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NFC East fantasy team previews

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After spending all summer analyzing teams, player situations, and tracking news to get prepared for the 2019 season -- it's time to get down to the fun stuff. To get you prepared to draft your squads this season, my fantasy team previews discuss every fantasy-relevant skill position player, positional strategy, and where I have players ranked versus their NFL.com average draft position (ADP). Let's get to it!

Dallas Cowboys


Quarterback: Dak Prescott is one of the most alluring late-round QB targets this year. Scott Linehan is gone, and former QBs coach Kellen Moore is tasked with renovating the offense and calling plays. Moore will hopefully help the offense run more efficiently by simply doing away with some of the tendencies that made the Cowboys attack predictable. No team has been more run-heavy on first down than Dallas (59 percent run rate) over the last three years while Linehan's attack never ranked higher than 20th in pace of play (seconds in between snaps) in this span. Prescott and Moore also have the luxury of a full offseason to design their pass offense around Amari Cooper, who exploded in Dallas after leaving the confines of Oakland. Cooper's midseason addition significantly raised Prescott's ceiling, as Dak averaged more fantasy points (24.0 PPG vs. 19.8 PPG), more passing yards (274.1 YPG vs. 202.4), and a better YPA (7.7 vs 6.9) with Cooper on the field. Prescott's floor will always be high because of his added rushing ability -- only Cam Newton has seen more carries per game inside of the ten-yard line (red-zone) among QBs over the last three years -- while Cooper's presence raises Dak's ceiling. A soft early-season schedule (vs. Giants, at Redskins, vs. Dolphins) is icing on the cake here and should allow Dak and Co. to find a groove early.

-- Prescott (Rk: QB11 vs. ADP: QB17)


Running Back: After seeing 77 targets in 25 regular season games in his first two seasons, Ezekiel Elliott more than doubled his career target total last season. Zeke's 95 targets ranked fifth-most among backs while only Saquon Barkley, Todd Gurley, Christian McCaffrey, and James Conner ran more pass routes per game than Elliott. Zeke has led the NFL in rushing yards per game in each of his first three seasons and he finally became a true three-down workhorse last year with spiked opportunity in the passing game. Elliott is also a great bet to score more TDs in 2019 after hitting paydirt just three times on his 22 carries inside-the-ten (red-zone) last year. Among the 14 backs to see 20 or more inside-the-ten (red-zone) carries last year, Ezekiel Elliott's 3 inside-the-ten TDs ranked last. The other 13 RBs averaged 8 touchdowns on their inside-the-ten scoring opportunities. With only Tony Pollard, Mike Weber, and Darius Jackson on the depth chart behind him and no one threatening his involvement in the pass game -- Dallas quietly has the 10th-most targets available -- Zeke is a no-brainer top-three pick and worthy of taking first overall in all formats. Elliott is holding out to begin camp, but his situation is far different than Melvin Gordon. The Cowboys hold Zeke's rights for the next two seasons, whereas Gordon is entering the fifth year of his deal and can become a free agent in 2020. I'll be shocked if Dallas doesn't have a deal in place by Week 1. While Zeke has been training in Cabo this summer, rookie Tony Pollard has been busy balling out in the preseason and in Cowboys camp. Chasing handcuffs is usually a sucker play in fantasy, but Pollard is arguably one of the three most valuable true 'cuffs in fantasy right now. The Cowboys depth chart behind Elliott and Pollard is razor-thin. If you draft Zeke in the first-round, go out of your way to over-draft Pollard two to three rounds ahead of his ADP before your leaguemates entertain sniping him away.

-- Elliott (Rk: RB4 vs. ADP: RB4); Pollard (Rk: RB56 vs. ADP: RB57)


