Although the NFL season is still a couple months away, it is never too early to start strategizing for your big fantasy draft day. I will break down each division for you individually to shed some light on fantasy value. We will start with the NFC East. The only reason I have decided to start with the NFC East is because it includes my hometown team, the Washington Redskins. This division, in general, is interesting in terms of fantasy relevance. While the division may be looked down upon by some viewers in terms of “real” football value, in terms of fantasy value, these teams are very stacked on the offensive side of the ball.
A big offseason story for the Cowboys is the health of quarterback Tony Romo, who is rehabbing a back injury suffered late last season. An interesting aside on Romo– in standard fantasy leagues, he has been a top ten quarterback every season except for 2007, which he missed. He is as consistent as they come, and gets a new offensive coordinator in Scott Linehan– who has a history of running a pass-heavy offense. The Cowboys also have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, which will lead to the Cowboys chasing points, giving Romo plenty of attempts to put up shiny fantasy numbers. I am not concerned about his health at all, and he will be a great value quarterback this season.
Around Romo are several weapons. Running back Demarco Murray is one of my favorite potential picks this year. Murray shined as a pass-catcher last season and proved that he could stay healthy. You can argue that he has health issues, but you could truly argue that about nearly any NFL running back. They are all at risk, and you can not predict who will play all 16 games. Murray is well in my top 15 for running backs, and certainly in my top 10 for PPR leagues.
I already mentioned Scott Linehan when discussing Romo, but this addition also greatly affects the wide receiver core. Linehan worked with the Detroit Lions, and found ways to make Calvin Johnson put up the numbers that he did. I do not think Dez Bryant is that far below Megatron in terms of talent, and I think that he will have another huge year. Seriously. I think the Cowboys could lead the NFL in passing yards, and most of those will go to Bryant, who also happens to be in a contract year. With Miles Austin gone, Terrance Williams can now establish himself as a solid number two receiver. I love drafting guys who line-up opposite of studs, and Williams fits that bill perfectly. He showed flashes of talent last season for sure, but I think he has top 20 upside. Tight end Jason Witten had a quiet season last year, but he is by far the best tight end Linehan has worked with. He is a candidate for a big bounce-back year.
New York Giants
Saying that the New York Giants were disappointing last year would be a major understatement. Their offense was dreadful. A lot of this falls on the offensive line. Eli Manning could bounce back, but he is still typically a back-up worthy fantasy quarterback. I absolutely love wide receiver Victor Cruz, however. I think he will have a huge season and will play more of a Randall Cobb-esque role in this offense. I see him moving around a lot and being a PPR stud. Reuben Randle also should have a good season. I see him being a solid number three receiver, depending on what shakes out with rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham.
The running back situation is still very uncertain is New York. I have no suggestions other than to stay away from the Giants’ backfield unless they sign a veteran.
Every Eagle that is not named LeSean McCoy is in fantasy trouble. This offense disgusts me. Quarterback Nick Foles had an outstanding season last year, and I do not discredit him that. But this year, his top options as of now will be Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. There is no defense that should fear that duo. This offense is going to run the ball a lot. McCoy will be great again. I am staying away from the passing game, though.
One bright spot that I see in this offense is tight end Zach Ertz. He is a huge player and has shown good chemistry with Foles in the past. Brent Celek is in the way (mainly because he can block), but Ertz still has plenty of room to shine. Foles has to throw to someone, right? I think Ertz becomes the focal point of this passing offense.
The addition of Darren Sproles gives the offense another weapon, but I do not see him having a high snap count. He has been on the decline, and McCoy will still be on the field for the majority of every game. Mid-round flier at best.
The Redskins have been all over the news. Most of this is because of the big controversy surrounding the franchise’s name, but they have also made solid offseason moves. The biggest move may be the acquisition of wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson is a talented player, for sure, and had a phenomenal season last year with Philadelphia. However, I view him as the number two option in the Redskins offense. I still believe that Pierre Garcon will get more targets than Jackson. I think Jackson bolsters this offense in a huge way, but he does not excite me for fantasy purposes. There are several guys I would rather take before him, but you can not deny the upside that is here. Head coach Jay Gruden had success finding opportunities for Marvin Jones to score in Cincinnati, and Jackson is a far superior talent.
Someone has to be getting these receivers the ball. Robert Griffin III had an outstanding rookie season and was an unfortunate victim of the sophomore slump last season. I think Gruden makes RG3 more of a pocket passer this season. This is a good thing. With the weapons around him, RG3 can certainly find success as a passer. He will still use his legs, and I think his rushing numbers will fall right in the middle of his rookie and second year statistics.
Alfred Morris is ready to have a huge season. I really think the additions to the offensive line and receiving core will open up the backfield for Morris. He is not a great pass-catcher, and I think this will get Roy Helu some playing time. But, I do believe that Morris will bounce back and finish as an elite fantasy running back.
Tight end Jordan Reed surprised people last season. I think there will be enough targets to go around in Washington, and I think Reed finishes as a top 10 tight end. The position is shallow this year, and I truly would be skeptical of Reed this season were I drafting today.
You can see how I rank these players when I release my official rankings this August. Any questions? Sound off in the comments below or tweet us @SportsQuotient.