With training camps for teams opening shortly, there’s plenty of unanswered questions that will impact rosters moving forward. In our Camp Questions series, our writers are looking at an issue with dynasty impact for each team.
Question: Will the questions on the Dallas line impede the offense moving forward?
As stated by Dynasty One’s own Jacob Henry, the Cowboys offensive line has “almost as many questions as answers” in 2017. By my count, Dallas has three of the best “answers” in the game in LT Tyron Smith, C Travis Frederick, and RG Zack Martin. Questions remain, however, as LG Ronald Leary departure via free agency and RT Doug Free‘s retirement present two holes in an otherwise historically great unit. With these subtractions, Pro Football Focus rates what most consider the best offensive line in football ninth overall. With La’el Collins’ move to right tackle and a training camp battle to decide who will start at left guard, we may not see the unstoppable ground game we saw in 2015 (118 yards per game) and 2016 (150 YPG).
Ezekiel Elliott burst onto the fantasy landscape last year, finishing the year as the RB2 in PPR and standard formats, and is currently the fourth player overall selected in dynasty startup mocks over at Dynasty League Football. Most would agree, however, that he managed these feats in part thanks to his superior front five. With the addition of Elliot in 2016, the Cowboys running game averaged 4.8 yards per carry, not much more than the team’s 4.6 YPC in 2015. A case could be made that the line is as much responsible for the success of Elliot’s rookie year and his dynasty price than his incredible ability to create yards. We’ve seen what a talented young running back behind a less than stellar offensive line can become with Todd Gurley and the now L.A. Rams.
Elliot has the tools to resist becoming the next Gurley, not to mention his three “answers” up front. Smart fantasy owners will keep a close eye on the battle between Chaz Green and former Cardinals first round pick Jonathan Cooper as well as Collins’ transition, as Elliott may fail to reach the 2,000 all purpose yard plateau moving forward.
New York Giants
Question: What’s the plan with Evan Engram?
The New York Giants spent their 2017 first round pick on tight end Evan Engram. The former Ole Miss standout possesses elite measurables: his 4.42 40 yard dash is best by a tight end in combine history, while his speed score, burst score, agility score, catch radius and breakout age are all in the 83rd percentile or higher according to Player Profiler. His physical talent is not in question, but his ability to be an NFL tight end may be.
Part of the reason for Engram’s outrageous NFL measurables is the fact that he profiles more as a wide receiver than he does a tight end. His 6’2”, 234 lb. frame will allow him to move around the line of scrimmage, but his inferior ability as a blocker may limit his usage in his early years. If the Giants weren’t without one of the league’s best players in Odell Beckham Jr., a potential Hall-of-Famer in Brandon Marshall, and a talented sophomore in his own right in Sterling Shepard, I’d say Engram could see the field as a move tight end who could split out wide in some sets. With such a crowded group of receivers, unless Engram can learn to be an inline blocker to help PFF’s 28th ranked offensive line, he may not find a role until opportunity becomes available. On most other teams, in most other roles, I’d be buying Engram, but with his deficiencies, while being in this offense, his TE10 price tag is too steep until proving himself as a blocker.
Question: Can a running back step up and find fantasy success?
The Eagles signed LeGarrette Blount and drafted Donnel Pumphrey to add to their crowded backfield of Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, and Wendell Smallwood. Mathews stands to be released once he’s cleared medically, but that still leaves some question marks at the running back position. Blount stands to handle most of the early down work. Sproles will be the third down back and special teams ace, but can Pumphrey, Smallwood, or either of their undrafted free agents make an impact?
Smallwood profiles as a possible Sproles replacement. His 4.47 40 yard dash and 76th percentile agility score show that he has the ability to be a third down back. Pumphrey – viewed by many as the Sproles scatback heir apparent – is not even an average athlete in any measurable way. If he didn’t dominate at San Diego State, I’d say he had a better future as a B-list villain in a “The Wire” reboot.
In 2014 and 2015, the Doug Peterson led Kansas City Chiefs were top ten in rushing yards per game. Last year, the Eagles were plagued by injuries at the position, but even Sproles finished as a PPR RB2. PFF’s top ranked offensive line could produce another top ten rushing season, but which running back will benefit may be decided in camp. Mathews is 30 years old and likely to be wearing another color jersey, Blount is entering his age 31 season, and Sproles is one of the oldest active running backs in the league. If the coaching staff would like to introduce some youth into the position, there may be a dark horse beneficiary moving forward.
Question: Can Josh Doctson make an impact, or will his value be impacted?
Josh Doctson was the third wide receiver drafted in 2016, but many believed he was the most talented. His rookie season was a waste as he battled a recurring foot injury and only caught two passes. With 214 targets leaving via free agency in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, there’s opportunity for him and other receivers to benefit from increased volume.
The league’s second best passing attack last year stands to have similar success as it retains Kirk Cousins, Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, and all five starting offensive linemen. The only uncertainties are the two aforementioned departures in Jackson and Garcon. Doctson would be a natural breakout candidate, but early reports out of camp have Ryan Grant taking snaps on the outside in three wide receiver sets and Crowder opposite Terrelle Pryor in two receiver sets.
Doctson has no excuses: he’s been in the offense for a year, has been given every opportunity to get healthy, has elite measurables, and was a great college receiver. If he cannot beat out Crowder for a starting job, let alone Grant in three wide receiver sets, his sixth round dynasty start-up price will be paying for a treasure to get trash.