Yesterday, we explored the NFC North’s opportunities for production from the Wide Receiver position. Today, we will look at the NFC East. This is part two in an eight-part series, exploring each divisions opportunities from the WR position from wide receiver targets lost from 2015.
New York Giants
The Giants are surprisingly high on this list, and most of that production lost comes from Rueben Randle’s 90 targets, 57 catches, 797 yards and eight touchdowns. There were a handful of opportunities from a few other receivers, but the bulk went to Randle. The Giants are in an interesting situation, as the main player to replace Randle’s production will be a rookie in Sterling Shepard. Shepard should hop right in and take at least 100 targets. If he can produce with those targets is another story, but he is draftable in deep leagues as a flyer but don’t expect him to break the NFL as a rookie like compatriot Odell Beckham, Jr. did just a few years ago. Odell Beckham will likely soak up more targets, but he averaged just under ten a game last season, so the production increase will be incremental, not mind blowing (I doubt the Giants drafted Shepard to give Beckham 190+ targets like DeAndre Hopkins or Antonio Brown).
The Eagles are middling in terms of production lost, but the bigger issue is that they lost Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense. Nobody can argue that distributing Miles Austin, Riley Cooper and Seyi Ajirotutu’s targets among Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff is a great idea, but Agholor and Huff failed to impress with what they received last season, and Matthews was inconsistent at best (and was outright drop-worthy for nearly two months). There will be 75 targets to go around, with last year’s first rounder Nelson Agholor getting most of the additional attention. If his legal issues get sorted out, he will get around 100 targets and will do well as a backend fill-in for bye weeks. Don’t forget, however, that Doug Pederson is an Andy Reid disciple, meaning that it’s unlikely that any receiver except the #1 (Matthews) has a lot of fantasy upside.
Washington is loaded at receiver, as they went out and got more help for Kirk Cousins in the form of first-round pick Josh Doctson. Kirk Cousins was incredible productive down the stretch last season, all while they played some very soft defenses. His receiver of choice is Jordan Reed, and barring that, existing receivers get a decent share of targets spread among them. Pierre Garcon absorbed over 100 targets last year, and is no guarantee to make the roster this year, so this is the WROI chart most likely to change before 2016 as Garcon loses his roster slot to Doctson. Of particular worry for production, however, is Kirk Cousins’ first half of 2016: He was on pace for 18 interceptions and only 20 touchdowns.
The Cowboys returned all their WRs, meaning Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams and… Cole Beasley? Don’t touch any receiver other than Dez on this team. While Romo missed a good part of last season so their production was iffy, the arrival of Ezekiel Elliott means that it’s likely the Cowboys WRs not named Dez will be fighting over table scraps. Stay away.
The NFC East, like the North, is a mixed bag. Surprisingly, the Giants lead the way on the back of more-targets-than-you’d-think from Rueben Randle. The Eagles face a loss of 75 targets on their surface, but the change from Chip Kelly to Doug Pederson means there will likely be fewer targets to go around. Washington lost a handful of targets, but turning the reins over to Kirk Cousins may yield more opportunities. There are too many mouths to feed to see who, reliably, will get those targets. The Cowboys’ WR corps remains unchanged but given that the offense will go through Dez and Zeke, there isn’t much opportunity unless Dez goes down.
This is part two of an eight-part series. Tomorrow we explore the NFC West and the opportunities afforded to their wide receivers due to departures.