By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson (with Contributions from Joe Zollo and Chris Tyler)
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A depleted receiver corps and no standout RB led to plenty of question marks for the Redskins heading into the 2017. They released RB Matt Jones and brought in WR Terrelle Pryor from Cleveland to be the number one receiver they have lacked in recent years. It’s a good thing they still had QB Kirk Cousins because the bottom fell out quick. Cousins’ 326.10 fantasy points were good for 6th among QBs, and 3rd down back Chris Thompson reeled off a string of great games en route to a RB11 start prior to an injury suffered in Week 11. After his WR20 finish in 2016, Jamison Crowder finished as the top Redskins receiver again in 2017, albeit as WR35 this time around.
That was just one of the disappointments. Pryor came in and promptly pulled a Houdini, falling to as low as 4th on the depth chart and finished with only 20 catches for 240 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t score a single fantasy point after Week 9 (though he did suffer an ankle injury which contributed to that stat). RB “Fat” Rob Kelley ended 2016 as the starting RB but was ineffective in 2017 and was promptly unseated by rookie Samaje Perine. Neither finished in the top 40 at the position. TE Jordan Reed missed 4 games in 2016 but still managed a top 8 finish. He missed 9 games — from the fantasy schedule — in 2017 and finished as TE35. After the season, Cousins wasn’t slapped with the Franchise Tag for a third year in a row so we all knew change was coming. ‘Skins fans are hoping it’s for the better.
|(Projected Starting Lineup)|
|RB1||(R) Derrius Guice||N/A||N/A|
Rookie and Undrafted Free Agents to watch: RB Derrius Guice & WR Trey Quin
As mentioned above, Cousins was not slapped with the Franchise Tag. He eventually signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Before that, the Redskins made a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs to acquire QB Alex Smith. Smith had a career year in 2017, setting career highs in completions (341), yards (4,042), touchdowns (26), and fantasy points (363.18), good for a QB2 finish. He led the NFL in passer rating (104.7), had a 67.5 completion percentage, and threw only 5 INTs. In a perfect world, it’d make you wonder why the Chiefs would trade a guy coming off a career year, but when you draft a QB in the 1st round the same year, you have cause. Smith was the odd man out.
When I tell you Smith had a career year, I’m really not kidding. It was like an out-of-body experience. It started with the deep passing game, classified as passes that travel 20 yards or more down the field. He was the best QB in the NFL last year in this category, and it wasn’t even close. His QB rating? 131.4. The next closest? Matthew Stafford at 111.6. He had the most yards and tied for the most TDs, completions, and fewest INTs. Is it the skill of the QB or the style of offense?
Since Andy Reid landed in Kansas City in 2013, the Chiefs have ranked 24th, 29th, 30th, 19th, and 7th in passing offense. Well below average until last season. Alex Smith is a solid QB, one who limits turnovers, and with playmakers around him, he can do some serious damage. Kirk Cousins had 3 straight seasons over 4,000 passing yards in Jay Gruden’s offense but they lack the type of playmakers Smith had in Kansas City. Smith should regress to his more regular QB2 status, albeit a reliable one who can fill in during bye weeks and, God forbid, injury. I’m thinking around 3,700 yards with 22 TDs and 7 INTs. He can also chip in 300 yards rushing and 2 TDs.
Smith’s backup is veteran Colt McCoy. He’s been in the league since 2010 but hasn’t thrown a pass since 2015. At the very least, he knows Gruden’s offense well enough to keep them afloat but he and 3rd stringer Kevin Hogan are hardly viable fantasy options in the event of an injury to Smith.
Collectively, the Redskins averaged 3.6 yards per carry and ranked 28th in the NFL in rushing offense. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder the Redskins selected RB Derrius Guice in the 2nd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The most productive RB on the Redskins the past couple of years has been scatback Chris Thompson. Thompson has two straight years as a top 30 fantasy RB. Despite his season-ending injury in Week 11, he was well on his way to a top 15 finish. Thompson finished third among RBs with 2.34 yards per route run. He also averaged 13.1 yards per reception. The Redskins utilize him in more ways than just pass-catching, as witnessed by his 4.6 yards per carry on 64 rushing attempts. Thompson isn’t the lead back, but he’s clearly the most active in the offense. I fully expect Thompson to have a top 25 finish once again, providing quality FLEX play with RB2 weeks sprinkled in. A fully healthy season from Thompson likely looks like 50 receptions with 1,000 total yards and 6 TDs.
