2013 Team Outlook: Washington Redskins
QB Kirk Cousins, WAS - Fantasy Handcuff
Update (8-20): Redskins QB Kirk Cousins, who is starting in place of the rehabbing Robert Griffin III, left Monday night's game against the Steelers in the first half with his own injury. The former Michigan State star did not return after being taken down from behind while scrambling toward the sideline. He got up and walked toward the huddle before going back down to the ground. Initial X-rays were negative, but he will undergo an MRI. Redskin's nation breathlessly awaits the results. Rex Grossman replaced Cousins. He would be the starter if Cousins missed the Redskins' third preseason game or any significant amount of time. That should explain the reason for stress, though Grossman's aggressive style always gives his team a puncher's chance offensively. As for the much-discussed RG3 situation, it remains uncertain. Much of the speculation centers on the dynamic QB being ready for the regular season opener, but Dr. James Andrews has final say when it comes to that famous knee. If it were Cousins facing the Eagles in Week 1, he would be worth a fantasy start in leagues that use two-quarterbacks and possibly worth rostering for RG3 owners. The bigger issue is what happens to the Redskins offense if neither RG3 nor Cousins can go. That's a situation nobody in D.C. wants to ponder.
Preview - There is an old adage that for fans, the most popular player is the backup QB. That is certainly not the case in the greater D.C. area where seemingly everyone is afflicted with RGIII mania. That's not to infer folks in the DMV don't like Cousins, who turned in solid performances when called upon due to Robert Griffin III's injuries last season. However, the more the pocket passing Cousins plays, that means something is wrong with RGIII and his video game-type abilities. Cousins completed 68.8 percent of his passes in three games last season, throwing four TDP and three INT. Let's also remember he was a fourth-round pick just last year. If Griffin were out for the count (and there is no reason to think this), Cousins' fantasy QB ranking falls somewhere in the 20-26 range and he'd be worth rostering if he became the starter. Deep league owners could contemplate drafting Cousins as a QB3/handcuff, but unless RGIII's progress takes a wrong turn, the Redskins backup is just a waiver wire play.
QB Robert Griffin III, WAS - Solid/Safe Pick
Update (10-20): We can't say RG3 is all the way back, but he sure looks much closer to the breathtaking version we saw during his rookie campaign. Griffin confidently rushed for 84 yards on 11 carries in Washington's rallying 45-41 victory over the Bears in Week 7. As a passer, he completed 18 of 29 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns. The buy-low window has now closed, but those with RG3 can feel confident putting their guy in the lineup every week, just like last season.
Update (9-19): Because he's been brutal during competitive portions of games and glorious in garbage time, RGIII remains a tricky QB option heading into Week 3. Insight on RGIII and Washington's game against Detroit with CSNwashington's Rich Tandler.
Update (8-29): Griffin received the all clear signal from Dr. James Andrews regarding the quarterback's surgically repaired knee. Does this mean RG3 will indeed be the Redskins' starter for the regular season opener? Like it would be that simple. Head coach Mike Shanahan said that Dr. Andrews had a couple of concerns and a conversation between the coach and QB would take place before next week. The evidence suggests Griffin will be under center for the opener, but we'll have to wait a bit longer to officially find out. Owners drafting over the next 72 hours should at least plan for a rainy day by drafting a viable backup QB option in case Griffin sits.
Update (8-27): According to a Washington Post report, members of the Redskins believe RGIII will be cleared to start the regular season opener against the Eagles. Progress is a good thing, but Griffin has been a top-12 QB throughout the draft season. Still, look to draft a backup passer sooner than one would for other QBs.
Update (8-15): Griffin took part in 11-on-11 drills for the first time on Wednesday. His talk of playing in the regular season opener continues. Same goes for the Redskins' insistence that RG3 won't step onto the field during preseason. Let the team be cautious, for now. As long as signs keep pointing toward an early season return, draft the Heisman winner as your fantasy starter with confidence. But get a quality QB2 just in case.
Well, how much fun was that? Talk about your show debuts. RGIII kept his Heisman Trophy winning momentum flowing with a dynamic rookie campaign, one filled with breathtaking runs, precise passes and enough personality to melt the heart of even the most jaded sportswriter. As a passer, he threw for 3,200 yards with 20 TDP and a stunningly low five interceptions. Alas, all those good times ended with a knee injury, one tweaked in-season when Griffin was leading all of fantasy in scoring and another in the playoffs that has turned this offseason into a medical show. If healthy, RGIII is a top-5 QB at the very least. However, even though his medical reports are apparently trying to outrace Adrian Peterson's for positivity, we're still not certain whether he'll be all in for Week 1. Also, will the Redskins put the face off the franchise in position to rush for 815 yards as he did last year? Bottom line, fantasy football is supposed to be about fun and nobody is more fun to own than RGIII. Of course, it's also a game worth winning and therefore strategy counts. Considering the injury uncertainty (as of early) July and the incredible depth at the QB position this year, consider Griffin a low-end QB1 for now. If he's your starter, don't wait long to add a stable backup option like an Eli Manning, Joe Flacco or Sam Bradford in case RGIII isn't quite ready. But for the sake of fun, let's hope he is.
