State of the Franchises – NFC East
Fantasy Outlook By Division
The Cowboys enter the season as the prohibitive favourites for the NFC East. They flattered to deceive last year, with the league’s number one offense somehow being unable to beat out the injury ravaged Eagles for the division title.
After clinging to Jason Garrett well past the point it was clear to everyone that he wasn’t the answer, Jerry Jones has turned to former Green Bay Head Coach Mike McCarthy as he desperately attempts to find a path to reclaim his former glories. The offseason has seen significant reinforcements with an impressive draft haul and an ability to retain Quarterback Dak Prescott, via the franchise tag, and star receiver Amari Cooper on a blockbuster long term deal.
Offensively they look set to produce big numbers, the defense looks weaker with a lot riding on rookie acquisitions and second year players; it’s a great combination for fantasy points.
Fantasy Star: Ezekiel Elliott. A case can be made for Dak Prescott who has made a very strong case to be QB3 going into the season. Zeke, however, remains the Cowboys elite fantasy option. He’s been a consistent top 5 fantasy pick and baring injury or suspension will be so again this season. You can expect 1400 rushing yards, 10 TDs & 50+ catches. A massive workload, increasing passing game involvement and heavy goalie usage all point to fantasy gold. If he adds a couple of receiving touchdowns to his stats he could be close to the number one fantasy player.
Regression Possible: Michael Gallup. You can make a case that the Gallup hate is overblown. The team have a significant number of vacated targets with Randall Cobb and Jason Witten departing in the offseason. Despite the addition of CeeDee Lamb, Gallup isn’t going to disappear. That said, he had almost as many targets as Cooper and I’d expect that ratio to shift in Amari’s favour. As the season goes on I’d expect Lamb will shift from WR3 to WR2 so while Gallup is probably now being under drafted I wouldn’t expect another 1100 yard season.
Rookie to Watch: CeeDee Lamb. The Cowboys couldn’t believe their luck when Oklahoma wideout Lamb fell into their lap. He’s a superior talent who, at the very least, should hoover up Randall Cobb’s production in his rookie season. I’d expect that he’ll push Gallup down the depth chart by mid season and be at very least the team’s WR2 for the foreseeable future.
Could Surprise: Blake Jarwin. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy had a solid season despite competing with the reanimated corpse of Jason Witten for playing time. With Witten now in Las Vegas, Jarwin looks to have a clear run at the 140 targets that tight ends racked up last season. If he grabs a hold of the position he could easily be a top 10 Tight End.
Deep Sleeper: Dalton Schultz. Of course there is plenty of reason to doubt that the team are about to trust everything to Blake Jarwin. If they don’t want to turn the entire tight end operation over to Jarwin then watch out for former Stanford Cardinal Dalton Schultz. Stanford has a great history of tight end production and Schultz was a 4th round pick in 2018. He has great size and his blocking prowess will mean he sees the field. If Jarwin doesn’t secure the job then Schultz could well be the beneficiary.
It’s still a mystery to most of us how the Eagles won the NFC East last year. The team was ravaged by injuries, especially at the skill positions and looked dead and buried after an embarrassing loss in Miami.
Despite all that Carson Wentz rallied with a rag-tag collection of receivers down the stretch and edged out the disappointing Cowboys to win the title. In the process he became the first Quarterback in NFL history to throw 4000 yards without a wide receiver with more than 500 receiving yards. The team have clearly prioritised getting fast in the offseason, adding a number of speed, downfield options for Wentz to throw to. It looks like a transition season for the team who, as they have for years, will rely heavily on strong offensive and defensive lines for success.
Fantasy Star: Miles Sanders. The Eagles have struggled to find a lead running back ever since Chip Kelly inexplicably traded LeSean McCoy to Buffalo for Kiko Alonso. That search looks to have ended with Sanders. Despite not establishing himself as the starter until late in the season, Sanders had a quietly impressive rookie season.
To really emphasise just how good his first season was, it’s worth noting that since 1990 only 5 rookies have had over 700 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving. The names? Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, Alvin Kamara, Saquan Barkley and, wait for it…..Miles Sanders. High company indeed.
There will be questions over the widely held belief that Doug Pederson is wedded to a running back by committee approach. There is some truth that Doug likes to rotate his backs and I would imagine they will add a veteran to the shallow depth behind Sanders on the depth chart. Despite that I expect Sanders talent to force The Eagles hand, he offers the team speed and dynamism from the backfield – two qualities the team are desperate for.
If the ship hasn’t already sailed I suspect you’ll never be able to buy Sanders cheaper than you can now.
Regression Possible: It’s tough to find a regression option when there are so few players who reached a level they can actually regress from. Zach Ertz is probably the biggest risk in this space. He was the team’s leading receiver again last year with 88 catches and 916 yards. An increase in potential talents and the continuing emergence of Dallas Goedert may see the 135 targets he received last year drop by 20% or so, so there is a chance he drops in terms of fantasy production.
Rookie to Watch: Jalen Reagor. The Eagles have been desperate for a fast, dynamic receiver for years. More or less since they cut DeSean Jackson the first time round. Reagor is a dynamic, deep threat who fits exactly what the team have desperately needed. He’ll learn under Jackson in the 1st season, but the veteran hasn’t played a full season in forever and I’d expect Reagor will benefit significantly from the attention that he draws.
