NFC East Divisional Podcast Recap for 2023 (Fantasy Football)

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Finally! A promising division in the NFC. As we dive into the NFC East, it is essential to remember that the division has not seen a back-to-back champion since 2004. So, while many believe, and I hope, the Eagles win the division again, history is against them. As a quick reminder, this is only an overview of the teams heading into the 2023 season. Andy and Jason discuss off-season changes to remember for each team (players, rookies, and coaches) and how that could affect the fantasy pieces for the upcoming season.

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Let’s Get Divisional – NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles (14-3)

Player Additions: RB Rashaad Penny; RB D’Andre Swift
Player Subtractions: RB Miles Sanders
Offensive Rookies: QB Tanner McKee

The Eagles were one of the most dominant teams of last year in just about every tracked category. According to PFF, the Eagles’ offensive line ranked 1st at the end of 2022 and, as of right now, ranks 1st going into 2023. That offensive line blocked Jalen Hurts into the QB3 finish last year. Interestingly enough, Hurts’ rushing numbers were similar from two years ago to the last, but his passing numbers are where the difference came from.

He went from 432 pass attempts in 2021 to 460 in 2022—only 28 more passes than the year before. The output changed drastically, though, with Hurts throwing 557 more yards and six more touchdowns than the year before. That jump, his rushing ability, and the Eagles’ allowing him to run the ball in the red zone made him one of the most reliable QBs in fantasy football last year. Hurts carried the ball 43 times in the red area. That is the most carries by a QB ever. It tied Josh Jacobs with the 5th most by a running back!

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Of course, we all know that the Eagles had a successful play so often that the league tried to change the rules for the QB sneak. If the Eagles were in a third or fourth-and-one situation, it was guaranteed that Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ offensive line would rugby scrum their way into a first down or touchdown.

What happened that allowed Jalen Hurts to improve so much as a passer? A.J. Brown came to Philly, and DeVonta Smith leveled up. A.J. Brown is a man among boys on the NFL field. He led the NFL in receiving yards on vertical routes, was fourth in air yards, and fourth in yards per target. He was Jalen Hurts’s go-to guy for the entire season, and the Eagles set him up for success. Brown is being drafted as the last pick in the first round right now, meaning people are making him their WR1 on their teams. Maybe that seems like a high price, but this offense was prolific last year and should be just as good again. Brown is a crucial piece in that offense, making him incredibly valuable for fantasy.

Then there is the Slim Reaper. DeVonta Smith is one of only five sophomores over the last decade with at least 95 receptions, 1,110 yards, and seven touchdowns. He did emerge towards the end of the season when Dallas Goedert was injured, but even when Goedert was back healthy, Smith was a force through the playoffs. He finished in the top 10 last year at the WR position and helped many people to championships. Now he is being drafted as the WR14, which feels like the floor for him. The question with him is if you go RB, would you be happy with him being your possible WR1?

Speaking of pass catchers, the Eagles have one of the best values in fantasy drafts at the TE position. Dallas Goedert was third in QBR per target at the TE, and third in yards per team pass attempt. He also was one of the best yards after the catch TEs last season. Even when he returned from injury and DeVonta Smith had taken some of his work, he still produced quality games in the playoffs.

Then there are the running backs. It can’t be all happy-go-lucky. Miles Sanders carried the bulk of the work last year, and that helped him finish in the top 15 at the running back position. He ranked higher in standard leagues because the Eagles do not utilize their RBs in the passing game. Jalen Hurts tied for the lowest check-down rate in the NFL last season. When you can tuck it and run as Hurts can, I guess giving it to someone else is hard. Sanders is gone, and the RB room is murky at best. The Eagles brought in Rashaad Penny early in the offseason and traded for D’Andre Swift during the draft. Those two join a room with Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott, already established in the system.

When teams bring in multiple new players, often the best thing to do is follow the money, but the Eagles didn’t pay much to either guy. Penny is on a one-year prove-it deal and only traded a 2025 fourth-round pick for Swift. So, who do you take for your fantasy roster?

In short, none of the above. As far as fantasy statistics go, Jalen Hurts is the best running back the Eagles have. He gets the bulk of the red zone carries and doesn’t check it down consistently, taking away the passing work. That makes the RB position in Philadelphia less valuable because the RBs don’t get high percentages of valuable opportunities.