RB Alfred Morris, WAS - Solid/Safe Pick
Update (11-4): We know Alfred Morris owners want to scream a blue streak about Darrell Young's three touchdowns (especially after Roy Helu turned a similar trick two weeks prior), but instead of decrying Shanahanigans, focus on the positives: Morris had 25 carries (for 121 yards); the first time he's topped 19 in any game this season. The second-year RB also scored for third time in four games. Now Morris gets the Vikings, Eagles and Giants over the next four weeks. Yeah, lots of positives. Even more if Mike Shanahan stops giving the ball to fullbacks around the goal line!
Update (8-15): The only thing preventing Morris from becoming a round1 lock in PPR drafts might not be a thing anymore. As a rookie, Morris recorded only 11 receptions. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan this week said the former Florida Atlantic product "elevated his game and he will catch the ball and be a lot more instrumental in our passing game. He has spent a lot of time in the offseason catching the football, running routes and you can see that hard work has paid off because he's a lot more natural. It gives you another dimension." It would be nice to see proof of this during the preseason, but it might not matter tons with Roy Helu Jr. back this season as Washington's third down back. This nugget is rather interesting and something to consider come draft day.
Preview: How does a sixth round pick rack up 1,613 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns and not finish as the top rookie on his own team? Only Robert Griffin III's star power could overshadow Morris's stellar campaign, but fortunate fantasy owners noticed. Based on the historical success of Mike Shanahan runners, reasonable minds can project another dynamic season. Morris' overall ranking dips slightly in PPR leagues due to 11 receptions last season. Meanwhile, RG3's running presence could take away some goal line carries, but it also certainly opens running lanes. Morris equaling his rookie stats is likely a bridge too far, but the power back is still one to own in the late first/early second round range.
RB Roy Helu, WAS - Sleeper (undervalued)
Update (10-2): See, there was a reason why you drafted Helu. Yes, we don't know what Alfred Morris' rib injury means for Week 6 and beyond, but in relief Helu showed he can take the lead back role if needed. If nothing else he should be more involved in passing situations for an offense in need of punch. We can't cash this lottery ticket yet, but now we might if Helu takes over the gig.
Update (8-25): Helu's impressive preseason continued Saturday night as he rushed for 70 yards on 13 carries versus Buffalo. Any questions about who will serve as Alfred Morris' primary backup have long since been answered. Now Helu is reminding the football world of the burst and power he displayed as a rookie in 2011 when he turned RB1/RB2 level projection for several weeks before injuries cut him down. It is possible he'll have some bye week flex appeal during the season, as he's also Washington's third down back. Even non-Morris owners can stash Helu on their bench.
Preview - Helu went from an explosive rookie season to missing virtually all of his sophomore season with leg injuries - and losing his starting role to Alfred Morris. The dual threat racked up over 1,000 yards scrimmage in his first season out of Nebraska, but at this point the Redskins would be happy if Helu can keep his shifty self on the field. Based on the roster, the third down job is available, one that has more fantasy value than other places because Morris isn't much of a pass catcher. Helu is expected to be ready for training camp and making it to opening day would be a win. If he does, we're talking about a late, late round flyer, but one who has flashed his productive ways before.
RB Evan Royster, FA - Bust (overvalued)
Update (8-25): Roy Helu clearly supplanted Royster as the No. 2 RB behind Alfred Morris. Now the former Penn State runner is caught up in a numbers game for a roster spot. While Royster sat out Saturday's game vs. Buffalo with a sprained knee, versatile veteran Keiland Williams rushed eight times for 52 times. Fifth-round rookie Chris Thompson also had some impressive runs after a largely spotty preseason, but he also produced as a punt returner. That skill potentially gets Thompson on the roster since Washington's primary returner Richard Crawford suffered a season-ending knee injury. Whether they stick with Washington or not, none of these players is worth rostering in fantasy leagues.
Preview - It is hard to imagine based on how Alfred Morris dominated as a rookie, but Royster (88 rush yards in 2012) was initially the sleeper RB many a pundit (not this one) suggested targeting out of the Redskins backfield. The combination of Morris' stellar production and Royster's pedestrian skill set ended those dreams. With Roy Helu back in the RB2 mix, it is now conceivable the former Penn State back could lose his spot on the 53-man roster to fifth-round pick Chris Thompson or seventh rounder Jawan Jamison. Even if Royster keeps earning a weekly paycheck, it certainly don't pay for him to be on your fantasy team.
WR Pierre Garcon, WAS - Solid/Safe Pick
Only a fool would argue against Robert Griffin III being the primary factor in the Redskins' turnaround last season, but a credible case can be made for the former Colt. Just look at the record with (9-1) and without Garcon (1-5) on the field. While an injured toe slowed him up a little, the physical target finished with 44 receptions for 633 yards and four touchdowns. If Garcon can stay active 15-15 games, projecting him to (nearly) double those stats isn't unreasonable, especially if RGIII's recovery remains positive. Quibble at the injury risk, his and his quarterbacks, but Garcon is clearly the Redskins top receiver - and clearly a WR2 in every format.