After a week of gang ties, release and resigning the dust is settling around former Eagle turned Redskins’ WR DeSean Jackson. There is, however, still one very important question left to unanswered: What does this mean for my fantasy football team?
It’s no secret that the Redskins were a disaster on the field last season, and in an instance of fantasy imitating reality, any Redskin not named Pierre Garcon ended up with a disappointing season. Robert Griffin put up big numbers early, but was inconsistent and ended the year on the bench, and Alfred Morris had a solid statistical year finishing 14th among running backs, but after being touted as a top 10 back and likely first round pick, finishing behind Ryan Matthews and Fred Jackson was a tough pill to swallow for Morris owners (I should know, I was one of them.) The good news is, Morris and Griffin could live up to last year’s billing this year, at this year’s reduced rate.
The biggest winner here is Robert Griffin III. Rather than dealing with last year’s rag tag receiving corps RG3 now has 3 legitimate receivers, (yes, I consider Andre Roberts to be legitimate, but more on him later) who can all stretch the field, and more importantly do damage when the get the ball in space on screens and slants. Having to account for that much speed, especially if TE Jordan Reed can stay healthy, means fewer defenders focused on Griffin, so even if the defense manages to cover everyone up, he’ll be able to find space to scramble and gain some yards for himself. This, is not specific to the Jackson signing, but I also see Griffin taking a big step forward as a leader this season. I think the 2013 season was a sobering experience for the 2012 rookie of the year, from coming back too early from his injury, to sitting out the last few games of the season. Jay Gruden has already stated he expects a lot out of his QB, and I expect RG3 to take that as a personal challenge to continue improving, to take charge of, and responsibility for this offense. He has the weapons, he has the talent, and if he plays all 16 games RG3 could easily reclaim his place as a top 5 fantasy QB this year.
Pierre Garcon gets the runner up spot for biggest boost based on the signing. The bad news is, Garcon is unlikely to catch 113 passes again this year, but that’s a good thing. Garcon’s high catch numbers were the product of a stagnant offense that had to force the ball to it’s best receiver and Garcon’s yards per catch suffered as a result. Garcon will likely be closer to 80-90 catches on the season, but I still expect him to eclipse 1,000 yards and a more effective offense means more scoring chances and Garcon could conceivably improve on his 5 TDs from 2013. Bottom line: Garcon should replicate or improve upon his 2013 point total, but could be less consistent week to week. