Last season’s disappointing 5-11 record, placed the Redskins solidly in last place, within the ultra-competitive NFC East. While Washington was nestled firmly in the middle of the league with their ranking of 16th in total offense (336.7 YPG), their rushing attack finished a meager 25th overall, while averaging just 100.9 YPG. And even though the team fared better in passing (ranking 14th), Rex Grossman tossed 20 INTs, which was the NFL’s third highest total. All of which provided great incentive for GM Bruce Allen, and HC Mike Shanahan, to infuse more difference makers into the unit. That propelled the decision to seize the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft, by sending three first-round picks and a second-round selection to the Rams. As a result, Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III will now provide a dynamic presence that is desperately needed. Allen and Shanahan also lured former Colt Pierre Garcon with a five year contract, in the belief that he will become RG III’s No. 1 WR. Plus, the Redskins added Josh Morgan, to their stable of young WRs that includes Leonard Hankerson and Anthony Armstrong. This leaves the status of Santana Moss at least somewhat in question, as he begins his eighth season with the team. The collection of RBs remains more familiar, as Roy Helu, Tim Hightower, and Even Royster all return. While Hightower started five of the team’s initial six games last season, the emergence of Helu was easily the most positive development with last year’s rushing attack, and he is the best candidate to become the primary RB option this year. Shanahan is the seventh HC that has presided over the Redskins since owner Daniel Snyder’s tenure began in 1999. Building a more potent offense is essential for Shanahan’s continued employment, and his diligence toward accomplishing that, will benefit fantasy owners.
Robert Griffin III
The 22-year old Griffin possesses the arm strength and mobility to excel over the course of his career. Between his ability to run, and the collection of receivers that he now possesses, he has enormous upside, and will supply fantasy owners with an exceptional fantasy option in the process. The quandary for this summer, is determining his potential for delivering effective point production in his rookie campaign. While he will be impressive, and should generate some prolific performances during the year, there is immense risk in planning to employ him as your weekly starter. However, it would be a savvy move to grab him in round seven or eight as a high end No. 2. Then, if he delivers highly productive games as the season progresses, you have the luxury of utilizing him in your lineup, or trading him (or your other QB) for a sorely needed commodity at another position.
He began his rookie season behind Hightower on the team’s depth chart, but ultimately started five games, while performing in 15 contests for the Redskins. He accumulated 640 yards on 151 attempts (4.2 YPC), which led the team in both categories. That included three consecutive games in which he rambled for at least 100 yards (weeks 12-14). Helu also finished third on the team with 49 receptions, and certainly appears to be Washington’s best overall back. However, Hightower has been resigned, and second year back Evan Royster remains in the picture. And the challenge for owners, as with any rushing attack that is spearheaded by Shanahan, is trying to determine if he will be inclined to ride one RB heavily, or if he will instead employ a random approach, complete with recurring plot twists. Still, Shanahan did have six different backs run for over 1,000 yards during his tenure with the Broncos, and Helu’s ability makes him a viable target in round five or six.
In three seasons with Arizona, Hightower averaged 578 yards on 146 carries with eight TDs. But after being employed as a workhorse in Washington’s first two games of 2011 (averaging 22.5 carries), it appeared that he would be a lock to surpass those averages. Instead, he only started five games before a torn ACL forced a premature end to his season. During his four year career, he has exceeded 600 yards for the season only once, and his TD total has steadily declined (10-8-5-1). Given the fact that Helu is in the best position to become the team’s primary back, and that Royster could be allowed to build upon the 328 yards that he manufactured last year, Hightower should only be drafted as a late round flier. And know that the potential for a time share will be lurking in the periphery.
