NFC East Help Wanted is the first of an Eight-Part series throughout the offseason where Fantasy Football Trader's Columnist Ernie Estrella will be touring the NFL by Division and identifying key positional battles with fantasy football implications that are up for grabs.
New York Giants
No. 2 Running Back
Candidates-Ahmad Bradshaw, Danny Ware, Gartrell Johnson
While Brandon Jacobs may believe otherwise, he is the Giants starting rusher, but only by the number of rushing attempts. Had Ahmad Bradshaw not had a stress fracture in his foot for most of last season, he would have had more impressive numbers despite touching the ball 25 percent less than Jacobs. He was tied with Steve Smith for a team-leading seven touchdowns.
The G-Men are hoping Bradshaw will be at 100 percent when training camp begins because he's a more dynamic and versatile runner than Jacobs. He offers a severe change of pace and elusive style which keeps defenses on their heels, contrasting Jacobs' upright, between-the-tackles and straight-ahead running.
Johnson and Ware will get more carries but are far too young for Tom Coughlin to take a risk on. If anything, I do think Ware will be groomed for Jacobs' role in the offense, because I'm just not a big believer in the big Giants back.
Jacobs gets injured too easily and is too slow to run sweeps or pitchouts. Both Bradshaw (4.8) and Ware (5.6) had better yards per carry averages than Jacobs (3.7). With young and hungry backs like this, Jacobs should be glad he gets to touch the ball as much as he does.
Prediction: Ahmad Bradshaw
Fantasy Implication: 8/10
The No. 2 running back on the Giants plays a crucial role because Jacobs is not an every down back, nor is he very durable. Bradshaw offers the best pure rushing skills as a running back in the crowded Giants backfield. I would like to see him utilized in the passing game a bit more, but that's a touchy balancing act already for Manning.
Given his nose for the end zone, Bradshaw makes a good flex option back that can be reliable enough to score eight to 10 points per game for now, and could grow into a much bigger role if he can get to an equal split of the carries, making for an attractive, low cost dynasty back.
No. 2 Wide Receiver
Candidates-Roy Williams, Sam Hurd, Patrick Crayton, Kevin Ogletree
There's no denying who the top options were in the eyes of Tony Romo. Miles Austin and Jason Witten each received 124 targets and defenses will be sure to adjust in 2010. The Cowboys offense will get infinitely stronger if they can find at least one more receiver who can consistently make defenses pay.
Roy Williams was next with 86 targets and then the big drop off to Crayton at 67, yet both receivers had similar stats, with approximately 40 receptions and 600 yards. Crayton has made the most of his opportunities, but has failed to make the leap that Austin took in his career. If he hasn't done it after six seasons in the league, it's doubtful he'll do it in his seventh NFL season.
Williams on the other hand is trying to salvage a promising career and prove to the Cowboys he deserves all that cash. I was a big fan when this trade went down. Everyone involved hoped the change of venue would have done Williams good, instead it has just confirmed and exposed the fact that Williams is not No. 1 receiver material.
Hurd and Ogletree are afterthoughts in this conversation with the latter playing a small part on special teams.
Prediction: Roy Williams
Fantasy Implication: 7/10
The Cowboys had better hope its Williams for all the money and draft picks it’s costing Jerry Jones, otherwise this will be a painful case of buyer's remorse. He does have two years on Crayton and is still in his prime.
What is promising is that Romo was more comfortable using Williams as a red zone target; he was tied for second on the team with seven touchdowns. Williams pouted when he was surpassed by a younger, hungrier teammate in Detroit, it should be interesting how he does in Dallas.
Having Williams step up would draw the double team coverage away from either Witten or Austin, making the entire Cowboys fantasy value rise, but even with an improvement over 2009, I recommend Williams as nothing more than a 2010 No. 3 WR/Flex option.
No. 1 Wide Receiver
Candidates-Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El, Devin Thomas, and Malcolm Kelly
The Redskins just placed a first round tender on quarterback Jason Campbell, so they obviously don't want to part with him, and now they must be committed to build around him for the immediate future. So, one of the more important battles in 2010 for Hog Nation is the one at wide receiver.
The Redskins wideouts were a weak bunch in 2009 generating a total of six touchdowns. This is a team that throws to tight ends and running backs in the red zone.
Santana Moss led the team with 70 receptions and 902 yards and the next best receiver was Antwaan Randle El at 50 receptions and 530 yards. Both will be 31 when the next season starts and neither is a potent threat anymore.
Thomas and Kelly, though, are both 23 and each had one impressive game late last season but were rarely used. Both should be targeted more frequently in the upcoming season and one of the two could be worth taking a late round reach. Is there a real No. 1 receiver in this bunch? Sadly, no.
