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BREAKOUT PLAYERS: Part 4 – NFC EAST

WASHINGTON

Derrius Guice, RB

Let’s turn back the clocks to almost one year ago. During this time, most fantasy players I know were trying to figure out if Saquon Barkley was worthy of a Top-5 pick in redraft PPR formats. The next question that everyone was trying to solve was where they should be slotting running back Derrius Guice? With no other running back slated in front of him on the Washington depth chart, the former LSU Tiger standout was in the driver’s seat of what appeared to be a plentiful workload during his rookie season. Then on his first and only play of Washington’s first preseason game of 2018, a play that technically doesn’t even exist in the record books (thanks to a holding call), Guice broke into the New England secondary and down the sideline on an electrifying 34-yard run, a run that in the end would turn out to be a fatefully disastrous one, as he was dragged down from behind by two defenders. It resulted in a torn ACL and Guice’s 2018 season ending on that very day.

Thankfully for fantasy owners and most importantly Derrius Guice, modern healing and modern surgery have made significant strides over the last decade when it comes to the dreaded ACL injury. Once thought of as not just a season-ender, but, a career-ender, the ACL tear is now just a minor setback for those players who have them early in their careers. Guice is just now another player in a long line of NFL athletes who has had to overcome this injury at this point. Most players who suffer this injury at either the running back or wide receiver position are usually not back to fully being themselves until their second year removed from the injury. However, it’s all about how an athlete rehabs and responds to treatment and when the injury occurred. All indications at this point, point the arrow up in favor of Guice being ready this year. Personally, I think this has more to do with the timing of the injury (as I said earlier let’s turn the clock back nearly one year ago). Given a full 12-month rehab and Washington’s talented offensive line, 2019 should produce more than just that small special taste that Guice gave us all last preseason.

Dwayne Haskins, QB

This might be a little premature to place the Ohio State product into the breakout category, but I’m a big believer in what I’ve seen from the former Buckeye during his junior season and now into the role as QB1 in Washington. Assuming he gets the nod as the starter from head coach Jay Gruden (which I think he will) Haskins has all the physical tools and mental capabilities that come with playing the position at a high level in the NFL. Haskins likes to push the ball down the field when he plays, as indicated by his lofty 9 yards per attempt average at Ohio State. This stat bodes well for the skill positions that he is currently surrounded by in Washington. Downfield players like wide receivers Paul Richardson and Josh Doctson instantly become extremely attractive fantasy sleepers as the result of the arrival of Haskins.

Haskins’ best quality overall, however, might just be his age, as the young signal caller just turned 22 back in May. Again, I’m risking quite a bit here in July before training camp hits calling Haskins a potential breakout candidate before even being named the starter, but his competition at this juncture is Case Keenum. Had Alex Smith been healthy then I might have been far more reserved in my opinion here; however, he is not and that is what gives me confidence that when the dust of preseason settles, there will be Haskins standing tall under that 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame, ready to lead Washington in the manner that he led Ohio State in last season.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Dallas Goedert, TE

Anyone that knows anything about NFC East football knows about the rivalry that exists between Philadelphia and Dallas. So, seeing last season that Philadelphia selected a player with the first name Dallas was not only quite a shock, but in some cases might have been blasphemy if you would have asked some Philadelphia fans. However, after now seeing the product behind the first name play last season, I’m sure those same fans that clamored about the name are just fine with the selection. Goedert showed just why he was more than capable of living up to the second-round selection for Philadelphia at a position where it currently boasts a perennial All-Pro in Zach Ertz.

Dallas Goedert is a monster of a man, with a listed size of 6-foot-5 and 254 pounds, a frame that he uses quite well to shield defenders off while catching anything thrown his way. His 34 receptions on 44 targets for 334 yards and four touchdowns goes to prove that. The question remains – is what we saw last season an indicator that bigger things are in Goedert’s future, particularly this year? Given the way head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz like to spread the ball around, I’m betting their will be plenty of reasons for fantasy owners to want a piece of the No. 2 tight end in Philadelphia.

Can two tight ends be fantasy productive in the same offense? Well, recent history says yes. Rob Gronkowski and the late Aaron Hernandez formed an opposing duo for defenses in New England. There was 2010’s San Francisco combination of Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker and even not so common groupings such as 2012’s paring of Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson in Baltimore. Obviously, Gronkowski and Hernandez are the names that stand out on this list, and for good reason. Between them in 2011, they combined for 169 receptions on 237 targets for 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns. Personally, I believe this is the type of production that is achievable for the duo from Philadelphia.

Miles Sanders, RB

It’s a new year and with that comes another Penn State running back for fantasy owners to salivate over. The critically acclaimed Linebacker University may have to add an addendum to that famous moniker if Miles Sanders does what many think Miles Sanders is capable of. Namely, take an already talented and uber-productive offense and send it rocketing into orbit. Now, I do realize that Philadelphia made a commitment by signing former Chicago running back Jordan Howard in the off-season but the team also made a second-round commitment to Sanders when it really didn’t have to. Given that the need for defensive help in the secondary seemed a more pressing issue at the time. Philadelphia has big plans for the Penn State alum not just this year, but going forward as well.

It’s not lost on me that since taking over as Philadelphia’s head coach, Doug Pederson has traditionally been a running-back-by-committee type of guy but Pederson has never had the pure talent available to him of a three-down back that Sanders brings to the table. Sanders potential is even brighter when you think of his usage in college compared to the other top running backs who have recently been drafted. The tread on his tires is relatively minor in comparison to the other two superstar runners in this division in Barkley and Elliott. Those two guys had a combined 1,423 touches in their three seasons in college (Elliot 650, Barkley 773). Sanders, on the other hand, during his three collegiate seasons amassed only 308 touches.

About Justin Smithey

The common man with uncommon fantasy takes. California raised, Texas approved. Avid reader, golfer, gambler, and father.