Fantasy Football Studs, Duds & Sleepers: NFC East


Who joins Vick as a fantasy stud?


With the NFL lockout finally behind us, football fans can finally turn our attention from the courtrooms and onto the field, where it belongs. In the coming weeks, we will rank the fantasy studs, duds and sleepers for each division. Today, the NFC East gets some time under the microscope.

Fantasy Studs


Quarterback: Michael Vick, PHI (2010: 3018 yards, 21 TD, 6 INT, 676 rushing yards, 9 TD)

Last season Michael Vick finally became the fantasy player every Madden junkie believed he could be. He stopped running at the first sight of a rush and, not surprisingly, put up the best passing numbers of his career. Can he do it again? I believe so. The Eagles have impressive weapons at all of the skill positions and Vick continues to work with OC Marty Mornhinweg on being a QB, not just an athlete. If he lasts beyond the first two rounds of any fantasy draft, you should question the intelligence of the other owners in your league.


Running Back: LeSean McCoy, PHI (2010: 1080 rushing yards, 7 TD, 78 receptions, 592 yards, 2 TD)

McCoy adapted well to the Eagles’ spread offense, taking advantage of the offensive line’s larger splits, and excelling as a one-cut back. But McCoy’s best attribute is his ability to make plays in the passing game. Last season, Andy Reid spent the offseason molding the offense around Kevin Kolb, and the Eagles still put up 27 points a game with a hybrid spread offense centered around Vick. With a half of a regular season and a full training camp to work with the new system, the offense should continue to develop.


Wide Receiver: Hakeem Nicks, NYG (2010: 79 receptions, 1052 yards, 11 TD)

Despite missing essentially four games, Nicks was able to put up some of the best fantasy numbers of any wide receiver last year. It didn’t take him long to become Eli Manning’s favorite receiver, especially around the red zone where he got 15 targets. He’s shown consistency and the ability to hit a home run (averages 13 yards a catch). That’s exactly what you want from a fantasy wideout. Nicks gets a little boost because Steve Smith is still recovering from micro fracture surgery (and a free agent), meaning Nicks should get plenty of work in the first few weeks.


Wide Receiver: DeSean Jackson, PHI (2010: 47 receptions, 1056 yards, 11 TD, 104 rushing yards, TD)

The former Cal Bear is your classic case of a feast for famine prospect. His receiving numbers are very underwhelming considering where he is going in fantasy drafts (just 47 catches, one better than Chicago’s Earl Bennett). But he puts up ridiculous yards and scores touchdowns in a variety of ways. Here’s my major concern: while he had games of 153 and 210 yards, he also had 5 games with less than 35 yards. If you pick up DeSean, be prepared to ride the roller coaster.


Tight End: Jason Witten, DAL (94 receptions, 1002 yards, 9 TD)

Simply put, Witten is the model of efficiency. The guy has averaged more than 10 yards every season except his rookie year (when he averaged 9.9 yards) and has only dipped below 750 yards once (again, that rookie season). Despite a revolving door of talent around him, Witten is the force that keeps Dallas moving forward.


Defense/ST: Philadelphia (2010: 130 fantasy points)

The Giants actually had a better fantasy season last year, but given the moves the Eagles have made in the past week, they have to be a favorite for the best defensive team in 2011 (by a lot).



"Friends don't let friends draft Eli"

Fantasy Duds


Quarterback: Eli Manning, NYG (2010: 4002 passing yards, 31 TD, 25 INT)

Like a bear in the woods, Eli looks good from afar, but if you get too close, he will hurt you – badly. If you look at Manning’s first two stats above, he looks like a top-5 guy. But then you realize the guy was as porous as a sponge, coughing up 30 turnovers (nearly two a game), and you understand why friends don’t let friends draft Eli.


Running Back: Pick a Redskin, any Redskin (2010: 1461 yards, 9 TD)

Considering his reputation as a rushing guru, fantasy owners once again got sucked in by the Mike Shanahan myth. Owners across the country picked up the likes of Keiland Williams, Ryan Torain and Clinton Portis expecting fantasy gold. Clearly, that did not happen. Once again, Shanahan is looking for a diamond in the rough, trading for Tim Hightower and bringing a total of ten backs to camp. If the team can somehow pick one guy out of that mess, there is still the lean offensive line to worry about. Avoid Washington at all costs.