Last year’s leading receiver is gone (Jabar Gaffney), and with the role of 12- year veteran Santana Moss currently in question, it is very likely that Garcon will be the primary target for Griffin. And he is definitely being compensated at that level, after signing for $42.5 million, with $20.5 of that guaranteed. Reasons for optimism that he will be successful with the Redskins, include the fact that Garcon set career best in both receptions (70), and receiving yards (947) last season for Indianapolis, his reception and yardage totals have improved in each of his four seasons, and he has generated six TDs for the last two years. However, that trend must continue in order for him to truly fulfill the role of No. 1 WR. Even though Garcon should be Washington’s most productive WR, Griffin will have many other mouths to feed. Garcon should deliver numbers more consistent with a low end No. 2, or high end No. 3. Making him worthy of a seventh round selection.
The 33-year old Moss played in 12 contests during 2011, and his output decreased considerably from recent years. His 46 catches were the fewest since 2004. Plus, his 584 receiving yards were the lowest since 2003, and essentially half of the 1,115 that he registered in 2010. His performance during the summer, will determine his role with the team. If he displays sufficient ability to gain separation, and generates enough burst to collect receptions from Griffin consistently, he could preserve his role as a starter, with the majority of the snaps originating in the slot. Or, he could lose a sizable number of snaps to Morgan and Hankerson, or could even be released. For now, he is worth snatching for your roster in round 10, while you observe his situation closely during training camp.
The first two seasons of his new five year deal are guaranteed, increasing the likelihood that he will establish a role in Washington’s offense, particularly if Moss underwhelms. But it would behoove owners to temper their expectations. First, Morgan will be returning after suffering a broken bone in his right leg last season, which sidelined him after five games. And during his four year stint with the 49ers, he collected a total of just 131 receptions, exceeded 50 catches only once, and scored a grand total of nine times. Not only must he battle Garcon, Moss and Hankerson for catches, but he could easily find himself looking up at all three on the team’s depth chart when the season begins. While his status should be monitored, there is no reason to consider him as anything beyond a late round flier.
While his overall numbers as a rookie in 2011 were extremely underwhelming – 13 receptions for 163 yards and no TDs - it was his eight catch, 106 yard performance in week 10 that illustrated how proficient he could be, if allowed to garner a sufficient number of snaps. Hankerson continues to recover from a torn labrum in his hip that ironically occurred during his season best performance. However, he should be ready to perform in training camp, where he will join the battle for playing time with Morgan and Moss. His size can create matchup issues for opponents, and enable him to deliver a big bodied target for Griffin. Not only does he possess the potential to become a consistent contributor, but his combination of skills could propel him into the starting lineup. For now, he is worth a late round selection, in the hopes that he will emerge from camp with a sizable role.
Davis finished second on the Redskins in both receptions (59) and receiving yards (796) last season, while setting career bests in both categories. But he would have established even better numbers, if his season had not concluded abruptly after 12 contests. Instead, he finished the year with a four game suspension, for failing multiple drug tests. His owners are undoubtedly aware of how lofty his final output would have been, if he had performed for the entire regular season. Still, the Redskins chose not to ignore his undeniable talent, and franchised him. There is legitimate reason for concern about the potential for another failed test, since that would lead to a one year suspension. However, Davis now has sizable incentive to remain focused and clean, since he will be playing for a long term contract. That fact, combined with his boundless ability, and the potential for an even more productive year collecting throws from Griffin, should enable you to confidently select Davis as your No. 1 TE in round eight or nine.
From 2005 through 2008, Cooley started and completed all 16 regular season contests, while averaging 69 receptions and 786 yards. As a result, he built a considerable amount of goodwill with many fantasy owners, who are now pondering the viability of including him on their rosters. But once you have moved beyond the strength of his name recognition, cold, hard facts indicate that Cooley is not a valuable commodity at this point in his career. He has missed 20 games due to injury in the past three years, including 11 last season due to knee, and finger issues. And, he has clearly been surpassed by Davis on Washington’s depth chart, and would need to endure a massive pay cut to remain with the team. Plus, converted WR Niles Paul has the potential to supplant him in the No. 2 slot. There is no reason to include him in your draft plans at this time.