The Fantasy Points staff recently welcomed NFL Films legend Greg Cosell and NFL Insider Adam Caplan to talk about the NFC East as part of our Virtual Pow-wow Series. I highly encourage you to check out the entire conversation by accessing our Livestream archives.
Greg and Adam joined John Hansen and company to break down the NFC East from front to back to help us get a deeper understanding of every roster heading into the summer. John has been holding these closed-door meetings with Greg and Adam for the last 15+ years. The Fantasy Points staff is proud to let the public peek behind the curtain during these exclusive Livestreams! Here are the notes I compiled from the NFC East meeting, and I included my biggest fantasy takeaways for each team.
Mike McCarthy transitioned from run-heavy to more pass-heavy over the course of his career in Green Bay, and Greg’s sense is that they were transitioning to a more pass-heavy scheme before Dak Prescott got hurt last season. Greg pegs them for 11 personnel on 70% or more of their snaps this season. Adam thinks the offense will still start with Ezekiel Elliott but not as much as they have in the past.
Michael Gallup is the X, Amari Cooper is the Z/movement guy, and CeeDee Lamb is the slot receiver in those 11 personnel sets. The boundary X gets a lot of one-on-one matchups and Prescott isn’t afraid to get it down the field.
Greg said Prescott has improved every single year and the Cowboys have a lot of talent all over the field. He’s seeing everything better and he’s more decisive than he was early in his career
The Cowboys were running plays at the fastest pace in the league before Prescott’s injury last season. Dak was averaging well over 40+ attempts in his five games because of their pace and their bad defense. Dallas’ defensive talent level has definitely increased this off-season after being non-competitive at times last season but this unit is far from fixed. This offense is likely headed toward a lot of passing volume once again in 2021.
Blake Jarwin should be ready to go for the start of the season but Dalton Schultz did well in his place last season so they could use some sort of committee at the position.
Fifth-round pick Simi Fehoko reminded Greg of Chase Claypool. Fehoko is big (6’4”, 222 pounds), fast (4.4 40-time), and he can get vertical, but he’s unlikely to be a huge factor in this deep receiving corps this season.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
- I agree with Graham when he talked about how these three Cowboys’ wide receivers are a bit undervalued in fantasy drafts, and I’d add Dak Prescott (64.2 ADP in May) into that mix if his health continues to check out. Dallas’ defense should be improved this season after they attacked the unit early in the draft, but they’ll still rank in the bottom half of the league while OC Kellen Moore is likely going to continue to run his offense at a blistering pace. Gallup is by far the biggest bargain with his ADP of 106.7, and I’ve had no issues drafting him in the late eighth/early ninth in every best ball draft that I’ve landed Prescott in. Cooper is also a small value at his current fourth-round ADP of 38.4 while Lamb is one guy who is appropriately priced at 41.1.
New York Giants
The Giants accomplished their goal of building up Daniel Jones’ weapons this off-season. Adam said there are no more excuses for Jones after they added a ton of speed in Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and John Ross this off-season. This is a huge season for Jones as the organization will make a decision on his fifth-year option next off-season.
Greg thinks Jones had a pretty good rookie season but his turnovers needed to be cleaned up. The entire Giants offense was bad last year, but Jones’ lack of decisiveness as a passer really cost them. He got stuck in the pocket with the ball in his hands too much and that’s when bad things happen. He thinks Jones’ situation is similar to Baker Mayfield’s situation last season after he had a down second season in 2019.
Golladay is clear #1 WR next season and he’s a classic X receiver. He’s open even when he’s covered and Jones is going to have to get comfortable throwing it to him even when there are bodies around his contested-catch freak.
Sterling Shepard will likely be the No 2 if he can stay healthy while Darius Slayton is likely the player to get phased out of 11-personnel sets. Adam said Slayton didn’t take the step the organization had hoped for last season, which is why they brought in Golladay, Toney, and Ross. Toney can line up in multiple positions and he should get meaningful snaps while getting the rock all over the field.
Greg got the sense that Jason Garrett was feeling things out with this offense last year after giving up play-calling duties in Dallas all the way back in 2012. Graham said Garrett is too much of an old-school play-caller who plays at too slow of a pace. A big question is how will Garrett feed his suddenly full cast of weapons.
The Giants have the WRs to play more 11-personnel this season, but they’re also loaded at tight end after they signed Kyle Rudolph to be their blocking TE next to Evan Engram this season. The Giants now have Rudolph, Levine Toilolo, and Kaden Smith in addition to Engram so they could run more 12-personnel than expected.
