2014 Fantasy Football Outlook: Washington Redskins

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RGIII

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

In less than a season, Washington went from one of the more promising young teams to an unmitigated disaster. Coming off of a 10 win season and their first postseason trip since 2007, they won only three games and had the majority of their coaching staff get fired.

2014 Fantasy Football Outlook: Cincinnati Bengals

2014 Fantasy Football Outlook: Buffalo Bills

2014 Fantasy Football Outlook: Seattle Seahawks

2014 Fantasy Football Outlook: Chicago Bears

 

Washington 2014 Schedule

Week   Opp
1 @ Houston Texans
2 Jacksonville Jaguars
3 @ Philadelphia Eagles
4 New York Giants
5 Seattle Seahawks
6 @ Arizona Cardinals
7 Tennessee Titans
8 @ Dallas Cowboys
9 @ Minnesota Vikings
10 Bye Week
11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12 @ San Francisco 49ers
13 @ Indianapolis Colts
14 St. Louis Rams
15 @ New York Giants
16 Philadelphia Eagles
17 Dallas Cowboys

 

Per norm, tread lightly when dissecting anything schedule related, but there’s a lot to like here at first blush outside of the NFC West affairs. I’m beyond excited for the Washington fantasy outlook this season because of the type of team I believe they are going to field on offense and defense. Backpedalling a bit, there’s a reason that the Shanaclan was disposed of after last season, and it has to do with their epic collapse offensively.

Washington Offense NFL Rank 2012-2013

 Cat. 2012 2013
Pts./Gm 6 23
Pts./Play 5 25
Yds./Pt 9 30
Yds./Play 3 17
Plays/Gm 26 4

 

Oh my. Washington went from being one the league’s most efficient offenses to being a complete mess. In terms of plays per game, this was an instance where quantity was definitely subpar to quality. Since the offense descended into Hades, their already poor defense that once aided their fantasy output, never stood a chance.

Washington Defense NFL Rank 2012-2013

2012 2013
Pts./Gm 22 31
Pts./Play 21 32
Yds./Pt 16 32
Yds./Play 26 29
Plays/Gm 19 7

 

See, the defense was already bad in 2012; they just weren’t on the field as often. Once the offense caved in on itself, Washington was a beacon for fantasy streaming. Last season, they allowed nine top 12 weekly quarterbacks, 14 top 24 running backs, 15 top 24 receivers and seven top 12 tight ends in PPR formats. They don’t project to be much better this season, signing only Tracy Porter, Jason Hatcher and Ryan Clark as additions, so it can be worrisome to fantasy output if the defense is constantly putting the offense off script.

They also should retain some of that play calling volume with the hire of Jay Gruden as their head coach. Through three seasons in Cincinnati, the Bengals won 30 games, disguising some of the pass heavy, play calling goodness from Gruden, but here are his splits.

Year
TM
Pass
%
Run
%
Play/Gm
2013CIN61656.2%48143.8%68.6
2012CIN58757.7%43042.3%63.6
2011CIN56055.2%45544.8%63.4
AVG587.756.3%455.343.7%65.2


RG in Season Three

Whether or not the return of Robert Griffin to begin the season in 2013 was the correct decision was infinitely debated throughout most of last season. We can play that song and dance here, but in the end, he played and the results were a mixed bag just like that argument. Griffin notched five top ten weeks, five weeks below QB20, and three in the middle.

In two fewer games played than his rookie season, Griffin attempted 63 more passes than he did as a rookie. Throwing four fewer touchdowns, seven more interceptions for only three more yards, he suffered regression across the board. He posted an FPAT (Fantasy Points Per Aimed Throw) of .39, which ranked in the bottom 12, right next to Kellen Clemens.

As a member of the Konami Code team, Griffin rebounded to run 86 times last season, rushing for at least 20 yards in nine of his 13 starts and 40 or more yards in five. He failed to score a rushing touchdown however, and has run for only one score in his past 22 games.

Now a full year removed from his injuries and a breath of fresh life coming from Jay Gruden, he should be back on track to fantasy relevance once more. Going back to when he was coming out as a rookie, I had Griffin graded as the third best QB prospect since 1999 in my scoring model that I use when evaluating prospects (Big Ben and Andrew Luck have the highest scores). Evaluating quarterbacks is hard, but the neat thing about the model that I use is that rushing stats are not incorporated into the final score. His final season yards per attempt and touchdown to interception ratios are among the top ten of players in the database.

That’s important here because it’s easy to forget that Griffin has elite pedigree throwing the football. C.D. Carter took a look at the possibilities of what could become of Griffin if he were to become a pocket passer, and the results weren’t glowing based on his NFL success thus far. Now, Baylor ran an open offense in which a lot of his read were predetermined, but Gruden has maximized the strengths of Andy Dalton by opening up his offense while in Cincinnati.

Stretching the field vertically is something Griffin excelled at in college and in his rookie season.Like everything else last season, he took a step back in this area. Going vertical is something that Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay are going to be doing a lot this season based on prior work that Gruden has done with Dalton.

