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Andrew Swanson | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

2017 Player Outlooks: Washington Redskins

Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins is coming off back-to-back 4000-yd passing seasons but lost two of his starting wideouts.

QB Kirk Cousins
(2016 QB Rank – No.6, 23.7 FP/G)

Cousins posted a second consecutive top-10 season in 2016 with 379.9 fantasy points (23.7 per game), yet his long-term future in Washington is still up in the air as the Redskins front office used the franchise tag on him as trade rumors swirled all off-season. The primary knock on Cousins is his poor decision making in playoff games, especially in the red zone, which has cost his team points in critical situations.

Neither issue should keep fantasy owners from drafting Cousins as a top-10 option in 2017, as he has proven to be a top-tier performer in an offense that reloaded after the departure of free agents Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. The signing of Terrelle Pryor from Cleveland will give Cousins a viable deep threat and a big body in the red zone, and the emergence of former first-round pick Josh Doctson should help fill the void left by Garcon.

The Cousins-led offense finished as the No. 8 ranked passing attack in both 2015 and 2016, and another top-10 finish is likely as the Redskins' poor defense (fifth-most points allowed in 2016) will force the offense to put up a large number on the scoreboard to keep pace. The loss of former offensive coordinator Sean McVay to the Rams could be a cause of concern for Cousins owners, but the fact that former quarterbacks coach and Cousins confidant Matt Cavanaugh was promoted to offensive coordinator should ease most worries.

RB Rob Kelley
(2016 RB Rank - No.37, 8.6 FPts/G)

Kelley ran away with the starting job beginning Week 8 last season taking over for fumble-prone Matt Jones, who is out of the picture and buried on the depth chart. Rookie Samaje Perine, and third-down back Chris Thompson join Kelley as a likely three-headed monster for Jay Gruden in 2017.

“Fat Rob” finished with a respectable 704 yards and seven total touchdowns in 2016, but his 4.2 yard per carry average, including 3.4 in his final four games did not separate him enough to make him the clear-cut starter in 2017 but is instead penciled in to receive the bulk of the carries on early-downs the time Week 1 rolls around. With Perine, a talented rookie taken in the fourth round out of Oklahoma in the mix, Kelley could be in for a timeshare or lose his starting role altogether depending on how well Perine plays to start the season. Expect Chris Thompson to play his usual third-down role and garner 2-7 rushing attempts per game.

RB Samaje Perine
(2016 RB Rank – N/A)

A talented and physical running back that set the NCAA single-season rushing record (427 yards) in 2014, Perine landed in an interesting spot behind Rob Kelley in the Redskins backfield. With a comparison of Michael Turner by some NFL scouts, Perine does not have the shiftiness of a Le’Veon Bell or the burst of a young Adrian Peterson, but he is a powerful runner similar to Kelley that will fit will in Jay Gruden’s rushing scheme. He’s the favorite to spell Kelley on early downs and has an outside shot to take over the starting role at some point during the season.

WR Terrelle Pryor
(2016 WR Rank - No.30, 8.3 FPts/G)

Pryor joins the Redskins after one full season as a converted WR with the Cleveland Browns. His 6’6” 230 LB frame is a matchup nightmare for smaller cornerbacks, and he proved to be a viable deep threat in Cleveland with 1007 yards and seven touchdowns on the receiving end of less-than-stellar play from a collection of Browns quarterbacks.

There is significant hype surrounding Pryor joining a passing game that ranked 8th in the NFL in each of the last two seasons, and Kirk Cousins is certainly an upgrade over Cody Kessler and Robert Griffin III. But fantasy owners should be aware that one of the reasons why Pryor was so effective is the fact that he was peppered with targets (141) in a passing game with few options. Pryor should receive a significant number of targets in the Washington passing game, but Cousins has a well-developed rapport with Jamison Crowder and top-option Jordan Reed, leading some to question if Pryor will be able to garner enough volume to justify an ADP in the 4th round. The key will be Pryor improving his efficiency (55% catch rate) from last season on expected lower volume in Washington.

WR Jamison Crowder
(2016 WR Rank - No.37, 7.0 FPts/G)

A former fourth-round selection from Duke University in the 2015 NFL draft, Crowder has quietly put together two solid seasons in Washington, including an impressive 67/847/7 line in 2016. As he continues to mature and gain the confidence of quarterback Kirk Cousins, Crowder increased his production across the board from his rookie season to year two, with 21 more targets, 243 more yards, and a jump from two touchdowns to seven.

With over 200 targets left on the table following the departure of former starting wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, it is more than likely that Crowder will top the century mark in targets while reaching 1000 yards for the first time in his career. The question is will the addition of Terrelle Pryor and a healthy Josh Doctson and Jordan Reed limit Crowder’s red zone targets and chances of reaching and exceeding his touchdown total of seven from 2016.

For fantasy owners that buy into the narrative of third-year wide receivers taking a tier-leap in production, Crowder is someone to consider based on the fact that the Redskins passing game has ranked in the top-ten over the past two seasons, and is primed for an increase in targets and production. Other third-year wide receivers to consider are Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, Willie Snead, and Tyrell Williams.

WR Josh Doctson
(2016 WR Rank - No.120, 3.3 FPts/G)

An Achilles injury limited Doctson for most of his rookie campaign, limiting the former first-round pick from TCU to just two catches for 66 yards in two games. At 6’2”, 202 pounds, with an impressive leaping ability and elite ball skills in college, Doctson was thought to be the big red zone target the Redskins have been missing over the past two seasons.

Doctson appears to be healed from his lingering Achilles injury and is currently participating, although limited, in OTA’s and minicamp practices. With the addition of Terrelle Pryor to a one-year contract, Doctson’s role may be reduced this season as the team slowly works him into their game plan. However, and injury to either Crowder or Pryor could make Doctson a hot commodity in 2017.

TE Jordan Reed
(2016 TE Rank - No.2, 8.7 FPts/G)

Over the past two seasons, only Rob Gronkowski has averaged more fantasy points at the tight end position than Jordan Reed. Unfortunately, just like Gronk, Reed has been limited by numerous injuries, making him a risk to play a full 16-game schedule.

In four seasons with Washington, Reed has yet to play more than 14 games in a season, including last year in which he managed only 12 games for fantasy owners. But in those 12 games, Reed was Cousin’s primary target, with 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns on 89 targets. In two of those games, Reed left early due to injury, making his per-game points even more attractive for fantasy owners.

The risk/reward of Reed might be too high for owners, especially considering Reed’s fairly high ADP as the third TE off the board. Those owners comfortable for the home run/bust potential in Reed, be sure to take a viable second tight end in the draft, as history has shown that Reed will not play a full season.