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Fantasy Football Chief: Who to draft (and avoid) from the NFC East

RICHMOND, Va. — When I moved to Richmond from Albany, New York five years ago, I expected to be surrounded by Washington Redskins fans. Sure, they are the most popular team in Richmond, but their division rivals also have a lot of support in RVA.

When playing fantasy football you should never, let me repeat that, never draft your team based on supporting your favorite NFL franchise. But, there are certainly fantasy assets to be found in the NFC East.

Washington Redskins

Quarterback

The Washington Redskins disappointed their fans when they let Kirk Cousins walk in the off season. Now steps in Alex Smith. It may surprise you to read this, but Smith was ranked 3rd in fantasy points per game in 2017. He averaged 23.2 points in standard scoring leagues. The knock on Smith for many years was that he’s a “game manager,” but last year he threw for career-highs of 4,042 yards and 26 touchdown passes.

Smith is a solid backup quarterback for your fantasy team.

Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs throws a pass during the first quarter of the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium on January 6, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

He will also be viable if you plan to platoon two players at the position. He is worth a selection in the 11th or 12th rounds of your fantasy draft.

Running Back

Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson are the two to consider drafting at running back. Guice was drafted in the second round this year and should quickly emerge as the Redskins most productive running back. The LSU product is showing he can stand up in pass protection at training camp, which will give him a chance to receive more than just early down work.

Thompson was electric last season totaling six touchdowns in 10 games before breaking his leg. Thompson told ESPN reporter John Keim that, “he doesn’t expect to be 100 percent until November.”

Guice is poised for a big role in the Redskins offense this season and is worth a selection in the late third, early fourth rounds of your fantasy drafts. I am tentative to select Thompson this season given he is still trying to gain confidence after his injury. (NOTE: Since this post was published, Guice suffered a torn ACL and will likely miss the 2018 season.)

Wide Receiver

Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, and Paul Richardson are the top three receivers in Washington. Crowder has shown great rapport with Smith at training camp and figures to lead the trio in receptions. Crowder had 66 catches for 789 yards and three touchdowns in 2017.

Doctson led the Redskins’ receiving core with six touchdown last season, but had just 35 catches. So far, he’s failed to live up to his first-round draft selection in 2016. He missed all but two games due to injury in his rookie season and now Doctson hurt his shoulder in training camp. The injury is considered minor.

Wide receiver Josh Doctson #18 of the Washington Redskins scores a touchdown against the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter at FedExField on December 24, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The Redskins showed this off season that the team needed a boost at the position when they signed Richardson to a five year, $40 million contract. Richardson made highlight reel catches during his four-year stint with the Seattle Seahawks. He had a mini-breakout season last year, catching 44 balls for 703 yards and six touchdowns.

Crowder will be a decent third or fourth receiver for your fantasy rosters and can be drafted in the seventh round of PPR (point per reception) leagues. He is not a player I would draft in non-PPR formats. I am avoiding Doctson this year and prefer to target Richardson. He can be selected around the 13th round and is one my sleeper candidates at the receiver position this season.

Tight End

Jordan Reed has a well-documented injury history during his career. While he has been a fantasy darling when healthy, I have zero confidence he can stay on the field.

Vernon Davis, who spent time catching balls from Smith when the two played for the San Francisco 49ers, will serve a complimentary role in the offense. He will not get enough work to be viable even if Reed gets injured. I am not planning to draft any Redskins tight ends.

Dallas Cowboys

Quarterback

This offense is clearly running through Ezekiel Elliott and expect Dak Prescott to have near the league-low in pass attempts this season. He is also throwing to an underwhelming core of wide receivers and tight ends which will limit his upside. At best he is a low-end backup quarterback for your fantasy squad.

Running Back

I don’t have to say much about this, as Zeke Elliott is a fantasy stud and should be drafted anywhere from #1 to #4 overall. If you are looking to handcuff him, you can select Rod Smith with a late round selection. However, rookie Bo Scarbrough could overtake Smith for backup duties as some point during the season.

Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the fourth quarter of the game at Lincoln Financial Field on December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Wide Receivers

I am not on the Allen Hurns bandwagon as he had only semi-effective production during his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Dallas has been moving Cole Beasley around the formation a bit at training camp, but they would be wise to keep him as a slot receiver, albeit an average one. Don’t buy this talk about Tavon Austin getting 20 touches a game as a hybrid running back/wide receiver. Other coaches have been there and tried that.

The receiver to target in the late rounds is Michael Gallup who is already getting some first-team reps at training camp. The Colorado State University product is still raw as a route runner, but has upside as a playmaker.

Tight End

Jason Witten is retired and Dallas does not have a viable tight end for fantasy purposes.