Last year’s 4th round pick, Samaje Perine, led the team with 603 rushing yards. But at only 3.4 yards per carry, there was clearly room for improvement. Perine and Rob Kelley made up the bulk of the early down work and with the addition of Guice, who is expected to take over the early down back role in the offense, neither will have much in the way of opportunity going forward. If/when Guice proves effective, Perine likely wins the job as lead replacement. I wouldn’t expect anything more than 120 carries and 400 yards which is strictly depth at the RB position and a handcuff to Guice.
And now for the rookie. Guice is likely to have one of the better rookie seasons among this year’s draft class. The Redskins don’t exactly have the best offensive line, ranking 21st in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. In his three years at LSU, Guice forced 106 missed tackles, 48 and 43 in 2016 and 2017, respectively. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry in college and scored 29 TDs. In 2015 and 2016, Guice split time with Leonard Fournette in the Tigers backfield and managed 1,387 rushing yards in 2016 as Fournette battled a pesky ankle injury. Guice didn’t get much play as a receiver, but he didn’t drop a single pass in 2017 and his Pro Day workout showcased he has skills in the department. Guice still has to fend off the likes of Perine and Kelley and we’ve seen how teams are sometimes hesitant to hand over the ball to a rookie from Day One, especially with established players already at the position. I hope Guice gets the ball early and often because he has the talent to rush for 1,300 yards as early as this year. He’s a top 25 RB in 2018, with more value in Standard than PPR leagues, but his TDs will keep him valuable in PPR leagues like Club Fantasy. I think Guice pushes 200 carries for 920 yards and 8 TDs with about 15 catches for 140 yards, easily FLEX numbers with RB2 upside.
With the failed attempt to make Terrelle Pryor their number one WR in 2017, the Redskins turned to former 1st round pick Josh Doctson to finally show he could be just that. In his late season audition, Doctson was inconsistent, contributing only 20 catches for 276 yards and 3 TDs, good for 44th among WRs. Over the full season, Doctson had 35 receptions for 502 yards and 6 TDs for a WR57 finish. His 14.3 yards per reception is solid and so are the TD totals. He’s likely to make a big leap in his third season as a focal point of the offense. Alex Smith can throw it deep and it’s clear that Jay Gruden wants to open up that part of the offense. Doctson should be able to maintain the solid TD totals and double his receptions. I’d look for 73 catches for right around 1,000 yards and 8 TDs from Doctson en route to a top 30 finish — WR2 numbers when injuries inevitably occur — in 2018.
The most consistent target on the Redskins for the past couple of years has been slot man Jamison Crowder. Crowder had almost 850 yards and 7 TDs in 2016 and topped 100 targets in 2017 for the first time, leading to 66 catches for 789 yards. Crowder ran 74.4% of his routes from the slot in 2017, good for 44 catches and 535 yards but with 5 drops. Alex Smith had Tyreek Hill and Albert Wilson handle most of the routes from the slot in Kansas City. They combined for 41 catches for 630 yards and 4 TDs. Smith should have no problem finding Crowder often in this offense. Crowder’s WR35 finish in 2017 should mean he’ll likely go under the radar in drafts heading into this season. Like Doctson, Crowder will be a top 30 option and solid FLEX option.
The Redskins big free agent acquisition came in the form of former Seahawks WR Paul Richardson. He was brought in to challenge for the role of WR1 on the team. With little on his resume, I certainly don’t trust him to suddenly be a reliable option in a new offense. I’m more inclined to trust what I’ve seen versus what I haven’t. I’ve seen Richardson not show up, as witnessed to his three seasons of not reaching 30 catches and 300 yards. The one outlier? Last season, his contract year. He played all 16 games for the first time, setting career highs in targets (80), catches (44), yards (703), and touchdowns (6). He also averaged 16 yards per reception, 10th in the league among WRs with more than 500 yards receiving. Smith’s ability to throw the ball down field will keep Richardson busy and if Doctson can’t be consistent, Richardson will steal targets. I’m thinking Richardson keeps improving, somewhere around 50 catches for 750 yards and 5 TDs. If he plays all 16 games. He’s a WR5/6 on draft day with upside to challenge for top 35 at the position.
