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Fantasy Files: Divisional Previews – NFC East

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NFC East preview of the names and stories you need to know for your fantasy football draft.

Cousins & Reed - the best fantasy QB and TE in the division
Cousins & Reed - the best fantasy QB and TE in the division
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

To help prepare for the upcoming season for all you fantasy footballers, we will examine every team in the league in the month of July. This effort will be organized through divisions and we will go roughly in order of overall strength of offenses from worst to best. Since teams in the same division play roughly to same schedule, it can be helpful to consider the defenses each division will face. I use team stats from Football Outsiders (DVOA), Average Draft Position (ADP) from Fantasy Football Calculator, and standard fantasy scoring on Yahoo. As always, comments, disagreements, and questions are welcome.

Today we cover the NFC East. This division was similar to the AFC South with a key injury at QB (Romo), and a lot of disappointment up and down the division. The two bright spots on offense were the Dallas running game (9th in DVOA) and the Washington passing game (6th in DVOA). Moving into 2016, the NFC East has some intriguing new additions and some toxic situations.

Philadelphia Eagles

26th Passing DVOA, 17th Rushing DVOA

QB: Sam Bradford? (Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz)

RB: Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood

WR: Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle

TE: Zach Ertz

Deep breath. Okay, here we go. Stay away from this offense. Sam Bradford was for some unknown reason resigned to a pretty significant contract for someone who has shown little in the way of starting QB competency in his career. The former #1 overall pick was trying to orchestrate a trade after the Eagles moved up to the #2 spot in the draft to take Carson Wentz, the North Dakota State product, who’s claim to fame so far is locking himself in a bathroom. Oh, yeah, they also signed Chase Daniel to either a rich backup or bargain starter contract to run Doug Peterson’s offense. I don’t know what’s happening in the Eagles organization but they’ve got 3 options at QB that are simply not relevant for your 2016 fantasy roster. The best option for the real life Eagles team might be Chase Daniel, who can run the offense and provide leadership for Wentz…but Bradford is likely going to run the team to start the year. As a result, I simply can’t support sinking any draft capital into any of the Eagles this year. Jordan Matthews was a massive disappointment last year, Nelson Agholor never really got it going, and Rueben Randle is a Giants cast-off. Zach Ertz has perpetually been a tease and I can’t see him as more than a bye week fill in.

If that weren’t enough, the Eagles traded away DeMarco Murray and are going to roll with the oft-injured Ryan Mathews as the #1 back. Darren Sproles might actually be my favorite player on this team but he’s not happy and wants a trade. In the wake of the Chip Kelly experiment, this team is simply in a rebuilding year. They might be able to field a competitive defense, which leads me to believe they may try to lean on their running game. It’s up to you if you feel you can invest a pick in this team though.

New York Giants

18th Passing DVOA, 23rd Rushing DVOA

QB: Eli Manning

RB: Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Paul Perkins

WR: Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz

TE: Will Tye

Contrary to popular belief, Eli Manning isn’t nearly as bad as some think he is (at least for our fake game purposes). Eli was learning a new system last season and started to really come on late in the year after a disastrous start. Part of the problem was Victor Cruz’s inability to return from injury and Rueben Randle being, well, not a good football player. Eli has usually been able to keep two receivers relevant, so in addition to the All-World Diva talent of Odell Beckham Jr., it will be interesting to see if Victor Cruz or Sterling Shepard can fill that role. My money is on the rookie Shepard, who I think has the best chance to have the best rookie campaign of all wide receivers this season. He’s currently drafted in the low 50’s of wide receivers but I would expect that number to rise if he can establish the #2 role in training camp. Cruz will try to see if he can claim the slot. If all 3 are working well, that makes Eli a legit QB1 and will be a fun offense to watch.

I’m less impressed with the running game. The pieces here are recycled, fragmented and often injured. Rashad Jennings currently holds the starting role but he’s just a guy that fails to excite. Shane Vereen is best served as a PPR back as he’ll see most of his time in passing situations. For those of you in dynasty leagues or interested in taking a flier, make sure to follow Paul Perkins during training camp. The former UCLA Bruin has a skill set that might work in this offense should Jennings fail to product or succumb to injury.

Washington

6th Passing DVOA, 32nd Rushing DVOA

QB: Kirk Cousins

RB: Matt Jones, Chris Thompson, Keith Marshall

WR: DeSean Jackson, Josh Doctson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder

TE: Jordan Reed

You like that?! The best offensive unit in this division last year was Washington’s passing game, finishing an impressive 6th overall. There’s a lot to like around Kirk Cousins again this year as the same contributors return and we add in Josh Doctson – probably the best red zone threat in this year’s wide receiving crop of rookies. Jackson returns as a big play threat, Garcon can continue to be a PPR grinder, and the emerging Jamison Crowder can work the slot. That’s not to even mention the best threat – Jordan Reed. I think all of those players are worth a roster spot and Reed is in the argument for #2 TE behind Gronk. This is a passing offense to get excited about.

Unfortunately, Washington simply was not effective running the football despite the addition of Brandon Sherff and handing the reins to Matt Jones. It would be hard to imagine this group being worst since 32nd is last place, but I’d remember these struggles when you’re staring at Matt Jones in the 4th round. I think Keith Marshall is a guy to keep an eye on from a pure talent standpoint if Jones should fail to produce.

Dallas Cowboys

32nd Passing DVOA, 9th Rushing DVOA

QB: Tony Romo

RB: Ezekiel Elliot, Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden

WR: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley

TE: Jason Witten

The Dallas offense fell apart after Tony Romo’s injury as they really had no backup plan in place. If Romo can stay healthy, there’s no reason this team can’t be a top 10 offense both running and throwing the football. Obviously, Dez Bryant is the guy to own in this passing tree. He’s uber talented and absolutely physical at the point of attack. He’s in that late 1st / early 2nd round conversation. Terrance Williams is a bit of a tease in the #2 role but if Romo is clicking, he’s worth rostering. Cole Beasley had some big games last year and is just one of those guys who finds a way to get open. Watch for matchups against teams that struggle with slot receivers and plug him into your lineup. Jason Witten is the ageless wonder – he’ll catch 70 passes for 68 first downs and get into the end zone a handful of times. He’s a great football player – but I’d prefer someone with a higher ceiling on my fake team.

The running game is, to put it delicately, going to wreck people this year. This is the best offensive line in football and they just added what appears to be an excellent running back. If you’re taking Ezekiel Elliot in the middle of the first round, I’m not batting an eye. He’s going to compete for a rushing title and with Romo directing the passing game, I can see scoring opportunities too. Alfred Morris isn’t going to take passing downs or goal line touches from him – he’s strictly a 2-3 series breather guy.

NFC East Review

The NFC East should see 3 quality passing attacks (Giants, Cowboys, Washington) and one superb running game (Dallas) with a few superstars. This is far from the best division, but there’s enough here to get excited about. The NFC East defenses are all average to poor, which will help continue the traditional shoot-outs in this division. The NFC East draws the NFC North and the AFC North, which is about an average draw on quality defenses.

All NFC East Fantasy Team – The ideal roster as chosen from only NFC East squads:

QB: Kirk Cousins

RB: Ezekiel Elliot

RB: Matt Jones

WR: Odell Beckham Jr.

WR: Dez Bryant

WR: Sterling Shepard

TE: Jordan Reed

D: Eagles (Although…yikes)

What are your thoughts on the NFC East this year?