NFL DFS: Quick Fantasy Position Outlooks Heading into 2017 – NFC East
We’re onto the second part of our position outlooks heading into 2017 – the NFC East. Again, these are brief overviews of each fantasy position and what we can expect for 2017 DFS purposes. We’ll touch on battles or developments to watch in preseason, bounceback or regression signs to look for in 2017 and hit up a few other odds and ends.
All depth charts via Rotoworld
QB1 – Dak Prescott
QB2 – Kellen Moore
QB3 – Luke McCown
QB4 – Cooper Rush
Dak Prescott was undoubtedly the surprise last year. Not so much because he was a 4th-round pick getting to start in his first year in the NFL, but because Dak played in an offense at Mississippi State that was essentially the opposite of what Dallas runs. We haven’t seen a QB come from an up tempo, zone-read scheme succeed to this extent so quickly in the pros. Kudos to him and the supporting cast.
Obviously Prescott is the man for 2017, but the one thing to watch for with him in preseason is if he throws to his outside WRs more frequently and successfully. It’s common for rookies or inexperienced QBs to throw shorter and safer passes in the beginning of their pro careers. This usually involves throwing to the slot WRs and TEs.
As a result, Cole Beasley and Jason Witten finished 2016 with catch rates of 76.5% and 72.6% respectfully.
Dez Bryant? 52.1%. If it wasn’t for Bryant’s 8 TDs in 13 games, by No. 1 WR standards, this would have been more than just a down year. It would be considered a bust. More specifics on this later.
In regards to the backups, Kellen Moore, the most-winning QB in college football history, has been riding the backup QB train for a few years now. It’s possible the recently-signed veteran Luke McCown will take the No. 2 spot, but McCown has only started one game since 2012. Not that it’s the biggest deal in the world, but given that Moore has experience in the Cowboys system, he got off to a great start in the Hall-of-Fame game against the Arizona Cardinals and the positive reviews from within the organization documented by Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, I’d give the edge to Moore. Of course, that’s not a given, and if McCown looks easily better as preseason progresses, they could flip spots.
Either way, neither offer a ton of upside for DFS purposes, and the Cowboys will probably lean heavily on Ezekiel Elliott if Prescott gets hurt. Should McCown not work out at all, undrafted rookie Cooper Rush has an outside shot at a roster spot and mayyyyybe the No. 2 spot. I mean, Prescott went from 4th-round draft pick and a possible backup to leading the Cowboys to an NFC-best 13-3 record. You never know.
RB1 – Ezekiel Elliott
RB2 – Darren McFadden
RB3 – Alfred Morris
RB4 – Rod Smith
RB5 – Ronnie Hillman
Heading into last season, I was a bit skeptical on Elliott. I thought he would need a little time getting used to playing downhill out of the I-Formation after playing in Urban Meyer’s spread-option attack and perhaps wouldn’t be used as heavily out of the gate as people thought.
I was somewhat okay thinking this for the first couple weeks, but then … whoops! I was dead wrong. Elliott went over 100 yards in every game from Week 3 through Week 7 and was on his way to a TD per game for the year.
The only thing that could slow Elliott down this year (besides injury) are two departures on the OL of Ronald Leary and Doug Free. The unit will still likely be great, but Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus has ranked Dallas’ line 9th in the league coming into 2017. Of course some bad TD luck could kick in, or the Cowboys could play from behind in a few more games since matching last season’s 13-3 mark will be difficult, but there isn’t anything to suggest last year was a fluke and a bust season is on the horizon.
For preseason purposes, there’s nothing to see with Elliott, but we do have a potential suspension looming for the young star to start the season, per ESPN’s Adam Scheftner. The Cowboys do not have an easy start to their season with a home opener vs the Giants, a team that ranked 2nd in yards per carry (YPC) allowed and held Elliott to only 51 yards on 20 carries in last year’s opener. Dallas then has back-to-back road trips out West to see the two other legit defenses in the Denver Broncos and the Cardinals.
However, if Zeke is suspended to start the season and Week 1 salaries on FanDuel and DraftKings are released beforehand, the rest of the depth chart definitely comes into play since the starting back could be min-salary. For my two cents, given that Darren McFadden is healthy, he should see the bulk of carries in this situation and is easily the best of the backups. I wouldn’t look too much into the Hall-of-Fame game stats on that one.
