By Jared Clifton
In a battle for the okayest team in the NFC East, they out okayed the talented, but stale Cowboys. The Pederson offensive elixir has been flat since the magical 2017 season, but the contributing factors were unfortunate injuries and uneven performances from ill-fitting personnel choices. The vastly superior Miles Sanders has replaced Jordan Howard, and Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett, Nelson Agholor, and Robert Davis have been replaced by, well, actual wide receivers. The top of the East looks to be the same two-horse race, but it should be much higher caliber than the first-round fodder for the other conferences over the past few seasons.
Must Start: Carson Wentz (QB9), Miles Sanders (RB12), Zach Ertz (TE4)
There’s a perception that Doug Pederson is beholden to the dreaded Running Back By Committee, and in certain years, that has been true. But in those certain years, his options were LaGarrette Blount and Ryan Mathews and Jay Ajayi. Not ideal. Take a look at his stint as Kansas City’s OC and the RBBC narrative is in a gray area. When Jamaal Charles was healthy, he was the guy. Knile Davis got some run, but three of Charles’ four best seasons were under Pederson’s direction. Miles Sanders is the first Charles caliber rubbing back that Pederson has had since the former Longhorn in KC. Sanders had 13 games with double digits touches, and he is a plus player in both facets of the game, so he should have a great chance to make it all 16 games this season. With a 5.6 Yards Per Touch average, good for 7th in the league, the increased volume will all but guarantee a finish as an RB1.
Matchup Based Start: Jalen Reagor (WR55), Alshon Jeffrey (WR57), Dallas Goedert (TE16)
The last time the Eagles didn’t have a WR surpass 60 receptions, Jalen Reagor was an eight-year-old growing up in Waxahachie, TX. Injuries were mostly to blame for 43 catches being tops for Philly wideouts. With the assumption that Jefffrey is healthy and Desean Jackson stays out of Mein Kamph, Reagor has a golden opportunity to take on the slot role that could be very volume-centric. Even with the TE’ ‘s clogging up the center of the field, Reagor is in prime position to be peppered with targets like Golden Tate in 2018. He was fantastic outside and in the screen game, but Jackson and Reagor play too similar a game for him to be the main playmaker out of the gate. Monitor his usage early and look forward to his integration into the offense. It shouldn’t take long for him to be Wentz’s number one WR target.
Flexually Active: Boston Scott (RB51), Desean Jackson (WR58)
If Miles Sanders is what the fantasy community thinks he will be this year, Scott’s Darren Sproles imitation could be muted. We saw the type of receiving back he could be at the end of last year, but that could have been a symptom of the Eagles decimated pass-catching options. If the Eagles don’t add a veteran RB, he will have a role, but failing Sanders missing time, it’s difficult to envision Scott having enough touches to be anything other than a bye week FLEX option or deep-league PPR floor guy.
Waivers/Streamers: Jalen Hurts (QB41), Corey Clement (RB109), JJ Arcega-Whiteside (WR102), Marquise Goodwin (WR110), Greg Ward (WR118)
Goodwin comes into a much more crowded receiving corp than he has had to deal with in his stops in San Francisco or Buffalo. However, the oft-injured WR is still the fastest man in the NFL, and given the lack of playmakers the Eagles experienced last year, he should be a guy that contends for downhole passing work and jet sweeps. He’s not draftable in any format, but with Jeffrey and Jackson always in line to miss some time, he and Reagor would make one of the faster home run combos for Doug Pederson’s offense.
Sleepers: JJ Arcega-Whiteside
JJ needs to improve his pedestrian catch rate significantly, but he’s unfairly written off after a disappointing rookie season. The former 2nd rounder struggled with injuries his entire rookie season but can fill the Alshon Jeffrey role if Jeffrey’s game missing ways continue at age 31. Arcega-Whiteside has shown a nose for the end zone, from his days at Stanford, so it stands to reason that in year two, the Eagles will try to return on their draft capital.
Must Stash: Jalen Hurts, Quez Watkins, Michael Warren
Carson Wentz is a legitimate MVP candidate, so it came as a surprise when the Eagles spent a second-rounder on the raw talent of Jalen Hurts. It points to a shift in NFL thought processes on running QB’s and gives the Eagles a dynamic weapon in the short term and offensive flexibility in the mid to long term if Wentz were to miss any time. Pederson’s offense has been stagnant for the past few seasons, so it’ll be interesting to see how Hurts is deployed.