Could Surprise: JJ Arcega Whiteside. The former Stanford receiver has a disastrous rookie season. In 16 games he had just 22 targets and 10 receptions. A depressing return for a 2nd round pick. Many Eagles fans have quit on him already but while the team went out of their way to add speed receivers they did nothing to challenge Arcega Whiteside as the heir to Alshon Jeffery’s role as the teams big, possession receiver.
They are going to give their 2nd round pick a shot. With a new WR coach, and a team in desperate need of another wideout to step up, there’s a chance, just a chance that JJAW makes a leap.
Deep Sleeper: Greg Ward. The Eagles have a vacancy at slot receiver with the departure of Nelson Agholor and Ward has the inside track to secure the spot long term. The former Houston Quarterback came into the abyss that was the Eagles receivers room mid season and proved himself to be the team’s most viable option down the stretch. He had 28 catches for 254 yards despite starting only 3 games. His game winning catch in Washington was probably the outstanding moment for any Eagles receiver, all season. He’s ultra cheap and has a chance to catch 50-60 balls next season, so well worth an add.
New York Giants
I still find it difficult to get used to The Giants as one of the league’s worst teams. Well run and competitive for what seemed like forever, the New York Football Giants have had a stunning fall from grace. 1 winning season since 2012 the team has quietly torn down their entire roster and have inexplicably put their faith in Dave Gettleman to rebuild it. They had a better draft on the surface of things this year, grabbing Andrew Thomas and Xavier McKinney in the early rounds. New Head Coach Joe Judge will be hoping for progress in his first year, but right now it looks like a team that may struggle to get five wins.
Dynasty Star: Saquon Barkley. Entering his third season in the league, Barkley will be draft in the top 2 in almost every fantasy draft you enter. After an incredible, 2000 yard rookie season, injuries brought the Penn State alum back to earth somewhat last year. Despite what most deemed a disappointing season he still had nearly 1500 yards from scrimmage and 8 touchdowns, for PPR purposes he also had 52 catches. It’s pretty self explanatory, the Giants offense will run through Barkley, the o-line is better and he’ll be a fantasy star.
Regression Possible: Darius Slayton. The Giants lack of receiving options meant Slayton was thrust into a starting role a lot early than expectation; what’s more, he overdelivered spectacularly. 740 yards and 8 touchdowns in 9 starts has people excited for the former Auburn man’s future. I’d be cautious of buying that hype. He performed well on a baron offense but if Evan Engram, Golden Tate and Sterling Shepherd managed to stay healthy (a big if granted) then he may find his role limited to being the team’s deep threat only. New Head Coach Jason Garrett has shown a far greater tendency to feed veteran receivers over younger ones and I think there’s a chance Slayton’s role is squeezed as a result.
Rookie to Watch: Outside of undrafted receivers Derrick Dillon and Benjamin Victor the team added nothing in terms of skill players so don’t get too excited in this area.
Could Surprise: Golden Tate. Something of a forgotten man, Tate remains a talented receiver. Despite missing 5 games last year he still has nearly 50 catches and almost 700 yards on a offense that can only be described as moribund. The receiver room isn’t exactly a murderers row and I’d expect Tate to lead the team in catches and receiving yards. He’s hugely underrated in the fantasy world so take advantage and buy cheap.
Deep Sleeper: You have to go pretty deep on the Giants roster to find someone worth stashing but they still have former West Virginia receiver David Sills on the team and with such a shallow group of receivers he may get a chance to show what he can do. Sills lacks speed but the team are lacking in jump ball receivers so he may get a chance. One for deep leagues only but may be worth a stash.
Once one of the league’s premier franchises the Redskins are a mess of an organisation. Finally moving on from Bruce Allen will give the team a new impetus and adding a solid Head Coach in Ron Rivera may be the first sensible moves the team has made since Robert Griffin’s knee fell apart. The team threatens to have a fairly good defensive line but little else in the season. Any chance of competing likely rests on the shoulders of second year Quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Unfortunately for Washington I strongly suspect that this time next year we’ll be discussing Haskins’ replacement.
Fantasy Star: Terry McLaurin. One of the fantasy bargains of last season, McLaurin is well placed to make a further leap next year. He played 14 games in his rookie season and produced 919 yards on 58 catches. He also added 7 touchdowns. The team did almost nothing to supplement their pass catching talent so McLaurin figures to be the team’s number one option going forward.
Regression Possible: Adrian Peterson. Despite his career being pronounced dead a number of times the future Hall of Famer continues to deliver decent rushing production year after year. 898 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns is a pretty good return for a guy in his 13th season as an NFL running back. The risk to his production is that the team remains keen to get more from their 3rd year man Derrius Guice. Until now injuries have curtailed the former LSU man’s career but if he can even start half the season then Peterson’s production will suffer. Add the returning Bryce Love and rookie Antonio Gibson and it makes Peterson almost undraftable.
Rookie to Watch: Antonio Gibson. The team did little to boost their skill positions and while Gibson was undoubtedly over drafted it seems likely that he’ll, at the very least, replace Chris Thompson as the team’s pass catching running back. He’s something of a mystery having only had 77 touches in his college career but he’s undeniably dynamic and if the team can find creative ways to use him he may find a role.
Deeper Sleeper: Bryce Love. There was a time that Love was seen as a potential first round draft pick. Before injuries curtailed his time at Stanford there was a lot of excitement around him and with so much uncertainty around the team’s running backs he may well get an opportunity. If the injuries are truly in his past and Guice can’t get past his, then Love could be an interesting, high upside option.