NFC East Fantasy Player Preview

August 24, 2020

As an Eagles fan and a fantasy football fanatic, I’ve always got my eyes on the players in the NFC East. Here are some players on each team I’m targeting and avoiding in my drafts, along with some sleepers and potential busts.

Philadelphia Eagles

Player I’m drafting: Miles Sanders, RB

I was already high on Sanders this offseason, and I haven’t wavered despite him suffering a lower-body injury that has him currently listed as ‘week to week.’ Reports indicate the injury isn’t serious and that he’ll be ready for week one when the Eagles take on the Washington Football Team.

After a rocky midseason in 2019 that pushed him behind Jordan Howard, Sanders surged the latter third of the season, finishing with the NFL’s eighth-most all-purpose yards. He smashed the Eagles’ rookie records for rushing yards (818), yards from scrimmage (1,327), and became the first Eagles rookie in 33 seasons to accrue more than 170 touches.

After that performance, the Eagles rewarded Sanders by dealing Howard away to the Dolphins. This vote of confidence was further backed on August 17 when coach Doug Peterson told Sanders, “You’re the guy this season.” Peterson added that the team wants to increase Sanders’ reps.

Although he didn’t play more than 53% of the snaps in a game until Week 11, Sanders finished 15th among backs in fantasy points. His 50-509-3 receiving line, driven by 8.2 yards per target, was second best at the position. With his pass-catching upside and more reps as the workhorse behind an elite rushing offensive line, a Top Ten finish in 2020 is inevitable.

Player I’m avoiding: Alshon Jeffrey, WR

The Eagles placed Jeffrey on the Active/PUP list on July 28 as he rehabs his surgically-repaired Lisfranc foot injury. If he lands on the Reserve/PUP list by the end of camp, he’ll miss six games. If the Eagles offense gels with DeSean Jackson and their rookies starting at wide receiver, Jeffrey could find himself without much playing time even if healthy. An oft-injured 30-year-old returning from a severe foot injury is not a player to be drafting in fantasy.

Sleeper: Jalen Reagor, WR

The 21st overall pick in 2020, Reagor is someone I’m targeting around the 9th round in fantasy leagues. With that kind of NFL draft capital and the Eagles’ need at wide receiver, Reagor should contribute immediately. Since practicing in pads, the former high school track star has been flashing, connecting on passes from quarterback Carson Wentz on crossing routes for long gains.

“It’s been a lot of fun just to work with him,” Wentz said. “He’s an explosive athlete. You can see that with his route-running ability and his down-the-field presence. You turn on his highlight tape and you can see what he does with the ball in his hands, and that’s one thing that we haven’t been able to see with just practices going on.”

Bust: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR

Arcega-Whiteside had a bust of a rookie season marred by injury and an inability to adapt to the speed of the pro game. With injuries to Jeffrey and Jackson, he was positioned for a generous workload, but was ineffective and just looked lost. With a year removed and an off-season extensive training program under his belt, some of the initial fanfare has returned. The 23-year-old has been making plays in camp, alternating reps at the ‘X’ position with Reagor. Despite that, he will likely be behind the rookie on the depth chart to start the season. Selecting three wide receivers in this year’s draft tells me the Eagles aren’t sold on him, and neither am I.

Washington Football Team

Player I’m Drafting: Terry McLaurin, WR

McLaurin jumps off the page here. He was pretty ‘scary’ in his rookie season, racking up 919 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games, good enough for 30th overall in fantasy receiver scoring. There isn’t much competition for targets in Washington due to injuries. McLaurin’s floor is high as Quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ safety blanket, and if Haskins progresses this year, the sky’s the limit for McLaurin’s ceiling.

Player I’m Avoiding: Dwayne Haskins, QB

Haskins deserves a bit of a pass since many quarterbacks don’t perform well their rookie year, plus he didn’t play a full season. He was inconsistent, only completing 59 percent of his passes and had seven touchdowns to seven interceptions in the nine games he played. I think he will improve this year, but the team lacks firepower, and there are just too many proven options you can take as your QB2 instead.

Sleeper: Antonio Gibson / Bryce Love, RBs

I don’t think Gibson will be a traditional three-down back, but the kid is explosive with the ball in his hands. The knock on Gibson is that he only saw 77 total touches in college playing behind Tony Pollard and Darrell Henderson at Memphis. Of those 77 touches, he only toted it 33 times, but he made the most of those carries, averaging 8.4 yards. The team’s release of Derrius Guice opens up some opportunities for Gibson. My concern is he’ll split time as the pass-catching back behind Adrian Peterson and my other sleeper, Bryce Love, as I outline in the next paragraph.

