Redskins Year in Review
2014 Pass Attempts Rank: 18th (547)
2014 Rush Attempts Rank: 21st (401)
2014 Total Offensive Plays Rank: 22nd (1,006)
2014 Yards Per Play Rank: 10th (5.7)
Projected Starting Lineup
Passing Game Outlook
Robert Griffin III‘s third NFL season was an utter disaster, missing six games with a left ankle dislocation, getting benched for Colt McCoy in November, and appearing shell shocked in the pocket when he did play, almost as if Griffin had lost all confidence. Then-first-year coach Jay Gruden deserves partial blame, publicly clashing with RG3 in an almost child-like manner and failing to design an offense that made Griffin comfortable. Under new GM Scot McCloughan, the Skins showed support for RG3 by exercising his $16.2 million option for 2016 and making no quarterback upgrades. Gruden took a far-more positive stance on RG3 this spring, praising his OTA work and committing to Griffin as the Week 1 starter. Still only 25 years old and just two seasons removed from Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, Griffin is a wild card entering year two of Gruden’s system. Griffin still has a rocket arm and plus athleticism, even if he isn’t quite the explosive athlete he was pre-ACL and ankle injuries. With his fantasy-draft cost bottoming out, RG3 is an intriguing QB2/3 pick who still offers QB1 upside. Admittedly, the odds of Griffin ever reaching his ceiling do seem slim at the moment.
DeSean Jackson entered his debut season with the Redskins without a realistic chance at equaling his career-best numbers with the 2013 Eagles, but he remained one of the NFL’s premier deep threats amid team turmoil and brutal quarterback play. Despite ranking 49th among NFL wide receivers in targets, Jackson finished 16th at his position in fantasy points, 13th in yards (1,169), and first in yards per reception (20.9). D-Jax’s relatively low-volume, high-volatility style did result in high highs and low lows; he topped 80 yards in 8-of-15 games but was held under 50 yards six times. Even the slightest improvement from Robert Griffin III would benefit Jackson, who remains squarely in his prime at age 28. A top-20 fantasy wideout in four of his last five healthy seasons, Jackson is currently being drafted as the WR25 in re-draft leagues, according to FF Calculator. Jackson offers value at his sixth-round ADP.
Pierre Garcon was statistically hurt by the addition of DeSean Jackson and new coach Jay Gruden‘s offense last year. While Garcon did lead Washington in targets with 105, his target total was nearly chopped in half from the season prior (181), and Garcon’s fantasy receiver ranking plummetted from 13th to 54th. When utilized correctly and frequently, Garcon is one of the NFL’s top run-after-catch creators, and gets separation with quickness and physicality. Gruden has vowed to funnel more footballs Garcon’s way this season, moving him from X to Z receiver, which is technically the featured position in Gruden’s West Coast system. Turning 29 next month, Garcon should have some solid years left, but his days of difference-making fantasy scoring are almost certainly over. He’s best viewed as a borderline WR3/4 in 2015.
Veteran Andre Roberts, sophomore Ryan Grant, and rookie Jamison Crowder will compete for sub-package snaps when the Redskins use three receivers. Roberts signed a four-year, $16 million contract two offseasons ago, but flopped spectacularly as the No. 3 wideout in 2014, dropping 7-of-73 targets and ranking 97th among 110 qualified receivers in PFF’s catch-rate metric (52.9%). Six of the 73 passes thrown at Roberts were intercepted, second most in the league. Grant has impressed coaches with savvy route running on the practice field, but is slightly built (6’0/199) and athletically deficient, running 4.64 with a 9-foot-11 broad jump and 35 1/2-inch vertical at the 2014 Combine. Crowder is diminutive (5’8/185) and slow (4.56), drawing comparisons to Harry Douglas. Crowder is best suited to return punts in the NFL.