Breakout: Dallas Goedert
For the second year in a row, the Eagles topped 200 targets to tight ends. 235, to be exact. While those numbers could see a dip with healthy receivers and new burner Jalen Reagor, the target trend shows this year to be the season that we could see the downward trajectory of Ertz and the upward trajectory of Goedert cross the axis. Ertz has been the deep threat at the TE spot, with Goedert living within ten yards. He should be a PPR dynamo, with the 15 plus yard routes more congested with Jeffrey, Reagor, Jackson, and Ertz, all occupying those route trees.
Bust: Desean Jackson
Jackson’s offseason antics made this bust speculation even more likely. He has snuck back into the collective fantasy mind, as an option to be the Eagles top receiver. The options are much better than in years past, and Jackson hasn’t been full season relevant since his last season in Washington. He’s still a dynamite Best Ball option, but much like his choice in literature, he’s part of history that I choose not to be a part of.
For the second off-season in a row, the Cowboys have had contract issues that have taken away from several savvy personnel moves. First off, gone is Jason Garrett, replaced by Green Bay cast off, Mike McCarthy. The Cowboys also made a draft splash by selecting arguably one of the best WR’s in the class in CeeDee Lamb and loading up on veteran defensive players to try to fill in gaps that kept them from capitalizing on the league’s best offense in 2019. It should be a playoff-bound season in McCarthy’s first year as Jerry’s puppet, and there are top tier fantasy options that will be fun to have on your team.
Must Start: Dak Prescott (QB3), Ezekiel Elliott (RB3), Amari Cooper (WR9), Michael Gallup (WR30)
Cutler. Stafford. Even Newton. These are all QBs that were much better fantasy assets than real-life QB’s. While there is an argument that Prescott is underrated as a real-life QB, it’s a fact that he’s a top 5 fantasy QB. Although it was a distant finish to Lamar, he was fantasy’s number 2 last year. Prescott was near the tops in the league in deep completion rate in 2019, and that should only serve to boost his TD numbers with Lamb in tow. He also saw a dip in rushing TD’s from his first three seasons of 6 each season, so that is an area that could see positive regression. It could also benefit Prescott to get more passing work in the red zone, which McCarthy often did at Green Bay.
Matchup Based Start: CeeDee Lamb (WR44), Blake Jarwin (TE18)
As a Longhorn fan living in Oklahoma, the name CeeDee Lamb has terrorized me for years now. So, when Lamb fell to the Cowboys at 17th overall, I was more than happy to see him on a team for which I root. He’s a big strong WR that can easily fill in the role Randall Cobb grabbed 55 balls for 828 yards, where his elusiveness will be difficult for LB’s and in-box safeties to contain or he can play on the outside and overpower CB’s and sneak past unsuspecting safeties. His role this year may be a bit muted, due to not getting the OTA and preseason reps needed to sync up with a new QB and offense, but he’s on a shortlist of ROY candidates for 2020 and should be the next in a pretty good run of 88’s in Big D.
Flexually Active: Tony Pollard (RB49)
McCarthy isn’t likely to doom Elliott to the same fate as Aaron Jones or Edie Lacy, but he has shown a propensity to include a 2nd or maven 3rd RB more often than most coaches with “stud” RB’s. He used guys like Jamaal Williams, James Starks, and even WR turned RB Ty Montgomery more often than fantasy players would have liked, so it plays into Tony Pollard at least getting a bump from his 100 touch season from a year ago. Although he had less than a third of the touches Zeke, his Yards Per Touch and Breakaway Run Rate outpaced the lead back. He’s a big-play machine, that would be an RB1 if thrust into the lead role, but even with Zeke on the field, he can be a viable Flex option if McCarthy sticks to his previous personnel deployment.
Waivers/Streamers: Andy Dalton (QB40), Devin Smith (WR155), Dalton Schultz (TE72)
Dak Prescott has signed his franchise tender at the time of this article, but many of the points made in my article (Have Red Rifle, Will Travel link) hold true. Dalton is in a prime backup role, that would provide maximum QB waiver fodder if Prescott were to miss time for any reason.
Sleepers: Devin Smith
There are a lot of mouths to feed in Dallas, so this sleeper is Aurora level. However, Smith is so athletic that two years removed from his latest ACL tear, he is well-positioned to snag the WR4 spot in Dallas. In a high volume offense bound to score plenty of points, that could be a spot that provides some fun weeks during the bye weeks. Keep an eye on former Buckeye star and how he fits into his part-time slot role.
