The Franchise will be giving you a fantasy football preview every week for all the NFC and AFC divisions counting down to Week 1 of the 2016 NFL regular season!
This division is well…bad. The NFC East teams finished with an overall record of 26-38 last season and was the worst in the NFL. Someone had to win this division last season and it was the Washington Redskins at 9-7. Nothing special to brag about. Two teams are bringing in new head coaches, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. Half of the Dallas Cowboys defense is suspended. Is Kirk Cousins really a top 10 fantasy quarterback? There have been a lot of changes and questions going around in the NFC East. Although the division is not great, there is some top fantasy talent out there to draft this season. Let’s start with the team down south on I-35.
The Cowboys finished at 4-12 last season with Tony Romo only going two full games healthy. Jason Garrett is now in his sixth season as the head coach of the Cowboys. He is only two games above .500 on his overall record (45-43) as head coach. But Garrett doesn’t run the show. That would be Jerry Jones, who is now in his 27th year as the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. For better or for worse. Mostly worse for Cowboys fans lately. The Dallas offense has quite a few players with fantasy value. The question is whether these players can stay healthy.
As Tony Romo goes, so do the Cowboys. Dallas finished 22nd in total offense last season with the majority of that being without Tony Romo. The Cowboys quarterback looks to stay healthy this season with the best offensive line in front of him. Romo is now 36 years old with numerous injuries that added up recently. With a great offensive line, the Cowboys will look to keep Romo healthy by running the ball. I do think that Romo has a good chance of making it through the season without a significant injury (Knock on wood). If Romo is able to stay healthy, he has a chance to be a top 10 fantasy quarterback this season. He has a lot of good targets throw to in Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams, and Romo’s blanket, Jason Witten. He now has a young talent in Ezekiel Elliott who can both run the ball and catch the ball out of the backfield. Romo’s ADP looks to be in the 10th to 12th round range. The backup in Dallas was a battle between Kellen Moore and fourth round pick, Dak Prescott, out of Mississippi State. Now, Dak Prescott is in prime position for the backup spot as Kellen Moore broke his ankle in training camp this past Tuesday. Jameill Showers is also in the running now as well. The Cowboys have been on the search for a veteran backup but haven’t come up with anything yet.
There’s a new running back in town creating a lot of buzz around the league and in the fantasy football world, Ezekiel Elliott. Jerry Jones decided to go with offense with the fourth pick in the draft, which surprised quite a few people knowing how big of a weakness the Dallas defense is. Looks like a majority of Cowboys are excited about the pick for Ezekiel Elliott with his skill level and upside with a great offensive line blocking for him. There’s still some skepticism out there on whether Ezekiel Elliot will live up to the hype being a projected top 10 overall fantasy pick. Elliott has the capability to be an every down running back with his size and speed. Caution for fantasy players looking at Ezekiel Elliott on their draft as he had a hamstring injury a few days ago in training camp. Reports say that he “may miss some time” and could miss the first preseason game. This injury could affect his ADP in fantasy leagues but I still see Elliott as a round one grab in all formats. The primary backup for Elliott should be Darren McFadden. Not many people know, but McFadden ran for the third most yards in the league after the second half of the season. The Cowboys signed Alfred Morris this offseason to add to their depth. Morris had a good career in Washington putting up solid numbers in his first two years. If Elliott has a rookie struggle, look for both McFadden and Morris to split carries. Right now, Alfred Morris has the higher ADP in draft leagues currently over Darren McFadden in very late rounds. Lance Dunbar will be back from his ACL injury he suffered last season. He will be the primary third down back who will catch passes and move the chains. Dunbar could be a waiver pickup this season for deep PPR formats with him be projected for 35-45 catches.
The Cowboys receivers are very happy to have their main man, Tony Romo, back this season. If Romo can stay healthy, the Cowboys wide receivers will have a good fantasy season. Dez Bryant is back from his foot injury after a full offseason of recovery. Now that both Romo and Bryant are back healthy, they will look to regain the success they’ve had before last season. From 2010-2014, Dez Bryant scored the most touchdowns from any wide receiver in the league (56). When Dallas is in the red zone, Romo will look to find Dez. Bryant will look to bounce back after a a poor season before he ended up with his foot injury. Look for Bryant to go in the late first or early second round of your drafts. Terrance Williams is other starting wide receiver opposite of Bryant. Williams is a boom or bust fantasy wide receiver. When Dez Bryant was out with his foot injury, Williams was still disappointing only catching 52 passes and 3 touchdowns. He is mostly a deep threat on vertical routes, which is why he is only a late round flyer pick who only fits as a flex for certain favorable matchups. Cole Beasley is the slot receiver for the Cowboys but is just average at best. He doesn’t have much fantasy value to be draftable.