Philadelphia Eagles

Quarterback

Carson Wentz is practicing in full at training camp after tearing his ACL late in the 2017 season. Despite the injury, he still managed to throw 33 touchdown passes with just seven interceptions. Wentz should be a top-five quarterback in fantasy this season, but you will have to spend a fifth-round selection to get him. I don’t see myself drafting him purely because of the price. You’re going to hear me repeat this time and time again, but the quarterback position is the deepest it has ever been so I have no interest in drafting a quarterback until at least 12 are already off the board.

LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 10: Quarterback Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles drops back to pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the second quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 10, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. The Eagles defeated the Rams 43-35. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Running Back

LeGarrette Blount is gone and is now with the Detroit Lions. That leaves Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Darren Sproles to share carries.

Ajayi is the top option of this group. The Eagles traded for him mid-season last year and his share of carries increased throughout the regular season and into the playoffs. He averaged 16 touches a game in three post season games, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and 11.7 yards per reception. He should see 20 touches per game this year and be a solid second running back on your fantasy squad. His ADP (average draft position) has a lot of volatility right now, as he’s being drafted anywhere from the late third to mid-fifth rounds. I am targeting him in the fourth round.

Clement will also be viable in this offense, not only serving as a capable backup to Ajayi, but having stand alone value too. He should receive about ten to 12 touches per game in what is a very run heavy offensive system. He’s a player I’m looking at selecting in the ninth or tenth rounds. The Eagles have said that Sproles will get work, but I’m not expecting much, even if the 35-year old can stay healthy.

Wide Receivers

Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor both present fantasy value at the right price, but Mike Wallace will only make a big splash play once in a while.

For Jeffrey, catching just 57 balls for 789 yards is hardly the characteristics of a team’s top wideout, but his nine touchdowns show he is a force in the red zone. It’s tough to depend on touchdown volume as an every year thing so I regular find myself going in another direction when he gets drafted around the fifth round.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – FEBRUARY 04: Alshon Jeffery #17 of the Philadelphia Eagles makes a catch against Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots during the second quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Agholor’s numbers were quite similar to Jeffrey’s last season and I see that trend continuing in 2018. Agholor caught 62 passes for 768 yards with eight touchdowns. He is routinely available in the ninth round so it makes more sense to draft him at the later round value than Jeffrey earlier.

Tight End

Zack Ertz is a perfect fit for the tight end friendly offensive system run by Head Coach Doug Pederson. Ertz has caught over 70 balls for over 800 yards in three straight seasons, while he’s seen his touchdowns rise in each of those years. He is a top-three tight end and you will have to pay that price for him as he is being drafted anywhere between the late-third and mid-fourth rounds. The third is to early, but he is worth a pick in round four. Ertz owners should be aware that he may see some touchdown regression from his eight in 2017 since rookie Dallas Goedert has been a threat in that area throughout training camp. The Eagles do use two tight ends quite often.

New York Giants

Quarterback
Eli Manning is poised for a bounce-back season if the New York Giants can find some stability on the right side of their offensive line. Their left side is now secure with Nate Solder at tackle and Will Hernandez at guard. The Giants had an ineffective running game last season, which made it easy for defenses to tee off on Manning. With the balance that Saquan Barkley will bring to the offense, Manning should have more time in the pocket to find his elite pass catching options. You can draft him very late and I feel good using him as my backup fantasy quarterback.

Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants throws a pass during warmups for the NFL game against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on December 31, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images)

Running Back

I spoke a lot about Barkley in my last column, so I am not going to go into much detail in this one. I expect him to live up to his potential and should be drafted in the mid-first round.

Wide Receiver

Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Sheppard make a formidable duo at wide receiver. OBJ played just four games due to a season-ending injury last season, but caught over 90 balls for over 1,300 yards in his first three seasons. In his 47 NFL games he has scored 38 touchdowns. He is a top-three NFL receiver and can be drafted at a value in the late first, early second round this year.

Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the New York Giants runs the ball to the end zone to score a 61 yard touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the third quarter of the game at MetLife Stadium on December 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Sheppard is one of the better complimentary receivers in the league and has quietly averaged 72 catches for 707 yards with five touchdowns in his first two seasons. He should surpass that average with defenses forced to key on Barkley and OBJ, and his tenth round value is definitely worth a selection.

Tight End

While I think Evan Engram is a one of the top young tight ends in the league, he is being a bit over valued in drafts this season. He is commonly being selected as the sixth tight end of the board due to his success last season, but much of his production came when OBJ and Sheppard missed games due to injury. He is not worth being selected at his early sixth round price tag.

Brad Wilson is the Chief Photojournalist at CBS 6 News. He has a decorated career, winning 10 Emmy awards for his work.

But, that’s not the only hardware that sits atop his mantle.

Wilson has been an avid fantasy football player for 12 years, winning numerous fantasy championships.

In the past three years, Wilson competed in eight leagues winning four of them, finishing in the top three in six and making the playoffs in all.

WTVR.com has called upon Wilson to bring its fans some unique insight into fantasy football. Look for his Fantasy Football Chief columns to drop every Tuesday through the football season. Click here to ask him your fantasy football questions.