As for the other three and who makes the 53-man roster, that will be more ironed out in preseason. Alfred Morris is probably the safest of the three. Ronnie Hillman was signed in late July with this possible suspension, so while I’m sure Dallas is at least being on the cautious side, there are definitely signs that this situation could present itself.
Let’s revisit the WR stats from earlier. Beasley led the team in 2016 with 98 targets for 833 yards to go with that catch rate of 76.5% (on only 57% of snaps for the year). Witten was targeted on 95 occasions for 673 yards for 72.7%.
Meanwhile, Bryant was still targeted 93 times, but only racked up 796 yards, which resulted in the poor 52.1% catch rate. Bryant did miss three games, but even if we kept the same target rate at 7.4 per game, that’s still only 118 for a full season. In Dez’ three full seasons with the Cowboys from 2012-2014, Bryant was targeted 433 times and brought in 63% of targets, easily better than 2016.
To provide an approximate comparison for 2016 – Tyrell Williams finished with 119 targets (7.4 per game), 1059 yards and a 58% catch rate. Mike Wallace was targeted 116 times (7.3 per game) for 1,017 yards and a 62.1% catch rate.
The rushing production and the Cowboys playing from ahead was part of it, but again, because of Bryant’s 8 TDs, he managed to finish 21st in DraftKings Fantasy Points Per Game (FPPG) when he probably should have been more around 35th surrounded with the down years of Allen Robinson, Kelvin Benjamin and DeAndre Hopkins. That TD rate is more sustainable when you were easily the most targeted player on the team in a more pass-heavy offense with a QB in Tony Romo who wasn’t as cautious attacking downfield.
Tying the QB and top WRs together – this is why watching Prescott’s development and tendencies are important for what Dez’ projection really should be. We know Dez is the No. 1 WR on the outside, Terrance Williams is opposite of him, Beasley in the slot and Witten at TE.
What about Brice Butler? It’s hard for him to get on the field when Dallas runs in I-Formation or two-TE sets as much as they do, but he certainly made an impression on Thursday night.
And who is the rookie Ryan Switzer? We may not see him much in the regular season, but you’ll see him a lot in August once his hamstring is better and will likely catch a lot of passes. Switzer is an electrifying playmaker who is essentially Beasley’s backup in the slot, and he could certainly play as a kickoff and/or punt returner. If Beasley goes down and misses any games, I wouldn’t hesitate playing Switzer in lineups immediately as long as the preseason looks promising.
TE1 – Jason Witten
TE2 – James Hanna
TE3 – Geoff Swain
TE4 – Rico Gathers
We all know Witten is going to play until he’s like 45, right? I mean, the dude has played in every game since his rookie year, and of course, he only missed one then. Expect another 70-catch, 700-yard season with a handful of TDs.
For 2017 DFS purposes, that’s all that matters. For the future, we’ll see if Rico Gathers, the former Baylor football and basketball star, can make the 53-man roster. This should help.
New York Giants
QB1 – Eli Manning
QB2 – Josh Johnson
QB3 – Geno Smith
QB4 – Davis Webb
When the Giants opened up the offense in 2014 with Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator, Eli Manning’s stock went up. From 2014-2015, Manning hit 766 of his 1,219 attempts (62.8%) for 8,846 yards with 65 TDs and 28 INTs. From 2012-2013, Manning hit 638 of his 1,087 pass attempts (58.7%) for 7,766 yards with 44 TDs and 42 INTs.
The Giants compiled a 12-20 record from 2014-2015 in comparison to a 16-16 record from 2012-2013. So, yes, New York needed to throw perhaps a little more playing from behind. The G-Men also obviously made a key addition in Odell Beckham at WR.
Nevertheless, it was clear that McAdoo had made a positive influence with the offense.
When Tom Coughlin was fired at the conclusion of the 2015 season, McAdoo took over as head coach. The offensive philosophy looked the same in 2016, but Manning’s fantasy numbers took a significant hit. After posting 19.57 DraftKings FPPG from 2014-2015, only 15.45 in 2016, which was good for 25th among QBs right behind Sam Bradford.
So what happened?
2014-2015 Per 16-Game Average: 383 completions on 609.5 attempts (62.8%), 4,423 passing yards, 32.5 TDs and 14 INTs. Giants finished 6-10 both seasons.