Bust: Adrian Peterson, RB

Despite his play the last two years, the thirty-five-year-old Peterson’s age is a concern along with his lack of receptions. He has to slow down at some point, and the team will undoubtedly want to evaluate the talent behind him.

Love was electric in college and is gaining momentum in camp. “He’s a guy that’s multi-dimensional,” Head Coach Ron Rivera said. “At Stanford, he didn’t have to do a lot of routes and pass-catching, but he’s very capable and we’re getting to see that. This is a guy that could be an every-down back for you. He’s an explosive, dynamic player.”

Peterson may be the leading ball carrier to start the season, but I see Love and Gibson taking over as a one-two punch. If Love and Gibson are unable to contribute early in the season, be ready to pounce if they get dropped in your league.

New York Giants

Player I’m drafting: Daniel Jones, QB / Saquon Barkley, RB

Barkley is obvious here and is the #2 running back on my board only behind Christian McCaffrey. His numbers suffered a bit last year due to a high ankle sprain, but a healthy Barkley is a lock to replicate the success he had as a rookie.

Daniel Jones had some big-time performances in his rookie year, including four games with four or more touchdowns and five 300-yard games. He was the QB15 in PPR last year, without having Barkley, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate on the field at the same time. With all his weapons now in tow, Jones is currently a steal in the 10th round.

Player I’m avoiding: None

Sleeper: Evan Engram, TE

Engram has the stigma of being injury-prone, and fantasy players seem to be risk-averse when it comes to drafting him. Engram entered training camp healthy, and I believe he and Chris Herndon are the only two tight ends with the opportunity and talent to match the production of the “big four” – Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Zach Ertz, and Mark Andrews. Both are positioned to be one of the top two targets on their teams and have proven their efficiency. Engram and Herndon are going in the 7th and 13th rounds, respectively. That is crazy value for two tight ends who could crack the Top 5, and you don’t have to waste an early draft pick on one of the big names. If you draft Engram, grab his back-up Kaden Smith as insurance. The second-year player, formerly with the 49ers, filled in admirably when Engram was hurt last season. Smith had at least five receptions in four of his last six games. He is a big target at 6’5″, 249 pounds, and scored three touchdowns on six receptions against Washington in Week 16.

Bust: Darius Slayton, WR

Slayton got a lot of playing time in his rookie season due to several injuries on the Giants offense. He will have more competition for targets this year with Engram, Sterling Shepard and Barkley healthy. He’ll still see plenty of snaps alongside Shepard and Golden Tate in three-wide sets as the team’s deep threat, but will probably be more hit or miss. Being taken in the 8th round, I find myself selecting other players there that have more opportunity upside.

Dallas Cowboys

Player I’m drafting: Ezekiel Elliott, RB

With two rushing titles in his three full seasons, Elliott is as safe of a pick as they come. He’s finished Top 5 in PPR points in three straight seasons. Although his receptions dropped slightly last year, he spent the off-season working on his receiving skills and lining up out wide or in the slot. The Cowboys now have a top receiver trio with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb, so defenders will be unable to load the box. Zeke is going to eat, like when he stuffed his face with cereal in the Cowboys’ mesmerizingly odd ‘Breakfast Club’ video.

Bust: Amari Cooper, WR

I can’t justify taking Cooper at his current ADP of 38. He was the 10th best in receiving points last year, but he’s too inconsistent. He had less than six receptions in 12 games and had fewer than ten fantasy points in six. Lamb’s addition means there are now three alphas at the position vying for the same ball. I’ll rather take Gallup three rounds later.

Sleeper: Micheal Gallup, WR

Gallup was almost on par with Cooper in terms of efficiency last year. According to PFF, Cooper ranked 8th out of 86 receivers in yards per route run with 2.29, Gallup was 10th with 2.16. During the last eight weeks of the season, Gallup was WR10 and out-produced Cooper. Cooper and Lamb will be competing for snaps out of the slot, where they both excel. Meanwhile, Gallup will maintain his role on the outside away from the slot, where he ranked fifth in yards per route run (2.41) and fourth in yards after the catch (5.1).

Player I’m avoiding: Blake Jarwin, TE

I’m not actually avoiding Jarwin, but I’m not actively targeting him either because his role on this team is a bit of an enigma. In part-time duty, he demonstrated efficiency as a receiver and his 11.8 yards per reception ranked him 11th among tight ends with at least 40 targets. Jason Witten, Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin are now gone, leaving 190 vacated targets. The issue for Jarwin this season is just how many of those targets will he see sharing the field with arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL. As long as you temper expectations, he’s a value at his current ADP in the 12th round, and a bargain in TE premium leagues.