Jordan Reed entered his second NFL season having suffered no fewer than four concussions between college and his rookie year. Reed stayed on the shelf as a sophomore, enduring a severe left hamstring injury in Week 1, before straining his right hamstring in November. This May, Reed reported to OTAs with a knee injury and required arthroscopic surgery. Reed has flashed playmaking ability on the field, but he’s missed 12 games through two seasons and has never been a big-time touchdown scorer, dating back to the University of Florida. Reed is still only 25 years old, but will have to overcome his troubling lack of durability to assert himself as a reliable fantasy asset. At least the price is right at Reed’s 15th-round ADP.
Niles Paul parlayed Jordan Reed‘s 2014 missed time into a bigger role, establishing career highs in catches (39) and yards (507). Paul is a putrid run blocker, however, ranking 62nd among 67 qualified tight ends according to PFF’s blocking grades. Not yet 26 years old, Paul remains an intriguing pass-catching prospect behind an injury-riddled starter. Re-signed to a three-year, $6 million deal, Paul may be given a legitimate shot to unseat Reed in training camp. While Paul is small (6’1/241) by NFL tight end standards, he is an athletic converted wideout who returned three kicks for touchdowns at Nebraska and ran 4.46 at the Huskers’ 2011 Pro Day. Paul is worth a TE3/4 stash in Dynasty leagues and should be monitored by re-draft owners in an offense that would likely benefit from using more two-tight end sets.
Running Game Outlook
Alfred Morris‘ efficiency (4.05 YPC) and usage lagged for a second straight season in 2014, as Robert Griffin III got hurt and struggled in Jay Gruden‘s system. Purely from a production standpoint, Morris is Marshawn Lynch with RG3 on the field and Shonn Greene with other quarterbacks. Since both entered the league in 2012, Morris has 655 carries for 3,168 yards (4.84 YPC) and 23 TDs in Griffin’s 35 starts. Morris has 221 runs for 794 yards (3.59 YPC) and just five scores in 13 starts of Kirk Cousins or Colt McCoy. A zone runner under the Shanahans, Morris is being turned into a gap-oriented power back by Gruden, who’s added size to the Redskins’ offensive line and power-blocking proponent Bill Callahan to coach the unit. In many respects, a fantasy bet on Morris is a fantasy bet on Griffin, which is a bit troubling. A fantasy bet on Morris is also a bet on the Redskins becoming a more competitive team; if Washington remains non-competitive, passing-game deficient Morris will lose snaps to the Redskins’ numerous passing-down backs. Still, Morris is a 26-year-old workhorse with zero career missed games and three straight top-15 finishes. Morris is a relatively safe-floor, low-ceiling pick in the fourth round of drafts. I think Morris is a bit of a reach in round three.
Redskins third-round pick Matt Jones spent a year and a half as Florida’s lead back, parlaying 297 carries into 1,431 yards (4.82 YPC) and 11 TDs. He only caught 19 passes in three college seasons. Unimpressive athletically, Jones managed a 4.61 forty with a 31 1/2-inch vertical and 9-foot-4 broad jump at the Combine. A solid pass protector who gets what’s blocked as a runner, Jones was aptly compared to BenJarvus Green-Ellis from a skill standpoint by Football Guys’ Cecil Lammey. (For what it’s worth, new Redskins GM Scot McCloughan has likened Jones to Marshawn Lynch.) Ticketed for third-down duties in Washington, Jones should also make for a solid Alfred Morris handcuff. Long term, Jones will likely max out as a No. 2 back in the NFL. Considering Morris’ past durability, Jones isn’t an overly appealing re-draft pick.
Vegas Win Total
I picked the under on the Cowboys (9.5), Eagles (9.5), and Giants’ (8.5) Win Totals. I’m taking an optimistic approach to RG3, and the over on the Redskins at 6.5 wins. My guess is all four NFC East teams finish in the 7-9 win range. The NFC East is beatable, as are the majority of Washington’s non-division opponents from the NFC South and AFC East, plus Chicago and St. Louis. As long as meddlesome owner Dan Snyder stays out of his way, I believe new GM Scot McCloughan can turn the Skins back into a competitive club in the short term, and perhaps a contender down the line if McCoughan drafts as well as he did in Seattle and San Francisco.
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