NFC East Superlatives: Best, Underrated & Breakout Players

Photo: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, the possibility of a 2020 NFL season seems to be uncertain at this point, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t project forward, look ahead to the future, and most importantly, have a bit of football-related fun.

Fifth in our division-by-division series, I analyzed the NFC East and all of its inner-workings, handing out certain “Superlatives” to players across the division.

Here are the results.

(AFC South Superlatives can be found here.)

(AFC West Superlatives can be found here.)

(NFC West Superlatives can be found here.)

(NFC South Superlatives can be found here.)

Most pressure to succeed: Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

Pay Dak or don’t pay Dak?

It’s the question seemingly every NFL fan, media member, and league member has asked themselves this offseason. Dividing Cowboys nation into two distinct parties, Prescott has officially opted to play on the franchise tag in 2020, which is going to put a ton of pressure on his underpaid shoulders. The fact of the matter is that Dallas fans want to see elite QB play, and although he displayed that (in my opinion) in 2019, Prescott needs a repeat performance for both the organization and fans to be satisfied (and even that may not do the trick). It’s a tall and seemingly unfair order to ask for, but a great year can put Prescott in the $40+ million range (per year) at the position.

Could also win:  

  • Most underrated QB

Most likely to disappoint: Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants

Giants fans seemed extremely impressed by Daniel Jones' rookie season. The rest of the world? Not so much.

Although admittedly better than many pegged him to be, Jones’ inaugural year was very much an up and down performance, with the signal-caller displaying a lot of the poor qualities that had scouts worried pre-draft.  

Although he had impressive touchdown and passing yard numbers, Jones’ basic stats were highly misleading, as he struggled mightily when it came to total turnovers, passer rating, and overall efficiency at the position. I will give him props for his aggressiveness and competitive nature, but Jones didn't do enough to sway me from my pre-draft opinion—one that didn’t project him to be the future of a franchise. He may very well prove me wrong with a sophomore jump, but Giants fans seem to have unrealistic expectations for Jones that I just don’t see him matching in Year 2.

Could also win:  

  • Worst ball security

Best Offensive Player: Zack Martin, IOL, Dallas Cowboys

Prescott, Carson Wentz, Saquon Barkley, or Lane Johnson could have been the choice here. Unlike any of those, Martin is the best player at his position, however (no, I didn’t forget about Quenton Nelson) which makes him the best option in this scenario.

Dominant ever since he stepped foot in the Dallas locker room, Martin has established himself as one of the NFL’s premier players for half a decade, proving that certain measurables like arm length were drastically overrated in his pre-draft evaluation. Unlike fellow offensive line partner Tyron Smith, he has yet to show any signs of slowing down and should continue to serve as a lockdown protector on the right side for years to come.

Could also win:  

  • Best OL with 32 ⅞ inch arms

Best Defensive Player: Demarcus Lawrence, EDGE, Dallas Cowboys

Fletcher Cox probably would’ve been the choice if it weren’t for a foot injury that hampered his 2019 output, but with that being the unfortunate case, Demarcus Lawrence is the pick here instead. Although he also saw a dip in sack production like Cox (5.5), Lawrence still had a quality 2019 season, ranking third in ESPN’s pass-rush “win rate” metric and displaying complete dominance in the run game. With his big contract and Dallas’ unavoidable spotlight, many have seen Lawrence’s basic numbers and assumed he’s disappointed, but that simply isn’t the case.

Also putting forth quality pressure numbers, a lot of what Lawrence does isn’t flashy and won’t garner much attention, but he’s a fantastic edge presence with the ability to completely change games.

Could also win:  

  • Best edge defender against the run

Underrated Star: Matt Ioannidis, DL, Washington

Michael Gallup, Da’Ron Payne, and recent Eagles acquisition Javon Hargrave were all worthy contenders here, as was the oft-mentioned underrated star Ryan Kerrigan, but Ioaddanis may not just be the most overlooked player in the NFC East, he may be the most overlooked player in the entire league.

Racking up 7.5 sacks in 2018 before topping it with 8.5 last season, Ioadannis is essentially the only member of Washington’s defensive line that wasn’t a first-round pick. Nevertheless, he’s put forth exceptional production as a versatile chess piece, demonstrating the ability to play at 3-, 5-, and even 0-tech along the defensive front. Ranking ninth in ESPN’s pass-rush “win rate” among interior linemen, Iodannis signed a respectable three-year, $21.75 million year last April, which has already proved to be an exceptional value for Washington.

Could also win:  

  • Only Washington player who didn’t go to Ohio State or Alabama

Most likely to Breakout: Darius Slayton, WR, New York Giants

Rookie wideouts like D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Terry McLaurin got all the buzz in 2019, but Slayton quietly put forth 48 receptions and a team-best 740 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in his first year. It was an extremely remarkable output for a fourth-rounder, which spoke not only to his quality connection with Jones, but also to his pure ability as a pass-catcher.  

Running a simplistic route tree at Auburn, one of the main questions surrounding Slayton pre-draft was if he could pick up the finer points of the position right away. Although he still has a ways to go in this regard, he was sufficient enough as a route-runner in 2019, proving many draft experts and analysts wrong in this regard. Also armed with blazing 4.39 speed, Slayton’s exceptional ball-tracking and success as a vertical threat, combined with Jones’ aggressiveness as a passer, makes a breakout 2020 campaign all but a certainty. The Giants have failed to add many significant weapons this offseason, which ultimately sets up Slayton with the perfect opportunity to reach the 1.000-yard mark as a sophomore.

Could also win:  

  • Most likely to remind you that speed kills

Rookie of the Year: Chase Young, EDGE, Washington

Ceedee Lamb and Jalen Reagor will be flashy names given the fantasy football connotations that come with their play, but Young is a slam-dunk here.

Although I don’t think the notion that he should play as well as Nick Bosa did as a rookie is exactly fair, Young may just have that type of drastic impact in his first season. Playing on one of the league’s most ferocious front-fours, a 12-plus sack season could certainly be in the cards for the talented defender. 

Could also win:  

  • Most intimating edge presence

Written By:

Carter Donnick

Publications Intern

Publications Intern at The Draft Network. Very Canadian.

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