Recognizing the Eagles’ o-line again is essential because they are a true difference-maker on the field. If one of Swift, Penny, or even Gainwell emerges as the number one guy, then there is value. They all have reasons to think they can be the go-to guy. Swift had the second most yards per touch among RBs in 2022. Penny has averaged six yards per carry over his last 16 games and 5.6 for his career. Gainwell didn’t have a regular season game with ten opportunities, but in the playoffs, when games mattered the most, he was much more active.

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Trying to decide who to take is not easy, and the prices for each are wide gaps. Swift is going in the sixth round, Penny in the ninth, and Gainwell is undrafted. That alone might decide it for you, and you might just take the guy that costs the least, but regardless I wouldn’t bank on any of them to contribute to your team for a full 17 games.

Vegas projected win total: 10.5

Dallas Cowboys (12-5)

Player Additions: WR Brandin Cooks; RB Ronald Jones
Player Subtractions: RB Ezekiel Elliott; WR TY Hilton
Offensive Rookies: TE Luke Schoonmaker (The Schoonman); RB Deuce Vaughn; WR Jalen Brooks

Who else is tired of talking about how the Cowboys will run the ball more this season? It has been the drum beat all offseason that Mike McCarthy wants to slow the game down and give his defense time to rest. Great. The problem is that the team has shown us nothing to suggest that they are preparing for that change. They released their grinder running back in Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard is coming off a severe injury, and the running back room behind Pollard leaves a lot wanting. They ranked 6th in rush attempts last year. There is room to run the ball more if they want to lead the league, but how exactly will they manage that?

Is this talk a condoning of Dak Prescott? Dak has been a consistent fantasy QB for the last seven years when he has been healthy. Last year he missed four weeks with injury, but from Week 8 on, he was the QB6 in fantasy scoring with 19.6 points per game. The biggest issue has been the rushing work that has gone down in the last few years. In his first three years in the league, he had six rushing touchdowns each year, and over the previous four seasons, he had eight touchdowns combined. Not surprisingly, his rushing attempts as a whole have also gone down during that time. Prescott is one of the first QBs taken after the top two tiers are gone. But will he return that value if the team slows the game down?

Vegas projected win total: 9.5

Getty Images / Tom Pennington

New York Giants (9-7-1)

Players Added: TE Darren Waller; WR Parris Campbell; Every slot WR available
Player Subtractions:
Offensive Rookies: WR Jalin Hyatt; RB Eric Gray

The Giants were the most improved team that didn’t improve last year. They scored the five fewest first-quarter points in the NFL in 2021, going 4-13 and firing their head coach. Last year they scored the fewest points in the first quarter in the NFL and made the playoffs. They won a playoff game and then got trounced by the Eagles in the second round. Brian Daboll did a lot with a flawed roster last year, and the team didn’t do much to improve. Making this team feel like fool’s gold heading into the 2023 season. 

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Much of the success came from the improvement of Daniel Jones. He was very efficient as a passer. He led the NFL with a 1.1% interception rate and adjusted completion percentage. However, he wasn’t asked to make many hard throws down the field and only threw 15 touchdowns on the season. He was buoyed a bit by his rushing totals. Jones became only one of 12 QBs since 1973 to rush for 700 yards and seven touchdowns. He is a sneaky good runner. Jones has four two-plus rushing TD games in his career, which is as many as Lamar Jackson. Despite that running ability, he ended last season with an F on our consistency metric at 29.4%. The good news is that he has all the slot receivers in the country now on the team to help him get better. 

It is a joke, but only a little one. Darius Slayton is the only non-slot-type receiver on the team. Everyone else; Isaiah Hodgins, Wan’Dale Robinson, Sterling Shepard, Parris Campbell, Jalin Hyatt, Jamison Crowder, and Cole Beasley all profile as slot receivers. It is not to say that Brian Daboll can’t do something with all these pieces. At least this year, we need to see it to figure out what that will be. 

Plus, they did add Darren Waller, who, when healthy, has been a dominant NFL and fantasy TE. The question is, can he see a 23-25% target share? The Giants have 127 total vacated targets from last season, and that is a good start for Waller to be fantasy relevant. He is the most talented pass catcher they have, and since Waller is the TE7 currently in drafts, you could do worse with a later TE. 

Of course, if Jones only throws 15 touchdowns, the biggest question for Waller is, how many will he catch? If Jones goes up and throws 20 touchdowns, he could help keep Waller in the upper tier of TEs. Especially if Jones rushes less and passes more, his numbers could swing in the other direction.