2016 Per 16-Game Average: 377 completions on 598 attempts (63%), 4,027 passing yards, 26 TDs, 16 INTs. Giants finished 11-5.
Two primary things went the wrong direction: 1. TDs. 2. Yards per pass attempt and completion.
Because the defense significantly improved from allowing 6.1 yards per play in 2015 (31st) to 5.2 in 2016 (7th), the Giants got more conservative on offense despite throwing the ball approximately the same amount of the time. As a result of this and that their running game still stunk, New York didn’t sustain as many drives and were poor in the red zone. This is a very common problem among several teams in the NFL.
So what does this mean for 2017? While Eli’s variance on a week-to-week basis will still drive DFS owners bonkers, Manning should bounce back more to what he was doing in 2014-2015.
The running game still likely has a ways to go, even though it can’t get much worse. The 61-39 pass-run ratio should continue. The TDs should bounce back some. The Giants should be a little more aggressive within their pass game.
As for the primary backup role? We have Josh Johnson, the former part-time starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2009-2011. He served as the third-team QB for the Giants last year and hasn’t played a snap since 2013. There’s Geno Smith, who gets out of a miserable situation with the other New York team in the Jets. Lastly, we have third-round rookie Davis Webb, who played in the Air Raid offense at both Texas Tech and Cal in college.
I don’t even have a slight lean heading into preseason for this one. I could argue that any of these three will be the No. 2 QB. Johnson has the highest floor. Smith is in his prime and could succeed much more easily now that he’s surrounded by a much better supporting cast. Webb has outstanding physical abilities, and if he transitions into the Giants’ offense at a rapid pace, he could jump them.
The winner could be by default. The winner could surprise and play spectacularly in preseason. A ton of possibilities here.
If Manning, who hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season, does go down at some point, the backup will probably be asked to do a little more than the average backup. The Giants do have a great defense, but leaning a ton on the weak running game with the weapons they have on the outside is too costly.
RB1 – Paul Perkins
RB2 – Shane Vereen
RB3 – Wayne Gallman
RB4 – Orleans Darkwa
RB5 – Shaun Draughn
As mentioned earlier, the running game can’t really get do much worse than last year’s 3.6 YPC (27th). In fact, the Giants haven’t put up more than four YPC since the 2012 season when Ahmad Bradshaw was in his prime. Since that year, the Giants have essentially been RB by committee in some form or another. Some of this is not having the greatest RBs. Some of it is poor run blocking by the OL. Some of it is injuries.
However, there is a little bit of evidence for minor improvement, but more importantly, a more appealing DFS option. Rookie Paul Perkins was the primary RB the last four weeks of the regular season and went for 102 yards rushing on 20 carries in Week 17 vs Washington. Perkins also put up 4.37 YPC over those final four contests showing great vision and agility. That earned him the starting RB role in the playoffs as well against the Green Bay Packers.
The one sign of positive regression we do see from last season is that New York only scored six rushing TDs. Furthermore, they never scored a rushing TD from more than two yards out. That will at least be a little bit better in 2017.
So yes, I am expecting a slightly improved offense with and better TD numbers both rushing and passing. The defense, while still very good, will probably take a minor step back to essentially cancel each other out.
Since Perkins is still young, we will see him in preseason. We know he will most likely be the main RB, but if he does well catching and with pass protection, he could be an every-down back. Just keep the expectations realistic if this does happen since the Giants will likely be one of the more pass-heavy teams and the run blocking isn’t great.
Meanwhile, if Perkins’ snaps don’t increase a ton, Shane Vereen is the third-down or pass-catching type of RB who would be the change-of-pace guy to Perkins. His involvement is definitely tied to Perkins’ development.
Then there’s the rookie Wayne Gallman, a member of the last year’s national champion Clemson Tigers. He’ll get plenty of exposure in the preseason to see if he can make the 53-man roster, and perhaps be a legit backup to Perkins if something goes wrong. He’ll also have to out-perform Orleans Darkwa, who has been featured occasionally throughout his three years with the Giants.
Lastly, New York did sign Shaun Draughn in the offseason, who has mainly been a pass-catching back with the San Francisco 49ers. While all the RBs are trying to earn snaps from one another, with Vereen on the team, it’s hard seeing him and Draughn on the 53-man roster.
