NFC East 2012 fantasy preview

Wednesday June 27th, 2012

The OTAs are over and training camps are a month away, so we have to get our NFL fix somehow until late July. It used to mean going out and purchasing a slew of fantasy football magazines, reading them cover to cover and then relearning everything all over again as things unfold in the preseason.

Now, we have the timeless power of the Internet to fill the void. We open our pre-preseason fantasy football draft content with division-by-division looks at the teams and players that will be on the tip of our tongues and atop our minds and draft boards this August.

We start with the defending Super Bowl champion Giants and their perennially underrated Eli Manning. This might be one of the deepest teams of draftable fantasy options annually, even if they lack the elite commodities boasted by the big-media names of the Eagles and Cowboys.

And, oh yeah, lest we forget, the bottom-feeder Redskins added No. 2 overall draft pick Robert Griffin III, making the NFC East easily the best-quarterbacked division in all of football. It makes for some intriguing mid-round fantasy picks all around this division.

Here are the NFC East depth charts, position battles, injury questions and fantasy positional rankings:

Depth chart

QB Eli Manning David Carr

RB Ahmad Bradshaw David Wilson D.J. Ware Da'Rel Scott

WR Victor Cruz Hakeem Nicks Rueben Randle Ramses Barden Jerrel Jernigan

TE Martellus Bennett Travis Beckum

K Lawrence Tynes

Position battles

No. 3 WR: The loss of Mario Manningham and Jake Ballard opens the door for a young third option for Manning in the passing game. Randle, a second-rounder billed as the most NFL ready receiver in the draft, is the heavy favorite because he is a field-stretcher Manningham was. Barden is a lanky Plaxico Burress-type, while Jernigan is more of returner. Domenik Hixon is also in the mix, but Randle will be one to draft late because of his high ceiling.

Injury questions

Hakeem Nicks (foot) -- Nicks hasn't been a model of health, but he vows to be ready for the season opener. The frequency and variety of his injury woes should keep you from drafting him among the top 10 receivers, even if he has the ability to be the most productive WR in all of fantasy.

Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) -- He is going to be fine for the season, but like Nicks, Bradshaw's non-stop injury questions (all with his chronic foot woes), make rookie Wilson a potential sleeper. Wilson, a burner, has a high ceiling, perhaps even higher than Bradshaw's long term.

QB Michael Vick Mike Kafka

RB LeSean McCoy Dion Lewis

WR Jeremy Maclin DeSean Jackson Riley Cooper Jason Avant

TE Brent Celek

K Alex Henery

Position battles

No. 3 WR: The Eagles have a top-heavy team that lacks good depth, which showed last season. Vick, Jackson and Maclin should have much better years, but it might be interesting to see if Vick can develop a reliable third option between Cooper and Avant. Neither are likely to be draftable in most leagues this August, though.

Injury questions

Brent Celek (hip, hernia) -- After an injury-plagued start a year ago, Celek emerged as a viable fantasy option with Vick. With little help in the way of a No. 3 WR expected, Celek can be a real sleeper. He doesn't miss games, playing through injuries, so you should count on Celek being ready for the season and getting off to a much better start. He could really take off.

QB Tony Romo Kyle Orton

RB DeMarco Murray Felix Jones

WR Dez Bryant Miles Austin Kevin Ogletree

TE Jason Witten

K Dan Bailey

Position battles

Murray vs. Jones: This isn't shaping up to be much of a battle with Murray expected to be the Cowboys' feature back. Jones is in a contract year, so it is possible he could regain his previous starter status with a strong camp or another Murray injury. With the brittle nature of both backs, expect each to get time carrying the load. Murray is clearly the one to have still, though.

Injury questions

Felix Jones (shoulder) -- He had offseason surgery to settle a problem that plagued him and allowed Murray to step forward. Jones has at least given his hamstring ample time to heal. There is an old notion players cannot lose their job to injury, but Jones clearly has and now will wait for a Murray injury before he can potentially earn the starter job back.

QB Robert Griffin III Rex Grossman

RB Roy Helu Tim Hightower Evan Royster

WR Pierre Garcon Santana Moss Leonard Hankerson Anthony Armstrong

TE Fred Davis Chris Cooley

K Neil Rackers Graham Gano

Position battles

Helu vs. Hightower -- There should be no question Helu should be the starter here, but there remains some talk a healthy Hightower could regain the starting role in training camp. Helu has his own durability questions, which is the only reason this will be considered any contest. In terms of talent, Helu clearly reigns.

No. 3 WR -- Garcon was signed to be the ace, while Moss has had an offseason that makes him a potential starter as well. The question is who will develop with the promising rookie QB Griffin III as the third WR? The dominant presence of the tight end in this offseason will limit the fantasy production of the No. 3 WR, but the age and injury history of Moss can allow one of Hankerson or Armstrong to emerge as a sleeper.

Rackers vs. Gano -- Gano has the stronger leg, but Rackers is the more consistent guy. This battle figures to go down to late in camp, which means neither option probably warrants drafting in most leagues this August.

Injury questions

Tim Hightower (knee) -- He is expecting to be ready for the season after surgery to repair a torn ACL. He will likely have to prove healthy early in camp to win the starting job from the promising Helu, though.

Leonard Hankerson, (hip) -- He was emerging as a rookie before hip surgery ended his season a year ago. He likely won't start over a healthy Moss, but Hankerson warrants watching because he can develop along with Griffin III to form a dynamic duo long term.


1 Eli Manning NYG 2 Tony Romo DAL 3 Michael Vick PHI 4 Robert Griffin III WAS 5 Kyle Orton DAL 6 Rex Grossman WAS 7 Mike Kafka PHI 8 David Carr NYG

Running backs

1 LeSean McCoy PHI 2 Demarco Murray DAL 3 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG 4 Roy Helu WAS 5 Felix Jones DAL 6 David Wilson NYG 7 Tim Hightower WAS 8 Evan Royster WAS 9 Dion Lewis PHI 10 D.J. Ware NYG

Wide receivers

1 Victor Cruz NYG 2 Hakeem Nicks NYG 3 Dez Bryant DAL 4 Miles Austin DAL 5 Jeremy Maclin PHI 6 DeSean Jackson PHI 7 Pierre Garcon WAS 8 Santana Moss WAS 9 Leonard Hankerson WAS 10 Anthony Armstrong WAS 11 Rueben Randle NYG 12 Ramses Barden NYG

Tight ends

1 Jason Witten DAL 2 Fred Davis WAS 3 Brent Celek PHI 4 Martellus Bennett NYG 5 Chris Cooley WAS


1 Alex Henery PHI 2 Dan Bailey DAL 3 Lawrence Tynes NYG 4 Neil Rackers WAS 5 Graham Gano WAS

Defense/Special Teams

1 Giants NYG 2 Eagles PHI 3 Cowboys DAL |4 Redskins WAS

Eric Mack writes fantasy for You find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).

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