The ageless wonder, Jason Witten, is still Tony Romo’s blanket. Witten finished last season as a top 12 fantasy tight end without Romo in the picture. He got 104 targets last season with 77 receptions, 713 yds, and 3 touchdowns. If Romo is in trouble, Witten is the target he’ll find. There are many different things to consider with Witten. He is getting older at 34, his role as a 1,000 yd pass catcher is not in the picture anymore, and he’s not getting the red zone targets like he used to. The positive is that he is still a sure-handed pass catcher. His ADP is going right around the 10th-11th round and he’ll be a solid TE2 this season. Former Sooner, James Hanna, is the 2nd tight end in the Cowboys offense but doesn’t get used much in the passing game. An interesting story is the Cowboys sixth round draft pick, Rico Gathers. Gathers is a former Baylor basketball player who is now looking to get a career as a tight end in the NFL. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up on the depth chart in training camp.
The Cowboys finished as the 8th worst fantasy D/ST in the league last season. Everyone knows that the Cowboys overall weakness as a team is their defense. And now they have three of their starters, Randy Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Rolando McClain, suspended for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Gregory has been banned at least 10 games, McClain faces a 10-game suspension, and Lawrence has a four-game suspension. The Cowboys defense will now have to rely on their thin depth along with their new draft picks, Jaylon Smith (OLB), Maliek Collins (DT), and former Sooner, Charles Tapper (DE). A lot of people were expecting Jerry Jones to go for defense with the fourth overall pick in the draft, but he decided to take offense with Ezekiel Elliott. Lucky Whitehead and Cole Beasley will be the punt and kickoff returners for the Cowboys but both don’t have any impact for scoring. The Cowboys D/ST is not a draftable and will most likely finish as one of the worst D/ST in fantasy this season.
The Redskins finished as the NFC East champions last season, which isn’t saying much. Jay Gruden is now in his third season as the Redskins head coach. Gruden is known to be offensive-minded and has found something in Kirk Cousins. The Redskins finished in the middle of the pack for total offense at 17th. This season, the Redskins will have a tougher schedule which could draw some people away from drafting some players early in their fantasy drafts. I don’t see the Redskins repeating as NFC East champs. Washington still has a lot of issues with their defense that need to be addressed.
Kirk Cousins finished as the league’s best passer in the second half of the season with a completion percentage of 74 percent. Cousins proved his spot as the starter in Washington last season by throwing for 4,166 yds, 29 TDs, 11 INT, and a 70 percent completion percentage. He also finished as the 8th best fantasy scoring quarterback last season. Cousins put up these numbers all with DeSean Jackson out for the first half of the season. The issue with Cousins is his consistency. He can go boom or bust easily. I don’t see him finishing as a top 10 fantasy quarterback this season with a tougher schedule in line. Cousins’ ADP is going right around the 11th round range. Colt McCoy is the backup for Cousins in Washington. McCoy is a nice backup to Cousins if needed. He posted over 200 yds passing in his three complete games two years ago with four total touchdowns.
Washington decided to not re-sign Alfred Morris and go with a younger Matt Jones in their backfield. Matt Jones played a limited role in 13 games last season and only had 3.4 yds a carry in 144 rushing attempts. Jones did have some issues fumbling the ball five times in 163 touches which was the worst among running backs. He is a tough runner and that has ability to break tackles. Jones is good play in PPR formats because of his ability as a pass catcher. Jones can turn short passes into long gains as he did last season going for 304 yds on 19 catches. He will be getting the workload of carries this season which will put his fantasy value right at RB2. Jones ADP is going around the 6th round. Chris Thompson will be used as the third down, pass catching back for the Redskins. He had 35 catches in only 13 games last season for 240 yds and two touchdowns. Thompson could see some more playing time if Matt Jones has recurring fumbling problems and durability issues with his past injury history. Thompson is only a deep league, late round PPR option at this point. Someone to keep an eye on this season as a possible waiver wire pickup if the Washington starters don’t pan out is Keith Marshall. He was a seventh round pick by the Redskins this year. During his early years at Georgia, he was projected to be a top round pick in the NFL Draft but injuries caused his draft stock to slide. Marshall ran a 4.31 at the NFL combine, which is the fastest running back time since Chris Johnson back in 2008 at 4.24. The guy has loads of talent but the question is whether he can stay healthy.