Wide Receiver: This was Dak Prescott's target distribution in 11 regular and postseason games with Amari Cooper last year: Cooper (95), Elliott (69), Gallup (62), TEs (51), and Beasley (49)... We still don't know who the real Amari Cooper is, but we're going to find out in 2019. After leaving Derek Carr and his Raiders' baggage behind, Cooper set a career-high in target share (25 percent) while recording 60 yards and/or score in 7-of-11 regular and postseason games with Dak Prescott. Cooper met that mark just eight times in his final 20 games with Derek Carr. Cooper's chemistry with Carr always lacked in Oakland, as his catchable target rate (percentage of passes "on target" per PFF) was more than 10 points higher in his first half-season with Dak Prescott (74.5 percent) than with Carr (64 percent) for his entire career. The fantasy industry is all-in on Cooper, though, and you will have to be aggressive to get him on draft day. Cooper's current ADP on NFL.com is in the early-third round (30 overall), which is a few slots higher than George Kittle, A.J. Green, Devonta Freeman, Julian Edelman, and Stefon Diggs. Without Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams, the Cowboys will turn to Michael Gallup on the perimeter and Randall Cobb in the slot to round out their receiver corps in 11-personnel (3WR). The rub with Cobb is simple -- can he stay healthy? -- while Gallup presents an interesting buy opportunity in the late-rounds. I think Dallas will lean slightly more pass-heavy under former QBs coach Kellen Moore this year and Gallup is already set up to walk into a few more passing looks because of Dallas' personnel changes. Gallup's spiked weeks may be hard to predict, but he's the only bankable way to get cheap exposure to this ascending pass offense. Cobb is a PPR-only play.

-- Cooper (Rk: WR12 vs. ADP: WR13); Gallup (Rk: WR55 vs. ADP: WR53)


Tight End: After spending a year off in the MNF booth, 37-year-old Jason Witten un-retired, rejoining the Cowboys this spring. Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, and Rico Gathers are behind Witten on the depth chart. The future HoF-er showed little burst after the catch in his final three years in Dallas, as Witten's 9.5 YPR from 2015-17 ranked 22nd-of-23 TEs. Likely on a snap count this season, Witten is an unattractive fantasy target in the late rounds. He'll be a streamer during the bye weeks, but I'd rather throw a higher upside dart late in drafts.

New York Giants


Quarterback: Now 38-years-old and with Daniel Jones pushing for starts this season, Eli Manning inspires little confidence in 2019. That's especially true now that Odell Beckham Jr. is a Brown. From 2014-18, Manning played 59 games with OBJ and 20 games without him on the field. Over these five seasons, all of Manning's traditional passing stats -- completions (64 percent vs. 61 percent), YPA (7.2 vs. 6.5), TDs per game (2.2 vs. 1.4), and YPG (271.6 vs. 229.7) -- dipped drastically without Beckham on the field. As a team, the Giants averaged 4.5 fewer offensive points per game without OBJ. Duke's offensive line and receiver corps did Daniel Jones no favors in college, but as a passer, Jones' college pedigree is below what you normally expect from a No. 6 overall pick. In 19 games against Power 5 teams in his final two seasons, Jones completed just 56 percent of his passes, he threw for a horrific 5.9 yards per attempt, and owned a 26:17 TD to INT ratio. New York knows the time to turn the page on Manning is near, though. Jones is far more mobile than Manning at this point in his career, which isn't saying much, but his ability to evade pressure and extend plays with his feet should hopefully earn Jones playing time early in the season. Still, outside of 2QB leagues, Manning and Jones aren't fantasy-relevant on a run-first team.

Running Back: After resetting the record books in his rookie season, Saquon Barkley enters 2019 as the most valuable asset in fantasy football. Barkley beat Eric Dickerson's 1983 record of most PPR points scored in a single-season by a rookie, and he arguably has higher expectations in his second year. Odell Beckham's departure lowers the Giants' scoring ceiling, but the Giants are going to force feed their most talented player with touches behind a revamped offensive line. New York acquired G Kevin Zeitler from Cleveland this spring to pair with hog mollie Will Hernandez in the interior. New York is also getting C Jon Halapio is also back from injury. All of the Giants moves over the past two years have centered around making Barkley the focal point of the offense, and the 2019 season will be the proverbial payoff pitch. Barkley has one of the best roles in fantasy as a receiver -- he led all RBs in routes run per game and was third in targets as a rookie -- combined with a legitimate ceiling of 300 or more carries. He's the no-brainer No. 1 overall pick in PPR leagues.

