In today’s entry in the Divisional ADP Breakdown saga, we are finishing up with the NFC East. Can’t believe we are here already, but this is the final installment of the series. I know, I know, very sad. But don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. We end this journey right where we started – in my home state of New Jersey. Probably the first time in history that the Jets and Giants playing in the same stadium was convenient for anyone.
Since the 2002 realignment, there has not been a repeat champion of the NFC East since the 2002 – 2004 Philadelphia Eagles. It’s been mostly Eagles and Cowboys since 2012, with the franchise in Washington winning the division under two different names in that span. Despite being in the NFC EAST, only 7 other teams in the NFL are further west than the Cowboys. One more geography nugget to bring us home! Any who, for the last time this summer, let’s inspect who is being over drafted and who is being undervalued in this division.
Last year’s division champs went out in the wildcard round against the 49ers. While they did suffer an early playoff exit, at least Dak Prescott taught us all that 14 seconds is not enough time to scramble in bounds and spike the ball before time runs out on your season. The Cowboys are currently the odds-on favorite to win this division again, something that hasn’t been done in almost 20 years. Does the departure of Amari Cooper give someone the lane to step up and break out for fantasy?
Michael Gallup (175th Overall, WR66)
Well, I don’t think it will be Michael Gallup. Not for the first half of the season, anyway. As we all know, he tore his ACL in Week 17 of last season, putting his Week 1 availability this season in jeopardy. The team has stated he will not start the season on the PUP, indicating that a return within the first 6 weeks is imminent. Per our own Sam Webb though, “Today’s research recommends waiting to return to sport until at least nine months post-op as it has shown to decrease the risk of re-injury drastically.” Based on my math, that puts Gallup’s return at least into October, but we will have to see what unfolds.
You may be saying, “So what? I’ll take him with the last pick in my draft and stash him in my IR spot!” Which is a strategy, but not one I’d suggest. Per the same entry from Sam, wide receivers returning from an ACL tear average 3.6 less points per game in half-point PPR scoring in their first game back. It’s not until the 4-6 games after injury threshold that we see most players eclipsing their previous PPG baseline. At this point, Gallup is no longer allowed in your IR spot, either. Are you starting him in late October or early November when you’re jockeying for playoff position? Unlikely. So he is a roster clog at the end of your bench not helping you win.
I’d rather save my IR spot for in-season short-term injuries for a player who is more likely to contribute to my team. Hypothetically, let’s say Gallup defies the odds and is right back to his 2021 form as soon as he returns to game action. Well that 2021 form was being a top-24 WR in just two games all season. I know Cooper is gone, but I don’t see a path to fantasy relevancy for Michael Gallup in 2021. Not one where I draft him, anyway.
Ezekiel Elliott (29th Overall, RB15)
Is it name fatigue? Or is it the age concerns? Is it the minor question marks along the normally star-studded Cowboys offensive line*? What about the threat of Tony Pollard stealing work? When you figure out what has Zeke fading into the third round, please let me know. Despite a PCL injury suffered in Week 4 of last season, he played all 17 games and finished as the RB6. He has never finished worse than RB11 on a season. No one has been more consistent since he entered the league in 2016. And he gets there because of his touches, never seeing less than 268 in a season.
With Amari Cooper and others gone, the Cowboys have 205 vacated targets up for grabs. Believe it or not, Zeke ran the 2nd most routes among running backs in all of football last season. As we know, receptions are so valuable to this position in fantasy. The way I see it, the majority of the targets in this Cowboys offense will be split up between CeeDee Lamb, Dalton Schultz, Zeke, and Tony Pollard. Not denying Pollard’s electricity when he’s on the field, but Elliott is still the main running back for this team. Jerry Jones paid him, and he’s going to get his money’s worth! He is also still the goal line back for what should be a solid offense in 2022. At RB15, and probably the third player on your team, I like Zeke as an anchor in starting lineups this season.
*Editors note: this was written pre Tyron Smith hamstring injury. This certainly affects the outlook for Elliott, but he is still a value at his current ADP.
My pick to win the NFC East this year, the Eagles, are next up to discuss. Will A.J. Brown be the key to Jalen Hurts becoming a better passer this season? Throwing to a big body like that certainly can’t hurt. Most outlets are projecting this Eagles team to have a top 3 offensive line in 2022. That usually means good things for the entire offense, especially the running backs. But are there any players worth drafting at their current ADP?
