The Deep State series continues with an examination of fantasy studs and duds in each NFL division to help you better prepare for your 2019 fantasy football season. The formula? A proprietary blend of statistics, trends, player tendencies, and three decades of fantasy knowledge.
Last week we revealed studs and duds from the AFC East. Next up in the series, the NFC East.
New York Giants
Stud: Sterling Shepard, wide receiver
The New York Giants offense may revolve around running back Saquon Barkley, and the Giants may have an aging Eli Manning at quarterback, and they may have invested heavily in WR Golden Tate to the tune of four years, $37.5 million deal. So why is Shepard on this list? You have to go inside the numbers to find the truth.
In the games that Odell Beckham Jr. missed last season, Shepard found success. In two of the four games played without OBJ last year, Shepard had a touchdown or at least 100 yards. In the 11 games without OBJ over two years, Shepard averaged 12.6 points in PPR scoring. Given his chemistry with Manning, he’s the likely WR1 in New York and is primed for a WR2 fantasy football season with upside.
Dud: Golden Tate, wide receiver
It’s not that we don’t like Tate. Just don’t expect him to replace Odell Beckham Jr. as the Giants top receiver. He’s a bigger name than Sterling Shepard, so let someone else in your league overdraft Tate while you play it cool and wait for Shepard to fall to you in the middle rounds. Shepard’s current ADP as of mid-July is somewhere mid-to-late seventh round. Don’t fall for the fool’s gold here with Tate.
Stud: Miles Sanders, running back
Does anyone remember those imitation perfume and cologne commercials from the 1980s? “If you love X, you’ve got to try Y?” Miles Sanders is the imitation cologne to New York Giants RB and former Penn State teammate Saquon Barkley. Sanders is a tad slower and a bit smaller but brings a skill set similar to Barkley to the Philadelphia Eagles offense. He’s an all-purpose back and playmaker, something the other backs on the team don’t offer.
Sanders might not be ready for RB1 status in what appears to be a committee situation, but he certainly has flex appeal with the ability to become a solid RB2 by season’s end. Eagles’ running backs caught 77 balls last season, split among five backs. A majority of those targets likely go to Sanders this season.
Dud: Jordan Howard, running back
On the other side of the Eagles’ RB meeting room, you have a one-dimensional back in Howard. He’ll likely begin the season as the starter, splitting carries with Sanders and occasionally other Eagles backs. Don’t let the starter moniker fool you. Howard offers nothing in the receiving game and is much less dynamic than his rookie counterpart. If you have to choose between the two Eagles backs, make sure you avoid Howard. He should be much farther off your radar than where he is currently going in 2019 fantasy football drafts.
Stud: Amari Cooper, wide receiver
There’s no secret that the Dallas Cowboys (specifically owner Jerry Jones) are committed to making the Amari Cooper experiment work. They paid a hefty price for him last year, trading a first-round pick to Oakland mid-season. In the eleven games that followed, Cooper averaged 10.4 targets per game. Keep in mind that was while Cooper learned an entirely new offensive system mid-season.
With a full offseason and training camp under his belt come opening day and familiarity with quarterback Dak Prescott, Cooper is primed to return as a fantasy football WR1. In case you need more convincing, Cooper is in a contract year and in line for a huge payday depending on his performance this season.
Dud: Randall Cobb, wide receiver
Unless you’re in a room with hardcore fantasy football veterans, you’ll always have that one owner…you know, the person that takes a quarterback in round one. That’s likely the owner that will feel safer picking established names in the late rounds once the top players are off the board. Randall Cobb was certainly a fantasy name, once upon a time. The reality is he hasn’t been more than a WR2 since 2015, the last time he played a full season.
Each year, many fantasy owners and pundits alike believe that Cobb is in store for a bounce-back season. It’s happening again in 2019, but I urge you not to buy into it. Not only do you have the injury worry, but he’s competing against a host of teammates for targets. Amari Cooper is the clear WR1, second-year WR Michael Gallup is a chic sleeper pick, Jason Witten returns at TE after a year in the broadcast booth, and RB Ezekiel Elliott averages 45 receptions per year.
Cobb has been on a fantasy football downslide for several years, and the change of scenery likely won’t change that trajectory.
There it is, the first scratch on the studs and duds list. There are just too many question marks on the Washington Redskins offense to safely assign a stud label. A sleeper to watch out for is sophomore receiver Trey Quinn, if only because he’s pegged to replace Jamison Crowder in the slot. Head coach Jay Gruden said Quinn “dominated” the position in spring practices at the position.
Quinn, who was 2018’s Mr. Irrelevant as the final pick of the draft, missed most of his rookie campaign with an ankle injury. In the three games he played in, Quinn caught 9 of 10 targets for 75 yards and a touchdown. New Redskins quarterback Case Keenum says Quinn is going to be “really special,” so he seems to already have the trust of his starting QB.
Dud: Adrian Peterson, running back
We’re not sure what Washington has planned at the running back position, and quite frankly, we’re not convinced they do either. Last year the Redskins spent a second-rounder on LSU running back Derrius Guice, but he was lost for the year with a knee injury in the preseason. The team turned to Peterson, who surprised everybody when he ran for 1,042 yards, his best season since 2015. In this year’s draft, Washington selected Stanford RB Bryce Love in the fourth round. And you can’t forget third-down back Chris Thompson, who’s averaged 41 receptions per season over the past four seasons.
This offseason, Washington re-signed Peterson to a two-year deal, though only $1.5 million is guaranteed. Guice is reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehab and expected to be the lead back in 2019. Thompson is in the final year of his contract, with Love likely eyed as his eventual replacement.
You must wonder if Peterson’s signing was simply a safety measure in the event Guice struggles coming back from injury. Guice did suffer a hamstring injury and is questionable for the start of training camp. Either way, don’t expect anything close to Peterson’s surprise 2018 resurgence.
Travis Yates is a writer for the Pro Football Network covering the Cincinnati Bengals and Fantasy Football. Travis is also a podcaster at PFN as a co-host of the AFC North and Goal podcast. You can follow Travis @TheTravisYates on Twitter.