Class of 2020: Rookie Recap – NFC East
After reviewing the AFC, it’s now turn for the rookie recaps in the NFC. And we start in the East. The division was ridiculed for not being able to put anything together during the season. And, because of that, the ‘Least’ was one of the closest run divisional contests seen for a long time. Up until the final weeks, any team could have taken it.
But can we separate the teams any easier based upon their rookie picks?
DEAD LAST: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
There was uncertainty about positioning teams higher up. But it was an easier decision about who would be in last place. And that team is the Eagles.
Picks: Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU: 1st round, 21st pick); Jalen Hurts (QB, Oklahoma: 2nd round, 53rd pick); John Hightower (WR, Boise State: 5th round, 168th pick); Quez Watkins (WR, Southern Miss: 6th round, 200th pick)
And, perhaps if he had stayed healthy, he could have developed more in the season, and built up rapport with his QB. Reagor missed 5 of 16 games through injury and, as a result, struggled to get anything going. He didn’t have a game for over 60 yards, and only scored one touchdown for the season. Because of that, he went under predicted Sleeper points in 7 of those 11 games. For me, this is a huge fantasy bust for the rookie.
Of course, it could have helped if both Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts had the time to pick him out. As such, the Eagles’ offensive line disintegrated within seconds, allowing defenders to hit the Eagles’ QBs for a combined 65 sacks – a NFL high in 2020.
In fact, Carson’s inability to deal with this pressure was one of the reasons that Hurts’ role increased towards the last weeks of the season. Hurts taking the Quarterback job will no doubt have been great for fantasy owners needing him in the playoffs. He averaged 22.24 fantasy points in Weeks 14-17.
Any Hurts drafter will have been lucky to feel the benefit of those points. But they would need to make the playoffs to begins with. Why? Hurts averaged just 1.29 points in the fantasy regular season. Up until Wentz was dropped, the rookie held virtually no fantasy value.
Other rookie widemen John Hightower and Quez Watkins languished in the doldrums of fantasy irrelevance. Aside from Hurts’ playoff value, there was none to be found here in the Eagles’ offensive picks.
Picks: Davion Taylor (LB, Colorado: 3rd round, 103rd pick); K’Von Wallace (S, Clemson: 4th round, 127th pick); Shaun Bradley (BL, Temple: 6th round, 196th pick); Casey Toohill (EDGE, Stanford: 7th round, 233rd pick)
Things weren’t much better for the defensive rookie picks either. Only one of the four drafted players played over 100 snaps for the Eagles’ defense. That man, Safety K’Von Wallace, was also the only one to add any fantasy points to the team. His fumble recovery tacked on the only rookie contribution to the final total.
And, to compound their position, one of the picks was let go by Philadelphia. After his release, EDGE rusher Casey Toohill joined divisional rivals Washington. He had played just one game for the Eagles. Toohill went on to feature in 8 games for Washington in 2020. It could be argued he added more value to them than Philly!
MOVING ON FAST: NEW YORK GIANTS
Ahead of them is one of the teams that selected no offensive players in the 2020 draft.
What more can be said? No offensive fantasy value if you don’t draft any offensive players!
Picks: Xavier McKinney (S, Alabama: 2nd round, 36th pick); Darnay Holmes (CB, UCLA: 4th round, 110th pick); Cameron Brown (LB, Penn State: 6th round, 183rd pick); Carter Coughlin (EDGE, Minnesota: 7th round, 218th pick); T.J. Brunson (LB, South Carolina: 7th round. 238th pick); Chris Williamson (CB, Minnesota: 7th round, 247th pick); Tae Crowder (LB, Georgia: 7th round, 255th pick)
The Giants took a boat load of defensive rookies in 2020. That included four seventh-round selections. And, unlike many other teams, those players taken in the last round actually got a shot at the team.
Well, some of them did. Tae Crowder, the Georgia Linebacker, played the second highest snaps of any Giants defensive rookie. He also contributed the most rookie fantasy points. Aside from a sack, he recovered a fumble for a touchdown.
Carter Coughlin, the Minnesota EDGE rusher, was another seventh rounder who also played 10 games. While he only played 187 defensive snaps, he also added a sack to the total.
Away from Crowder’s strong seventh-round performance, Darnay Holmes also stood out. The Cornerback drafted from UCLA played the most of any drafted Giants rookie. 12 games helped him back 0.5 sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Sadly, second round selection Xavier McKinney’s involvement was limited. Off season foot surgery hampered his rookie season, although he did feature heavily in the Giants’ last three games. While he stands to have a bigger showing in 2021…not so much in 2020.
GETTING A PASS: DALLAS COWBOYS
Picks: CeeDee Lamb (WR, Oklahoma: 1st round, 17th pick)
CeeDee Lamb was the only one to be drafted by the Cowboys on the offensive side of the ball. And they used their first-round pick to get him. With all those offensive stars in that offense already, how would Lamb fit in to the scheme?
Well, as it happens, he did very well. Lamb developed a quick rapport with Dak Prescott, and saw at least six targets in every one of the first six games of the season. As a result, he averaged 12.9 PPR points per game in the first half of the fantasy regular season.