The Redskins have trotted out some quality tight end play over the last few years. Part of that is because of their number one guy, Jordan Reed. In 2015, Reed had 235.7 fantasy points and finished as TE2. His numbers have regressed since, mainly due to injury. He’s played a total of 18 games the last two seasons. His athleticism allows him to play off the line like a receiver and create mismatches for defenses. If I remember correctly, Alex Smith had a similar TE in Kansas City. A healthy Reed is a top 5 TE in 2018. Key word is healthy. Call me crazy, but I think he actually plays the most games he’s played since 2015 this upcoming season and finishes as a top 10 option at TE. I’m looking for 65 catches for 800 yards and 9 TDs. Again, IF he plays 13 or more games. Just know, drafting Reed means you’re going to need to draft another TE, one you feel comfortable relying on for a good portion of the season. The good news? Reed will fall in drafts because don’t trust him as a result of the injury history.
If Reed misses significant time, Vernon Davis is hardly a slouch. Over the last two seasons, Davis has finished as TE21 and TE15 in fantasy. He’s clearly not the TE he once was with the 49ers who was a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft. He is more adept at playing inline than Reed, but doesn’t split out near as much as Reed does, as witnessed by their snap count lining up in the slot just last year. Reed ran 41.8% of his routes from the slot in the 6 games he played in 2017. Davis ran 24.4% of his from the slot. No matter how you slice it, Davis is a top 25 TE in 2018. But if Reed plays in at least 12 games, Davis doesn’t register on Fantasy radars.
Rookie to Watch
RB Derrius Guice was easily a 1st round talent that went in the 2nd and may go down as the biggest steal in the 2018 NFL Draft. Guice is my number three rookie running back and as part of the Redskins offense, he’s going to light it up. He has the perfect blend of quickness, strength, and awareness. Even though Rob Kelley will likely be the day one starter, don’t be surprised when Guice starts taking more (translation: all) of the carries as the season progresses. – Chris Tyler
The third year man out of Texas Christian University, WR Josh Doctson has shown flashes of greatness in his short time in the NFL. Plagued by injuries his rookie season in 2016, Doctson played in all 16 Redskins games in 2017 and started 14 of them. New QB Alex Smith has been known to throw the ball deep this past year and Doctson has the size and speed to get down the field. A red zone threat who should be targeted as your WR3 or WR4. – Joe Zollo
2018 Loose Ends
There are a ton of average to above average fantasy options on the Redskins in 2018. The one to love the most is a healthy Jordan Reed. Then rookie RB Derrius Guice. Smith, Crowder, and Thompson are consistent, but hardly anything special. Doctson and Richardson are wild cards with major upside if the stars align. All of these guys will be drafted come draft day, but keep expectations in check. The Redskins offense hasn’t exactly been lights out. Aside from the 2016 anomaly, they’ve been average. 16th in 2017, 3rd in 2016, and 17th in 2015 over the last three years. And the Alex Smith led Chiefs offenses haven’t exactly been the 2007 Patriots either. Be weary of their skill players and be prepared for some inconsistent outings. Here are some other fun stats I dug up while researching the Washington Redskins:
- Last season, according to Pro Football Focus, the Chiefs had the 16th ranked offensive line; The Redskins ranked 21st.
- The Redskins O-Line ranked 24th in passing blocking. They gave up 25 sacks, 6th most in the NFL.
- Alex Smith had a career year behind a subpar offensive line and he’ll have another subpar line in 2018.
- Chris Thompson ran 218 pass routes in 2017, 24th among RBs.
- Derrius Guice had only 29 career catches in college, 15 in 2017.
- Jordan Reed hasn’t run less than 33% of his snaps from the slot over the last three seasons.
- 15 WRs in the NFL topped 2.0 yards per route run in 2017. The trio of Crowder, Doctson, and Richardson ran 1.74, 1.10, and 1.29 yards, respectively.
|4||** BYE WEEK **|
|5||10/8 (Mon)||@ NO|
|12||11/22 (Thurs)||@ DAL|
|13||12/3 (Mon)||@ PHI|