Miles Sanders (73rd Overall, RB28)
This is something that seemingly the entire fantasy community can agree on. I don’t think anyone is high on Miles Sanders heading into 2022. That’s a shame too, because the Eagles project to have one of the elite offensive lines in football. Whenever they want to run the ball, they’ll be able to do so successfully most of the time. Last season, Philadelphia led the NFL with 25 rushing scores and yet Sanders had none of them. Kind of impressive. That means some sort of positive regression in that category is coming his way, but is it enough to use a 6th/7th round pick on him? I don’t think so.
Even if Sanders returns to a league-average amount of rushing touchdowns in 2022, Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell are going to eat into his touches. Last season, Scott had 87 carries and 13 receptions, while the rookie Gainwell had 68 carries and 33 receptions. He seems to be the preferred passing option in this backfield, which will eat into Sander’s value further. And then there’s the fact that Jalen Hurts led the team in rushing attempts last season with 139. That’s 2 more than Sanders had in 2022. That strategy clearly worked for the offense, so I don’t see much of a deviation from that strategy this season. Plus, Sanders has been held out of practice for two weeks now due to a hamstring injury.
Unfortunately, there are too many options in that backfield, including his QB. If Sanders were to have this backfield to himself, I think he would easily beat this ADP. But that doesn’t seem to be in Nick Sirianni’s plans.
DeVonta Smith (88th Overall, WR36)
A.J. Brown and Dallas Goedert are probably ahead of Smith in the pecking order for targets in Philly. Do I think Jalen Hurts can support the fantasy values of three pass catchers? I have my doubts. He certainly needs to take a step up from his 3,144 passing yards last season, which ranked 21st in the NFL. In my very first post for the Fantasy Injury Team, I wrote about why A.J. Brown joining the Eagles hurts his fantasy value (pun very much intended). The main reason being Hurts’ abilities near the goal line, which would take away from Brown’s TD upside. So why am I higher than consensus on Smith?
It comes down to the draft cost. Taking the 2020 Heisman trophy winner doesn’t cost you as much. We also know about Brown’s injury history. If he were to miss any time, Smith immediately becomes the number one option on the outside. DeVonta had a decent rookie season too, even if he was overshadowed by Chase and Waddle. Plus, he’s been bulking up on Wawa subs all offseason, and we at the Fantasy Injury Team love us some Wawa. That’s not a real reason to draft Smith, but an interesting tidbit nonetheless.
His competition for targets in a relatively low volume passing offense is certainly a concern. But I could easily see DeVonta Smith returning value at this draft cost.
Another year, another new name for the football team in Washington. Think this one is here to stay. When I saw their new jerseys in their preseason game last week, I thought I was watching an Iowa State game. Not a bad look, though. They traded for Carson Wentz in the offseason, which is a bad look. I’m just kidding, Wentz is an average NFL QB, no knock on the guy. But is he the missing piece that can bring this franchise back to the postseason in 2021?
Antonio Gibson (59th Overall, RB24)
Tom wrote about Gibson’s injury history yesterday. While he isn’t too concerned with it overall, it is something to monitor during the season if issues arise. Even without an injury concern, there are plenty of other reasons to fade Gibson in drafts this year. He finished last season as RB10, but he wasn’t great in the first half of the year. He was RB19 in total points from Weeks 1-8, finishing in the top 12 just one time. It was only after J.D. McKissic’s concussion in Week 12 that Gibson really started to take off. And for most of you that drafted him, it was probably too little too late.
In those 6 games without McKissic, his targets went up to 4.8 per game, which was about 2 more per game than his pace in the first half of the season. What I’m saying is, when McKissic is healthy, Gibson’s pass catching role decreases. J.D. is back in Washington in 2022, despite that weird 24 hours where he was a Buffalo Bill. In May, Washington drafted Alabama Crimson Tide running back Brian Robinson in the 3rd round of the NFL draft.
“Coach Speak” is something you have to take with a grain of salt, but Ron Rivera did recently say he envisioned Gibson and Robinson working together in a similar fashion to how DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart did during his time with the Panthers. If there is any truth to that, it’s not great for fantasy managers. The only season where both backs in Carolina finished in the top 15 at the position was in 2009. It is ironic to note that there was a number one overall finish from Williams in 2008 during Stewart’s rookie season, but that’s not happening for Gibson in 2022.
I haven’t even mentioned the fumbling issues Gibson had last season that spilled over into their first preseason game. One thing coaches hate is when running backs fumble. If the coaching staff starts to lose trust in Gibson handling the rock in 2022, it could plummet his fantasy value real quick. Throw in the fact that he’s returning kicks this season, and we’re now looking at more red flags than a rough day at the beach. Avoid Gibson at all costs. Let someone else in your league take the dive.
