2017 Fantasy Football: Washington Redskins Team Outlook
The Redskins went 8-7-1 and 9-7 over the last two seasons under Jay Gruden with one playoff appearance (2015). It was the first time they've had back-to-back winning seasons since 1996 and 1997 years when ironically they had same two outcomes in record. Washington last won a Super Bowl in 1991 under the legendary Joe Gibbs (154-94 with three Super Bowl titles). Gruden moved to 21-26-1 for his career record while having three seasons of experience as an offensive coordinator for the Bengals. The Redskins moved to third in the league in offensive yards gained (17th in 2015), but they lost value in points scored (396 – 12th) compared to the rest of the league (388 in 2015 – 10th). Matt Cavanaugh was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. Matt has 12 years of experience in this position for three other franchises highlighted by a Super Bowl win with the Ravens in 2000. Also, Cavanaugh has nine seasons of experience in the league as a quarterbacks coach. The downfall of this franchise remains the defense. Washington finished 28th in yards allowed for the second straight season while allowing 383 points (19th). The Redskins named Greg Manusky the defensive coordinator after being the linebackers coach in 2016. Greg has nine seasons in the NFL as a defensive coordinator.
Washington decided to move on from WR DeSean Jackson and WR Pierre Garcon with the idea of Josh Doctson making a step forward with continued success and improvement from Jamison Crowder. They add WR Terrelle Pryor and WR Brian Quick for depth at the position. Pryor is expected to start. The losses outweigh the gains at WR, but the change in the depth chart rankings has a chance to be a wash if Doctson plays at a high level.
The only other change on the offensive side of the ball was the loss of backup C John Sullivan.
The Redskins parted ways with S Duke Ihenacho, LB Terence Garvin, DT Ricky Jean-Francois, and DT Chris Baker on defense. Baker played well over the last two years leading to 100 combined sacks and 9.5 sacks. Jean-Francois was a low-value rotational player. Garvin was only on the field for 57 plays in 2016. Ihenacho has two seasons of experience as a starter, but he missed 28 games in 2014 and 2015 with a broken foot and wrist. Last season Duke delivered below league average value for his position.
Washington did add two high-level players on defense based on their 2016 success – S D.J. Swearinger and LB Zach Brown. Both players will be upgrades while expecting to rank highly at their positions. CB Louis Young will compete for a backup job in the secondary. DT Stacy McGee and DT Terrell McClain will compete for part time roles on defense with McClain having the closing opportunity to start even after playing poorly for the Cowboys in 2016. The Redskins thought enough of McGee to give him a $25 million contract in the offseason.
With their first three picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Redskins invested in three defensive players – DE Jonathan Allen, LB Ryan Anderson, and CB Fabian Moreau. Allen has the tools to be an excellent pass rusher at the next level with enough vision to help vs. the run. Even with talent, quickness, and athletic ability, he does come in short in his size (6'3" and 286 Lbs.) for an interior lineman while lacking the speed to be an impact option on the edge. Jonathan has upside for sure, but Washington needs to get him into favorable matchups as he can lose his value when doubled or facing size. Anderson is more of a team player than a difference maker. His speed and quickness are below par, but Ryan will add value to the pass rush with a clean run. His understanding and vision will help offset some of his physical shortfalls. Moreau has an excellent combination of speed, quickness, and athletic ability, but he's still a looker. This hurts his reaction time and vision in play development. Plenty of tools to make an impact once he lets the game come to him.
RB Samaje Perine was the selection in the fourth round. His game is all about power, which will lead to upside in TDs. Perine won't be on the field on passing downs pointing to an up-and-down role at the next level.
With their second pick in the 4th, Washington added S Montae Nicholson who has plus speed for his position. He lacks vision with underwhelming tackling ability due to his soft style, which is losing trait to play safety.
In the fifth round, the Redskins took a dance with TE Jeremy Sprinkle. Three down option at TE thanks to his ability to block. Sprinkle doesn't have elite speed or quickness, so his openings will come on delay releases off blocks or finding soft spots in zone coverage. Viable scoring option thanks to his hands.
