – In 2017, Carson Wentz was on pace to be the NFL regular season MVP. Before tearing his ACL, Wentz had dropped just under 3300 yards for 33 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions in 13 games. In 2018, Wentz looked as if he had not lost a step, posting 3074 yards and 21 touchdowns to 7 interceptions in only 11 games. Basically, if Wentz is on the field, he’s a weekly QB1.
Miles Sanders – The former Penn State standout, and the Eagles’ 2nd round pick, Miles Sanders has only impressed thus far in the offseason. More importantly, Sanders is being treated as a starter, as he did not play in week 3 of the preseason (except to take a knee on a kickoff return). The Eagles have said “Miles is what we thought when we drafted him”, leading me to believe they plan to utilize him like an electric playmaker while dropping the hammer with power back Jordan Howard. Sanders has immediate flex appeal, but could easily become an RB1/RB2 by season’s end, which means he’s absolutely worth a shot at his current ADP.
Jordan Howard – I really love Jordan Howard this year, particularly in standard leagues. When you talk about a guy who could see a lot of red zone carries, Howard immediately jumps to mind. Remember when LeGarrette Blount was an RB1 because he scored 18 touchdowns? I don’t think Howard scores 18, but I could easily see him scoring 12-15 touchdowns as the power back in the Eagles high-powered offense. Considering where he’s being drafted, I’m very keen on taking Jordan Howard, even in PPR leagues, strictly because of the high touchdown upside.
Alshon Jeffery – Alshon Jeffery is being underrated as a starting wide receiver and a viable WR2 in fantasy football. He was on pace to cross the 1000 yard marker for the first time in his Philadelphia Eagles tenure but missed 3 games last year. If Alshon stays healthy, I think he will be able to get back to form, similar to his 2nd and 3rd years in Chicago. Given his current ADP, I’m enjoying drafting Alshon Jeffery between the 6th to 8th rounds depending on league size, especially if I went RB heavy early in my draft.
Desean Jackson – The prodigal son returneth. D-Jax will return home after a mediocre stint in Tampa Bay. It has been five years since Jackson was a star in Philadelphia, and he returns to the team as the best deep threat on the team. Unfortunately, Desean Jackson has broken his ring finger, which puts into question his availability for the start of the regular season. However, Jackson has been basically free in most leagues, often going in the final rounds of fantasy football drafts, or going undrafted altogether. He’s definitely worth a flier if you need WR depth.
Nelson Agholor – Ol’ Alligator Arms is actually a decent, low-end, PPR option the past two seasons, accumulating 62 and 64 receptions in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Agholor is a decent streaming option to target very late in your drafts if you’re planning to go RB heavy early on. While Desean Jackson is out, Agholor does have an uptick in value, but even when D-Jax is on the field, Agholor has minimal value as he generally plays outside across from Alshon Jeffery.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside – Only to be considered in dynasty drafts, JJ Arcega-Whiteside has looked good in preseason action. However, he is fourth on the depth chart behind Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Desean Jackson. While D-Jax is out, he has minimal value as a streaming option, but overall, he’s not worth rostering in redraft leagues.
Zach Ertz – In my opinion, Zach Ertz is the second best tight end in the NFL. Though George Kittle produced more last year, Ertz has been a reliable PPR option for the majority of his career. Ertz posted career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, with an impressive 116-1163-8 stat line. Even with the emergence of Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz remains an elite TE in fantasy football.
Dallas Goedert – While I do see the potential in Dallas Goedert, I do not know that there has ever been a team in NFL history that supported two top ten tight ends in fantasy football. Unless Zach Ertz were to become injured, I have no interest in drafting Dallas Goedert, as I see plenty of other tight ends with an opportunity to start that are being drafted after Goedert.
Eagles DST – Philadelphia’s vaunted defense massively underperformed last year, finishing just 23rd overall in defensive rankings. That is a far cry from the 4th place ranking they amassed in 2017. The biggest reason the defense faltered was the leaky secondary, and unfortunately, the Eagles have not done enough to address this component of the defense. If the secondary can step up, the Eagles could find themselves finishing in the top ten defenses once again in 2019.
