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The NFC East is filled with teams that can pop off at any moment, and the Fantasy Football talent pool for this division is overflowing. This division is so crazy in fact, that the Washington Redskins were able to support a Top 12 running back and a Top 20 wide receiver on a four-win season. The polarizing nature of the NFC East was captured in the Week 3 matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Redskins, as the combined point total for that game was 71 points. 71 points!

The New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys have uncertainty at the running back position, but the Eagles are now overloaded with talent. After initial outrage over letting LeSean McCoy join Rex Ryan in Buffalo, I don’t think there were any hard feelings towards Chip Kelly when he stole DeMarco Murray from Dallas. He also added Ryan Mathews, who should be able to showcase his talent with a reduced role.

Quarterbacks Eli Manning and Tony Romo were able to finish 10th and 11th in standard scoring leagues respectively last season, but the Redskins and Eagles struggled to find consistency. This may be the last chance for Robert Griffin III, and there are rumblings questioning how ready Sam Bradford will really be for the start of the 2015 season. With a new cast of characters through trades and the 2015 NFL Draft, what are some of the position battles that you should pay attention to in the NFC East?

 

New York Giants RBs: Rashad Jennings vs. Shane Vereen vs. Andre Williams

 

For a 30-year old running back who has never recorded more than 733 rushing yards, Fantasy players still seem drawn to Rashad Jennings. He only played in 11 games last season, but he did have a huge performance in Week 3; 176 rushing yards on 33 carries. He is fresher than most running backs his age, as Jennings has never came close to exceeding 200 rushing attempts, but it’s still questionable what he has to offer in terms of Fantasy value.

Jennings is capable as a pass-catching back, but Shane Vereen was brought in from New England for his expertise. Vereen is glowing in OTA reports, and he is expected to play a major role in the offense.  When a play calls for a no-huddle look, expect the 26-year old pass catcher to be the beneficiary of passes out of the backfield. Though he offers limited value in the rushing attack, Vereen is still a candidate to finish with 1,000 or more total yards. He will need to tack on more touchdowns for Fantasy owners to give him a reoccurring role as a starter, but Vereen is shaping up to be a solid option in PPR leagues.

I can’t find a consensus for the role bruiser Andre Williams will play in New York. I’ve heard everything from him getting cut, to Williams owning all the goal-line work, so I think it’s hard to gauge his Fantasy value heading into 2015 leagues. I did find it surprising, however, that the 230-pound back finished the 2014 Fantasy season as the 21st-highest scoring back in standard leagues. This impressed me for the simple fact that Williams had five games in which he had 10 or fewer total touches. It’s interesting to consider the possibilities of what he could have done with just a few more touches.

Right now, I like Veeren’s ADP as the last player selected in Round 7 on FantasyFootballCalculator.com.  I think he’s a safer pick than Jennings, who has an ADP in Round 6.  I think there needs to be more clarity around Williams before making a decision, but regardless, I’m still favoring Vereen.

Dallas Cowboys RBs: Joseph Randle vs. Darren McFadden

With a strong offensive line, it makes sense that Fantasy players want to target Murray’s replacement. To a lesser extent, however, this reminds of Toby Gerhart and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Just because a player is the starting running back, is he actually worth drafting?

There will most likely be a committee approach between Randle and McFadden, even if Randle (the current favorite to start) will handle the bulk of the workload. Fantasy Football players have not witnessed a productive Fantasy season from McFadden since 2010, and Randle only has 105 rushing attempts to his name. With reports that Ray Rice might even be in mix if the current duo isn’t up to par in training camp, I think this is a messy backfield.

Still, there is a lot of time between now and Week 1, so we will just have to sit and wait to make sense of the rushing attack in Dallas.

Washington Redskins QBs: Robert Griffin III vs. The World

This is by far the ugliest position battle in the NFC East, and it even makes the Browns’ quarterback situation look impressive by comparison.

It’s hard to figure out if the issues at the quarterback position in Washington are due to RG3, his coaching staff or both. I find it interesting that before the 2012 NFL Draft, teams reportedly were troubled with character concerns surrounding the former Baylor star. For a guy who didn’t have any known off-the-field issues, it’s surprising to see the character card thrown around. There could be something less sinister behind Griffin’s poor reports, which may just be a lack of commitment. Steve Young stated that former coaches told him that the young quarterback just doesn’t put in the work that a starter should.

Young’s source was probably Mike Shanahan, the scorned former head coach who had a brief stint from 2010-2013, so it’s hard to know exactly what’s right and who to trust. There were also questionable decisions regarding Griffin’s health and playing time, so there could just be a huge combination of issues that has created the ugly situation head coach Jay Gruden now finds himself in.

I’m currently in Round 16 of a 28-round league, and no one has even sniffed around Griffin. That could make him a tremendous value play, but you could just wait for Griffin’s inevitable benching, and start Kirk Cousins for a week before he loses his spot to Colt McCoy.

Philadelphia Eagles WRs: Jordan Matthews vs. Nelson Agholor

With the arrival of Chip Kelly, DeSean Jackson pleased Fantasy owners in 2013, and Jeremy Maclin followed suit in 2014. With Maclin leaving behind over 1,300 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, who will be the next Eagles’ receiver to step up?

I think it is very important to watch what happens with Sam Bradford. If he can’t start, I really like the pairing of Mark Sanchez with Matthews. They reportedly had a good rapport on the second string before the start of the 2014 season, and Matthews’ touchdown production seems to support that observation. Before Sanchez, Matthews only had two touchdown catches. After Sanchez started in Week 9, however, he hauled in five throughout the rest of the season. The second-year receiver also finished 2014 with three performances of 100 or more receiving yards, and all of those performances came with Sanchez at the helm.

The rookie Agholor serves as an intriguing option, as he was a receiver Chip thought was good enough to draft in Round 1. If Kelly was able to do what he did with players he didn’t want, imagine what he can do with a guy he did want. I think this Eagles offense will cause premature aging for a lot of Fantasy players this year, however, so I expect it to be a constant headache of who to start at the receiver position.

Agholor finished with a big final season at USC, hauling in 104 receptions for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdown passes. The rookie was also involved with punt returns and kickoffs, which could extend to Philadelphia. The Eagles are still experimenting where to play their newest weapon, but Fantasy owners shouldn’t get too gaga over the rookie. Riley Cooper, Josh Huff and Miles Austin are all fighting for attention, and Zach Ertz has the potential to emerge as a huge target if his blocking skills have improved enough to allow him more time on the field.

Chip doesn’t care about your Fantasy team, and I think people are going to quickly find that out. He is going to spread the ball around and try to out-coach his opponents. That’s not to say that Matthews and Agholor couldn’t have a huge year, and I still believe they are very intriguing prospects. I just think this offense will not be straight forward, and the leaders in receptions as well as rushing yards could change from week to week.

Needless to say, the NFC East will be interesting for Fantasy owners in 2015.

 

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