This will likely be another transitional year for this offense, but they'll have to have a receiving committee like the New York Giants for the young receivers to grow, and the vets to move on.
Prediction: Devin Thomas.
Fantasy Implication: 6/10
Moss has never had two consistent seasons in a row and he's the type of fantasy mistake I let someone else make on draft day. Randle El is a possession receiver who has just 15 receiving scores in eight uneventful seasons. Elevating him to something he's not will only have you regretting your draft minutes after the last round.
If someone is really going to take the Redskins to the modern era of NFL offenses, it's got to be some fresh blood. Whether that is a free agent signing, a rookie draft pick, or perhaps either Thomas or Kelly, of which I tend to favor Thomas, despite Kelly's impressive 6'4", 227-pound frame.
One of them has to step up in a big way and should be monitored for whom is in synch with Campbell during the preseason; they could be a smart waiver wire pickup when no one is looking.
No. 1 QB
Candidates-Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick
For as long as I've played fantasy football Donovan McNabb's been calling the signals under center for the Eagles. So it's a bit of a surprise that I'm discussing a possible change of the guard. Then again, it's Philadelphia we're talking about here, the city where the fickle fans don't exactly abide by the “Brotherly Love” motto so I'm not THAT surprised.
Here's how I see this one shaking out. One of these quarterbacks stays on the team, and the other two go.
Cleveland Browns new GM Tom Heckert is coming over from the Eagles front office, and I believe they will go after a trade for Kolb to upgrade, and if not them, there are a handful of other teams that would rather look at Kolb as a short-term solution instead of investing guaranteed money into a high draft pick.
The Michael Vick experiment is over in Philadelphia. They tried it, and it was a novel situation, but there are other teams who utilize the Wildcat with better success than the Eagles and could be better fits for Vick.
Some other team will take a chance on him, as a backup to earn a starting position but that's not the Eagles. That leaves McNabb who will begin in his 12th NFL campaign.
After years of not having enough good receivers, and injuries in 2005-2006, McNabb has put up three straight seasons that you'd be satisfied with as a fantasy owner, especially if your team wasn't relying on him scoring over 20 points per game.
He's almost always around in the middle to late rounds of fantasy drafts and in this late stage of his career, he's throwing the ball longer, farther, and more accurately than the rest of his career outside of the 2004 Super Bowl season. He's no longer the threat to tuck the ball and run the ball onto a SportsCenter highlight reel, but he threw for multiple touchdowns seven times last season and was held scoreless just twice.
If there's one knock on McNabb, I'd say it's his increasing number of fumbles and sacks. In the last three seasons he has 26 fumbles and lost half of them. In the same time period, he was sacked 102 times for an average of 34 per season which I believe is more of a reflection of an aging offensive line and decline in the run game.
Prediction: Donovan McNabb
Fantasy Implication: 9/10
Despite all the trade rumors, I think McNabb will remain an Eagle for another year or two. The Eagles young big play receivers need a quarterback who can throw it deep, and McNabb still does that well. They need his veteran leadership as the glue to hold all of the young pieces together.
No. 2 Running Back
Candidates- Felix Jones or Tashard Choice
One thing I'm not a big fan of is running back committees, especially when there are three backs contending for carries instead of two. I'll concede the starting job to Marion Barber, but everyone knows that the Cowboys have two more horses in the stable.
Looking at numbers, Jones and Choice produce very similarly. Jones has had more attempts than Choice, so he obviously has more yards, but they are even when it comes to average yards per carry, Jones at 5.9 and Choice 5.5, (both better than Barber's 4.4) and each scored three touchdowns.
But when you watch both of them run, Jones looks to be the most explosive of all of the Cowboys running backs. He hits the hole harder and breaks it outside quicker and is a game changer with a mere 10-12 carries each game. The knock on him is his inability to stay healthy.
Choice was given a fair opportunity early in the season when Jones went down with an injury, but the team lost faith with him in the second half of the season when he had problems picking up the blitz and that will limit any back's reps in practice and on the field.
Prediction: Felix Jones
Fantasy Implication: 6/10
Not only do I think Jones will be the No. 2 back on this team, I think he'll continue to inch closer to earning a majority of the carries if he stays healthy. He's the youngest out of the three backs and has the most upside of the bunch.
While Barber has played in nearly every game since he's been a Cowboy, he has never had more than 240 carries in a season which leaves plenty of room for Jones to make a big impact. In dynasty leagues, Jones is a smart pickup when the run on featured rushers has passed.
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