The Redskins have DeSean Jackson as their top wide receiver. The recurring issue with DeSean Jackson is whether he can stay on the field. Jackson missed eight games last season and only had 30 catches for 528 yards and 4 touchdowns. He is still has blazing fast speed to get past defensive backs and grab long passes, averaging 17.6/yds a catch last season. In the last three years, DeSean Jackson has averaged 18 yards a catch. The problem with Jackson is his inconsistency which makes him a boom or bust WR3 in most fantasy leagues. His ADP is going in the 7th-8th rounds. There will be battle for the WR2 receiver in Jay Gruden’s offense. Pierre Garcon is sure-handed pass catcher who doesn’t have great speed and playmaking ability. Garcon finished with 72 catches for 777 yds and 6 TDs, which averages to 10.8 yds a catch. Not very overwhelming when you consider that DeSean Jackson was out for most of the season and Garcon was relied upon more. Garcon will be going in the late 13-14th rounds in your draft. Washington’s first round pick in the NFL Draft was TCU’s Josh Doctson. He will be fighting for the WR2 spot with Pierre Garcon. Doctson just had an Achille’s and foot injury in training camp which will sideline him for a couple weeks. He has great size and talent to be someone you could put in lineups this season. Doctson’s ADP is in the same round, 14th, as the current starting WR2, Pierre Garcon. I believe Doctson has the chance to take Garcon’s spot before the end of the season. Jamison Crowder is the designated slot wide receiver who had 59 catches, 604 yds, and 2 TDs. He doesn’t have great fantasy value with all the other targets Cousins has to throw to.
Jordan Reed is a phenomenal talent. He was the 2nd best fantasy scoring tight end last season putting 150 fantasy points. He averaged more fantasy points per game than Rob Gronkowski, the #1 fantasy tight end. Reed is an excellent tight end to pick after Gronk goes off the board. The problem with Reed is that he is prone to injuries. If he stays healthy, Reed has a good chance of passing Gronk as the #1 fantasy scoring tight end this season with Tom Brady being out for four games for the Patriots. Cousins has a great connection with Reed and will look to find him under pressure. Reed’s ADP is going around the 3rd round. Might be smart to have a good backup plan if you draft Reed. The Redskins signed the former 49ers tight end, Vernon Davis. He is listed as the backup tight end in the Redskins depth chart. He is looking to revamp his career in Washington and stop his recent struggles the past two years.
The Redskins finished 14th in fantasy scoring for D/ST last season. The Washington defense overall is not very good finishing as a bottom five team in total defense. Washington has a few good pass rushers that can pressure the quarterback but just don’t have the weapons to stop the run and pass. They addressed their issues in the secondary by snatching free agent, Josh Norman, from the Carolina Panthers and Duke Ihenacho from the Denver Broncos. Washington drafted second round safety/linebacker, Su’a Cravens, out of USC to fit as a hybrid linebacker who has speed to cover big tight ends and strength for tackling. The Washington special teams doesn’t have any good playmakers at kickoff return or punt return with Rashad Ross or Jamison Crowder. The Redskins don’t look to be a top D/ST fantasy option.
New York Giants
Tom Coughlin isn’t at helm anymore for the New York Football Giants. Ben McAdoo was promoted to head coach this season from his offensive coordinator role with Coughlin the past two years. McAdoo promoted the QBs coach, Mike Sullivan, to take over as offensive coordinator and retained Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator. The Giants will keep using McAdoo’s offensive play calling to stay as one of the best passing offenses in the NFL. McAddo will need to find a way to get some rushing production, finishing in the bottom 10 of rushing offenses in the NFL. The rushing problems have been a combination of lack of talent at running back and a bottom five ranked offensive line in the league. The Giants offense has a lot of fantasy weapons to draft this season.
Eli Manning finished his best fantasy season of his career and was a top 10 fantasy scoring quarterback in 2015. Manning has been doing well in McAdoo’s offense averaging 4,400 yds, 35 TDs, and 11 INT the past two years. With all of Manning’s great stats, he is still an inconsistent fantasy quarterback. In three games last season, he failed to throw for 200 yds. He is widely considered as a boom or bust quarterback who will lose you fantasy weeks or win you them with 20-plus point fantasy productions. Manning’s should be going in drafts right around the 8th to 9th rounds. I project Eli to finish as a top 10 fantasy quarterback again this season. The question is whether to consider other options right around him in the draft that might have a breakout season. The Giants have been developing Ryan Nassib pretty well as a backup quarterback. In his production from both regular and preseason games, he’s thrown for 8 touchdowns and no interceptions. If the Giants offensive line can’t protect Eli, then Nassib will be called upon.
