By Tzali Nislick
The NFC East is notoriously the weakest division in the NFL, but it’s also home to some of the game’s biggest stars. While there are a few bonafide guys there’s also some sleepers and others who have extreme breakout potential. Let’s explore all of the above in this NFC East preview.
More from this series:
Dak Prescott: Dak was a fantasy superstar last year, finishing as the QB2 overall after throwing for over 4,900 yards and 30 touchdowns, both career highs. I anticipate he has a similar season in 2020, as the Cowboys have one of the most high-powered offenses in the league. Pro Football Focus ranked Dallas’ wide receiver group as the best in the NFL. Even though Randall Cobb departed in free agency, the Cowboys drafted someone even better in CeeDee Lamb in the first round. And with still one of the game’s best offensive lines, Dak should be in position to deliver another great statistical season. He’s my QB3 behind Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson.
Ezekiel Elliot: Even without Travis Frederick (retirement), the Cowboys have an elite offensive line. Elliot finished as the RB3 in what was considered a “down” season. He’s a yardage and volume monster and should still be a top-5 running back again in 2020.
Tony Pollard: One of the league’s best handcuffs. Would be a RB1 if anything happened to Elliot.
Amari Cooper: Despite setting career highs in yards and touchdowns and finishing as the WR10, it felt like Amari Cooper left something to be desired last year. He had five games in which he was held to fewer than 10 points, including a zero point dud against the Patriots in Week 12. He didn’t have the target share of an elite wide receiver at just 20.81% last year, which ranked 34th in the NFL and 28th among wide receivers. He has all the talent in the world, but his inconsistency as well as the presence of Lamb makes Amari Cooper more of a WR2 for me than his WR1 finish from a year ago.
Michael Gallup: Michael Gallup had over 1,100 yards last season but somehow nobody seems to be talking about it. He finished as the WR22 despite missing two games and his ADP is inexplicably WR33. Gallup averaged 15.3 PPG after the Cowboys’ bye week, compared to Cooper’s 12.9 PPG in the same span. Last season Gallup averaged more yards and targets per game than Cooper, more yards per reception and just 0.2 PPG less. This was all in just his second season too, and I repeat, his ADP is WR33. This is a crime.
CeeDee Lamb: Has a chance to produce in such a high-powered offense, but last year Randall Cobb had just a 14.64% target share as the number three receiver. He obviously has much more value in dynasty.
Blake Jarwin: 83 targets are freed up after Jason Witten left for Las Vegas in free agency, including a team high 13 in the red zone. Witten was the TE11 last year, so Jarwin certainly has some sleeper appeal as the Cowboys’ primary tight end.
New York Giants
Daniel Jones: Daniel Jones had an up and down rookie season. The up was him scoring 28 or more points in four games, tied for third in the NFL. He threw for 24 touchdowns, a pretty good mark for a rookie. The down was he scored fewer than 15 points in his eight other starts. He also fumbled a league high 18 times, which is a truly astonishing amount. Lucky for him though, there’s plenty of room to improve heading into his second season. Did you know that Jones didn’t play a single snap with Saquon Barkley, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Evan Engram all on the field together last season? Those five players missed 24 games combined in 2019. The Giants should be trailing in a lot of games again this season and that will allow Jones to compile some garbage time stats. The Giants were the third highest passing team last year so that goes to show how much confidence they had in Jones, even as a rookie. Danny Dimes is prime breakout candidate, especially considering all of the second year quarterbacks we’ve seen in recent years explode. The Giants also selected Andrew Thomas fourth overall to protect Jones’ blindside, for what it’s worth.
Saquon Barkley: Do you really need analysis on Saquon? Move along.
Darius Slayton: Darius Slayton had a pretty remarkable rookie season, going for 740 yards and eight touchdowns. Unfortunately, he did it on just 48 receptions, meaning there’s no way he repeats that efficiency in 2020. I think Slayton did enough last year though to potentially establish himself as the number one wide receiver on the Giants, so that’s his saving grace. But with Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate still around, he may struggle to find a consistent amount of targets week in and week out. Slayton does have upside, but don’t expect him to score at as high of a rate as he did last year.
Sterling Shepard: Shepard missed six games last season, but he was pretty productive when he was on the field. He had at least five catches in eight of his 10 games and was 24th among wideouts in PPG. Still just 27-years old, Shepard could be a decent FLEX and a value at his WR45 ADP. Upgrade him in PPR.
Golden Tate: Golden Tate was sneaky good last season, recording at least six receptions or a touchdown in nine of his 11 games. He led his team with a 14.21% target share and even at 32-years old, he remains a steady FLEX option in PPR leagues.
Evan Engram: I wrote about Engram as a player on my do not draft list. While he has a boat load of talent, Engram has struggled to stay on the field in recent years, missing 13 games over the last two seasons due to a variety of injuries. With an ADP of TE6, that means he’ll be going in the middle rounds, and at that position I’d rather build my bench and wait on a sleeper tight end who has a high ceiling as well. Engram will be productive when healthy, but whether he can stay off the injury report remains the question and that hurts his value to me. He’s currently going ahead of Tyler Boyd and Gallup which is unacceptable.
