Now that Robert Lee Griffin III has proceeded beyond his first week of training camp without any protest from his surgically repaired knee, the chances of him taking snaps during Washington's regular season opener are steadily increasing. Last January 6, he reinjured the knee which had already negatively impacted his performance during the Redskins postseason loss to Seattle. The torn ACL that he suffered provided an unfortunate lasting image of RG3’s initial year, and his availability eight months later seemed highly improbable. As a result, fantasy owners dealt with the ambiguity that surrounded his recovery by considering alternatives for their QB1s, while monitoring his health with extreme scrutiny.
But now, there is tangible evidence that his recovery is very much on track. RG3 has participated in 7 on 7 drills, and is lobbying for approval to join the 11 on 11s. And while we will not see him perform during the preseason, it appears safe to expect him under center for Washington’s regular season opener. As a result, it is now reasonable to consider making an investment in RG3 for your rosters.
But how extensive of a risk should you undertake? Since it is unlikely that you will see him until September 9, a decision to select him will be based upon the excellent proficiency that he delivered last season. You may not be drafting the same exceptional athlete that accumulated 3,200 yards and 20 TDs through the air. And there certainly is no guarantee that he can supply the same level of elusiveness that enabled him to lead all QBs with 815 yards, while also amassing seven additional scores on the ground.
There are critical factors that we do know. First, the lineup that surrounds him will appear very similar to the group that we watched in 2012. He will benefit from the healthy respect that opposing defenses will bestow upon Washington's rushing attack, as Alfred Morris appears primed to perpetuate the enormous production that he generated last year. The former sixth round pick bolted for 1,613 yards as a rookie last season, which was the NFL’s second highest total. Plus, his 13 TDs were exceeded only by Arian Foster. And Morris is fully capable of amassing massive numbers in both major categories once again. This of course should cushion RG3 from the degree of pressure that would exist if he did not have the advantage of a formidable ground attack.
The other critical weapon who can contribute sizably toward RG3’s success is Pierre Garcon. Amid the mammoth scrutiny that RG3's recovery understandably has captured, it is essential that Garcon also remain injury free and in the lineup. As he is Washington's most dangerous receiving weapon by a sizable margin. His importance to the Redskin offense is underscored by the team’s 9-1 record last season, when he was on the field. He provides Griffin with a valuable combination of strength, speed and route running prowess. This enables him to consistently gain separation, and accumulate considerable yardage after the catch. The obvious advantages for RG3 to have Garcon’s attributes at his disposal are accentuated by the mammoth degeneration in talent that exists at WR beyond Garcon. The alternative targets on the roster -Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Devery Henderson, Aldrick Robinson and 34-year old Santana Moss - are extremely underwhelming.
When Garcon performed during all 16 regular season contests in 2011, he accumulated 134 targets. And there is an excellent chance that RG3 will launch a similar number of throws toward Garcon this season. If that occurs, he should exceed his current career highs in receptions (70), yardage (947) and TDs (six). And of course, that will fortify RG3's passing output. But as previously mentioned, his ability to accrue yardage as a rusher is very unclear. The number of designed running plays could diminish, and he might be more hesitant to take off when passing plays are not developing to his satisfaction.
Still, increasing optimism regarding his ability to start Washington’s opener has been reflected by his ADP, which has perpetually improved during the summer. Only eight other QBs are being selected him, and he is the 64th player being chosen. From my perspective, the asterisk that was associated with his draft status has definitely been removed. I had placed him at 11th when it became apparent that he would participate in training camp, and my newest ranking has upgraded him to eighth. That nestles him firmly within a cluster of other high quality signal callers (Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson). And the separation between each member of that group remains razor thin.
The fact that he is only 23 should assist in his efforts toward an expedited recovery. As will his outstanding work ethic. He completed just under 66% of his passes last season, and that noteworthy accuracy would help him amass favorable passing numbers, should the Redskins choose to employ him as a pocket passer with greater frequency. His ADP carries the greatest potential for change among all QB1s during the next few weeks. He could still rise to the top six at his position if there is an adequate comfort level that he will be both productive when the season begins. Conversely, if we progress through the remaining days of August without any significant verification that can perform effectively in September, then many owners will be persuaded to choose alternative options. For now, continue to monitor the frequent updates regarding his status as the month progresses. And make sure to select a strong QB2 for your rosters, if you choose to also draft RG3.