Must Stash: All applicable Cowboys players should be immediately viable this year. Check back next year for any prospects that could be taxi squadders.
Breakout: Michael Gallup
Don’t drop the ball is a common colloquialism for not screwing up. It should be what Gallup has to write on the chalkboard before and after each practice this season. Gallup was a very quiet 22nd in WR PPR points last year. If he can sure up his hands this season, even a little, his ceiling is well within the top 10, and he has the distinct advantage of drawing the lesser CB each week, with Cooper on the other side. Lamb may eventually begin to snipe targets from all receivers, but Gallup remains a top-notch deep threat, with a very reasonable 7th round price tag.
Bust: Blake Jarwin
We’ve already seen the preview to what a Witten-less TE room looks like, with his ill-advised broadcasting stint in 2018. The Romo-less Dallas TE’s have not been anything to write home about. While he was serviceable as the TE2 last year, the Dallas offense just doesn’t feed the TE the way that it used to. Neither Jarwin nor Schultz are reasonable facsimiles to Jason Witten, even in his twilight seasons. Jarwin is available late in drafts, so it’s not a high price to pay, but he’s a single-digit point-getter most weeks, with minimal boom potential. There are better options to play it safe.
New York Giants
The hope for Dave Gettleman is that Joe Judge is much more Mike Vrabel or non-GM Bill O’Brien than Matt Patricia or Charlie Weis. Either way, recent Belichick disciples have a decidedly pedestrian post-Patriots history as head coaches. Many felt that the Special Teams focused coach was ill-suited to lead the young Giants team to post-Eli success. The Giants do have their franchise QB, star RB and a good stable of WR’s to go with a rebuilt O-Line, but still have one of the worst defensive units, even with some offseason tweaks. That could be a boon for fantasy assets, at the expense of some very lopsided boxscores.
Must Start: Saquon Barkley (RB2), Evan Engram (TE6)
He’s arguably the most athletic tight end in the game. He’s a former 1st rounder. He’s a potential game-changer when he’s on the field. The key is when he’s on the field. He has missed 30% of his first three seasons, but 5 of his 8 games played last year were top 10 finishers. Daniel Jones is likely to improve in year two, and Engram could very well be his best target, if healthy. Engram is one of just a small list of TE’s that could potentially finish as the top overall tight end.
Matchup Based Start: Daniel Jones (QB14), Darius Slayton (WR41), Sterling Shepard (WR45)
All of us that snagged Slayton off the waiver pile last year were pleasantly surprised and maddened by his uneven 2019 performance. If you had a crystal ball, you could have had some week winning performances and skirted the complete eggs he laid. Although the other top receiving options are more reliant from the slot, they will still trump Slayton in targets, when healthy. He’s a guy that had opportunity, due to the uncertainty of the other WR’s availability, but other 9th round targets such as Marvin Jones, are safer bets.
Flexually Active: Golden Tate (WR51)
The 90 plus catch days are likely over for Tate, but he’s a PPR darling on the field. Jones peppered Golden with targets in bunches, and that pattern should continue with a higher volume passing game under Jason Garrett that predominantly utilizes 3WR sets. His lack of involvement in the red zone keeps his ceiling limited, but his floor is as high as any in New York.
Waivers/Streamers: Dion Lewis (RB73), Corey Coleman (WR160), Kaden Smith (TE53)
While not the athletic option that Engram is, Kaden Smith proved his worth in limited action last season with 3 top 5 finishes in his 7 games. In deep leagues, he’s an atypical handcuff option for Evan Engram and can limit the pain of games missed by the TE1. Otherwise, be sure to be the first to snag him, if and when Engram misses time.
Sleepers: We know who is relevant in New York, and if there is to be any sleeping, it will be watching them struggle to the bottom of the NFC East with the nameless team in Washington.
Must Stash: David Sills (WR)
With Tate being a potential cap casualty, after this upcoming season, David Sills could be in play in 2021. He had 33 TD’s in his final two seasons in West Virginia, but he didn’t get any field time in 2019 despite being activated to the active roster at the end of 2019. The Giants lack size on the outside, so he fits a need for the progressing Daniel Jones.
Breakout: Daniel Jones
The oft-criticized Eli Manning will be looked back fondly by Giants fans, but following up as the franchise signal-caller is the uber-talented former Blue Devil. Given a full 16 game slate, Jones would have snuck into the top 12 for QBs. Regardless of Garrett’s tenure in Dallas, he has steadily improved all QBs that he coached. With all of his weapons healthy and a new offense, he provides a steady floor with his rushing ability and real boom potential, as evidenced by three games of 4 or more TD’s last year. He’s an 11th rounder with real top 5 opportunities.