Pass Attempts on Throws Over 20 Yards Downfield

Player
Year
Att.
Comp.
Yards
TD
Att. %
Griffin2012361655979.2
Griffin20134612406410.1
Dalton20116028922711.6
Dalton20126718588412.7
Dalton2013863110281414.7

*Table Provided By Pro Football Focus
All of Dalton’s 2013 totals on throws downfield trump both seasons from Griffin combined. The 14 touchdowns Dalton threw on such throws are haymakers. Paired with Griffin’s arm strength, the Washington offense is no longer going to be built on landing body blows to the defense.  The reason we know this is going to happen goes beyond only the Gruden/Griffin marriage as well.

Santa Finally Stopped At the Griffin Household

That long ball percentage is going to go up because Washington brought in one of the most productive splash play receivers in the league when they signed DeSean Jackson. Since entering the league in 2008, no player has more touchdown receptions of 30 yards or more and he ranks second in receptions of such length (Pierre Garcon is also on this list).

Reception Leaders of 30+ Yards Since 2008

Player
Rec
Yds
TD
Calvin Johnson59274319
DeSean Jackson58269821
Vincent Jackson4620939
Andre Johnson46205910
Mike Wallace43204321
Greg Jennings43201613
Steve Smith43189810
Brandon Marshall40158810
Larry Fitzgerald36155711
Jordy Nelson35162714
Roddy White34147015
Vernon Davis34143610
Nate Washington33143512
Dez Bryant33139610
Hakeem Nicks3214118
A.J. Green31143911
Robert Meachem31135216
James Jones3013289
Demaryius Thomas3012959
Reggie Wayne2911238
Miles Austin28121512
Pierre Garcon27123011
Anquan Boldin2711096
Santonio Holmes27106110
Torrey Smith2611685
Brian Hartline2510203

Jackson is being brought in to make a dynamic impact. Many will be looking for him to be the player he was last season in Philadelphia, but he’s going to very likely be used in a similar fashion that he was used prior to Chip Kelly’s arrival.  I won’t just tell you that Jackson had an outlier season a year ago, I’ll tell you why it happened.

Year
Targets
Rec
Catch Rate
Yds
Slot Route %
Slot Rec
Rec <10 Yd LOS
20131268265.1133226.52844
2012884551.170017.3926
20111045855.896116.51229
2010964749105616.41320
20091166253.4115622.61939

*Table Provided By Pro Football Focus

Jackson posted career highs across the board because Kelly moved him around so much, feeding him the highest total of targets that come along with a high success rate. He was used in the slot more than ever and had his highest total of receptions come from inside of ten yards from the line of scrimmage ever. Those types of points tacked on to a player that can hit home runs smooths out weekly variance extremely.

I’m sure the staff in Washington is cognizant of this, so maybe Jackson rolls some of those targets over. In all likelihood that won’t happen to the degree in which it did in Philadelphia because Washington also brought in fifth year receiver Andre Roberts, who is pretty handy the slot himself.

Andre Roberts Career Slot Production

Year
Route %
Tgt %
Rec %
Yd %
TD %
201351.142.572.137.450
201248.750.554.743.420
201121.629.629.434.30
201070.77583.357.350
Total48.349.448.442.927.3

*Slot Usage Provided By Pro Football Focus
Roberts has some flexibility, but he’s going to eat the lion’s share of slot targets in this offense. He’s set up in a situation to be a key contributor in a real football sense. As the fourth option in the passing game, fantasy folks don’t want attachment because the volume just isn’t going to exist.

Those two new pieces in the passing game stand to impact Pierre Garcon to a degree. In 2013, Garcon was a fantasy fugazi, stacking the most hallow production in the league while being a subpar target in terms of fantasy production for his team. Despite leading the NFL in targets (182), Garcon only posted seven top 24 weeks, failing to meet the criteria to be a king of consistency at wide receiver.

Just how crazy was the volume that the Washington passing game had in 2013? They trailed by two or more scores in the first half in eight different games, tied for most in the league with Houston and Jacksonville. They also trailed by two or more scores in nine different games while in the second halves of games, creating the most off script offense in the NFL by a large amount. Garcon had the fourth highest target percentage change in the NFL out of neutral game situations.

Most Pass Attempts in 2013 While Trailing

Team Att. Trailing
WAS 471
HOU 433
JAX 422
ATL 406
CLE 375

 

Garcon should see an efficiency increase to offset some of his volume regression with Jackson opening holes in the defense and Roberts occupying intermediate defenders. With those additions, I still see Garcon holding on as a strong WR2 in fantasy football.

All of the additions make things sketchy for Jordan Reed. He was a strong performer in terms of targets for his team, but was also lateral in that production with teammate Logan Paulsen. The Shanaclan has a long history of elevating tight end play with the way their offense is constructed on throwing off of the running game. 78 percent of Reed’s targets came trailing and over a third came down ten or more points. C.D. Carter interviewed Bengals writer Joe Goodberry, who alluded to not having much faith in Gruden using his tight ends as true weapons in the passing game. I came to the same conclusion in the Bengals Team Outlook with the change to Hue Jackson.