Rashad Jennings looks to be the starting running back for the Giants. He finished 21st in fantasy scoring for running backs last season and is a sneaky value pick in fantasy drafts. He finished with 2nd in league for rushing yards over the final 5 games of the season with 446 yards. Jennings was useful as a pass catcher with 29 catches and an average of 10.2 yards a catch. Jennings is getting up in age at 31. He is running with one of the worst offensive lines in the league, with a pass happy offense, and has never broken the 1,000 yard mark in rushing. He is a starting running back in the NFL so getting him at his ADP right now in the 9th round is pretty good. Shane Vereen is the designated third down back who will catch a lot of passes producing 59 catches for 495 yds last season. Vereen is a late round (13th-14th) pickup in most PPR format fantasy drafts. The Giants drafted Paul Perkins in the fifth round from UCLA. He is complete running back who can both run and catch well. His measurables from the combine aren’t great at 210 lbs and a 4.54. But his pedigree and numbers from UCLA show great talent. Keep a look out for him on the waiver wire this season. Andre Williams is a hard running back who might get some carries at the goal line but no good fantasy value.
In some respects, Odell Beckham Jr. has a case to be the #1 overall draft pick in fantasy leagues. Beckham Jr. has a tremendous upside going into his third season with the G-Men. He ended up being the 5th best fantasy scoring wide receiver with 96 receptions, 1,450 yds, and 13 touchdowns. He improved himself last season in every category- receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Beckham is projected to jump those stats this season as well. He is a safe top 3 overall pick in your fantasy drafts. The battle for the WR2 spot in Ben McAdoo’s offense will be between Victor Cruz and former Sooner, Sterling Shepard. Shepard was the second round pick for the Giants, giving them a great pass catcher and route runner. The Giants depth chart shows Sterling Shepard to be the WR2 ahead of Victor Cruz going into the preseason schedule. Victor Cruz wants to get back to his former self before he suffered a torn patellar tendon in 2014 and tore his calf muscle late last season. Some sources are saying that Cruz doesn’t have the speed and quickness that he used to anymore. Shepard should keep the WR2 spot for the Giants and go right around the 9th to 10th rounds in most fantasy drafts. Cruz is a late round flyer to throw on your bench for wide receiver depth as a streaming option. Dwayne Harris will see some targets but no fantasy relevance as he will do most of his work as a kickoff and punt returner.
There is a battle for the tight end spot with Larry Donnell and Will Tye. Donnell is currently the starter on the Giants depth chart. Some experts believe that Will Tye will be better overall in fantasy this season than Donnell. Tye looks to be the more promising tight end putting up good numbers last season- 42 receptions, 464 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Both Tye and Donnell are only TE2 fantasy values and safe streaming options.
The biggest hole in the Giants team is their defense- 32nd overall total defense, 32nd overall passing defense, 30th overall in sacks, 28th fantasy scoring D/ST. The Giants have no other place to go but up from this point. New York decided to strengthen their secondary with their first pick, Eli Apple from Ohio State. He is a tall corner with great athleticism who is looking to getting some playing time behind Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins. The Giants also drafted third round pick, Darian Thompson from Oregon State. Thompson looks to be the starting free safety come Week 1. For the Giants special teams, Dwayne Harris will be the main kickoff and punt return man. Harris is known to be a productive special teams player who has the ability to score touchdowns on both kickoffs and punts. The Giants have a lot of rebuilding to do. Don’t look to grab them for your D/ST spot on drafts.
The Eagles are looking for a loofah to scrub off the stench of their past couple seasons with Chip Kelly as head coach. Philadelphia decided to get the offensive coordinator from the Kansas City Chiefs, Doug Pederson, to take over as head coach. Pederson hired Frank Reich from the San Diego Chargers to serve as the offensive coordinator. Pederson was a former quarterback for Andy Reid in Philadelphia and became offensive coordinator for Reid at Kansas City. Expect a lot of similarities to Andy Reid with a balanced offense. The Eagles still have a lot of questions for top quality fantasy relevance.
