NFC East fantasy questions: How to value Pollard, D. Jones, Eagles RBs and Dotson

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Prepping for the upcoming fantasy football season requires asking tough questions.

Which NFL teams are set up for success? Which teams are set to struggle? Where can fantasy managers mine for latent fantasy talent? Which brand-name stars could actually disappoint?

Throughout June, I'll sift through every division and highlight the most pressing fantasy question facing each team. Next up, the NFC East.

Pressing fantasy questions by division:
AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

Dallas Cowboys

Should you believe in Tony Pollard as a top-10 fantasy RB?

Fantasy managers have been trying to manifest Pollard's RB1 moment for years. Coming off a broken leg and a high ankle sprain (which required TightRope surgery), however, there's concern about Pollard's ability to withstand an increased workload. Given Ezekiel Elliott's departure and the team's current roster, Pollard will see an uptick in opportunities. But noting his size and skill set, it's unlikely he'll be deployed in the same way (or to the same extent) Zeke was.

Pollard is a versatile back with incredible burst and receiving ability. He regularly rips off runs of 15-plus yards (8.8% breakaway run rate in 2022, fourth among RBs) and thrives as a pass-catcher (9.5 YPR in 2022, second among backs). While he can run between the tackles, he is not a power runner. That's also why he doesn't necessarily need 18 rushing attempts per contest to put up numbers. Pollard averaged 15.5 fantasy points per game (RB8) despite carrying the rock 12.1 times (23rd among RBs) last season. So, even if Pollard's volume remains static (which I doubt it will) he's still in possession of top-12 potential.

Mike McCarthy has proved time and time again that he prefers a ground approach. Dallas' rushing attempts have climbed over the team's past pair of seasons (as Kellen Moore's vision and control of the offense faded) from 473 in 2021 to 531 in 2022 (sixth most). Additionally, the Boys ran the ball 52.2% of the time in goal-to-go situations last season. Therefore, it's reasonable to assume that Pollard will see an increase of roughly three to five carries per game. It's also reasonable to assume that an additional 50-65 totes won't lead to his undoing.

Takeaway: Coming off late-season injuries and stepping into a leading role elevates the risks associated with rostering Pollard. However, his efficiency and subsequent upside provide him with top-10 fantasy appeal.

New York Giants

Will Daniel Jones post top-10 fantasy QB numbers again in 2023?

Despite averaging fewer than 30 pass attempts per game and targeting an underwhelming stable of pass-catchers that posted the fourth-highest drop rate in the league, Jones finished as fantasy's QB9 last season. That's because the secret to his fantasy sauce isn't in his arm ... it's in his legs.

Giants fans have watched Jones scramble since he landed in New York in 2019. The QB's mobility wasn't intentionally exploited, however, until Brian Daboll joined the organization. Daboll schemed up 54 designed runs for Jones last season, which was just two fewer than the QB had in the 25 games he played over his two prior campaigns. Additionally, 56% of Jones' career red zone runs (which resulted in five rushing TDs) came in 2022.

While a slight regression in rushing attempts can be expected, Jones' mobility figures to remain a hallmark of the offense. The potential lapse in ground production should be made up via the air. Darren Waller was brought in to lead and stabilize the G-Men's receiving corps. The former Raiders' presence only adds to Jones' appeal, which has proved worthy of low-end QB1 consideration.

Takeaway: Jones' projected rushing volume (6-7 attempts per game) combined with Waller's big-play ability provides the Giants' signal-caller with top-10 fantasy appeal.

Philadelphia Eagles

Which Eagles RB should fantasy managers target?

D'Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny have complementary skill sets, which means they're going to share the backfield touches in an equitable manner. But the scoring for each of them figures to remain unpredictable given Jalen Hurts' elite knack for goal line poaching. That knocks them both out of fantasy RB2 territory.

Ultimately, Swift's ability as a pass-catcher gives him an edge over Penny. The former Lion has averaged nearly four catches per contest during his career. He also managed four games of more than 35 yards receiving last season alone. Penny, on the other hand, has recorded only one game of 35 yards during his entire career (and it was in 2018 as a rookie). Additionally, both backs are considered injury prone, but Swift has proved more durable, as he has recorded 156 more touches in three seasons than Penny has in five professional campaigns.

Takeaway: Swift and Penny are efficient backs working in a run-friendly offense. Swift's versatility as a receiver, however, provides him with a higher ceiling, particularly in PPR leagues.

Washington Commanders

Which Commanders player is poised for a fantasy breakout in 2023?

Brian Robinson Jr. is a favorite post-hype sleeper candidate ... and for good reason. The 24-year-old was used in an elite fashion down the stretch last season, ranking third in carries per game (19.7) from Weeks 10 through 18. He's also working in a run-friendly offense that ranked eighth in rush rate last season and doesn't appear to have the talent under center to change that approach. Given Antonio Gibson's waning efficiency, Robinson should lead the Commanders' backfield. But it's hard to get excited about a running back on a squad with a projected win total of seven.

I'd rather invest in Jahan Dotson's ceiling. No one is expecting efficiency from Sam Howell, but if Washington figures to be trailing then the volume should be there for Dotson. And it doesn't hurt that the Penn State product's best attribute is a pair of wonderfully sticky mitts. Despite going over four receptions in only two games as a rookie, Dotson still managed to post seven TDs. Only four other first-round wideouts drafted over the past five years recorded at least seven TDs in their premier campaigns (Ja'Marr Chase, Calvin Ridley, Justin Jefferson and Marquise Brown). That's sweet upside for a WR being drafted outside of the top 40 at the position.

Takeaway: Dotson figures to work as Washington's No. 2 WR opposite Terry McLaurin. His ability to gain separation and win in contested situations while regularly drawing looks gives him WR4 value and potential WR2 upside.

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