Despite the fact that there are many NFL and fantasy football fans who pick over offseason news with a fine-tooth comb, we understand that there are still a lot of you out there who simply don't have time to keep up with player movements or the happenings of each team. That's why yours truly is here to give you the lowdown on the recent 2014 news of each team, both AFC and NFC and how it impacts your fantasy football league/team.
I thought I would do something a little bit different this time. Instead of loading up information on all four teams from each division in one article, I'd like to break down each team in each division for the NFC. Finishing up the NFC East, the Washington Redskins made the most changes of all the teams within the division, bringing in a new coaching staff and adding more weaponry within their passing arsenal.
The Redskins made headlines this week, but it had nothing to do with the team that is practicing on the field. Earlier in the week, a federal board had canceled the team’s trademark registration — calling its nickname “disparaging to Native Americans.”
The same thing happened in 1992. After appealing the decision, a ruling was finally made in 1999. The team and the NFL won. But with growing pressure for owner Dan Snyder to change the team's name, we might see history being made. Just not anytime soon.
Regardless, fantasy football owners needn't worry about any of the team's off-field woes. Lets get to the meat of this piece and talk about the value of each offensive player as the team hopes to rebound from an NFC worst 3-13.
Robert Griffin III (aka RG3) proved that he wasn't ready to return to action last year after having suffered multiple injuries to his knee more than once in 2012. After suffering an LCL sprain in Week 14 against the Ravens, Kirk Cousins took over for the rest of that game and for the team's Week 15 matchup against the Browns. Trying to make a comeback, Griffin managed to play the last two games. Griffin then re-injured his knee in the Wild-Card loss to the Seahawks. This entire incident led to a reported backstage war between Daniel Snyder and Mike Shanahan. And after a 2013 season in which RG3 never looked fully recovered, it was only a matter of time before Snyder would shake things up. A 3-13 season was a good reason.
Snyder, as usual, didn't waste any time in firing Shanahan after announcing the decision on December 30. Snyder announced the hiring of former OC Jay Gruden on January 9. Gruden had previously served as the Bengals offensive coordinator from 2011 to 1013, aiding in the development of QB Andy Dalton.
Having gotten all that drama out of the way, it appears RG3 is poised for a major rebound from last season. He had worked with quarterbacks guru Terry Shea this offseason in order to improve his mechanics. Gruden has also revealed he will only use a "sprinkle" of read-option plays in order to keep RG3 from taking so many hits. If the receiving corps can stay healthy, there is no reason why RG3 can't bounce back to a nice value pick as a QB1 in the middle rounds. USA Today's Jim Corbett Tweeted:
RG3 looks like a different QB, effortless in his drops and throwing mechanics without that ball and chain knee brace
Make sure to check out our detailed synopsis on RG3's fantasy football value for 2014.
The one thing the Redskins will miss from Shanahan was his ability to make no-named running backs stars in the NFL. He was able to do it with several players when he coached the Broncos. And after much hype between Evan Royster and Roy Helu, an unknown by the name of Alfred Morris emerged as Shanny's next project. Over the last two seasons, Morris has averaged 1442.5 rushing yards per season, with a 4.7 ypc average. Morris' numbers shot down some in 2013 mainly due to the problems at quarterback.
It could make some owners nervous that Morris doesn't have that Shanahan magic with him, but new OC Sean McVay has already come out and said the team will run a similar zone-blocking scheme that the Shanahan's had run two years prior.
The only problem with Morris this season? His hands. He just isn't good enough of a pass catcher to stay on the field on third-down situations. That will give Morris his biggest hit in terms of value. Receiving is one of Roy Helu's strong points. We saw that after he caught 49 receptions in 2011 and 31 last season. Morris should no longer be considered an RB1 like previous years, but he's still valuable as a high-end RB2. Barring injuries, Morris should put up yet another 1000-yard season. However, his value flies down the boards in PPR leagues.
Another thing that owners should keep in mind is that the backfield could wind up turning into a situation that somewhat duplicates Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard, although Morris is clearly more talented than BGE. I can't see a full blown committee, but I can see Gruden wanting Helu and, possibly, Chris Thompson more involved in certain packages. Gruden is very high on Thompson, which could give him a chance at snaps on receiving plays and possibly a push as Morris' backup. Whichever guy between Helu and Thompson winds up landing the No. 2 job, I can't see them pushing Morris for enough carries that would knock Morris down to a mere flex option. He's just too good of a runner. Royster could be the odd-man out, with rookie Lache Seastrunk possibly landing on the practice squad. Don't look at any of these guys as a handcuff.
The passing game received a huge upgrade after the signing of former Eagles WR DeSean Jackson to a three-year, $24 million contract with $16 million guaranteed. The Redskins desperately needed a No. 2 wide receiver after going through guys like Leonard Hankerson in 2013. Jackson might not be well liked in the NFL, but his speed will open up the field for others like WR Pierre Garcon and TE Jordan Reed. Should Jackson be considered a borderline WR1 though? In my opinion, no. If you look at his stats from last season, he was one of the more inconsistent receivers in the league. In five games Jackson notched 774 yards. In five games, he failed to reach 40 yards. So Jackson's 1,332 receiving yards over the entire season looks great on paper, but he's feast or famine. And this was when Jackson was the No. 1 receiver. Jackson shouldn't be valued as anything more than a low-end WR2. Redskins media is slowly starting to agree.
Beat writer John Keim revealed he wouldn't be surprised if Jackson wound up third on the team in receptions. Having played as the front runner in Philly, Jackson now has to yield much of the workload to Garcon, who proved himself as a true value pick after hauling in 113 catches in his second year in Washington.
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Don't get me wrong. I'm not dumping on Jackson and telling you to avoid him entirely, just don't overvalue him when you draft. He comes with a lot of talent, but there are a few things in his way from making him a top fantasy prospect.
Speaking of Garcon, Jackson's arrival can only do wonders for his third year as a Redskin. Taking much of the defensive attention last year while playing with Hankerson and Santana Moss, Jackson being on the other side will allow Garcon more one-on-one defensive attention. We might have seen the best out of Garcon last year, but there is no reason he should be knocked out of low-end WR1/high-end WR2 consideration. It's highly doubtful that Garcon will come anywhere close to the 113 receptions he racked up last season with Jackson and TE Jordan Reed on the field. But even 90-95 catches, 1200 receiving yards and 7-8 touchdowns aren't out of the question.
Lastly, Jordan Reed has all the makings of being the next breakout stud at tight end. There's just one problem: health. Reed missed a handful of games in his rookie year after suffering a concussion against the Eagles in Week 11. He was put on I.R. for the rest of the season.
It might not have been a big deal then, but NBC Washington's Dr. Ray Solano revealed that Reed had suffered two more concussions while playing at Florida. According to Solano:
A majority of concussions, approximately 75 percent, resolve themselves within a week. About 10-15 percent of patients develop what’s known as post-concussion syndrome, in which symptoms persist far longer than expected. Those symptoms may include very typical symptoms, like headaches, sleep problems and irritability.
Reed has looked "eye opening" in OTAs. So far so good in terms of health. And with Garcon and Jackson, Reed should have plenty of room on intermediate passes in the middle of the field. A TE1 on paper with his fantasy value skyrocketing under new coaching, Reed is close to becoming a sure thing. Just be cautious. Reed could finish with top 10-12 tight end numbers by the end of the year. But one more concussion could derail his career for good.