The quarterback spot for the Eagles is nothing to be excited about. Sam Bradford looks to be the starter again in Philadelphia after his off-season temper tantrum drama. Bradford threw for 3,725 yds, 19 TDs, and 14 INT last season. Bradford finished as the 24th in fantasy scoring for quarterbacks. He will have a new offensive system with Doug Pederson that will be more systematic with short passes. The upside for Bradford is that he has one of the best offensive lines in the league to protect him. Don’t be looking for Bradford in your fantasy drafts unless you have two quarterback league. The Eagles decided to sign Chase Daniel from Kansas City to join with Doug Pederson in Philadelphia. Daniel is familiar with Pederson’s offensive system and should fit well as the backup who can step right in for Bradford. The Eagles decided to invest in the future and trade up to the second overall pick in the NFL Draft, Carson Wentz. Wentz has great NFL size at 6’5, 237 lbs with good arm. Pederson will look to develop Wentz in his system but it’ll take some time. The concerns for Wentz is the competition he played at North Dakota State and his durability only playing seven games last season. There are also concerns as he has struggled in minicamp and is listed as the 3rd string quarterback on the Eagles depth chart.
The Eagles running game will benefit with Doug Pederson taking the over as head coach and should have some fantasy value. Ryan Mathews is the starter for the Eagles with good upside. In his limited role behind DeMarco Murray last season, Mathews rushed 107 times for 539 yds and 6 TDs. Mathews had a great yards per carry average at 5.0. Mathews is a better play in standard format leagues because he isn’t a great pass catcher to be higher in PPR formats. If you draft Mathews, be sure to have a good insurance plan in your lineup because of Mathew’s risk of injury. Right now, Mathews’ ADP is going in the 6th to 7th round range. A good RB2 in your fantasy lineups. Darren Sproles is the third down/passing down back for the Eagles. Sproles had 55 receptions for 388 yds and one touchdown last season. Sproles has sneaky late round value especially in PPR formats. Look to find Sproles in the 12th-13th round of your fantasy drafts. If Mathews can’t stay healthy, then Sproles will see more targets coming his way. The Eagles drafted Wendell Smallwood in the fifth round from West Virginia. Smallwood is an elusive running back who should find some playing time as a pass catcher. Kenjon Barner is in the mix with Smallwood as the true running back if Mathews’ injuries come up again. Keep them in mind as waiver wire pickups this season.
Doug Pederson likes to give a lot of targets to his WR1 in the offense. Jordan Matthews should certainly benefit from this. He was the leading receiver last season for the Eagles with 85 catches for 997 yds and 8 TDs. He finished as the 20th fantasy scoring wide receiver last season. Matthews is a big, tall target who is very valuable inside the red zone for touchdowns. He should be a solid WR2 this season in fantasy and currently his ADP is going in the 7th-8th rounds. Even though Matthews is a tall target, he best when he works from the slot. Nelson Agholor and Reuben Randle will be fighting for the WR2 spot in the offense. The Eagles got Reuben Randle from the Giants to have an experienced, fairly productive receiver for Bradford to find. Randle is currently ahead of Agholor in ADP at the 14th round. Agholor is a faster than Randle but doesn’t look like the first round talent that he was drafted to be. I don’t suggest drafting either of them except in deep leagues. Chris Givens has been making some headlines in training camp with his speed. Don’t sleep on him getting some targets this season if Agholor and Randle don’t produce. He might be good waiver wire pickup and flex option later into the season.
Zach Ertz finished 9th in fantasy scoring tight ends last season with 75 catches for 853 yds and 2 TDs. Ertz is one of the faster tight ends in the league who has the ability to finish as a TE1 every season. Ertz will be going in the 9th-10th rounds in fantasy. If you don’t get Rob Gronkowski or Jordan Reed earlier in the draft, you have great value right here with Ertz in later rounds. Brent Celek is mostly used as the primary blocking tight end but will occasionally slip out and get some touchdowns when Ertz and Matthews are covered. No fantasy value for Celek.
The Eagles were 30th in total defense last season. Doug Pederson brought in Jim Schwartz, former Detroit Lions head coach, as the defensive coordinator to help improve the Eagles defense. The Eagles defense was the worst rushing defense in the league giving up an average of 135 yds a game and the 5th worst passing defense in the league. But as far as fantasy value, the Eagles finished in the middle of the pack for fantasy D/STs. Philadelphia had a questionable draft by not addressing defense in their early draft picks. The Eagles didn’t draft anyone on defense until the sixth round. They address some of their issues in free agency with the signing of Leodis McKelvin from the Bills and Rodney McLeod from the Rams. I see the Eagles making a better impact with their defense this season. For special teams, the speedy Josh Huff will be the kickoff returner and Darren Sproles will be the punt returner. Huff set an Eagles franchise record 107 yd kickoff return for a touchdown during his rookie campaign in 2014. Darren Sproles is one of most premier return men in the NFL. He has nine career returns for touchdowns which with seven on punts and two on kickoffs. I don’t see the Eagles as a draftable D/ST but they might be one to pick up as the season goes along.