Dak’s injury in Week 5 certainly hurt the Cowboy’s offensive prowess, and all key players took a fantasy hit. However, Lamb didn’t seem to suffer as much as expected. When the QB merry-go-round settled on Andy Dalton, the rookie receiver’s seasonal second-half average only dropped to 11.4 ppg. And his playoff average jump to just over 15 ppg showed that he’d developed a good partnership with Dalton.
Overall, Lamb went 50/50 with his predicted Sleeper points – 8 of his 16 games went over estimations. Justin Jefferson was undoubtedly the runaway rookie receiver sensation in 2020. But Lamb, who finished as the rookie WR2, made a good first impression with fantasy owners.
Picks: Trevon Diggs (CB, Alabama: 2nd round, 51st pick); Neville Gallimore (DT, Oklahoma: 3rd round, 82nd pick); Reggie Robinson (CB, Tulsa: 4th round, 123rd pick); Bradlee Anae (EDGE, Utah: 5th round, 179th pick)
It’s been very difficult to compare defensive players in this division because the NFC East is where Chase Young plays. But we will get to him.
Instead, let’s focus on Trevon Diggs, the Alabama Cornerback. Diggs was a regular feature in the Cowboy’s defensive unit, amassing 723 snaps over 12 games. I imagine this could have been more had it not been for a foot injury that held him out midseason. Nevertheless, he featured strongly in the games he played. The second round pick stung opposing Quarterbacks for three interceptions, and forced a further fumble. He even managed to pick up a sack during the season. These huge defensive plays contributed nearly all of the Cowboy rookies’ contribution to the team total.
Third round Defensive Tackle Neville Gallimore popped up with a sack of his own over 14 featured games. And although Reggie Robinson featured primarily on special teams, he too picked up a forced fumble to add to the pile.
Overall, this was not a bad return for the Dallas rookies. And, were it not for the next team, they may have been competing with the Giants for the strongest defensive rookie contribution in the division.
TOP OF THE CLASS: WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
Finally, we have the Washington team. The outfit had a huge turnaround in personnel in 2020. There, they ditched the toxic and embraced change. And, accompanied by some solid rookie draft picks, the team has found themselves putting the right foot forward – both competitively and morally.
Picks: Antonio Gibson (RB, Memphis: 3rd round, 66th pick); Antonio Gandy-Golden (WR, Liberty: 4th round, 142nd pick)
Unfortunately, Antonio Gandy-Golden barely made an impression from Scary Terry’s shadow. But it was the other Antonio, the Running Back Gibson, who swept in and made the most of his opportunities.
After jettisoning Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice for various reasons, the Washington team turned to the rookie to make the difference. And he certainly raised some eyebrows throughout the season. And with Gibson’s pre-season ADP averaging the 11th round while both previous Running Backs were on the team, he definitely provided value to those who took a shot on him. The Memphis man finished up as RB13 on the season, with some dazzling performances down the regular season stretch. These later games were mostly responsible for Gibson overachieving his Sleeper points targets on 7 of his 14 active games.
Sadly, an injury forced him out of several weeks in the fantasy playoff schedule. As such, he only added 4.75ppg during Weeks 13-17. However, as he was likely taken during lower round draft picks, those fantasy drafters may have had sufficient replacements in stock.
It’s unlikely that fantasy drafters will see this kind of value again from Gibson during his career.
Picks: Chase Young (DE, Ohio St: 1st round, 2nd pick); Khaleke Hudson (LB, Michigan: 5th round, 162nd pick); Kamren Curl (DB, Arkansas: 7th round, 216th pick); James Smith-Williams (EDGE, NC State: 7th round, 229th pick)
Ah, Chase Young… The second overall pick in the Draft did not disappoint. Linemen and Quarterbacks alike felt his wrath throughout the season. And it goes without saying that, with Young’s help, the Washington rookies’ points contribution was the highest in the NFL, and second in percentage compared to overall total.
So what did Young add? Well, he landed 7.5 sacks on Quarterbacks, including 1.5 in his very first game against the Eagles. He also forced four fumbles and recovered three of them. One of those recoveries also went in for a touchdown. A huge number of important defensive plays.
But Young was not the only defensive rookie to be drafted by Washington. In fact, a seventh-round Defensive Back went some way in trying to keep up with Young.
Kamren Curl, fresh from Arkansas, ended up amassing his own impressive set of accolades. In the 16 games and 733 snaps he featured in, Curl made 78 tackles – 37 of which were defensive stops. He also added 2 sacks and 3 interceptions – and one of those interceptions was a pick 6! Strangely, it happened in the same game that Chase Young scored his touchdown (against the Niners).
Those big plays from Young and Curl, as well as a half-sack from fellow seventh-rounder James Smith-Williams, tally up very well.
With those two outstanding IDP contributions, the Washington defensive unit helped their team take the division. And it helps them claim this rookie ranking too.
DEAD LAST – PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
MOVING ON FAST – NEW YORK GIANTS
GETTING A PASS – DALLAS COWBOYS
TOP OF THE CLASS – WASHINGTON
Join me again next time when we venture to the NFC North!