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What To Watch For: NFC East (Fantasy Football)

By Ryan Weisse

The most significant additions in the NFC East won’t ever play a single snap, because the most significant additions were coaches. Three of the four teams changed head coaches this off-season, and every one of them has an impact on fantasy football. Mike McCarthy and Ron Rivera will throw the ball more in Dallas and Washington, respectively. While in New York, Joe Judge will let Jason Garrett run the offense — meaning we get to see the same offense that worked so well in Dallas. Even Philadelphia made a change, with head coach Doug Pederson opting not to hire an offensive coordinator, but a collective of offensive coaches to contribute while he continues to call the plays in 2020. The Eagles’ offense is typically good for fantasy, so more of the same should be just fine.

These scheme changes mean there are more than a few things to keep an eye on in the NFC East, and that’s what this series is all about. So, here is “What to Watch for in the NFC East in 2020.”

Dallas Cowboys

The Best Insurance Policy

Tony Pollard, the best insurance policy in fantasy football.

First, Fifth, Tenth, Eighth — that’s how the Dallas Cowboys ranked in rushing attempts over the last four years. Second, Second, Tenth, Fifth — that’s their ranks in rushing yards over that same period. While they changed head coaches this year, their OC remains the same, and Kellen Moore is going to feed the RB. He’s going to feed Zeke… but what about Tony Pollard? Pollard’s ADP puts him as the RB47, going in the 13th Round of fantasy drafts. If Zeke gets hurt, he is likely a top-10 fantasy back and you can take him when other people are drafting their kicker.

The only way to explain this low ADP is that people do not see his standalone value. Pollard was just the RB53 as a rookie, why will he have more value this year? The addition of new head coach Mike McCarthy should lead to more passing attempts and Pollard should be a primary beneficiary. He was targeted just 20 times last year, catching 15 balls for 107 yards and a touchdown. Of those 20 targets, 16 came in the last eight games and Pollard was the RB45 during that stretch but had four games as a top-40 RB and two games where he was an RB1 last year. His ultimate value is if Zeke gets hurt, but Pollard may emerge as a pass-catcher in 2020, making him a steal in the last three rounds of your fantasy draft.

Philadelphia Eagles

Can Goedert Repeat

Can Dallas Goedert be a fantasy TE1 again?

The Philadelphia Eagles were a bit of an anomaly last season. No wide receiver on the team could stay healthy and that led to them having not one, but two tight ends finish as top-10 in fantasy football. The last time this happened was 2011 when the Patriots had Gronk and Aaron Hernandez. That was also the only other time it’s happened in the last 20 years. The question is: Can they do it again? In the vast wasteland that is fantasy tight ends, is Dallas Goedert going to have TE1 value while playing behind Zach Ertz?

The answer is likely yes. The injuries of last season have already started, with Alshon Jeffery starting the season on the active PUP list. New addition Marquise Goodwin made the decision to opt-out due to COVID this season, leaving the Eagles with an oft-injured DeSean Jackson and a lot of unproven talent at wide receiver. Last year, under similar circumstances, the Eagles targeted their tight ends a league-high 235 times. Even if this number drops a bit, Goedert is still likely to see 75 targets and that would put him 13th in TE targets from 2019. Over the last two seasons, he’s caught around 70% of the balls thrown his way and scored nine total TDs. If he plays to his average, 75 targets should be just enough to keep him in the TE1 ranks in fantasy football.

New York Giants

The Jason Garrett Effect

The addition of Jason Garrett should have you excited for this team in fantasy football.

Look, I get it. The name Jason Garrett brings an immediate eye roll (and hand clap) from just about anyone that has watched football in the last ten years. While Garrett’s days as a head coach did not lead to any Super Bowls, his impact on fantasy football is undeniable. Position by position is the best way to show this. Garrett took over as head coach for the Cowboys in 2011 and for nine years, fantasy was fun in Dallas.

At QB: No healthy Dallas quarterback finished worse than QB11 in a season and, on average, they finished as the QB8 in fantasy football. Dak Prescott was the QB2 last year. Garrett should elevate Daniel Jones to the QB1 ranks and that is good news for the rest of the offense.

At RB: Starting in 2013, no Dallas RB has finished worse than RB13 in fantasy football and Zeke has averaged top-5 fantasy points every year he has been in the league. Saquon Barkley was already a hot commodity and Garrett will do nothing to stunt his growth.

At WR: Quarterback success leads to wide receiver success. Dallas had at least one wide receiver in the top-24 in seven of the nine seasons that Garrett was there. Four times, two of their wide receivers finished in the top-24. While finishing as a WR2 or better isn’t a huge feat, every one of the Giants receivers are being drafted outside of the top-40 and it’s likely that two of them are going to outplay their ADP. My bet would be on Darius Slayton and Golden Tate but even Sterling Shepard should be a solid play in 2020.

At TE: The only year Jason Witten wasn’t a TE1 with Garrett was 2018. He was retired. He came back from that retirement and finished as the TE11 in 2019. If Evan Engram stays on the field, he’s a TE1, there is no question about it. But that is a big if.

Every position of this team benefits from what Jason Garrett will bring to New York but, outside of Barkley, they are all being under-drafted. Enjoy that value.

The Washington, D.C. Football Team of Football Players That Play Football in Washington, D.C.

Steven Sims Jr

You will know Steven Sims’ name by the end of this season.

You may not know what to call the football team that plays in Washington, D.C. but you will know at least two of their receivers by name by season’s end. To start, Terry McLaurin is a stud and you should be taking him in the 5th Round of every draft you participate in this year. But, while I could talk to you about F1 for as long as you’d listen, you probably know his name already. Steven Sims Jr. is someone you should get familiar with very quickly.

There are many things not to like about this football team and, for fantasy football, most of them start with the abysmal play of QB Dwayne Haskins last year. While Haskins wasn’t great, I’m not concerned. First off, it’s a hard transition to the NFL, so he’ll naturally improve in Year 2. Secondly, they are going to throw the ball more — new head coach Ron Rivera threw the ball 150 more times in Carolina than Washington did in 2019. Third, Sims has already proven himself, you just didn’t notice.

Over the last five games of 2019, four of which with Haskins at QB, Sims was the WR15 in fantasy football. Over just the last three games, he was the WR7. While it’s a small sample size, if you extrapolate those five games over a season, he would have 70 receptions for 780 yards and 12 TDs, and that was on a team that finished bottom-5 in passing attempts. He’s not going to score 12 TDs but 70 for 780 is possible and he’s not even being drafted in most fantasy leagues. If you’re looking for a late-round lottery ticker, Sims is worth your consideration.