-- Barkley (Rk: RB1 vs. ADP: RB1)


Wide Receiver: Outside of Sterling Shepard, the Giants receiver corps also inspirise little confidence. Free agent addition Golden Tate has primarily been an interior receiver over the last three seasons, aligning out of the slot on 55 percent of his snaps in this span. The problem is that Shepard (71 percent slot rate) has been a near full-time interior receiver while 36 of Evan Engram's 101 career receptions have come aligned out of the slot. Shepard will see a lot more defensive attention on the boundary without defenses giving Beckham extra attention this season, but he has quietly been slightly more productive on the outside despite running the majority of his routes from the interior. Per PFF, Shepard has gained 1.4 receiving yards per route run as a boundary receiver versus 1.0 YPRR in the slot. Tate's addition makes these splits a little less predictive, but Shepard has averaged a robust 8.6 targets per game without Beckham on the field in his career (6.3 T/G with OBJ). With little behind them on the depth chart, Shepard and Tate will receive the bulk of the Giants targets this year. How efficient they will be with Manning/Jones at the controls is another question. Tate will miss the first four games of the season due to suspension, locking in Shepard as the No. 1 wideout for the first month of the season. Shepard's 2019 got off to a precarious start, too -- he broke his thumb on the first day of camp -- while projected No. 3 wideout Corey Coleman tore his ACL the very next day. Shepard is expected to be fine for Week 1, but Tate and Coleman's absence just makes me want Evan Engram on my fantasy teams even more.

-- Shepard (Rk: WR38 vs. ADP: WR41); Tate (Rk: WR57 vs. ADP: WR49)


Tight End: There is plenty of opportunity to be had in New York, and Evan Engram has proven he's an elite producer with Beckham off the field. Over the last two years, Engram has averaged 13.8 PPR points per game in games OBJ has missed while only Kelce (17.0) and Ertz (16.1) have averaged more PPG over the last two years. Engram has seen five or more targets in all 14 games without Beckham while his 8.2 passing looks per contest would, once again, trail only Kelce (8.9 T/G) and Ertz (8.8 T/G) in this span. Only seven tight ends have put up more receiving yards in their first two years as a pro than Engram, and the players ahead of him on this list is a "who's who" of current and formerly elite TEs: Kittle, Gronkowski, Graham, Hernandez, Shockey, Gates, and Witten. Engram is a top-6 lock at the position and could push for a top-3 finish as the Giants de facto No. 1 receiver.

-- Engram (Rk: TE5 vs. ADP: TE5)


Philadelphia Eagles


Quarterback:After two season-ending injuries, Carson Wentz has unfairly been labeled as injury-prone. Wentz's poor luck needs context. An ACL-tear ended on a diving play into the endzone his MVP campaign in 2017 and Wentz returned to the field a little over nine months after the injury. Then, after Week 14 last year, a report surfaced that Wentz fractured vertebrae in his back, ending his season. Even though Wentz has been in and out of the lineup over the last two years, he has remained a fantasy week winner. Wentz is fantasy football's QB5 in points per game while his 6.4 percent touchdown rate ranks third-best behind Mahomes and Wilson in this span. Wentz is surrounded by the best weapons of his career and the Eagles league-best OL was restocked further after GM Howie Roseman traded up in front of Houston to select T Andre Dilliard at No. 22 overall. DeSean Jackson is the true X-factor in this offense, though. Even at 32-years-old, D-Jax remains one of the league's best deep threats as eight of his 15 top speeds recorded in the last three years came during 2018 per Next Gen Stats. In Jackson, the Eagles finally have the perfect complement to their hulking receiver corps of Jeffery (6-3, 220lbs), Ertz (6-5, 247lbs), Goedert (6-5, 256lbs) and Arcega-Whiteside (6-2, 225lbs). I'm auto-drafting Wentz as my QB1 when he slips into the 9th and 10th round of drafts.

-- Wentz (Rk: QB6 vs. ADP: QB10)