We now know that Saquon is back and not holding out of camp. He has a one-year contract, and while that doesn’t give Barkley long-term stability, he is at least there this year. He is the best weapon that the Giants have on offense. He is an incredible talent, we know. He finally saw more targets and was heavily used as a rushing option. He ranked third in expected fantasy points. He was a question mark up until recently, but with his new contract and showing up to camp, that question mark goes away. We know the talent, and we know the Giants will use him. Don’t be surprised to see him shoot back up on draft boards. 

Vegas projected win total: 8.5

Washington Commanders

Player Additions: QB Jacoby Brissett (Jake Brisket)
Player Subtractions: QB Carson Wentz; QB Taylor Heinicke; RB J.D. McKissic
Offensive Rookies: RB Chris Rodriguez Jr

Washington was awful down the final stretch of the season. They also started terribly. The middle was pretty good, especially when they beat the Eagles in Week 10. Soon after that, the wheels fell off. Now, the team has new QBs in second-year players Sam Howell and Jacoby Brissett. They also have a new offensive coordinator in Eric Bieniemy.

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On top of that, the team no longer belongs to Daniel Snyder. The team has a fresh start on the way, which could be bad news for Ron Rivera. 

That all comes down to whether Sam Howell or Jacoby Brissett can elevate this offense from last year. We know that Bieniemy has been a part of the best football offense for the past few years, but with Patrick Mahomes under center and Andy Reid as a mentor, it is hard to go wrong. Now Bieniemy is alone with an unproven QB and the underwhelming Jake Brisket. Either way, it is still the worst QB in the division. The big question is, what is the ceiling for the fantasy options in Washington? 

We know the team has some quality pass catchers. Terry McLaurin has been on a QB carousel since entering the league, having caught passes from nine signal callers. If Brissett throws a pass to McLaurin at any point, that will move him to ten. Despite Carson Wentz’s and Taylor Heinicke’s inconsistency last season, McLaurin still saw a 23% target share and put up a few decent games. He is going as the WR21 right now, and his upside is well above that floor, making him a solid steal right now in most drafts. 

The team ran the ball the fourth most in the season. They threw the ball 20th. Will that stay the same with Bieniemy now calling the plays? We know the Chiefs throw the ball at a very high rate, and if Bieniemy brings that style over to Washington, the targets should go up for McLaurin and make him even better. 

Then, of course, there is Jahan Dotson, who has a lot of fantasy managers hot and bothered right now. We looked at every rookie taken on the first two days of the NFL draft since 2014, and out of 120 WRs, Dotson tied for sixth most touchdowns in their first season. He was 28th percentile in targets per route run, 48th percentile in yards per route run, and 62nd percentile in target share. He dealt with some injuries, but from Week 13 on, he was targeted on 20% of his routes—all sorts of elite measurables from a rookie year. Like McLaurin, if the team throws the ball more and the offense does improve even slightly, Dotson could be a steal coming off the board in the eighth round right now. 

McLaurin and Dotson are the team’s only proper pass-catching weapons that aren’t running backs. Logan Thomas had one good season but has never returned to that form, and the rest of the receiving core is lackluster as best. 

Then there is Mike’s champion. Antonio Gibson is the third Memphis Tiger running back in the NFC East – Gainwell and Pollard are the other two. What do we, as a fantasy community, do about Antonio Gibson? He became less and less of a contributor as the season went on, and the team ran the ball more and more. Brian Robinson shouldered most of the work, but despite that workload only finished in the top-24 four times in 12 games played. Antonio Gibson is an elite pass catcher. He played receiver in college and has performed well in the NFL when he was targeted. His talent level is not questioned, but what will his usage be? 

That question comes down to whether Bieniemy will have free reign of the offense. Will Ron Rivera try and force his old-school run-the-ball methods into the game plan? If the team does throw the ball more, can Sam Howell step up and be good and consistent as an NFL QB? That is a big ask for a player with only one NFL start to his name. In that start, he did finish as the QB7 on the week. Sure, it was Week 17, but he did run the ball five times for 35 yards and a touchdown. Not saying he is the next outstanding running QB, but Jason isn’t saying he won’t be. 

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The Commanders have a good defense, and like the Cowboys, they could win games without leaning on their offense, taking the ball out of the hands of Sam Howell, Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Antonio Gibson, which is the opportunity for Brian Robinson to be good again. 

They do have an excellent first-week matchup against Arizona. After that, they have to go to Denver, play Buffalo, and go to Philadelphia.  

Vegas projected win total: 6.5

Ballers Predictions

Andy: Eagles, Giants, Cowboys, Commanders

Jason: Eagles, Cowboys, Commanders, Giants

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