Before pointing to personnel, Gruden also inherited two first round tight end selections that were among the best pass catching prospects at the position over the past decade. Reed is a solid receiver, but not the explosive talent that many consider him. retaining tight end coach McVay to call plays helps his cause, as well as Jackson clearing space, so there is still promise for him to ascend. I personally can’t buy him at the cost of a single digit selection based on good faith, but I do believe he will provide lower end TE1 output.

What Happens to Alf?

Morris, like Griffin, had a pretty large falloff in terms of fantasy production, but maintained his level of play peripherally. I frequently caution the use of cumulative data and centering your draft on season long production and projections for reasons exactly like Morris.

In 2012, Morris finished as PPR RB8, but had only five top 12 weeks. He closed 2012 with a 42 point week 17 that was hallow for almost everyone in fantasy outside of daily leagues. In this past season, Morris still had nine top 24 weeks in PPR, but only one was in the top 12.

Morris was completely neutered by so much off script offense since he’s a sledgehammer that has no involvement in the passing game. He was still amongst the top 12 backs in terms of fantasy rushing production, but was a bottom five back in terms of receiving production.  His overall output adding up masks his weekly ceiling in PPR leagues.

As mentioned in the game splits in the lead off, Gruden has been a balanced play caller, but only because the Bengals were a good overall team during his tenure. Pointing to the amount of carries that Cedric Benson or BenJarvus Green-Ellis had doesn’t paint the best picture because those backs played regularly in neutral game situations. Take a deeper look at Gruden’s splits as the game situation changes.

Score Pass % Run
Lead 50.8% 49.2%
Tied 56.3% 43.7%
Trail 64.2% 35.8%

 

Morris is a talent I enjoy, but as Pat Thorman states, he’s consistently running uphill for fantasy production because he’s completely dependent on game script that we can’t anticipate being consistently favorable. The overall effect that reception bonus scoring has on running backs is a big deal, and one that deflates the value of Morris in the first three rounds. If he’s steadily falling lower and lower, I may bite as a RB2 because I’m expecting a lot of points to be scored by this offense, but I want backs that can’t be removed from the game by game flow.

The interesting part of many attaching themselves to Roy Helu this year because of the Gruden hire is that he was horrendous in the passing game a year ago. That was in an offense that had limited options and was in spots to play up to a back of his supposed strengths. He’s also entering the final year of his rookie contract form the previous coaching staff, so the team really doesn’t have much long term investment in giving him a large role.

Washington drafted Lache Seastrunk, but only in the sixth round. He’s not a back that has much pass catching ability and was one of the few rookies to be talked down in rookie camps this summer. If you want to make a deep play at the back to be involved in the passing game, Chris Thompson still has a good chance to take over that role. Thompson missed all of 2013 with a torn labrum, but Gruden has already been name dropping early in camp. Ironically, a year ago Shawn Siegele compared him to Gio Bernard. It’s a name to keep tabs on when training camp kicks off, but I foresee Helu being the backup to Morris while Thompson occupies the receiving role.

2014 Fantasy Relevant Projections

Passing

Player Att Comp % Yards TD INT FF PTs
Robert Griffin 543.3 345.1 63.5% 4206.0 22.9 13.0 233.9

 

Rushing

Player Att Yds YPC TD FF PTs
Alfred Morris 271.2 1193.3 4.4 9.0 170.3
Roy Helu 47.4 198.9 4.2 1.2 26.5
Robert Griffin 86.1 559.7 6.5 3.0 63.7
Chris Thompson 17.2 74.0 4.3 0.6 9.0

 

Receiving

NAME TGT REC YARDS TD PTS PPR PTS
Pierre Garcon 137.3 86.5 1107.1 6.9 152.2 238.7
DeSean Jackson 119.8 67.1 1106.6 6.0 146.9 213.9
Andre Roberts 75.9 45.6 528.6 2.7 69.3 114.8
Leonard Hankerson 40.9 22.5 285.6 0.9 34.0 56.5
Jordan Reed 93.5 67.3 767.2 6.1 113.1 180.4
Roy Helu 29.2 21.3 166.3 0.9 21.7 43.1
Alfred Morris 11.7 9.3 66.4 0.1 7.2 16.5
Chris Thompson 38.0 28.5 233.5 0.3 25.1 53.5

 

Best Option to Crash through their projection without injury: Morris -  If Washington rebounds overall, closer to their 2012 form, he’ll have more opportunity to trump his ADP.

Biggest Risk to fall through their projection: Garcon – I would’ve said Griffin here, but as quarterback, you can overcome any plummet that can occur. With so many new players in house, and if Reed stays on the field, Garcon’s target share could fall lower than expected. Not the most elite touchdown producer that could push him to the bottom of WR2 status.

Best Waiver Wire Option: Thompson – if he beats out Helu this summer or at any point in season, the reception opportunity is there to for him to pluck away.

Rich Hribar is a husband, father, sports meteorologist and a slave to statistics. A lifelong sports fan and fantasy gamer.