Running Back: Injuries and a constantly shuffling depth chart has contributed to Doug Pederson's backfield turned RBBC over the last three years. For context, a single Eagles' RB has played over 60 percent of snaps just three times in Pederson's 53 regular and postseason games as HC. Philadelphia has searched high and low for a lead back over the last few years -- they traded for Jay Ajayi and were linked to Dalvin Cook in the 2018 Draft -- but they may have finally found a workhorse in 2019. Miles Sanders took over as Penn State's every-down back last season, handling 74 percent of the teams' hand-offs while playing 75 percent of snaps in place of Saquon Barkley. As a one-year starter in college, Sanders' vision and understanding of play-design unsurprisingly needs refinement, but he flashed explosive one-cut ability to go along with his bell-cow status on his limited college sample. Per my Yards Created analysis, Sanders trails only Mixon, Chubb, Barkley, Hunt, Cook, and Jacobs in missed tackles forced by elusiveness among collegiate runners to enter the NFL draft over the last four years. Sanders was also used exclusively in shotgun formations in college, which will bode well for his transition in Philadelphia. Doug Pederson has called run out of shotgun at the league's second and fifth-highest rates over the last two seasons. Sanders' path to a three-down role only includes beating out Jordan Howard, who has seen his ground efficiency wane (3.9 YPC; 47 percent success rate; 0.10 missed tackles per carry) over the last two years compared to his 2016 rookie season (5.2 YPC; 50 percent success rate; 0.16 missed tackles per carry). Howard is a notoriously poor receiver, to boot -- ranking 46th-of-48 RBs in catch rate and 44th in yards per target over the last three combined seasons. Fantasy football is a forward-thinking game, and the Eagles are showing that they are trying to break their RBBC tendency by using a premium draft pick (No. 53 overall) on a running back they coveted. Howard's presence may dampen Sanders' TD ceiling in the red-zone, but the rookie offers league-winning upside at his seventh-round draft day cost attached to a potential top-5 offense.

-- Sanders (Rk: RB28 vs. ADP: RB31); Howard (Rk: RB42 vs. ADP: RB37)


Wide Receiver:This was Carson Wentz's target distribution in his 11 starts last season: Ertz (116), Jeffery (74), Agholor (60), RBs (59), Goedert (33), Tate (30)... The Eagles will now be able to stretch the field both horizontally and vertically in both their 2WR and 3WR sets, thanks to Jackson's still-blazing speed. D-Jax doesn't need a lot of targets to have fantasy week-winning performances, either. A top-36 scorer in PPR points per game in 8 of his 11 career seasons, Jackson looks awfully cheap in the 10th-11th round. Alshon Jeffery is also being slept on at his ADP. In 23 Wentz starts, Jeffery has seen a robust 7.8 targets per game while his 13.3 points per game ranks 21st among all receivers. After missing the first three games of the 2018 season rehabbing his shoulder, Jeffery went on to post a career-high in catch rate (71 percent) -- an impressive figure since his 11.1 air yards per target (average distance of target downfield) led the Eagles. Jeffery was extremely efficient on his targets last year, leading all Eagles pass catchers in YPA (9.0) and success rate (60 percent). Nelson Agholor has developed into a slot weapon, but his target volume is threatened by Jackson and Arcega-Whiteside's additions while Dallas Goedert is just waiting to be unleashed. I'm drafting Jeffery and Jackson aggressively and taking Agholor late in full-point PPR formats only.

-- Jeffery (Rk: WR26 vs. ADP: WR29); Jackson (Rk: WR43 vs. ADP: WR47)


Tight End: Injuries to Jeffery (missed 3 games), Mike Wallace (missed 14 games), Darren Sproles (banged up all season) allowed Zach Ertz to set the TE record in targets (156) and receptions (116) in a single-season. It's likely that Ertz's volume normalizes closer to his career figures in 2019. Before seeing 9.8 targets per game last year, Ertz averaged between 7.5 and 7.9 targets per contest in each of his three previous seasons. Paying a top-30 overall pick in fantasy for consistency certainly has merit -- Ertz has been the TE2 or TE3 in PPR points per game in each of the last three seasons -- but there are a lot of mouths to feed in Philadelphia. Dallas Goedert is the final X-factor. After using two or more tight ends on the field at an NFL-high 42 percent clip last season, Philadelphia is one of the few teams that could support two fantasy-relevant tight ends. But, as PFF's Scott Barrett pointed out (https://www.pff.com/news/fantasy-football-dallas-goedert-breakout-fantasy-tight-end), only five teams have supported two top-15 fantasy TEs in the same season since 2000. The Eagles will be one of the most dangerous teams in the league when they go into 12-personnel (1RB, 2TE, 2WR), but I worry Goedert will frustrate fantasy managers who expect him to be a weekly starter. Unless Philadelphia uses 2TE sets almost exclusively, like the 2011 Patriots with Gronkowski/Hernandez, Goedert will struggle to see enough targets as he will continue to play behind Ertz in the Eagles three-receiver formations.