WR1 – Odell Beckham
WR2 – Brandon Marshall
WR3 – Sterling Shepard
WR4 – Dwayne Harris
WR5 – Roger Lewis
Geno Smith isn’t the only former Jet that changes teams but gets to stay in the Big Apple. The Giants have landed Brandon Marshall to be the opposite outside WR of Odell Beckham. With Victor Cruz gone, we have a clear top three with ODB, Marshall and Sterling Shepard.
This scenario almost took a really bad turn when Shepard was carted off in tears with an ankle injury, but fortunately, it’s just a low-ankle sprain according to McAdoo (per Pat Leonard of the NY Daily News). For now, we’ll presume Shepard is good to go to start the season.
These three combined for 25.7 targets per game last year. There should also be a slight uptick in targets to the TE position (more on this later).
So how will all this be ironed out? Most people believe ODB is still a top two or three WR (fantasy wise) while Marshall will finish more on the level of Shepard.
While I mostly agree, I think Marshall will take a little more from ODB than people are anticipating. Many are operating under the opinion that Marshall’s stock will continue downward since he finished with only 788 yards last year and is entering his 12th season.
But it’s important to remember that Marshall was not only in a completely dysfunctional offense with the Jets, he also only caught three TD passes and missed a game. Plus, he only caught 46.1% of his targets. Essentially, Marshall’s numbers were very similar to Dez Bryant’s with the exception of the TD variance and that he had to deal with a horrendous supporting cast.
We’ve actually seen a similar story to this before with Marshall. After he concluded his 2014 campaign with just 721 yards and 8 TDs on his final year with the Chicago Bears, many people were quick in downgrading Marshall’s value moving forward when joining the Jets. Marshall finished 2015 with 1,502 yards and 14 TDs.
While I obviously don’t expect those numbers in 2017, Marshall is being slightly undervalued while ODB’s weekly projection should be slightly lower. As much as I like Shepard, with these two guys on the team, he can only improve so much on his 683 yards and 8 TDs from last season.
If Shepard’s ankle lingers for a while and misses any time, that leaves the slot WR open. As long as he avoids a suspension from the NFL for his OVI charge earlier this summer, Roger Lewis has a high ceiling if given the opportunity.
My concern though is who actually would play in the slot. Lewis is more of a Z-WR who particularly thrives on deep routes. It’s hard imagining ODB or Marshall playing in the slot, at least for an entire game.
Therefore, this makes me think Dwayne Harris is more in like for extra snaps should Shepard miss time. Or, there is someone else who could fill this role perhaps on a part-time basis ….
TE1 – Evan Engram
TE2 – Rhett Ellison
TE3 – Will Tye
Improved receiving production by the TEs is here. That’s because the Giants drafted Evan Engram in the first round.
Engram was one of the best pass-catching TEs in college football last season, and he’s someone who should line up in the slot for the Giants just how he did at Ole Miss. Look for some noteworthy plays from him in August.
I know it’s easy to say since he was a first-round pick, but given the Shepard injury and what it means for DFS, Engram is definitely the most important person to watch in preseason on the Giants. It’s easily conceivable that Engram plays a ton of snaps out of the gate and becomes that guy from a fantasy perspective that few talked about. TEs with a high snap count and play out of the slot are very appealing.
A quick note on the 2016 Eagles before we get into the QBs.
Statistically speaking, this team was a bit bizarre. Despite only ranking 29th in yards per play, Philadelphia ran the fourth-most plays. Defensively, they ranked 21st in yards per play allowed. Even though the Eagles were an average 19th in pace, according to Football Outsiders, this is usually a formula for disaster, and you would expect a pretty bad record.
Yet, the team finished 7-9 (average) and went 1-6 in one-possession games (should have had a better record).
Look at turnovers, right? Philly ranked 14th in turnovers committed and 10th in turnovers forced. Nothing that indicating.
Third-down percentage? 18th on offense and 21st on defense.
So, what is it? A couple smaller things. The Eagles were 6th in field position on offense and 12th on defense. They were also 3rd offensively in time elapsed on drives and 2nd defensively in the same category.
Basically, despite not having a great third-down percentage and ranking poorly in yards per play on both sides of the ball, they sustained a decent amount of drives and had good field position offensively while getting off the field relatively quickly on defense. Weird.
