Washington Redskins Buying Guide

It seems as if most of the people paying attention to the strange pas de deux between Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins come down on the side of Cousins. It’s no great surprise to see public sentiment run against Daniel Snyder’s team. But after years of hearing people complain about professional athletes being overpaid, it’s unusual to see an organization ridiculed for failing to back up the Brinks truck and lavish riches on a quarterback who hasn’t won a playoff game yet.

Lest I be accused of Cousins-bashing, allow me to point out that I have Cousins ranked the same as his Fantasy Football Calculator ADP. I think he’s a good quarterback. Not great, but good. Cousins finished fifth in passer rating in 2015, seventh in 2016. His 69.8% completion percentage led the league two seasons ago, and he finished eighth last year at 67.0%.

There are nits to be picked, though. Cousins was godawful in the red zone last season completing 47.5% percent of his throws from inside the 20 and only 37.5% of his throws from inside the 10. Even more painful to Washington fans, Cousins turned in a mediocre performance against the Giants in Week 17 when the Redskins needed a win to earn a wild-card spot. He threw one TD pass and two interceptions, and Washington lost, 19-10. It was just one game, of course. But, boy, it was a really big game.

Cousins has finished QB10 and QB5 in fantasy scoring in his two seasons as a starter. Those finishes were buoyed by five TD runs in 2015, four in 2016. All those rushing touchdowns look pretty fluky when you consider that Cousins had just 144 rushing yards over those two seasons combined, Still, Cousins is a good bet to throw for more than the 25 TD passes he had last season. He might not be able to complete an end zone fade to save his life, but Cousins should be better in the red zone than he was last year. He’s a solid buy at his current price.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the 2016 season, Terrelle Pryor turned in a WR18 fantasy finish last year despite playing with a hodgepodge of mediocre quarterbacks in Cleveland. A 6-4, 228-pounder with 4.4 speed, Pryor had 77 catches for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns last year and now moves into a far more prolific offense.

There are two potential problems. First, there’s a lot of intramural target competition. Jamison Crowder saw 97 targets last year and is expected to play a bigger role. Josh Doctson appears ready to contribute. Jordan Reed is one of the best pass-caching tight ends in the game. Pryor was targeted 140 times last season in Cleveland, and I doubt he gets than many looks in Washington this year. Second, Pryor has a rough schedule. It’s particularly rough at the end of the regular season – so rough, in fact, that Pryor might not even be usable in the fantasy playoffs. He faces the Cardinals, Broncos and Giants in Weeks 14-16, which means a date with San Diego’s Jason Verrett/Casey Hayward cornerback combo, followed by probable matchups against Denver’s Aqib Talib and New York’s Janoris Jenkins.

A few months ago, I had Pryor ranked well ahead of his ADP, but his price has skyrocketed, and I’ve become increasingly spooked by the risk factors mentioned above. Pryor is a fun player to own, but he’s become too expensive.

Jamison Crowder is a fine slot receiver, but he’s not a player I’ll be targeting. He got a surprisingly high number of red-zone looks last year for a 5-9, 177-pound water bug, which helped lead to seven touchdowns. He had just two TD catches the year before, and while Crowder figures to play a more substantial role in 2017 than he played in 2015, I don’t think he’ll reach seven touchdowns this year. I’m also pessimistic about his chances of producing 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. I’ll consider Crowder in PPR leagues but probably won’t touch him in standard-scoring leagues.

Achilles problems limited Josh Doctson to just two games and two receptions as a rookie. The 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft, Doctson entered training camp healthy and will try to earn snaps as a third receiver. He’s 6-2 and 202 pounds with 4.5 speed. At the 2016 Scouting Combine he had the best broad jump, vertical jump, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle among the wide receivers. Doctson had 25 touchdown catches over his final two seasons at TCU to become the school’s all-time leader in that category. Doctson has an end-of-draft ADP, and I like the idea of getting such an extraordinary athlete that late.

Over the last two years, Jordan Reed has scored 17 touchdowns in 26 games, averaging 5.9 catches and 63 yards per contest. If he plays 16 games this year, Reed will almost surely finish as a top-three tight end. Of course, a full season of good health for Reed is a fever dream. He isn’t practicing in training camp because of a toe injury. He’s had knee, hamstring and shoulder issues in recent years. Most alarmingly, he’s sustained concussions in five of the last six seasons. Now, he’s dealing with a toe problem.

Some fantasy owners believe that Reed is worth the risk because of the top-end production he can offer when healthy. It’s true that some owners tend to be cautious to a fault with oft-injured players, failing to factor in the replacement-level production they’d be able to get from a waiver-wire pickup if a starter were to go down. But in light of Reed’s troublesome history of brain injuries, I just can’t get on board with his late-fourth-round ADP of TE3.

Some of the top running backs in this year’s draft class landed in less-than ideal spots. Versatile run-catch threat Christian McCaffrey went to the Panthers, whose quarterback, Cam Newton, has rarely bothered throwing to his backs. Joe Mixon went to the Bengals, whose offensive line was gutted by free agency. Dalvin Cook went to the Vikings, who also have an iffy offensive line and had already signed Latavius Murray in free agency. We can debate where Samaje Perine ranks in the rookie running back hierarchy, but there’s little disagreement that Perine lucked into a prime landing spot. Washington has a solid offensive line, a good quarterback and an RB depth chart that can be climbed more easily than a jungle gym on an elementary school playground.

Perine is a 233-pound brute who bench-pressed 225 pounds 30 times at the Scouting Combine – more reps than all but four of the offensive linemen who were in Indianapolis. He seems to relish contact and will not go down with an arm tackle. Perine ran for more than 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons at Oklahoma despite splitting work with Joe Mixon in two of them, scored 51 touchdowns, averaged 6.0 yards per carry for his career and broke the NCAA single-game rushing record with a 427-yard game against Oklahoma State in 2014. Perine won’t catch many passes, but he has an excellent chance to become Washington’s goal-line back and to get a heavy share of the early-down work. It wasn’t long ago that Perine had an ADP of RB35 and Rob Kelley had an ADP of RB38. Kelley has since surged ahead, but I still prefer Perine, whom I believe to be a value in standard-scoring leagues.

Kelley, aka “Fat Rob,” was a four-year rotational back at Tulane who never ran for more than 420 yards in a single season, went undrafted, then wound up as Washington’s lead back by default midway through the 2016 season. He had an impressive three-game run from the end of October through the weekend before Thanksgiving, carrying 67 times for 321 yards and four touchdowns, but his rushing numbers over his final six games (84-280-2) were uninspiring. Kelley moves with the speed of a teamster on his coffee break and offers nothing as a pass catcher. Don’t look at him as a bargain-priced incumbent starter; look at him as a slightly overpriced backup-to-be.

At 5-8 and 191 pounds, Chris Thompson isn’t built for early-down work, but he’s the only decent pass-catching back the Redskins have, so he’ll get ample snaps. He had 49 receptions and 705 yards from scrimmage last year, but he’s scored only five touchdowns in 35 career games.

Matt Jones, who spent time as Washington’s lead back in each of the last two seasons, is still around for the time being, but he fumbled his way out of favor last year and may not be long for the roster.

Kirk Cousins QB8 QB8 Buy if discounted
Samaje Perine RB43 RB37 Don’t be shy
Terrelle Pryor WR13 WR19 Don’t overspend
Jamison Crowder WR31 WR35 Seek higher upside
Josh Doctson WR57 WR62 A worthy gamble
Jordan Reed TE4 TE5 Don’t risk it
Rob Kelley RB33 RB43 Avoid