NFC East Roster Holes: Optimal Landing Spots for the 2021 Rookie Class

Adam Sloate looks at roster situations that could produce impactful rookies in 2021 fantasy football leagues.

The 2021 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching, scheduled to be held in Cleveland beginning on Thursday, April 29.  Rookies can oftentimes be overhyped in the fantasy world but the right landing spot can go a long way towards a rookie approaching those lofty expectations.  This series of articles will focus on the most enticing positions for rookie production at the offensive skill positions for each NFL team. This article is aimed at those teams residing in the NFC East.

 

Philadelphia Eagles: WR1

 

The Eagles have a laundry list of holes on their roster after an embarrassing 4-11-1 season. The franchise is entering a period of transition and will likely rebuild, especially after trading former franchise QB Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a handful of draft picks and firing Super Bowl-winning HC Doug Pederson after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Other franchise icons, like Zach Ertz, Jason Kelce, and Fletcher Cox are nearing the end of their Eagles tenures, so this franchise will be shedding a wealth of experience (and some payroll) in 2021 and 2022.

With the departure of these franchise mainstays, the Eagles will have plenty of opportunities for young and inexperienced players to step up and show off their talent. QB Jalen Hurts, who took over for Wentz in the second half of 2020 and made 4 starts under center, will have most of the starting opportunities in 2021 as the Eagles look to evaluate his fit with the team for the long term. The Eagles, hoping to get a better idea of Hurts’ true talent level, will likely try to surround him with higher-end talent in the draft, as they have been mostly quiet on that front in free agency.

Philadelphia has been sorely lacking high-quality wide receivers for years, which partially contributed to Wentz’s abysmal 2020 season. One of the team’s highest priorities heading into the draft should be at the wide receiver position, especially because this year’s class is deep with talented receivers who have the potential to be matchup nightmares for opposing teams. Whichever WR lasts until pick 12 will instantly become the top wide receiver on the team (barring a trade) and should be in competition for the most targets from Hurts, unless Jalen Reagor takes a huge step forward in his second year with the team.

Outside of a wide receiver group sorely lacking elite talent, the offense appears to be set. TE Dallas Goedert will reprise his role as TE1, Miles Sanders will slot in as RB1, and the offensive line will hopefully return to full health. An added bonus is that the addition of a high-end WR may also help raise the fantasy production of Sanders, Goedert, and Hurts.

 

Dallas Cowboys: TE

 

The Cowboys have an incredibly talented offense heading into 2021; assuming Dem Boyz return a healthy Dak Prescott, this group will have no trouble putting points on the board. That means there are very few spots to address, especially with a ridiculously talented receiving corps. In fact, the team could potentially increase their fantasy scoring across all relevant positions by adding an offensive lineman, as opposed to any player at the skill positions. Protecting Prescott and opening holes for Ezekiel Elliot would be a huge boon for this offense.

But for the purposes of this article, we are strictly looking at players drafted to fantasy-relevant roles. Again, the Cowboys are by no means weak at any offensive position, but adding a talented TE to a decent position group would give Prescott yet another weapon, especially once the Cowboys get into the red zone. The team has Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz already, with Schultz placing 11th among TEs in PPR scoring in 2020. Until we get a team that has a 1st-overall PPR player at every position, there is always room for improvement. And, adding some depth or a quality starter at TE might make improve Dallas’ fantasy production and offensive output. I’m speechless just thinking about Kyle Pitts in the Cowboys’ deep offense.

 

Washington Football Team: WR2, QB

 

The Football Team enters 2021 with a rock-solid defense and a handful of questions on offense.

The WFT is entering the 2021 season with at least 4 QBs: Taylor Heinecke, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Allen, and Steven Montez. Do any of those names inspire much confidence?

The reason that WR2 is listed ahead of quarterback is that Fitzpatrick and Allen have the potential to be at least close to average. They may be below average, but they aren’t fantasy killers. If the fit is there, some of the supporting cast (WRs, RBs, etc.) can still be serviceable fantasy producers, thus making QB a lesser need. Additionally, WFT is picking in the 19th spot in the upcoming draft, so any QB that falls to them at 19 will likely not be skilled enough to warrant benching the other QBs right away.

The WFT has Logan Thomas set as the starting TE and Terry McLaurin set as the WR1 but could use another strong wideout to open up the field and create mismatches for the defense. A strong second option, like Cooper Kupp in Los Angeles, can force the defense to alter their coverages and prevent the secondary from keying in on one or two talented players in coverage. The WFT has already added Curtis Samuel in free agency, but the addition of yet another playmaker would potentially raise the fantasy output of the QB under center and some of the other options on offense.

‘Fitzmagic’ and Allen have at least some starting experience and Heinecke played an intriguing game against the Buccaneers in the playoffs. However, none of them have much upside, so the WFT may be looking for someone with a little more playmaking potential. Again, Washington’s draft pick is not high enough that one of the top 5 QBs in the class will fall to them (barring some kind of miraculous draft-day slide), so unless they orchestrate a trade to move into the top 5-10 picks, any quarterback that the team picks will fall below Fitzpatrick and Allen on the depth chart.

 

New York Giants: RB2 (?), WR3/4 (?)

 

The Giants — assuming they stay healthy — have most of their offensive positions accounted for. Daniel Jones is arguably the worst skill player on this offense but will not be going anywhere for the time being because of the resources the Giants have committed to his development. Saquon Barkley is an elite running back if healthy (though fantasy managers know that’s a huge “IF”). The Giants added Kenny Golladay, who had trouble staying healthy in 2020, but when he is 100%, Golladay is a  bonafide WR1. Evan Engram is a decent TE at worst (15th in TE PPR scoring) and can hang with the top 5 TEs when catchable balls are thrown his way. Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton have shown flashes of brilliance when on the field.

On paper, this team has solid contributors across the board. Unfortunately, GM Dave Gettleman seems to have collected a record-setting number of injury-prone offensive players. Barkley has played a full season just once in his tenure with the Giants and only starred in 2 games last year due to injuries. Golladay played just 5 games last year with several lingering injuries. Engram finally played a full season for the first time in his career in 2020. Shepard and Slayton have both missed a handful of games during their Giants tenure. Understandably, this team has had a tough time developing chemistry, as they seem to have trouble staying on the field together.

So, the biggest need for the Giants may just be strong backup players, who can step into a starting role when one of the starters inevitably goes down with another injury, robbing us of a potentially potent Giants offense. They could certainly use an improved offensive line, especially since Nate Solder still has a job, which would protect Daniel Jones and open up room for Saquon to run. However, if we are talking specifically about skill positions, the Giants could use a strong backup for Saquon or a supplement for the WR corps. The Giants currently have Devontae Booker slotted in behind Barkley, and their fourth WR looks to be the speedy John Ross III for the time being.

 

(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

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