-- Ertz (Rk: TE3 vs. ADP: TE2); Goedert (Rk: TE21 vs. ADP: TE18)


Washington Redskins


Quarterback: Injuries decimated Washington in 2018, causing them to bottom out at 28th in passing yardage after previously ranking inside of the top-12 for four-straight seasons under HC Jay Gruden. The Redskins are returning 4-of-5 starters across their offensive line -- Ereck Flowers is the lone weak spot at LG -- but LT Trent Williams is unhappy with his contract and is currently holding out. Going into the season without Trent Williams would be an unmitigated disaster for the Redskins as they face the Eagles, Cowboys, and Bears front sevens in their first three games. On paper, the Redskins have one of the 10 or 12 best lines in the league -- but they have only had their core of Williams, RT Morgan Moses, and RG Brandon Scherff on the field for 17-of-32 possible games over the past two years. Hopefully, the injury bug stays away from their OL this year -- but Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins are 2-QB league only fantasy picks on a Redskins team that is searching for an identity. Keenum has the inside track to win the starting job in training camp, but his career YPA is a pedestrian 6.7 yards if you remove his 2017 season with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs (7.4 YPA). He should have next to zero job security with Haskins waiting in the wings.

Running Back: Derrius Guice will be a little over a year removed from his 2018 preseason ACL tear by the time Week 1 rolls around, but significant injury concerns aren't past him yet. Guice's reconstructed ACL required three additional post-operation surgeries. It seemed minor, but Guice also tweaked his hamstring in mid-July after already being questionable (due to his knee) for the start of training camp. As Guice's veteran insurance, Adrian Peterson was brought back on a one-year pact after he rushed for 262/1,117/7 at 33-years-old last season. A deep dive into the numbers showed AD still had "it" last year as Peterson incredibly finished tied for 13th in missed tackles forced and was tied for 14th in yards after contact among 47 qualifying RBs. Peterson won't touch his 2018 volume if Guice manages to stay healthy and neither back will be heavily involved in the passing game if Chris Thompson can stay on the field. Over the last two seasons, Thompson has finished 7th and 10th among all RBs in routes run per game while gobbling up 4.0 receptions/game in this span. Thompson moderately interests me in PPR leagues as a cheap RB5 while drafting Guice and Peterson requires a leap of faith.

-- Guice (Rk: RB40 vs. ADP: RB34); Peterson (Rk: RB45 vs. ADP: RB52); Thompson (Rk: RB57 vs. ADP: RB60)


Wide Receiver: Drafting a Redskins receiver requires even more hope than selecting one of their RBs. Washington has five wideouts -- Josh Doctson, Trey Quinn, Paul Richardson, 2019 third-rounder Terry McLaurin, and sixth-rounder Kelvin Harmon -- that will push for significant playing time. Doctson and Richardson are currently the favorites to form the Redskins perimeter while Quinn has the inside track on the slot. In truth, no one knows what the Redskins 3WR set will be right now. McLaurin is a sneaky bet to earn snaps early, though. Haskins to McLaurin earned the second-highest yards per target (13.2) in the class, besting Kyler Murray to Hollywood Brown (12.6) for the top-two spot. McLaurin also offers something the Washington receiver room has lacked since DeSean Jackson. McLaurin ripped up the combine, earning a 95th percentile speed score (4.35 forty) and a 77th percentile burst score per Playerprofiler.com. Doctson led the Redskins receivers in targets last year, but with more competition behind him -- he's no safe bet to repeat. Richardson is back healthy off a broken collarbone that he tried to play through last season while the two rookies will push for snaps in training camp. It's a crowded receiver room in Washington.

Tight End: Prior to missing his final three games of 2018 with a toe injury, Jordan Reed led Washington in targets, receptions, and yards. Reed was fantasy's TE7 in Weeks 1-14, with OJ Howard and Trey Burton only marginally behind him. Reed wasn't a league winner last season, but he offers late-round value for those waiting on a TE. With a receiver room in flux, Reed is a safe bet to lead Washington in targets once again. It hasn't always been pretty, but Reed's 2018 pace put him on track for his third top-10 finish in four years. Besides, Keenum/Haskins isn't worse than the Smith/McCoy/Johnson trio Reed played with last year. This is notably Reed's first offseason in three years where he is not rehabbing an injury and Reed mentioned early in camp that he feels more explosive this season now that he's fully healthy. It's a boring value, but Reed is easily my favorite fantasy target on the team and is my top late-round target when I miss out on the early-round options.

-- Reed (Rk: TE11 vs. ADP: TE16)

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