The Giants had a lot of offensive issues last season, including below-average line play. New York is high on 2020 third-round pick Matt Peart and they’ll get OT Nate Solder after he opted out last season.
The Giants brought in Devontae Booker and he’s a more than capable backup to Saquon Barkley this season. Barkley is headed toward a heavy workload this season, but the Giants could ease him into his role in the first couple of games the season after his ACL injury last season.
On the defensive side, remember for fantasy/DFS purposes that opposing offenses are going to attack Adoree’ Jackson on a weekly basis as he plays across from James Bradberry.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
- I’m going to be extremely underweight on Giants receivers this season after they brought in Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, and Kyle Rudolph. I have too many questions about Daniel Jones’ ability to consistently feed the likes of Golladay, Engram, and Shepard. And I have even more questions about Jason Garrett’s ability to spread the ball around to all of his weapons while squeezing off enough plays. Toney is the one receiver I could be overweight on since he has some explosive traits and he’s basically a free pick at the end of best ball drafts. I’ll be getting most of my exposure to this Giants’ passing attack by drafting Jones just in case he’s able to put it together in Year Three with a suddenly loaded cupboard of skill players. He’s also extremely affordable at an ADP of 146.2.
The Eagles want and expect Jalen Hurts to open the season as the team’s starting quarterback, but HC Nick Sirianni doesn’t feel the need to announce a starter. He’s all about accountability and Hurts would have to be really disappointing to not be the team’s Week 1 starter. Joe Flacco isn’t the answer at this stage of his career and Jamie Newman was an undrafted free agent. The organization really wants to evaluate Hurts so he should have some rope.
Adam said the Eagles are going to run a West Coast Offense with lots of timing routes and short passes with run-after-the-catch opportunities. They want to keep it simple for Hurts by giving him easy reads and throws. This offense won’t look like the one Sirianni just came from with Philip Rivers.
Greg said Hurts is capable of some good throws from the pocket but he had issues with timing and ball placement. They’ll want to use his legs by design and they don’t want to stop him from running when he drops back. Hurts played in a highly defined offense at Oklahoma and Sirianni will try to do the same thing this year to help him develop as he’s learning on the job.
Greg is fascinated to see how the Eagles use DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor. Smith isn’t a true X and he’s more of a Z and he thinks Reagor has a better chance to be a true X. The Eagles have a lot of unknowns with their WR corps, and Adam pointed out that the Eagles are one of two teams without a vested veteran (three years in the league) at the position.
The Eagles had one of the slowest offenses in the league just a couple of years ago and they’ve totally flipped it in a short span. Dallas Goedert even moves well for the TE position, especially compared to Zach Ertz. Goedert is still going to be the guy at tight end if the Eagles are unable to move Ertz before the season.
Greg brought up that Sirianni came from Indy where they ran Jonathan Taylor a lot at the end of last year. Lane Johnson also spilled the beans that the screen game could be a big factor in the offense this season, which is a positive for Miles Sanders. On the negative side, Kerryon Johnson is strong in pass protection and he could spell him on some third downs. Fifth-round pick Kenneth Gainwell could also be a factor as a receiver, and he could be on the field at the same time with Sanders playing out of the slot. They also have Boston Scott and Jordan Howard in the mix so the Eagles have a lot of bodies in this backfield.
Adam said the light came on at the end of the season for Jordan Mailata. He’ll be the favorite to play left tackle this season with 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard in the swing tackle spot if they can’t trade him. The Eagles have the potential to have a strong O-line if the older interior linemen are able to hold up this season.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
I noted how I’ve been attacking drafting a quarterback in the fifth and sixth rounds in the NFC North Pow-wow Takeaways article. My QB1 backup plan has been to draft Jalen Hurts in the eighth round if I whiff on one of Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, and Dak Prescott. The Eagles have no clear threats on the roster to take his job if he would struggle early in the season between Joe Flacco and Jamie Newman. Hurts is going to have to really play poorly for the organization to pull him this season. Hurts finished as fantasy’s QB6 in Weeks 14-17 last season with 919/5 passing and 272/3 rushing and that’s with the Eagles pulling him early when they tanked in the season finale. Hurts is going to need some help from his young receiving corps, but the upside is certainly there at a point in the draft where you won’t be submarined if he disappoints.