My initial thought is that Philly’s record was a little bit on the fortunate side last season, but their over/under regular-season win total for 2017 is 8. So, perhaps not. But either way, this is a fascinating team and one of the toughest ones to predict.
QB1 – Carson Wentz
QB2 – Nick Foles
QB3 – Matt McGloin
QB4 – Dane Evans
Carson Wentz enters year two after an okay rookie campaign. He’ll have several new weapons to work with both at RB and WR, and those should be an upgrade overall. More on those skill positions later.
But Wentz will also have Renner’s No. 1 OL. Of course, it’s one man’s opinion, but it’s not rocket science to know that the Eagles have one of the better OLs in the league, and they will also have Lane Johnson back from his suspension at right tackle.
With the same coaching staff and improved positions elsewhere on the offense, Wentz should put up better numbers this year. He completed 62.4% of his passes in 2016, but only threw for 16 TDs to 14 INTs. This only came with 6.2 yards per pass attempt. Plenty of room for improvement.
Besides watching for the chemistry between Wentz and his new weapons, I’m mostly curious about the tempo. Like mentioned earlier, 4th in plays per game, but 19th in pace. If Philly decides to pick up the pace, that can only enhance Wentz’ projection and helps keep their plays up. But if they keep the tempo on the average or slow side, that will only enhance the plays per game regression and work against whatever improvement the passing game makes.
As for the backup position, that’ll be the competition in preseason. Nick Foles returns to Philly after serving as the No. 2 QB with the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs the last two years. A friendly reminder that Foles has shown great upside before as Eagles QB when he tied an NFL record with 7 TD passes in 2013. Yes, I know this was under Chip Kelly, but we’ve still seen some legit upside despite the low floor.
Matt McGloin is the other primary candidate to back up Wentz, who started briefly for the Oakland Raiders in 2013 and had been their backup since drafting Derek Carr. Undrafted rookie Dane Evans will try and crack the 53-man roster, who comes from Phillip Montgomery’s air raid offense with the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
RB1 – LeGarrette Blount
RB2 – Darren Sproles
RB3 – Donnel Pumphrey
RB4 – Wendell Smallwood
RB5 – Corey Clement
As a preliminary note, Ryan Mathews is still on the Eagles roster, but according to Les Bowen of Philly.com, the franchise is waiting for him to be able to pass his physical so they can release him without owing him more than $1.1 million.
The RB situation is undoubtedly a fascinating one. Mathews is gone, but former New England Patriots workhorse LeGarrette Blount and dynamic rookie Donnel Pumphrey join the mix with Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood. Heck, if Corey Clement, a rookie out of Wisconsin made the roster, it wouldn’t be the most surprising thing.
There’s a lot to unpack. The obvious scenario is Blount plays a similar role to what he did with New England in that he gets early down and short-yardage work. Sproles would get passing downs. Pumphrey, Smallwood and possibly Clement get a shot at playing into the No. 3 spot during preseason.
However, it should be noted that Blount’s career hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. After a great rookie year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his workload began to fade and was eventually traded to the Pats. After a solid 2013 season in Foxboro, Blount landed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but outside of a 118-yard game vs the Panthers early in the season, Blount never really got it going in Pittsburgh, and he was waived by the team that November. Blount cleared waivers and immediately signed a two-year deal with New England and immediately started to succeed again. Last year was his best season yet with a career-high 299 carries for 1,161 yards and 18 TDs.
I’m not strongly leaning one way or the other here. It’s just a bigger unknown than advertised, and I mean that from a football production standpoint, not past off-the-field conduct. There are at least a handful of scenarios I could buy into for how the backfield will play out this year.
But we at least know what the potential is for Blount and Sproles. We also saw Smallwood get mixed in at times last year, who at this point is more likely the early-down backup to Blount for now.
What about the rookies?
Pumphrey was an absolute machine at San Diego State who carved up defenses on the ground and in the receiving game. Pumphrey is a smaller guy at 5’9″ 176, so it’s easy to think this guy could be taking Sproles’ role when he decides to hang it up, who is now 34-years old.
Corey Clement was plagued with injuries his junior year, but responded tremendously in his senior year with 1,375 yards and 15 TDs. While obviously farther down the depth chart, Clement was a beast when healthy, and according to David George of philadelphiaeagles.com, he’s gotten his weight down and showing positive signs to start training camp.