Washington drafted C Chase Roullier and WR Robert Davis in the sixth round. Roullier is built for a power run game with limited range and quickness. His pass protection skills will have a tight window to have success. Davis comes from a small school (Georgia State) while offering an interesting combination of size (6'3" and 219 lbs.) and speed (4.44). He grades well in power and athletic ability. His lack of route running and explosion out of breaks will hurt his chance to get on the field early in his career at the next level.
With their last two picks in the 7th round, the Redskins brought S Josh Harvey-Clemons and CB Josh Holsey. JHC has plenty of size (6'4" and 217 lbs.), but he needs to get stronger. Harvey-Clemons plays with power and aggressiveness against the run while offering enough quickness and change of direction speed to handle his responsibility in coverage. Josh has to improve his vision and decision making to gain starting snaps in the NFL plus lose the peace pipe. Holsey fits the gambler mode with solid instincts. A pair of ACL tears does hurt his overall speed and quickness.
Despite averaging 4.5 yards per rush in 2016, Washington finished 21st in the league in rushing yards (1,696) due to only 23.7 rushes per game (27th). They scored 17 rushing TDs with ten runs over 20 yards, 44 rushes over 10 yards, and 32 negative runs.
Surprisingly, the Redskins had the second most passing yards (4,758) in the league with 25 passing TDs and 12 Ints. They had the second most completions over 20 yards. Their offensive line allowed only 23 sacks leading to 8.2 yards per pass attempt (2nd).
LT Trent Williams remains one of the best players at his position in the league with an excellent combination of run and pass blocking. He did miss four games in 2016 due to a suspension for failing a drug test. Washington drafted him fourth overall in 2010.
LG Shaun Lauvao is penciled in to start, but his career resume points to job loss risk. Only twice in his seven years in the league has Shaun delivered league average value with each losing season being a disaster.
C Spencer Long has improved in each season in the league after being selected in the third round in 2014. Long tends to have the most value in run blocking.
RG Brandon Scherff has been an asset in both year's in the league after getting drafted in the first round in 2015. I expect continued growth in his third year in the league.
RT Morgan Moses played at a high level in back-to-back seasons after struggling in his rookie year. Washington rewarded him with a five-year extension in April. Morgan is a former third round pick.
This line has one weak link on paper headed into the 2017 season, but I expect a better option to emerge in training camp. Pass protection was a plus last year, and the Redskins did average 4.5 yards per rush, so the next step is improvement rushing the ball in the red zone. I expect this offensive line to finish in the top 25 percent of the league.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).
This information is based on 2016, which will work as our starting point for 2017. We'll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We'll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2016 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2016.
2016 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL last year.
2016 Adjustment is based on the 2016 league average and the 2016 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.
The Redskins have a below par schedule for their rushing offense with nine games vs. teams that graded above the league average against the run, which includes five of their last six games. Their best matchup on the ground comes against the 49ers followed by the Broncos.
They have a similar overall schedule for their passing offense with one poor game (DEN) and two tough games (ARI and MIN) plus four games vs. teams with above the league average success. Washington only has one elite matchup (NO) and two favorable games against the Cowboys.
This offense ran the ball only 38.8 percent of the time, which was partly due to game score. The Redskins will have plenty of changes at WR, so repeated success in big play ability will be needed to make a run at 5000+ yards passing.
Other than two games against the Cowboys, Washington has six games vs. teams with weakness in their rushing offense (LAR, MIN, DEN, LAC, and NYG X 2).
The Redskins will be tested by the Saints while SEA, LAC, and ARI are expected to have above average success throwing the ball. Both the Rams and the 49ers have poor passing attacks while Philly, Dallas, Denver, and Kansas City have risk in the passing game.
Washington ranked 24th in the league in rushing yards allowed (1,916). They allowed 4.5 yards per carry and 19 rushing TDs. Ball carriers had 12 runs over 20 yards and none over 40 yards.
