Partially because it interests me and partially because I could easily see any of 3 teams (sorry, Washington) winning the NFC East, I’m ranking the NFC East teams, position-by-position, in an effort to help me figure out who I’ll be predicting as the division’s winner when the season opens up on September 5th. I’ll be assigning 1 point for the top spot, 2 for the second spot, 3 for the third spot, and 4 for the 4th spot. The lowest total at the conclusion of the exercise (which will include coaches, coordinators, and schedules) will be my pick for the NFC East champion. Yesterday I did the quarterbacks, today we’ll do the running backs.
1) Lesean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
In the discussion for the best RB in the NFL along with Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Ray Rice, McCoy is far and away the best RB in the NFC East. Coming off a season where he totaled over 1600 total yards and 20 TDs, McCoy is primed for another excellent season.
2) Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants
You can argue that Demarco Murray has more upside than Bradshaw, and Murray is certainly higher on everyone’s fantasy football draft boards, but right now I’ll take the consistently productive Bradshaw over the 7 games of Murray that I saw last year. Bradshaw’s been part of a time share in the New York backfield since he arrived, but has been consistently productive. Playing in 43 of a possible 48 games over the past 3 seasons while splitting time with Brandon Jacobs (among others), Bradshaw racked up 3, 460 total yards and 26 total touchdowns. He’ll be splitting time with 2012 1st round pick David Wilson this year, but Bradshaw should have a very good season leading the Giants’ rushing attack.
3) Demarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
Murray opened his rookie season last year as the 3rd string RB for the Cowboys, but he eventually got the starting nod in Week 7 against the St. Louis Rams. And what a day it was: Murray ran for 253 yards and a 91 yard TD on 25 carries. He suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 14 against the Giants and finished the year with 1,080 total yards and 2 TDs. He’s definitely got a ton of upside, but he was injury-prone at Oklahoma in college and is coming off another injury last season.
4) Tim Hightower, Washington Redskins.
Or whoever they start here. Roy Helu, Hightower, Evan Royster, and Alfred Morris could all see time as the starting RB in Washington this year. I won’t waste my breath writing up any of these guys because Mike Shannahan loves to mess with fantasy owners by changing his starting RB at the drop of a hat. Just know that whoever starts at RB for Washington this year is going to be decently productive because of the system Shannahan runs.
The Giants have a very solid, if unproven tandem of rookie David Wilson and DJ Ware behind Bradshaw, and the Redskins have plenty of depth (as mentioned in the Hightower write-up). For my money, I think the Eagles might have the best backup RBs in the division. Dion Lewis is a poor man’s Lesean McCoy and Bryce Brown has shown plenty of upside in his preseason action. The Cowboys also have a decent group of backups with former 1st round pick Felix Jones and Phillip Tanner. I don’t think there’s much separation between the teams in the backup RB department, and there definitely isn’t enough to change the rankings of the starters.
Dallas has the division’s best fullback in Lawrence Vickers, closely followed by Henry Hynoski of the Giants and Daryl Young of the Redskins. Then, there’s a big drop-off to Stanley Havili of the Eagles. In the old NFL, this might be enough to change the order of the division’s running backs. However, in today’s passing-driven league, where the fullback has almost become obsolete, it’s not enough to make me change my mind about the original rankings. Here’s my final order for the division’s running backs:
1) Philadelphia Eagles
2) New York Giants
3) Dallas Cowboys
4) Washington Redskins
Overall standings by points:
1) New York Giants-3 points
2) Philadelphia Eagles-4 points
3) Dallas Cowboys-5 points
4) Washington Redskins-8 points