I’ve been mostly out on Miles Sanders in drafts so far but I have seen him start to fall into the fourth round on occasion — his ADP sits at 30.8 in May. The Eagles are now five deep at the position with Boston Scott, Kerryon Johnson, Kenneth Gainwell, and Jordan Howard behind him. Sanders had some concerning drops last season and he’ll now be playing with a young, mobile QB who will be looking to run instead of checking it down to him. Sanders could also lose some touchdown opportunities to Hurts and potentially to a goal-line back if Howard or Johnson would earn that type of role. Sanders’ ADP is going to have to slip a little more for me to start drafting him more in the late third/early fourth round.
Washington Football Team
Adam recently talked to Memphis HC Ryan Silverfield, who coached Antonio Gibson in college. Silverfield thought Gibson was an overweight slot receiver when he first got to college. Memphis loves to cross-train their backs at multiple positions so Gibson is a capable receiver. Washington OC Scott Turner didn’t want to put too much on Gibson’s plate last year as a rookie, which is why he was mostly used as a runner. His role in the passing game will expand this year. Greg added that Gibson is a big dude with really good feet and that the running game does matter to the Turners.
Greg said Ryan Fitzpatrick’s tape from last season was really good. You have to try to control him because he gets loose a couple of times a game. They’re also high on Taylor Heinicke if things go sideways with Fitz. They want the running game to be the foundation of this offense and they have the back to do it in Gibson. Washington doesn’t want to drop back and throw it all over the field every week, but Fitz is capable of doing it if they fall behind. They could look to throw it early to try to build leads before suffocating teams with their defense.
Curtis Samuel was miscast as a deep-threat only under Norv and Scott Turner in Carolina, but Scott has plans to line Samuel up all over the field this time around. Washington gave Samuel $11 million per year so they’re going to get him heavily involved to justify his contract.
Graham believes the addition of Samuel is only going to help Terry McLaurin, who got doubled at times last year. Greg said McLaurin can line up at X and he proved he’s tough playing through two high ankle injuries last season.
Dyami Brown reminded Greg of James Washington coming out of Oklahoma State. They’re different body types but he worries if he’s going to consistently be a vertical receiver in the NFL. Brown showed improvement in 2020 and he’s a good prospect, and he got drafted exactly where he should’ve been drafted.
Washington also likes Kelvin Harman. Greg called him a classic possession receiver. Big, physical, and tough inside who fits perfectly with the more explosive McLaurin and Samuel as the third wideout. Greg also loved seventh-round pick Dax Milne out of BYU. He thinks he’ll be a factor in the league in a couple of years from now because he catches everything. Cam Sims, Antonio Gandy-Golden, and Adam Humphries are here too so their third WR spot is wide open.
The biggest question for this team is along the offensive line, especially at left tackle. They did sign Charles Leno this off-season, whom the Bears cut after a poor 2020. He has played well in the past, and the organization is hoping a new coaching staff and the fact that he got released will rejuvenate his career.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
I’ve been actively targeting most of the pieces in this Washington offense outside of J.D. McKissic (more on that below). Alex Smith had a truly special comeback story last season but, to put it frankly, the QB play from Smith, Dwayne Haskins, and Kyle Allen was some of the worst in the league. It held the likes of Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, and Logan Thomas back despite their strong performances last year. Washington finished with the third-fewest yards per game (317.3) and the seventh-fewest points per game (20.9) despite their talented skill players. I could easily see each player’s performance jumping a level or two with even league-average quarterback play from Ryan Fitzpatrick and/or Taylor Heinicke. There’s a clear buy sign on almost all of the pieces of this offense.
The one player I’m not buying this summer is McKissic, who was the one player who got propped up by the poor quarterback play last season. He unpredictably led all running backs with 110 targets in 2020 after he had just 91 career targets in the first four seasons in the league. It’s not like he did much with those looks, averaging 5.3 yards per target. Washington’s coaching staff intentionally held back Gibson as a receiver last season as they eased him into the grind of the NFL — don’t forget that Gibson had just 77 touches over his only two seasons at Memphis. I’m expecting Gibson’s 9% target share to rise because he’s more dynamic than McKissic, who should see his whopping 19% share shrink. I wouldn’t be shocked if Gibson jumps to the top tier of backs this season since McKissic doesn’t exactly have a track record of being a major factor, and I’ve been actively targeting Gibson at his 21.7 ADP in May.