With the fantasy football draft season right around the corner, I’ve decided to do a breakdown on the fantasy-relevant players on every team, division by division.
The first division I’ll go through is arguably the worst division in football, the NFC East. All comments are with respect to 10-team leagues with standard scoring.
QB: The Cowboys narrowly avoided making THE mistake of the draft by passing on Johnny Manziel with the 16th overall pick, opting to stick with Tony Romo instead. At this point in his career, Romo has very little upside. He is unlikely to improve substantially, but that’s actually not too bad. Barring his injury-shortened year of 2010, Romo has never finished worse than the 11th best fantasy quarterback over the past five years and he’s cracked the top five once. Injuries are a bit of a concern, but they’re nothing major. If you decide to wait on drafting a quarterback and load up on runningbacks and wide receivers, Romo would be a smart guy to target around the eighth or ninth round.
RB: DeMarco Murray is one of my favorite players this year. He has produced consistently whenever he’s on the field averaging 5 yards per carry for his career. He also offers some value in the passing game, catching 53 balls in 14 games last year. Unfortunately, staying on the field has been a problem. Injuries are what keep him from going in the top 10 players overall, but you aren’t going to find 10 more talented, proven running backs in the NFL. His backup would be the most valuable handcuff in football if there was a clear backup. Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle split the job last year with Randle getting the goal-line work. If the Cowboys declare a single backup running back in the preseason, he would be a guy for Murray owners to target in the mid-late rounds.
WR: Dez Bryant has become one of the top wide receivers in the NFL. He’s a consistent, big, athletic player who is a threat for a big touchdown every time he runs a route. He’s guaranteed to go be one of the first few wide receivers taken. Terrance Williams is an interesting guy who could be one of the big steals of this year’s fantasy draft. He’s bound to improve as he grows more familiar with the offense and with Romo. Bryant will always pull coverage deep to his side of the field, so Williams should have an easy time exploiting that. He’s also dirt cheap, currently going around the 10th round. He’s worth a late flier.
TE: Jason Witten is no longer a top 5 fantasy tight end, but he’s definitely top 10. He catches a lot of balls, though he’s much more touchdown-dependent for his fantasy scoring than he used to be. Unfortunately, he’s being drafted as early as round five right now in a lot of mock drafts, which is just too high for me. He’s a prime candidate for an Antonio Gates-like fall from fantasy supremacy, so I’ll be staying away from him this year. He does have more value in a PPR-league however, and if he falls into the later rounds, don’t hesitate to pick him up.
D/ST: The Cowboys defense is in rough shape. They cut DeMarcus Ware and lost Sean Lee to an ACL injury, leaving them with a roster full of second-tier players. Stay away.
New York Giants
QB: To put it bluntly, Eli Manning was a walking train wreck last year. He led the league in interceptions and he only had one game where he scored more than 18 fantasy points. He can’t possibly be that bad again right? Well, probably, but he was awfully bad.
Like, worse than Geno Smith bad. Stay away from this Manning brother in all but 2 QB leagues this year.
RB: Rashad Jennings comes into training camp as the presumed starter after a surprisingly decent season with Oakland last year. I have him ranked as a low-end number two running back in deeper leagues or a strong number three in shallow leagues. The only reason he isn’t higher is because of numerous threats to his job. Rookie RB Andre Williams profiles as a workhorse back who could challenge for the starting job with a strong preseason. Expect him to be a popular sleeper. There is also the looming spectre of David Wilson who, if he is cleared by the Giants medical staff, could step in as the starter. One of those guys could end up being this years’ late round flier that wins you a league, or they could be totally worthless in fantasy this year. They’re pure lottery ticket picks, especially Wilson.
WR: Victor Cruz disappointed owners last year, though he seems primed for a bounce back season. He dealt with some nagging injuries and some unbelievably awful quarterback play. Those should both be better, and while it would surprise me if he was back in the top 10, he seems like a very good value as a good WR2. Rueben Randle is also interesting. He played very well when Nicks was out last year, so with Nicks off the tam, he should provide some pretty nice upside later in the draft. Odell Beckham is interesting, but only as a late-round flier. Rookie wide receivers are almost never as good as you think they’ll be and Beckham is at best third in line for targets.
TE: Right now, 2012 4th-round draft pick Adrien Robinson is listed as the Giants top tight end. It seems very likely that the Giants will be looking to sign one of the top free agents left before the season starts, either Jermichael Finley or Dustin Keller. If they don’t sign someone, it’s hard to be interested in Robinson. He’s almost certainly a downgrade from Brandon Myers, and Myers had a very unspectacular fantasy season last year.
D/ST: The Giants were the 16th best fantasy defense last year, and very little has changed. They won’t be a terrible defense, but they’re little more than a matchup play or a bye-week replacement.
