Studs and Duds: NFC East preview

By Seth McCaskill

Sports Blogger

@sethmcasill

 

Dallas Cowboys

Stud: Dez Bryant, wide receiver

(Felipe Mac, Flickr)

Dez Bryant was not able to throw up the X as often as he would have liked to the past two seasons, but no one can question his unbelievable talent. Although there are some durability concerns, his injuries have not really been lingering and he has been healthy all offseason, as well as training camp. With Ezekiel Elliot expected to be suspended for the first six games of the season, the Cowboys are expected to let Dak Prescott handle more of the offensive duties, which is great news for Bryant, as the two have had a full offseason to develop and understand how to utilize each other’s skillsets. There is plenty of reason to believe Bryant can again have a similar fantasy impact as he did in 2014, when he hauled in 16 touchdown passes.

Dud: Darren McFadden, running back

Most fantasy owners expect Darren McFadden to step in to the lead-back role while Ezekiel Elliot serves his suspension, but it is more likely that he shares those duties with Alfred Morris, and to a lesser extent, Rod Smith. McFadden had a good season in 2015, rushing for over 1,000 yards for the second time in his career, but he is now past 30 years old and that normally does not bode well for running backs. Morris is also a former 1,000-yard rusher, too, and he has also looked solid during the preseason to provide McFadden with some competition. McFadden is still likely to start and receive the bulk of the carries, but his inability to find the end zone, coupled with his age and fellow running backs, should keep him from being worthy of a spot in your fantasy lineup.

New York Giants

Stud: Evan Engram, tight end

In all the talk about the Giants’ crowded receiving corps, first-round pick Evan Engram is rarely brought up. It is fair to question whether he can find any targets in a group that features Pro Bowl receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, as well as Sterling Sheperd, who was one of the best slot receivers in the NFL as a rookie. However, there is a lot to like about Engram, as he has the size of a tight end at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds, while possessing 4.4 speed that competes with many elite receivers. This makes him an excellent option for Eli Manning on deep routes up the seam, and he should be a threatening presence in the red zone. Although he likely will not put up top-five tight end numbers as a rookie, he is an interesting sleeper who could find his way into the top 10.

Dud: Paul Perkins, running back

Paul Perkins does not face much pressure to earn playing time and he shouldn’t have any trouble locking down the starting job after putting up decent numbers in his first season. He does not provide much touchdown or receiving potential at all, however, as he failed to find the end zone and recorded only 15 receptions last season. Also, the only time he carried the ball more than 20 times was 21 in the final game of last season. He forced only 10 missed tackles and gained few yards after contact. Although Manning and all of his targets are solid fantasy options that should make for a good offense, don’t expect Perkins to have the impact of an RB1 or RB2.

Philadelphia Eagles

Stud: Carson Wentz, quarterback

Although fellow NFC East rookie quarterback Dak Prescott was setting the world on fire and becoming a fantasy star last season, Carson Wentz struggled mightily for most of his debut season. He had a decent start with four 20-plus point performances in his first five games but suffered a massive drop off the rest of the season, failing to put up 20 points again and threw more interceptions than touchdowns. There are plenty of reasons for optimism, though. He has a much improved receiving corps with the additions of former Pro Bowler Alshon Jeffrey and deep-threat Torrey Smith, while returning dependable tight end Zach Ertz. He should also improve after another full offseason and training camp under his belt, as he has a high football IQ that should bode well for improvement in his sophomore season.

Dud: Nelson Agholor, wide receiver

Agholor came into the NFL with a fair amount of hype surrounding him after being taken with the 20th overall pick of the 2015 draft out of USC. He was expected to become Philadelphia’s next great receiver but has failed to live up to that billing so far in his career. He’s expected to be a slot receiver in 2017 and many are hoping this year could finally be a breakout for him. With Torrey Smith, Alshon Jeffrey and Zach Ertz all on the roster, it does not seem likely that there will by many targets available for Agholor, which will severely limit his fantasy production. He could wind up being a decent sleeper if he can carve out a niche in the Eagles’ new-look offense but the chances of him producing enough to be worthy of a starting spot in your fantasy lineup are not very high.

 

Washington Redskins

Stud: Terrelle Pryor Sr., wide receiver

After struggling for five years to find a place for himself as a quarterback in the NFL, Terrelle Pryor switched to wide receiver last offseason and immediately had a breakout year for the Cleveland Browns, ranking 23rd out of all receivers in fantasy. He racked up a 1,000-yard season and hauled in four touchdowns, as well as one rushing. The seventh-year pro accomplished all of this while playing for a bad Browns team, as 26.7 percent of balls thrown in his direction were off target, and he still managed to produce at a high level. Factor in that number with the fact that he now has an arguably elite quarterback in Kirk Cousins throwing to him, and all signs point toward him being even better in his second season as a receiver.

Dud: Rob Kelley, running back

Rob Kelley, a former undrafted free agent, was a solid fantasy player after he became the lead running back for the Redskins halfway through last season. Former Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine was drafted in the fourth round and should give Kelley a run for his money after an impressive college career, although there’s certainly no guarantee he gets the No. spot. Chris Thompson also gets a good amount of reps in the passing game, which makes Kelley less valuable in PPR leagues. Washington figures to be a more pass-heavy team taking into consideration Kirk Cousins and all of the weapons he has. You can do worse thanKelley as an RB2, but you would be better off looking for someone with higher upside.

ozone@ocolly.com

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