NFC East Preview
Looking at offseason changes
Now that camps are opening and we are finishing our rookie rankings, we thought it was a good time to start rolling out our team reports, which will be released by division. Old Rotobahn readers know the drill, but for you newbies, the goal here is to get you back up to fantasy speed. If you’ve been eating, breathing and sleeping baseball, we’re here for you. Let’s play a little catch-up. The key things on the docket are coaching changes, rookies and key free agent moves.
In this article, boring is a good thing. The Giants, as boring as teams come from a management and coaching perspective, have continuity, and that’s as good a reason as any to count on a general bounce-back from this offense.
In the draft, the focus was on the trenches. The Giants high level of play on both the OL and DL should continue. They added depth at quarterback with Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib and they added some backfield depth with UMass’ Michael Cox. They also made a few solid free agent moves. The two most notable for fantasy GMs would be TE Brandon Myers and WR Lou Murphy. Murphy will likely be the 4th receiver and have minimal fantasy appeal without injuries ahead of him. Myers could end up having TE1 value in 12-team leagues if things break right. One factor will be the development of second year TE Adrien Robinson, who has outstanding athleticism and is having a strong offseason.
The key battles in training camp will involve the mentioned tight ends, and, in theory, the backfield, where Andre Brown will compete with last year’s first round pick David Wilson for the starter's spot vacated by Ahmad Bradshaw. Both players will have substantive fantasy value unless Wilson simply explodes, which is possible. The Giants receivers looked locked in with Victor Cruz now signed long term and Hakeem Nicks looking relatively healthy for the start of camp. The third receiver will be my guy Rueben Randle, who could be a monster if Nicks misses any time and could have flex value with Nicks healthy. The pieces are in place for an Eli Manning bounce back. The Giants starter is a value in 12-team leagues with a current ADP of 101.
On the coaching front, The 'Boys changed DCs. Rob Ryan is out (he landed in New Orleans as DC), though we thought he did a solid job given the talent on hand. New DC Monte Kiffin, we assume, will use the base defense that he used in Tampa Bay, which means a switch to a 4-3 from Ryan’s 3-4 base. The Cowboys look like a matchup play at best on defense from a fantasy standpoint.
On offense, Dallas invested heavily in the draft--adding significant talent on the line and at the skill positions and they all have starter’s upside.
- C, Travis Frederick
- TE, Gavin Escobar
- WR, Terrance Williams
- RB, Joe Randle
This is all good news for Tony Romo, who is very underrated for fantasy and a good reason to wait on your QB in drafts this year. There are no major camp battles in Dallas. The fantasy starters are all as they were when 2012 ended. There will be a battle at 3rd receiver and we’ll likely see more 2-TE formations with three very skilled tight ends on the roster in Jason Witten, James Hannah and rookie Gavin Escobar. It’s possible that the tight ends will get more snaps than the 3rd receivers. Quick development from rookie WR Terrance Williams could change that, but he definitely has a few things to learn before he can play major snaps.
The Redskins did not make any coaching changes of note and they did not go after any offensive players that will change the team in an immediate sense. The one caveat would be rookie TE Jordan Reed, who could become a big factor. Reed could be a nice fantasy option down the line, but we’d project a limited role early on due to an odd thigh injury that he’s been battling the last few months. Eventually, they may view Reed as guy who can play all over the formation and in addition to starter Fred Davis versus in place of Davis. The other rookie worth watching might be Rutgers’ tailback Jawan Jamison. It’s a long climb up the depth chart, but Jamison is worth monitoring in Shanahan’s system. He’s a good back with good fundamentals and outstanding ball security. If he has a good camp, he could be a factor, especially if Roy Helu fails to return to form following Achilles surgery. Jamison has the potential to develop into the team’s 2nd back and the handcuff to starter Alfred Morris. Then there's rookie RB Chris Thompson, who is a wonderful talent if he can fully recover from a serious back injury (2011) and recent ACL surgery (2012.) Thompson is more of a return guy and a satelite option from scrimmage, but he could add to the offense if he's fully healthy.
The keys to the season for Washington and the fantasy GMs who own their players are the health of Robert Griffin and Pierre Garcon. They are the Redskins' established high-end players. They can still run it effectively without Alfred Morris, but things are a lot harder without RGIII and Pierre. For now, both appear to be on-track for Week 1 starts and that’s the key for Redskins this preseason. Of course, for fantasy, both players require a leap of faith. Garcon’s foot is apparently something he’ll have to play with. Based on the late returns in 2012, he can play with it, but we don’t know all that much about re-aggravation in terms of how frequently it’ll happen and to what degree he will miss time because of it. We’ll learn more about it in 2013. If Garcon plays 16 games and looks great, he’ll put the issue to rest, but for now, we take a round or so off of his value, which would be solidly in the 4th round of 12-team leagues if he was locked in and 100%. The issue with Griffin is that we will likely not see him play this preseason. That will make it hard to buy into him fully on draft day. Right now, he’s our 10th ranked QB, but just a quarter of game action could move him up significantly if he looks all the way back. He’s going to be a very interesting player on draft day because of the depth at the position. Will GMs be more willing to roll the dice on RGIII knowing that they can get a quality backup with ease? I know I’m tempted.
The last thing to look at with Washington is the receivers, where Devery Henderson is new and will compete most directly with Aldrick Robinson for the role of deep threat. We'd imagine that Henderson was brought in to push the enigmatic Robinson, who, we feel, has breakout potential if he can seize the opportunity. The bottom line is that there's even more competition for snaps this year in our nation's capital. That's definitely good news for RGIII and those who opt to draft him.
New HC Chip Kelly has a lot of people talking and we get the excitement. We watched Oregon too, and they played good team football. With all the talk about Kelly’s scheme, I wonder if people are missing the boat just a little bit. He’s about team football and he’s about team blocking. I’m not sure that the run to pass ratio is all that significant in the final analysis. I’m not even sure that the pace of the game is as significant as how well the guy coaches every player on his offense and how well his teams block. Having said that, we’re excited about his fast-paced offense too. Different is almost always a good thing at the NFL level. You may not see much wildcat anymore, but it sure was a precursor to the read-option craze which is still being debated as to whether it’s another wildcat or the wave of the future. Kelly’s OC will be NFL and Philadelphia vet, Pat Shurmur. We expect Shurmur to help Kelly execute his (Kelly's) offense versus the other way around.
Billy Davis will run the defense and is a 3-4 guy. This is his third crack at running an NFL defense. He’s had previous stops in San Francisco and Arizona with mixed results.
On the personnel front, the Eagles have made a few significant adds. Kelly reaffrmed his love of tight ends by adding two very good players. Zach Ertz of Stanford was taken in the second round of the draft, while James Casey was stolen from the Texans as a free agent. Both players will make big impacts this year though fantasy value, while possible for both, is debatable outside of very big leagues. Casey and Ertz will form a very solid trio with longtime Eagles starter Brent Celek. The other big additions from the draft were OT Lane Johnson, who could be a starter for the next decade, and QB Matt Barkley, who has enough talent to challenge Michael Vick and Nick Foles before too long. Kelly says he'll announce his starter at QB in time to prepare for Week 1, whatever that means. The other significant offseason addition for Philly might be WR Arrelious Benn, who definitely has a Chip Kelly skill set with his bulk and speed.
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