They finished 25th in passing yards allowed (4,130) while minimizing the damage in TDs (22) with 13 Ints. The Redskins had 38 sacks.
The Redskins will need to insert rookie first round pick DT Jonathan Allen in the starting lineup to help improve the run defense and pass rush. His style and game works best in a 4-3 defense due to his lack of size to anchor the middle. Washington paid DT Stacy McGee starting money ($25 million) in the offseason after he missed seven games with a groin issue. He's projected to be an asset against the run after struggling in his first three seasons in the league. DT Terrell McClain had his best season in the league in 2016 (40 tackles and 2.5 sacks), but his result was still losing value. This defense doesn't have one pure pass rushing defensive end due to their plan to attack the QB from the linebacker position.
LB Ryan Kerrigan remains one of the best players on this defense despite a career low 33 tackles and a second straight season of regression in this area. Ryan did record 11 sacks, which was his second-highest total of his career. LB Preston Smith came in flat in his second year in the league after getting drafted in the second round in 2015. Smith had 4.5 sacks compared to eight in the previous season. LB Mason Foster had his best season in the league with a career-high 124 tackles and one sack. His game looked to have job loss risk over his first five years in the league. LB Zach Brown has a tackling machine for the Bills in 2016 (149 tackles with four sacks, four defended passes and an interception).
CB Josh Norman had a slow start to 2016, but the Redskins finally figured out how to use him in coverage. He finished with a career-high 19 defended passes with three picks and 67 tackles. CB Bashaud Breeland played his best ball of his career in 2015, but his game lost value in all areas last year. Breeland tends to have risk in coverage when matched up with the best receivers in the game in single coverage. S D.J. Swearinger played at a high level in all area in 2016 after being a losing asset in 2014 and 2015. His biggest area of improvement came in pass coverage (eight defended passes and three Ints). S Su'a Cravens played well in his rookie season after getting drafted in the second round in 2016. He has a very good feel and understanding of the game, which helps him gain an edge in his decision making. His speed isn't elite (4.69), and Cravens doesn't lack size (6'1" and 226 Lbs.) while also needing to add more strength. Su'a has an attacking style, which works well when attacking the line of scrimmage.
I don't like the Redskins' defensive line even with a first pick added to the mix. The linebacking core will make tackles with many coming after gaining ground. Kerrigan and Smith can produce sacks, but both players need to do a better job control the outside against the run. Norman is a shutdown type CB, but they rest of the secondary can be hit or miss. For Washington to play well on defense, everyone in the secondary needs to play at a high level while the defensive line needs to control the run while improving the pass rush. Overall, only a backup Fantasy defense with value in the occasional game.
QB Kirk Cousins, WAS - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 10/16/17Cousins averages 8.3 yards per pass attempt in 2017, which is a strong number. Kirk looked awesome in Week 3 (365/3) in his last home start. Over his last three games, he has six TDs with no Ints with a high completion rate (70.4). Cousins does have limited upside in some games due to low passing attempts (27, 30, and 24 in his last three games). The 49ers have shown risk vs. the pass in their last three games (292/3, 357/1, and 314/0) while minimizing the damage in passing TDs (7 allowed in 2017). San Fran's 0-5 record leads to teams rushing 32.8 rushing attempts per game even with a low total in rushing yards per carry (3.6). The Redskins may surprise on the ground in this game so Kirk may lack the opportunity to post a top score at QB.