Carson Wentz: How is it possible that Wentz is somehow one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league? I get the injury concerns, but they all happened on kind of flukey plays and Wentz played 16 games last season. Remember when Keenan Allen was “injury prone?” Yeah, well his injuries were also flukey and he hasn’t missed a game since 2016. So I strongly disagree with the notion that Wentz is “injury prone.” Okay so that’s my spiel about Wentz’s injury history, now let’s talk football. Over the last three years Wentz averages 32 touchdowns per 16 games, more than Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. All of those players are being drafted ahead of Wentz. Last season, Wentz had 10 games with at least 17 points, more than Kyler Murray, Watson, Russell Wilson, Ryan, Rodgers and Brady. Again, all of them are being drafted ahead of Wentz. People also seem to forget that Wentz was throwing to absolutely nobody last year. In Week 17 the Eagles’ starting wide receivers were Deontay Burnett, Greg Ward and Robert Davis. Despite all of Philadelphia’s injuries last season, Wentz still finished as the QB10. I mean, this guy was literally the league MVP through 13 games in 2017 and he’s being drafted as the QB12. Meanwhile, the Eagles added Jalen Reagor in the first round and essentially DeSean Jackson since he missed all but three games last year. Carson Wentz is a former second overall pick, he’s a good football player. Draft him as such.
Miles Sanders: Sanders made my must have list. He finally took over the starting role late last season and made the most of it, averaging 20.5 PPG on 4.8 YPC over his last five games. Now with Jordan Howard gone, the Penn State product’s only competition is Boston Scott, whose late season explosion I’m not buying because he averaged less than 4.0 YPC in his final four games when he was fantasy relevant. If Doug Pederson commits to Miles Sanders, he could be one of the biggest breakouts in 2020.
DeSean Jackson: Although he returns healthy this year, he’ll make a bigger impact in real life than for fantasy purposes. He’ll have a few big games but a lot of duds as well. He’s nothing more than a late round flier.
Jalen Reagor: If Alshon Jeffery isn’t ready to go (PUP list), Jalen Reagor could be thrusted into a starting role in 2020. The Eagles took him in the first round for a reason, so I trust that they’ll try to get him the ball, especially since they drafted him over perhaps a better known entity in Justin Jefferson and let their division rival Cowboys scoop up CeeDee Lamb four picks earlier. Wentz was top-10 in deep passing last year, and that fits well with Reagor’s home run play style, since he ran an unofficial 4.22 40-yard dash. Keep him on your radar.
Alshon Jeffery: He’ll start the year on the PUP list as he recovers from a Lisfranc injury, and his timetable in uncertain at this time. He’s now 30-years old and hasn’t been a productive player since 2018. He’s not on my draft board.
Zach Ertz: Zach Ertz has been one of the most consistent players at his position over the last half decade, recording at least 74 catches in each of his last five seasons. He’s scored 22 touchdowns over the last three seasons and hasn’t missed more than two games in a season in his career. He’s still my TE4 this season as he has established himself as Wentz’s top target, but the presence of Dallas Goedert makes me a little nervous, and that’s why I like Mark Andrews more.
Dallas Goedert: Dallas Goedert had somewhat of a breakout season last year, catching 58 passes for 607 yards and five scores, good enough for a TE10 finish. Now entering his third year, the former second round pick still remains behind Ertz on the depth chart, but it appears the Eagles are committed to have both players on the field, as the two of them led the team in snaps outside of Wentz and any offensive linemen. If Ertz got hurt, Goedert would be a no brainer TE1, but unless that happens he may struggle to find consistency week to week. He had seven games with double digit fantasy points in 2019, but also five games with four or fewer targets. He has an incredibly high ceiling but also an unsteady floor, and that makes him one of the hardest players to judge entering 2020, so I wouldn’t draft him as my starting tight end in 10 team leagues.
Washington Football Team
Dwayne Haskins: Haskins looked brutal in his nine games last season, but it’s not entirely his fault. Washington is a dumpster fire of a franchise both on and off the field and they had a severe lack of established weapons outside of Terry McLaurin. That has not changed entering 2020 and they also have one of the league’s worst offensive lines. It’s too early to give up on Haskins in dynasty, but he has little to no value in redraft leagues.
Derrius Guice: Guice enters his third season with just five games of experience, after multiple knee injuries have limited him over the last two years. That alone makes him super risky, especially with Adrian Peterson, rookie Antonio Gibson, Peyton Barber and others still on the roster. Peterson somehow always manages to be relevant but I don’t see that happening this year at age-35 and Gibson is one of my favorite deep sleepers. Guice has a lot of talent and potential, but unless he proves he can stay healthy and establishes himself as the clear cut number one back, he’s nothing more than a shaky FLEX.
Terry McLaurin: Terry McLaurin was great last season, especially early on and then again late in the season. Despite the potential struggles of Haskins, McLaurin’s volume should be enough to keep him as a borderline WR2 this year. His 22.83% target share was by far the highest on his team, over 10% more than the next best player. He was also just flat out a good player too.
Terry McLaurin’s 85.7 PFF Grade was the second-highest by a rookie WR since 2006, behind only Odell Beckham Jr.
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) August 3, 2020
He easily has a chance to outperform his WR25 ADP with his volume, especially if he takes a second year leap.
Steven Sims: From Week 14 on last season, Steven Sims was the 13th best wide receiver in fantasy. In his last three games, he averaged 19.8 PPG and entering his second season, he has the chance to take on a larger role, especially with fellow second year wideout Kelvin Harmon tearing his ACL. If Sims picks up where he left off last season, he’ll easily outperform his WR84 ADP, which is pretty ridiculously low if you ask me.