We will finish our fantasy football previews by moving eastward. The NFC East, along with the AFC West, are probably competing for best division in professional football. With that comes a lot of fantasy talent that we need to look over. All references to draft position are from the Fantasy Football Calculator.
Is it possible that all four of the quarterbacks here are being underrated for fantasy? None of them are currently being drafted higher than QB10, yet any of the four could be top 10 for fantasy this season. Kirk Cousins (Washington) and Dak Prescott (Dallas) were 5th and 6th at the position last season, and they’re only going around pick 90 this season. Both have questions marks – Cousins is replacing his top two wideouts and Dak had a magical rookie season – but I believe both have reasons for optimism. Neither player threw for more than 25 TDs last season, and both have dynamic weapons (Terrelle Pryor and Dez Bryant) that weren’t fully available last season. Also, both teams are weaker on defense, which could lead to needing more through the air.
The other two quarterbacks have room to grow as well. Eli Manning (Giants, pick 120) and Carson Wentz (Philadelphia, pick 130) well look to benefit from new receivers (Alshon Jeffrey in Philly and Brandon Marshall in New York) and potentially limited running games. Wentz threw over 600 passes as rookie, and he may be needed to dial up a lot of passes again. Manning was bad last season, but he was a top 10 fantasy QB in 2014 and 2015.
A lot of uncertainly headlines this position for the NFC East. The clear top choice is Ezekiel Elliott of Dallas. He finished second in RB scoring as a rookie in 2016, and is poised for a big showing again this season, assuming he isn’t eventually disciplined for domestic violence. He’s a top 6 choice on draft day, regardless of format. If you’re interested in a handcuff, it seems that Darren McFadden is the choice over Alfred Morris.
In New York, it appears that second year RB Paul Perkins is in line to be the starting RB. He had flashes last season, but it wasn’t expected that he would be given this chance entering 2017. His pick 75 draft price has risk/reward written all over it. Similarly, LeGarrette Blount was recently signed by Philadelphia. He’s coming off a huge season in New England (18 touchdowns), but it’s hard to gauge his fit for the Eagles. He is going about 10 picks ahead of Perkins and also carries plenty of risk.
Washington’s backfield is a good one to monitor closely. Rob Kelley showed flashes last season, but the fourth-round draft choice of Samaje Perine generated more buzz overall. I personally like Perine to win the job. He may end up being the closest thing to what Jordan Howard was last season. Perine is going around pick 100, and is an obvious target in rookie/dynasty drafts.
Speaking of rookie/dynasty drafts, keep an eye on Wendell Smallwood and Donnell Pumphrey (Philadelphia) as well as Wayne Gallman (Giants). Lastly, this division boasts PPR targets in the backfield. They include Darren Sproles (Philadelphia), Shane Vereen (Giants), and Chris Thompson (Washington). Their usage will likely cut into the work of the starters listed above.
There’s plenty of potential star power at wideout in this division. Odell Beckham Jr. has been a top 5 fantasy WR each of his first two seasons. That should continue this season, assuming he stays healthy. Brandon Marshall is in town, but he’s not replacing Beckham. Beckham is a likely top 6 pick in drafts, while Marshall’s pick 50 price tag is risky, although he was a top three WR in 2015. To me, Marshall is more of a standard league selection than PPR. That signing is also bad news for Sterling Shepard, who finished at a borderline starting wideout in his rookie season.
Moving to Dallas, Dez Bryant is hoping for a rebound effort in 2017. He missed 10 games combined in the last two seasons, but he did have nine touchdowns in his last ten full games with Dak. He could easily be a top 10 value, and he’s falling between picks 15 and 20 this season. Terrance Williams can likely be ignored, but keep an eye on Cole Beasley in PPR formats. He had 75 catches last season and showed a rapport with Prescott.
The Eagles signed Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, and they still have Jordan Matthews. Jeffrey’s pick 30 price tag is a bargain, if healthy. That, of course, is a huge if. Matthews has fallen to around pick 120, and it’s hard to tell how he’ll fit in now. Smith and Nelson Agholor can probably be ignored unless an injury occurs.
Washington lost Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson in the offseason. Considering that Kirk Cousins passed for almost 5,000 yards, it’ll be important to see how those lost targets are replaced. Terrelle Pryor was signed from Cleveland following a 1,000 yard season. The potential for a huge season is there, but he’s also inexperienced at WR and is joining a new team. He’s currently going around pick 35. Better values exist with Jamison Crowder (pick 70 in PPR, 80 in standard) and Josh Doctson (pick 140). Crowder had almost 70 receptions (and 7 TDs) last season, and is the most experienced wideout in the offense. Doctson was injured during his rookie season, but he has a very attractive skill set as a late-round flier.
When healthy, Jordan Reed (Washington) may be the best tight end choice with draft price (around pick 40), particularly in PPR. He’s finished as a top ten TE each of the last two seasons despite missing six games over that time. If his health causes him to slip much in drafts, he’ll become worth the risk. With that injury history, note that Vernon Davis was very good last season.
Zach Ertz of the Eagles also has consecutive top ten seasons with some missed games. Consistency has been his issue, though, as he’s prone to hot streaks and then no-show games. With the new weapons in Philly, it’ll be interesting to see if he’s still a focal point on offense.
The fallback TE option in this division is Jason Witten. A PPR mainstay, Witten still had 70 catches last season despite QB change and older age. Who knows if it continues, but you could do worse after pick 150, which is where he’s going. The Giants TE situation isn’t reliable, but keep an eye on first-round draft pick Evan Engram, particularly in rookie/dynasty formats.
That’s it for the NFC East. It should be a terrific division to track in real life and fantasy.