Brian Robinson (114th Overall, RB41) / J.D. McKissic (164th Overall, RB55)
The strikes against Gibson are the positive factors working in his backfield mates’ favors. Robinson has been given the majority of carries with the first team in the preseason and McKissic is a real receiving threat out of the backfield. He was their preferred option last season in two minute drills as well. Those are valuable snaps for fantasy football that Gibson will again be missing out on. At a fraction of the cost, taking a shot on either of these running backs late in drafts and putting them at the end of your bench for a couple of weeks is a better bet than drafting Gibson as a starter Week 1 for your team.
New York Giants
We have made it to the last team of the entire series! If you have been reading all of these entries from start to finish, thank you, seriously. It means the world. Alright, enough sappiness, let’s talk football! The Giants are tied with the Jets for the worst records in the entire NFL over the last 5 years. They have both posted an abysmal 22-59. But bringing in Brian Daboll should be what turns this franchise back around. Anything is better than Joe Judge… ok maybe not anything.. *cough cough Urban Meyer cough cough*. Moving on…. This Giants team may not have all the pieces to make it back to the playoffs year one of the Daboll-Schoen era, but I think they’re headed in the right direction. But what does that mean for fantasy football?
Kenny Golladay (155th Overall, WR55)
The Giants have spent the most money in the NFL on their wide receiver group, so they must be the best in the league, right? Not so much. A majority of that money is Kenny Golladay’s whopping contract that accounts for 10.24% of their overall cap. Yet he is the receiver on this team I am least excited about for 2022. Just goes to show ya, you don’t always get value in what you pay for. Is he fully over his hip flexor strain from 2020 yet? He should be by now, but 2021 was not kind to Kenny G. Known as “Baby Tron” to Calvin Johnson’s “Megatron” for his impeccable end zone chops, Golladay brought in exactly zero TDs last season. Is that on him? Daniel Jones? Jason Garrett? Most likely a combination of all three.
Unfortunately, only Garrett is missing from that equation this season. Golladay hasn’t looked great in the preseason either, securing just one catch in two appearances. The chemistry doesn’t seem to be there and for a guy who relied on a lot of big plays during his time in Detroit to return fantasy value, having Daniel Jones at QB doesn’t inspire confidence. Jones actually wasn’t all that bad on his deep throws in 2021, but he completed less than a third of those deep passes. Golladay needs more accuracy than that, or better end zone looks. The draft cost is minimal, but I will probably be passing on Golladay in most drafts this offseason. Which is sad to write, because he was one of my favorite receivers just a few short years ago.
Saquon Barkley (19th Overall, RB12)
Remember 2018? “God’s Plan” by Drake was the number one Billboard Hot 100 song of the year. The average gas price was $2.56 per gallon. You had never heard of Covid. And Saquon Barkley took the league by storm in his rookie season, putting up 340 fantasy points en route to an RB2 overall finish. Life was good. And it can be good again!
Granted, that season featured a statuesque Eli Manning at QB, dumping the ball off to Barkley at the slightest sign of pressure. This helped the Penn State rookie amass 721 receiving yards on 121 targets and 91 receptions. During that magical 2018 season, He finished outside the top 24 at the running back position in a single week just one time. With 12 top 12 finishes. That is the upside you are dealing with in the middle of the second round, as possibly the second running back on your team.
There’s this narrative that Daniel Jones doesn’t drop the ball off to running backs enough to make Barkley worthy of a first round pick. But that simply isn’t true. In 2019, he was on 90 target pace, but missed 4 games due to injury. He still finished the season as RB10. We know about the ACL/MCL tear that ended his 2020 season before it could really get started. And last season’s low ankle sprain was a freak accident that could have happened to any player. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We have heard all offseason that if Christian McCaffrey is healthy, he’s worth a top 2 draft pick. So why isn’t it the same narrative for Barkley? They are both insane talents when healthy, but have had a rough string of non-related injuries the last couple of seasons. The Giants also addressed offensive line in the draft, selecting Evan Neal with the 7th overall pick. Their line projects to be just as good, if not better than the Panthers’ offensive line. To me, these players are in similar situations and could very well finish at the top of their position in fantasy points yet again. Why not take the risk?
Again, thank you all for reading this post and the others in this series. We’ve covered the fantasy outlook and evaluation of over 60 players across all 32 NFL teams. I’ve presented my arguments for and against these players. What you do with that information is up to you.
I’ll leave you with one parting thought. When you’re on the clock in drafts over the next two weekends, remember to keep this one question in mind: “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”