Bust: Sterling Shepard
He’s been a steady contributor when on the field. With new, more talented receivers in Justin Jefferson and Jale Reagor or breakout options Anthony Miller or N’Keal Harry all going in the same range, Shephard’s low ceiling is better left to others. The Giants have more options for talented QB Daniel Jones, and his game corresponds to volume that may not be as available to him this season.
It’s been a lousy year for Washington. They were a non-factor in the NFL. They parted ways with HC Jay Gruden. Owner Dan Snyder and the organization as a whole are in the spotlight for its toxic workplace for women and socially urged to replace their problematic team name. That said, it was still their fantasy relevance that may have been the most disastrous takeaway from 2019 (kidding…mostly). Enter Ron Rivera and enough young pieces where this could be a more interesting season. If they can only decide on a team name and cure for misogyny, then all will be well in the nation’s capital.
Must Start: Terry McLaurin (WR24)
If there is a fantasy asset on this team to have, it’s the second year WR out of Ohio State. He was a pleasant surprise in year one. Although he disappeared at times due to poor QB play and overall offensive inefficiency, he did give us a glimpse of his athleticism and what we can look forward to with a functional team. His poor catch rate ties to a bad catchable target rate. If Haskins (or Allen) can take a step forward, he’s a WR2. At worst, his talent gives him top tier flex appeal.
Matchup Based Start: Adrian Peterson (RB55)
With Guice now excommunicated from Washington after another embarrassing and awful domestic violence arrest, the bulk of the carries probably stay with the future HOFer. It’s possible that he still maintains 10-12 touches per game to start the year. With Gibson and even also-ran Peyton Barber and youngster Bryce Love, Rivera may be more apt to divide the carries until he finds a combo that fits his offensive style since he’s been spoiled with the most well rounded back in the league his last few seasons. Keep Peterson at the back of your bench, just in case Riverboat Ron does have to feature his Jonathan Stewart part deux.
Flexually Active: Dwayne Haskins (QB28), Steve Sims (WR89), Logan Thomas (TE59)
Waivers/Streamers: Kyle Allen (QB44), Antonio Gibson (RB61), Peyton Barber (RB82), Bryce Love (RB84), Kelvin Harmon (WR90-inj.), Antonio Golden-Gandy (WR108), Jeremy Sprinkle (TE49), Thaddeus Moss (TE60)
In perhaps the most uninspiring TE corp in the NFL, a former legend’s son is, at worst, a stash play. His fantastic hands and split out potential make him a possible possession receiver for a team with limited pass-catching options. He’s an undrafted rookie FA, so his spot on the roster is no lock, but if he remains on the Washington roster, he could have mid to late season appeal.
Sleepers: Antonio Gibson
Is he a running back? Is he a wide receiver? Most would just view him as a weapon. His usage at Memphis was minimal, but his workout metrics in the high 90’s and 11.2 ypc and 19.3 ypr are the things that make future NFL stars. He profiles favorably to Percy Harvin, but if he shows the ability to carry the RB load, maybe Ron Rivera’s comparing his skill set to Run CMC, won’t be so off base.
Must Stash: Antonio Golden-Gandy, Emanuel Hall
Liberty University is most known for Falwells and hiring disgraced former Blind Side coaches, but AGG may be able to shift focus away from that. His numbers were fantastic, and he has 10 TD’s in each of his last three seasons. The question is whether the competition was decent enough for us to be excited about the numbers, given the significant step that he will face in the NFL. After all, it’s not as though he gets to play against the Washington defense.
Breakout: Logan Thomas
Breakout is a relative term in Washington, but there is a lot of hype for the former Virginia Tech QB. If he can provide Haskins with a viable target, then his size and athleticism should help carry him well above his free ADP. He’s bounced around for his first four years in the NFL, but this may be his best shot to show he’s capable. He’s a definite flier, but one worth noting on your weekly waiver notes.
Bust: Washington (Team32)
It’s been kind of a brutal take on the team, but is there anyone that we’re high enough on where we’d be disappointed if they didn’t deliver? The organization is a mess. The roster is a mess. The optics are a mess. Maybe we’ll see this once-proud franchise rebound from the disappointment with a new name, a better organization, and ideally without Dan Snyder. Until then, I’m steering clear of all things in DC.
Jared Clifton – Dynasty/Editor
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