New York Giants
The New York Giants are truly an enigma at this point in the offseason. The Giants brass was universally mocked when they drafted Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft. Now, the Giants seem like they have a crystal ball shoved up their hind parts, as Daniel Jones has been nothing short of spectacular in preseason action. The Giants officially have a quarterback controversy on their hands, which will probably be the most entertaining part of their season, as I don’t see this team contending for a playoff berth, much less the division championship.
Here is a player by player breakdown:
Eli Manning – The last time Eli Manning was a relevant fantasy football quarterback was in 2015. Since then, he’s been a pinnacle of mediocrity, a serviceable backup to your backup as a desperation streaming option (looking at you Andrew Luck owners). At this point, Eli Manning is a bland tapioca pudding, palatable only by those without any alternatives.
Daniel Jones – Initially being considered a harbinger of death for the New York Football Giants, Daniel Jones is suddenly the most hyped rookie quarterback of his rookie class so far. Daniel Jones has demonstrated superb touch, timing, and anticipation for a rookie quarterback, especially one playing without a viable WR2, much less a WR1. The question hasn’t become will Daniel Jones start this season, but rather, when. Daniel Jones is much more valuable in dynasty formats than in re-draft leagues, but if he is available as a backup quarterback in waiting in the last round of your draft, he’s worth a flier.
Saquon Barkley – Saquon Barkley is an OP superhero. For those of you who are not comic book nerds, that means he’s an overpowered hero, with ridiculous powers that make him virtually unchallengeable, like Superman. He is locked and stocked as the number one overall pick in fantasy football, regardless of format.
Golden Tate – I was much higher on Golden Tate, as were many before the news of his four-game suspension dropped. This might actually make Golden Tate a better play when he does return because there is a chance that Daniel Jones will be the quarterback by Halloween if Eli Manning is struggling or is traded. I like Tate as a viable WR3 with WR2 upside when he’s on the field, but I tend not to draft suspended players because I like to get out to a head start as far as my fantasy football record. Look to trade for Tate around week 2 or 3 if you can get him at a decent price.
Sterling Shepard – With Odell Beckham’s departure, Sterling Shepard has become the de facto number one wide receiver on the New York Giants roster. Though he achieved career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, his stat line was still moderate at 66-872-4. If he were falling a bit further in drafts, I would be much more interested. However, Shepard has already suffered one injury this preseason, and though he’s expected to be ready for the regular season, it puts into question how he will hold up for an entire season.
Cody Latimer – When I think of sneaky value, I think of Cody Latimer. Benny Fowler has been straight awful in camps and in the preseason, which will likely result in Latimer being the third wide receiver once Golden Tate returns. Until then, he could see the field a lot, making him a valuable late round flier in PPR leagues.
Evan Engram – As pure a receiving option as you will find at the tight end position, Evan Engram is essentially a wide receiver that lines up at the tight end slot. Injuries have hampered Engram early in his career, and he has yet to play 16 games in his first two seasons. The biggest reason for Engram’s ADP is the departure of Odell Beckham and his presumptive position as second on the team for targets. When he’s healthy, Engram is a top ten tight end, especially in PPR leagues.
Giants DST – For the last two years, the New York Giants defense has been ranked in the bottom of the league. The team has a chance to turn things around, as they’ve had an influx of young talent. Say what you want about Dave Gettleman, but historically, he has built great defenses, including the Panthers defense that helped them make it to a SuperBowl. This defense could be sneaky good, and they’re worth taking late if your plan is to stream defenses.
Saving the worst for last, it is now time to discuss the Washington Redskins. It’s really hard to get excited about this team, especially given the breakdown between the team and star left tackle Trent Williams. The team is easily the worst in the division and may compete for a first overall pick next year the way things are going.
Here is a player by player breakdown:
Case Keenum – Colt McCoy has officially been knocked out of the quarterback competition in Washington due to injury. This means that Case Keenum will likely enter the season as the Redskins starting quarterback. Keenum is a journeyman quarterback, now on his fifth team in five years. Keenum is capable of making plays, as was seen with the Minnesota Miracle that saw the Vikings upset the Saints in the 2017 playoffs. However, he is a last resort streaming option, even in two-quarterback leagues.