QB: Nick Foles finished the season as the 11th best fantasy quarterback despite only starting 11 games. He is a young player who could easily take a step forward into legitimate top 10 territory. However, there are a lot of things that make me nervous about Foles. He lost his top target last year in DeSean Jackson, and while Jeremy Maclin is a good football player, he is often injured and he doesn’t have the raw talent of Jackson. Foles also played against a comically bad stretch of pass defenses in his last eight games. I think his performance last year is pretty close to his ceiling, and I would be very surprised if he was a top seven QB. He’s firmly in the Tony Romo range for me.
RB: LeSean (Shady) McCoy is unquestionably one of the top 3 running backs in fantasy football. He runs effectively between and outside the tackles and he is always a threat as a receiver. I’m not as worried about the addition of Darren Sproles as many analysts. Sproles was below average last year and he rarely carried the ball. He might steal some targets, but I think he’ll steal fewer carries than Bryce Brown and McCoy will stay dominant. Sproles is nothing more than a late round flier for standard leagues or a RB3 in PPR leagues. Chris Polk is a guy to keep an eye on as a handcuff option depending on how they deploy him during the preseason, as he’s looked talented when he’s had a chance to run.
WR: With the loss of DeSean Jackson, this group is going to look dramatically different from last year. I wouldn’t trust either Riley Cooper or Maclin to be anything more than a flex option for my fantasy team, and I have them ranked very close together. That
said, they do have some upside. Jackson had one of the best years of his career last year under Chip Kelly, and we could see similar improvements for Cooper and/or Maclin. Rookie Jordan Matthews is also a trendy sleeper given the explosiveness of the offense as well as Maclin’s prolific injury history.
TE: Zach Ertz is a trendy sleeper this year, with many predicting that the sophomore tight end will take a big leap forward in his second year. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening as long as Brent Celek continues to be a part of the offense. Ertz could have some big games, but he will likely have some stinkers where Celek gets the majority of the work as well. If I’m drafting for a dynasty or a keeper league then Ertz is very enticing, but there isn’t a lot of upside this year. If I have to pick an Eagles tight end I would want Ertz over Celek, but I’m looking elsewhere for my TE this year.
D/ST: The Eagles defense was an abysmal fantasy defense last year and they aren’t worthy of being drafted in virtually any league.
QB: This is a pivotal year for Robert Griffin III. He followed up his spectacular rookie season with a dud in 2013, ending the season on the sidelines after yet another injury. That said, the talent is still there and he looks poised for his best season yet. He should be fully healthy going into the season, he gained a shiny new toy in DeSean Jackson and he gained a new head coach in Jay Gruden who managed to turn Andy Dalton into a top 10 fantasy quarterback. If he isn’t a superstar this year he’ll never be one. If you don’t get one of the “Big Three,” at QB then RGIII would be the perfect guy to target in the middle rounds, just make sure to draft a decent backup!
RB: Alfred Morris had a surprisingly, “meh,” season last year, only rushing for over 100 yards three times. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to get better for Morris. Jay Gruden infuriated fantasy owners by using a runningback-by-committee approach in Cincinnati last year, and he’s likely to do the same in Washington with Roy Helu as his third-down back. While this hurts the value of Alfred Morris, it makes Helu viable as a sneaky pick in the mid-late rounds as a kind of super handcuff. Helu also vultured more than a few touchdowns from Morris last year, so he remains a Danny Woodhead-like option around the 8th round. For me, Morris is no more than a low-end number two running back in standard leagues.
WR: The Redskins have one of the better one-two punches at wide receiver in the league with Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. I think Jackson is unlikely to repeat his statistics from last year, and he’ll drop down to where he was in previous years, a boom/bust deep threat who will get you 20 fantasy points some games and 0 in others. For me he’s a low-end WR2. Pierre Garcon is the real gem. Jay Gruden was notorious for constantly forcing the ball to AJ Green, something that I think we’ll see with Garcon. He remains RGIII’s favorite target and I think he’s due for a big season. I have him as a high-end WR2. Other than those two, there are a lot of wild cards. Andre Roberts would be worth a lottery ticket towards the end of your draft.
TE: Jordan Reed is one of the most intriguing players in fantasy this year. He showed crazy, Jimmy Graham-esque potential when he took hold of the starting job last year, but his season was ended with a nasty concussion. Reed also had two concussions in college, and it’s very possible that his next concussion could be a career-ending injury. Then again, he may never get concussed again. He has a ceiling as high as the number two TE and a floor as low as the number 60 TE, but there are few legitimate concerns that have to do with his ability. He’s a high-risk high-reward pick in the middle rounds.
D/ST: The Redskins were almost as bad as the Eagles, they seemed to get worse as the season went on, and made little to no changes in the off season. Tt’s in your best interest to find another defense for your fantasy football team.
That’s all for the NFC East! Come back in a couple days for breakdowns of every team in the AFC East!