RB Samaje Perine, WAS - Sleeper (undervalued)
Over three seasons at Oklahoma, Perine rushed for 4,122 yards on 685 carries with 51 TDs. His best year came in his freshman year (1,821 combined yards with 21 TDs and 15 catches) due to splitting touches with Joe Mixon over the last two years. Samaje runs in a similar way as Maurice Jones-Drew where he breaks and sheds tackles at the first and second levels of the defense with an uncanny feel to keep his balance. His best success will come from power while showing sneaky separation speed at the linebacker level when tacklers are trying to get a hand on him. His top gear is well below the top RBs in the league. I don't think he'll be dead in the water in the passing game. He caught 40 passes for 321 yards and two TDs in his college career. Most scouts don't believe in his value on the outside, but I see a player that will win many one-on-one battles in the open field due to his ability to beat up his opponents. His ability to score and short yardage value will help this offense be more productive in the red zone. His game has a much higher bar than Kelley, and he will win the starting job from jump street. For now, LeGarrette Blount with a chance to carve out a valuable piece of this offense. Possible 250 touches for 1,100+ yards with double digit TDs.
RB Chris Thompson, WAS - Bye Week Fill-in
Could be a reception machine out of the backfield, so his value rises in PPR leagues. Washington will use Thompson as the top option in the backfield on passing downs or when trailing late in games. In 2016, he finished with 705 combined yards with 49 catches and five TDs. He averaged 5.2 yards per rush while falling short in his ability to make big plays in the passing game (7.1 yards per catch). As intriguing as his final stats may look for his possible value in 2017, Chris only had two games with more than 12.0 Fantasy points last year (Week 7 - 113 combined yards with seven catches and Week 16 - 37 combined yards with two TDs and a catch). Real tough player to time while tying up a bench spot on your roster. Possible growth in catches, but Thompson needs to make bigger plays in the passing game.
RB Rob Kelley, WAS - Bust (overvalued)
After being inactive in Weeks 1 and 2 and short touches over the next five games (4/7, 1/4, 3/18, 5/59, and 4/15), Rob stole the RB show in Week 8 (21/87/1). Over the last eight games of the season, Kelley had 141 touches (17.6 per game). During the span, he only had one impact game (24/137/3) with minimal value in the passing game (11/81 on 15 targets). Rob showed the ability get open in the flat, but his body wasn't in the right position to receive the ball leading to multiple drops on easy passes. Over four seasons at Tulane, Kelley rushes for 1,270 yards on 318 carries with 12 TDs plus 86 catches for 727 yards. In his sophomore year, he had 46 catches for 340 yards and four TDs. This shows more upside in the passing game than expected. Over the last six games of 2016, Kelley gained only 3.3 yards per rush, so he has plenty of playing time risk headed into this season. I can't trust him in 2017 with Washington added another power back in the draft.
RB Matt Jones, IND - Not Draft Worthy
Many Fantasy owners have written off Jones headed into the 2017 season. Over the first seven games last year, he had 553 combined yards with three TDs while showing more explosiveness than Kelley (4.6 yards per rush and 9.1 yards per catch). Matt had two playable games (138 combined yards with a TD and a catch and 135 rushing yards with a TD). His season ended after Week 7 due to a knee injury and a couple of fumbles leading to a non-favoring coaches decision to leave him inactive for many games. Over 270 touches in the NFL, Jones has eight fumbles (six lost). Outside looking in even though he's a better player than Mr. Kelley. His first step is holding onto the football.Injury Status: Out - Coach's Decision
WR Terrelle Pryor, WAS - Solid/Safe Pick
Update 10/16/17Over the last three games, Pryor only has seven catches for 120 yards and a TD on 13 targets. His best chance of delivering an impact game came in Week 1 (6/66 on 11 targets) when he dropped an easy long TD. His catch rate (54.2) remains in a weak area. WRs have 65 catches for 925 yards and five TDs on 99 targets against the 49ers this year with the last three opponents gaining over 200 yards at the WR position (15/235/2, 18/218/1, and 12/231). Four WRs have over 100 yards receiving against the Redskins (Robert Woods - 6/108, Sammy Watkins - 6/106/2, Jaron Brown - 8/105, and T.Y. Hilton - 7/177). With the Redskins coming off a bye week, they may have a better way to get Pryor and Jamison Crowder move involved in the offense. Real tough to make this bet based on his early path in 2017.