Dwayne Haskins – Part of the reason the New York Giants were so widely criticized for taking Daniel Jones was because Dwayne Haskins was available. Haskins was deemed the most pro-ready quarterback in this year’s draft, but judging by the preseason, this has not been the case. While Daniel Jones is playing effortlessly, Haskins performance this offseason and preseason has been much more up and down. Dwayne Haskins at this stage in his career is only a deep, deep stash on dynasty rosters.
Derrius Guice – Essentially entering his rookie season after suffering a season-ending injury in the first game of last year’s preseason, Derrius Guice will look to take over the Redskins backfield. He will have to share the backfield with Adrian Peterson, who has looked surprisingly good in preseason action thus far, which diminishes his overall value a touch. However, Guice likely will take over barring injury, so I’m fine taking a chance on him at his current ADP.
Adrian Peterson – Believe it or not, Adrian Peterson rushed for over 1000 yards last year. Yeah, I know. Peterson qualifies for my “Human Robitussin” list of fantasy football players; they taste awful, but they work. You may not be excited about drafting AP, but I’m happy taking All Day as he is currently going very, very late. For a guy who did, in fact, rush for 1000 yards and is still being listed as the starter, this is an incredible value. If you have Melvin Gordon for example and missed out on Austin Ekeler or Justin Jackson, see about grabbing AP for the first few weeks of the season.
Terry McLaurin – Strictly a dynasty add at this point, Terry McLaurin has looked great this offseason. Already showing off a smooth ability when it comes to route running, McLaurin’s speed makes him a potentially dynamic player on the rise. If McLaurin had a better quarterback, he’d be much higher up on my list of guys to watch. Currently, he’s a deep stash in dynasty leagues, but I think he will overtake Paul Richardson or Josh Doctson as a starter by the end of the year.
Josh Doctson – I’m completely out on Josh Doctson. While it’s definitely a make or break year for him entering his fourth season, I just haven’t seen anything that makes me think he can be a superstar wide receiver. Even as a starting wide receiver, I’m rather disinterested, given that Doctson has never even passed 600 yards before. The fact that the quarterback situation in Washington is unsettled and at risk of changing during the season doesn’t make me any happier about Doctson, even with his late ADP.
Paul Richardson – Honestly, Paul Richardson just feels like the Redskins doubling down on bad contracts. This has been a recurring theme throughout the franchise’s existence under the tenure of Dan Snyder. Richardson signed a five year $40 million dollar contract with the Redskins and played in all of four games last year. Richardson is a decent deep threat, but he’s an all around wide receiver and I have no interest in him in any format of fantasy football leagues.
Trey Quinn – Perhaps sneakily the best value on the Redskins roster, Trey Quinn has essentially locked down the slot receiver position on this offense. As we’ve seen in the past with Jamison Crowder, the slot receiver for the Redskins can be a valuable late round add in PPR leagues. Quinn is basically free, so you don’t need to draft him, but keep an eye out in case one of your wide receivers suffers an injury and you need a replacement.
Jordan Reed – I wonder if people will ever start to understand that Jordan Reed is like the word “fetch” in Mean Girls, he’s just not a thing. I get it, “if he can just stay healthy, he will produce”. Except he’s never played a full season in 6 years. “He’s going so late, he’s a value.” Not if he’s riding the pine. Having already suffered a concussion this preseason, I’m out on Jordan Reed, no matter what the reports of his health are following what is seemingly Reed’s 27th concussion.
Vernon Davis – Somehow, Vernon Davis is still hanging around on the Redskins roster. The former 49ers star has diminished greatly since joining the Redskins, but he’s as valuable to me as Jordan reed is. Vernon Davis has played in 46 games the last 3 years, compared to Jordan Reed at 31 games. In no scenario am I trying to say Davis is better than Reed, but the fact is, he’s been available on the field more often. I wouldn’t take Vernon unless I was really, really desperate though.
Redskins DST – The one thing that might stop the Redskins from finishing dead last in the entire NFC is their underrated defense. In spite of horrific offensive play last season, the Redskins defense finished 15th overall in defensive rankings. They’ve since added Landon Collins and rookie pass rusher Montez Sweat among others, making this defense a viable streaming target when they happen to face cellar-dwelling offenses.
NEXT TIME: The NFC West