Wide Receiver: Santana Moss, WAS (2010: 93 receptions, 1115 yards, 6 TD)

Let my begin by playing devil’s advocate. Last season I put Moss up as my sleeper pick, and he certainly delivered with a career year. So why can’t he do it again? Well, last year he was the only receiver on the roster with any real talent. This year, the team added a pair of pass catchers (Donte’ Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney) to fix that problem and bolster the attack. The second reason for concern is the guy who will throw Moss the ball in 2011.  John Beck is the projected starter, a guy who has backed up more games than he’s thrown passes. On the first day players could report back to their team facilities, Beck was kicked out by security that did not recognize him. If your team staff cannot recognize the starting QB on sight, good luck.


Wide Receiver: Steve Smith, NYG (2010: 48 receptions, 529 yards, 3 TD)

Smith did his best to play through the pain in the 2010 season, but ultimately the myriad of injuries forced him out. He remains a free agent, but it’s assumed he’ll be back with New York. Even if he returns to the Giants, he must show he can get back to 100-percent before being considered in a fantasy draft.


Tight End: Brent Celek, PHI (2010: 42 receptions, 511 yards, 4 TD)

Kevin Boss would have been my selection here, but his contract situation with New York is still up in the air. While the rest of Philadelphia’s offensive weapons enjoyed their best seasons, Celek came back to earth after putting up 76 catches, 971 yards and 8 TD in 2009. His role in the Eagles system is still hazy. He clearly has the talent, but I’d caution against drafting the guy who finished as the 17th rated tight end last season.


Defense/ST: Washington (2010: 80 fantasy points)

The team finished in the bottom five in fantasy defenses in 2010 and have been in the bottom 10 three years straight. Brian Orakpo is a stud, and Ryan Kerrigan could be good, but there is very little in the pantry beyond that point.


Consistent Cooley could be fantasy gold

Fantasy Sleepers


Quarterback: Tony Romo, DAL (2010: 1605 yards, 11 TD, 7 INT)

Talk about the difference a year makes. Romo entered the 2010 campaign as a top five or ten quarterback, with a bevy of quality options around him. He struggled in his first five games, before fracturing his collarbone and sitting on the bench the rest of the year. Fast-forward to the present, Romo is flying under the radar with a bevy of quality offense options around him. It’s a risk, but when he’s right, Romo is fantasy gold.


Running Back: Felix Jones, DAL (2010: 800 yards, TD, 48 receptions, 450 yards, TD)

The only things that have held Jones back from being a star have been injuries and a cramped backfield. The health remains an issue, but the starting job appears to be his after the Cowboys’ jettisoned Marion Barber. Much like LeSean McCoy, Jones is a complete back, excelling as a rusher and pass catcher. After Jason Garrett took over as head coach last year, Jones has more than 75 yards in every game. He’s likely a RB2, but has the potential to put up RB1 numbers.


Wide Receiver: Mario Manningham, NYG (2010: 60 receptions, 944 yards, 9 TD)

Manningham benefited from the loss of Steve Smith to injury, earning his best fantasy season. During fantasy’s playoff stretch, MM had three straight 100 yard games with at least one TD. That’s called endearing yourself to the fantasy world. Still, he doesn’t get the love that he should in drafts. Pick him up in the 10th round or later, and reap the rewards.


Wide Receiver: Miles Austin, DAL (2010: 69 receptions, 1041 yards, 7 TD)

Should he actually qualify as a sleeper? Yes, and let me tell you why. Austin had a very solid season despite the loss of Romo and general front office combustion in Dallas. He was drafted high in 2010, but did not live up to the billing. However, I’d expect a bounce back year with Austin putting up numbers rivaling his breakout 2009 season. And the best part? He can be gotten for the price of a 5th or 6th round pick. Certainly a fantasy steal.


Tight End: Chris Cooley, WAS (2010: 77 receptions, 849 yards, 3 TD)

Finally, a Washington player makes a list for doing something right. Cooley enjoyed another productive season despite getting the ball from an unhappy Donovan McNabb and an inept Rex Grossman. That should give owners confidence that his numbers won’t suffer with Beck or constant bridesmaid Kellen Clemens under center.


Defense/ST: Dallas (2010: 119 fantasy points)

Listen, the defense was not as good as it should have been in 2010. The secondary was just terrible, and it didn’t help losing Wad Phillips midway through the year. Rob Ryan is now the sheriff of the Cowboy’s defense, which should add some stability to the squad. Even so, don’t expect better than a top-15 defensive squad.


Stephen Kelley is a contributor at The Sports Bank, covering Fantasy Sports and Pro Drafts. You can follow him on Twitter @stephen_tsb.


  1. Sam Phillips says

    Do you have Eli rated higher than Matt Ryan? I am trying to figure out who to keep in my fantasy league.

  2. Stephen Kelley says

    Sam —

    Matty Ice is a much more consistent fantasy option. We’ll cover that in the NFC South article next week.


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