NFC East Free Agency and Wide Receiver Movement
New York Giants: The Giants let Hakeem Nicks walk this off season and brought back an old Super Bowl hero as a sort-of replacement. The Giants had no designs on keeping Hakeem Nicks in the fold so it came as no surprise when he signed a prove-it deal with the Indianapolis Colts. Nicks’ declining health and skills wore on the Giants’ brass and fans alike. His Fantasy Football stock is at an all-time low even being paired with one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, in Andrew Luck.
The sort-of replacement is none other than Mario Manningham. The Giants former third-round pick is back after spending two injury-plagued years in San Francisco. While having Manningham back in the fold feels nice as a fan of the Giants, I don’t expect him to start or to be an asset in Fantasy Football next season. Instead of replacing Hakeem Nicks on the Giants’ roster he is essentially replacing Louis Murphy, who had a very forgettable tenure with Big Blue.
The Giants should and probably will look to fill the void Hakeem Nicks’ exit has created by starting Rueben Randle and getting Jerrel Jernigan more involved in the offense. I do look for the Giants to draft an outside wide receiver this year, and could even see them taking Mike Evans if he ever fell to them. If Evans doesn’t fall to the Giants at 12 there will be a lot of talent at the wide receiver position available at their slot in the second round. Davante Adams or Donte Moncrief would be excellent second round picks.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have had a quiet off season as they are right up against the cap and have done some foolish things with their money lately. While Dez Bryantdidn’t quite take the leap to 1B to Calvin Johnson’s 1A as a fantasy wide receiver as many thought he might, he did put up solid numbers last season. Ninety-three receptions for more than 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at, but did leave some fantasy owners wanting.
The lack of a clear cut second option in the passing game hurt Dez Bryant last season.Jason Witten was another year older, and slower, and Miles Austin once again spent most of the season rehabbing his forever-pulled hamstrings. The only bright spot was they appeared to hit on their third round pick in Terrance Williams from Baylor. Williams had 44 receptions for over 700 yards and 5 TD’s in a rookie campaign that saw him grow. Williams is definitely a player to keep on your radar as a potential wide receiver 3 in 12-team leagues next year. In fact, if he has a good offseason you should target him.
Philadelphia Eagles: Can I just say wow! I knew DeSean Jackson had a high salary cap number, but after the season he had last year I was fully expecting the Eagles to extend him or at least have him play it out. Well, in today’s NFL you never know. Don’t get me wrong I know Jackson is tough to deal with, I often compare him to some of the prima-donna strikers you see in the English Premier League, but I didn’t think they would let their second-best player walk.
With Jackson gone the Eagles will feature Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin at the wide receiver position and Zach Ertz at the tight end position. I don’t think Chip Kelly realizes how much ackson helped the Eagles last year with his ability to make a secondary respect his deep speed, but Kelly will find out quickly if teams are able to stack the box to try and stop LeSean McCoy.
Obviously Cooper and Maclin get a big jump in value with Jackson gone, but the one who may benefit the most is Ertz. Ertz quietly had a very nice rookie campaign as he caught 36 passes for 469 yards and 4 TD’s. Even with Brent Celek getting some of the targets from the tight end position I am moving Zach Ertz up my fantasy rankings. I currently have him 12th before the NFL Draft. Maclin’s return from injury could have been a nice buy-low, but with Jackson leaving you may have to pay a premium to see if Maclin’s knee is really healed. He is currently the 37th wide receiver going off the board in my Fantasy League Drafts. Cooper will be a wide receiver 4 next season with the same volatility he had this year. He’s the perfect guy to take in best ball leagues or to play when you really need a high ceiling play.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins last year featured Pierre Garcon and…..well no one. The thinking was Fred Davis would finally come into his own well…..that didn’t happen. (He is currently suspended from the league indefinitely, oh and making really terrible rap albums.) The Redskins decided to address this lopsidedness in free agency and have been very active in free agency. They signed David Gettis, the former promising wide receiver from the Carolina Panthers. They signed the versatile Andre Robertsfrom the Arizona Cardinals. Roberts can play inside or outside and has always been a bit under rated.
I thought the Redskins may have been done there and assumed Garcon would still get the lion’s share of targets and production, but low and behold Dan Snyder saw Jackson hitting the street and he pulled out that big check book. Jackson had a career year last season with the Eagles with 82 receptions for more than 1,300 yards and 9 touchdowns. His numbers will probably never come close to those again, but he can still be a useful fantasy wide receiver.
The Redskins’ new head coach, Jay Gruden, is a west coast offense disciple. He will use the tight end, Jordan Reed. He will get the ball out quickly to wide receivers that can run after the catch, Jackson and Garcon profile as excellent west coast wide receivers, and he will will stretch the field with built in deep shots. Gruden’s Bengals last season relied on the deep ball a little too much and I think he will get back to a more ball control offense in Washington. Garcon and Jackson are both wide receiver twos with this move, but with them also sharing the ball with the gifted Jordan Reed I move them down to the bottom of the wide receiver two list. Garcon still holds more value for me in PPR leagues and I would still be comfortable with him as a solid wide receiver two there.