Given the constant rotation in the Philly backfield last year, it very well could be the same thing this season. But we’ll see a lot of Smallwood, Pumphrey and Clement in preseason.
Oh, and before we go to WRs, if you haven’t seen Sproles’ brilliance at Kansas State, you need to check this out.
WR1 – Alshon Jeffery
WR2 – Jordan Matthews
WR3 – Torrey Smith
WR4 – Nelson Agholor
WR5 – Mack Hollins
Another compelling position that presents a different look. Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor are back, but Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith arrive from the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers respectfully. Rookie Mack Hollins will have a chance at making the roster and perhaps get some legit playing time if his deep-threat ability comes to life in the NFL.
The Eagles brought in 16 receiving TDs last season, but only half of them were by WRs and no WR caught more than three. Plus, Dorial Green-Beckham and Josh Huff are gone, and they accounted for three of the eight.
Matthews (three) and Agholor (two) brought in the other five. Obviously Jeffery will haul in some TDs, but he only brought in two while Smith racked up three in just 20 receptions.
A lot of potential, but a lot of question marks with this group. Is Wentz going to be on the same page with Jeffery and Smith? Will Matthews take the next step in his improvement? Will Agholor play in the slot and take away some snaps from Matthews? Does Hollins provide the deep threat if Smith’s best days are behind him? Does Wentz continue to spread it around and include the TEs and RBs significantly? Or will a go-to guy for him emerge and rack up over 1,000 yards and 8+ TDs?
A lot to keep an eye on during preseason and in the beginning of the regular season.
TE1 – Zach Ertz
TE2 – Brent Celek
TE3 – Trey Burton
I don’t expect anything different here in comparison to 2016.
Zach Ertz missed two contests last season, but he still posted 816 receiving yards and 4 TDs at 7.6 targets per game. The total numbers could improve slightly if he plays all 16 games, but with the additions at WR, it’s hard to see Ertz’ daily projection improving too much.
Brent Celek is still the safety net behind Ertz as the No. 2 TE while Trey Burton is the No. 3. Pretty straightforward.
QB1 – Kirk Cousins
QB2 – Colt McCoy
QB3 – Nate Sudfeld
Kirk Cousins’ numbers and rankings last season – 19.89 DraftKings FPPG (6th), 4,917 passing yards (3rd), 8.11 passing yards per attempt (3rd among starting QBs), 25 passing TDs (13th), 4 rushing TDs (T4th). This comes after a 2015 campaign when people expected Cousins regression after he threw for 4,166 yards, 7.7 passing yards per attempt, 29 passing TDs and 5 rushing TDs.
While Washington does lose its top two WRs (more on this later), many are still projecting Cousins to be in the 10th-to-15th range for QBs in 2017. Unless the new WRs really struggle, I don’t see why Cousins isn’t at least a clear top 10 QB once again. Washington was 8th in pass-play percentage last season and should remain around the same mark. To go with his instinct to run the ball into the end zone on designed pass plays, Cousins has one of the highest weekly ceilings. It’s no longer a fluke than he went over 25 DraftKings FPPG in five contests last year.
The backup duties should remain the same. Colt McCoy, who has had some strong outings in relief of the injured Robert Griffin III in the past, will be the primary backup. Nate Sudfeld will look to build off a solid 2016 preseason and has reportedly already made tremendous strides since then according to Washington VP Player of Personnel Doug Williams (per Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post).
From a preseason standpoint, not a whole lot to watch for other than the chemistry between the QBs and some of the new WRs.
RB1 – Rob Kelley
RB2 – Chris Tompson
RB3 – Samaje Perine
RB4 – Matt Jones
RB5 – Mack Brown
RB snap percentages and number of games played last season:
Chris Thompson 46%, 16 games
Rob Kelly 32.3%, 14 games
Matt Jones 20.8%, 7 games
Mack Brown 1.6%, 9 games
All the RBs are 26-years-old or younger. Washington also added a potentially dynamite RB in Samaje Perine from Oklahoma in the 4th round of the NFL draft.
While this depth chart could easily change throughout the season, this pecking order is accurate right now. Kelley should handle a majority of the first and second-down work while Thompson takes on third down and occasionally as a fill-in for Kelly on the early downs. This was the theme for most of last season.
