The fantasy-relevant NFC East rookies the Redskins will have to stop

The Redskins' newest foes in the NFC East consist of a few dangerous running backs

You know about Dez Bryant, Tony Romo, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jordan Matthews. Valuable fantasy commodities, yes, and all focal points in a Washington Redskins defensive game plan. But there are new names all around the division that both the Redskins and fantasy owners should be aware of. 

Dallas Cowboys

Running back Ezekiel Elliott

Let's begin with the most intriguing newcomer for fantasy owners, not only inside the NFC East but across the entire NFL. Elliott is already a top-20 pick in many mock drafts, and it's easy to understand why: Talent plus opportunity equals big-time fantasy appeal. Elliott is as pro-ready as they come, even as a blocker, which means there is a good chance he will be a three-down back right out of the gate. He's got the athleticism, the quickness and the power all in his bag. He took on 617 touches over his final two collegiate seasons and averaged more than 6 yards per carry in each. He also caught at least 25 passes in 2014 and 2015. Now he finds himself as a possible workhorse behind a stupendous O-line and in an offense that wants to lean on the run. The Redskins' 26th-ranked run defense better shape quickly if it wants any chance of slowing down "Zeke." He will climb into the back end of the first round in some fantasy drafts this fall.

Quarterback Dak Prescott

Tony Romo is 36 years old and under contract through 2019. Can Romo stay healthy for four more seasons? Can he stay productive to be worth the money? Will he really want to play when he's 40? If there is a negative answer to any of those questions, Prescott will be waiting. He's purely a dynasty-league pick, but one with an enticing blend of mobility and passing skills. He does have quite a few flaws as a passer, although there's time for him to work those out. Once his time comes, who knows what his supporting cast will look like (Bryant will be 31 in 2019), but Prescott can be a solid NFL starter.

Running back Darius Jackson

While Elliott is the star, the Cowboys may have drafted his future backup in the sixth round. Jackson is purely an athlete at this point, not a running back. He has 4.40-40 speed and a great deal of explosion. If he can greatly improve his vision and running style, he can stick in the league and be an offensive factor. For now, he's trailing Elliott, Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris on Dallas' depth chart and will need to contribute on special teams just to survive.

Philadelphia Eagles

Quarterback Carson Wentz

The Eagles are betting that Wentz will be their next franchise quarterback. Whether he begins to live up to that moniker this year is a current mystery. Most Eagles fans would love to see Wentz under center if for no other reason than they are already not too fond of Sam Bradford. However, the coaches may choose to give the North Dakota State product a year to watch and learn. He may see some live action late in the season if Philly's 2016 falls apart, in which case Wentz could be an interesting plug-and-play QB depending on his matchups because of his dual-threat capabilities. For the most part, however, Wentz is a player to target later on in your keeper and dynasty leagues.

Running back Wendell Smallwood

Smallwood has what it takes to be a force in the NFL. He's got good speed and agility. He can block and catch passes. He is an aggressive, physical runner. All of these attributes will serve him well in the pros, but especially in Philadelphia, where the only backs in front of Smallwood on the depth chart are the injury-prone Ryan Mathews, and Darren Sproles heading into his age-33 season. It's very possible that this West Virginia rookie will be an integral piece of the Eagles' backfield. He needs to be on your fantasy radar.

New York Giants

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard

Victor Cruz hasn't played since October 2014, and the Giants seem to know that they have seen his best days. Enter Sterling Shepard, a player who Giants coaches and execs have said they hope can be their next Victor Cruz. A 5-foot-10 slot receiver, Shepard trails only Odell Beckham Jr. among Giants receivers with his blend of strong receiving skills and big-play ability. In Ben McAdoo's quick-fire passing offense, Eli Manning should be looking for Shepard often over the middle and down the seams. At the least, he can be a top-40 fantasy wideout right away and a terror for Redskins safeties.

Running back Paul Perkins

Perkins' quick feet and cut-on-a-dime prowess are his calling cards. He is not too fast or heavy, but he will make you miss all day long. Where does he fit with the Giants, whose ground attack was totally mediocre last year? It's a bit crowded, with leader Rashad Jennings, pass-catching Shane Vereen and big back Andre Williams already in town. Yet, there isn't a top-tier talent in that mix. Perkins isn't a stud either, but considering Jennings' injury history and Williams' general ineffectiveness, he should have opportunities to get on the field. Those opportunities just may not mean much for fantasy owners in 2016. Among the backup running backs taken by each of these three teams in the most recent draft, Smallwood should be ranked above Perkins and Jackson, respectively, for fantasy purposes.


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