But even if those two hold off the other backs for most of the workload, I still don’t expect to see a very appealing DFS option unless injuries enter the picture. Even on DraftKings with full PPR, neither RB averaged 10 FPPG in 2016. Besides the 34.7 FPTS game that included 3 TDs against the Green Bay Packers, Kelley never got to 17 FPTS. Thompson never reached that mark either and had lower upside since he didn’t get the goal line work. Plus, it was rare that either back was in for two-thirds of the snaps at any point in the season.
So, unless we are talking about a GPP flyer in an ideal matchup, I’m not too optimistic, not to mention the situation only gets murkier if Perine has an excellent preseason.
The whole position is one to examine from top-to-bottom in August, but particularly with Perine. Had Oklahoma not gone to the air raid offense or had given Joe Mixon a much more significant suspension, Perine likely would have been a Heisman finalist. But, as John Keim of ESPN points out, Perine showed some inconsistencies in the early part of training camp, such as ball security and picking up the blitz in pass protection.
This one is a bit of a fluid situation, so while recognizing this isn’t looking like a highly important position battle, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it.
WR1 – Terrelle Pryor
WR2 – Jamison Crowder
WR3 – Josh Doctson
WR4 – Ryan Grant
WR5 – Maurice Harris
WR6 – Brian Quick
WR7 – Robert Davis
Despite losing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, I absolutely love this group of WRs. Jamison Crowder, who was 2nd in WR snaps last season with 73.8%, returns. Rising receivers Ryan Grant and Maurice Harris are also back who got in solid work as the No. 4 and No. 5 WRs a year ago. Josh Doctson, last season’s first-round draft pick, was unfortunately injured for most of the season, but showed flashes of his amazing athletic talents before ultimately being sidelined. Also potentially in the mix is former Rams WR Brian Quick and undrafted rookie Robert Davis.
But of course, the main buzz is around the arrival of Terrelle Pryor, and rightfully so. Last season Pryor went for 1,007 yards on 8.8 targets per game, 4 TDs and played all 16 games. This was good for 13.53 DraftKings FPPG (24th) and 10.93 FanDuel FPPG (25th)
Do I expect Pryor to come in and immediately be the No. 1 guy? You bet. There’s no reason why the yardage and targets shouldn’t remain the same, and he should have more TD receptions being on an obviously better offense than last season’s Cleveland Browns.
The main guy to watch in preseason is Doctson. Whether it’s speed, vertical, body control, route running or anything else physically – is he healthy? Does it look like he’s ready to be a No. 2 or at least No. 3 WR in a pass-heavy offense?
Crowder has played every game over the last two seasons. After a 2015 run of 604 yards on 79 targets to go with 2 TDs at 68.5% of snaps, his numbers increased in 2016 to 847 yards on 97 targets with 7 TDs at 73.8% of snaps. Despite the addition of Pryor and potential emergence of Doctson, given the losses of Jackson and Garcon, Crowder’s numbers shouldn’t decrease at all and could even improve slightly as the clear slot WR.
Grant and Harris will likely be batting for snaps again, but it’ll be even tougher with Quick and Davis in the picture. We know what we’ll get from Quick.
Davis? I actually think he has a great chance at making the 53-man roster even though he somehow dropped all the way to the sixth round. Never heard of him? Well, he was making a ton of plays in the Georgia Dome the last few years … for the Georgia State Panthers.
This position will put up a lot of points. WRs are easily the #1 thing to watch on this team in August.
TE1 – Jordan Reed
TE2 – Vernon Davis
TE3 – Niles Paul
TE4 – Jeremy Sprinkle
I know the TE position has been pretty boring to look at as we are on the eighth team of our positional breakdowns, but this one is as well.
Jordan Reed was the No. 1 TE on both DraftKings (14.38 FPPG) and Fan Duel (11.3 FPPG) last season. He caught 6 TDs in his 12 games played, which is about what he should post. He was targeted a respectable 7.4 times, which only ranks fifth, but was only 0.9 targets behind the leader in the category, Kyle Rudolph.
We should expect roughly the same kind of daily projection, maybe a tiny decrease in TDs if Pryor kills it, Crowder takes another step and Doctson is out-jumping every CB like he did at TCU. But, we’re nitpicking here.
The rest of the depth chart should hold.
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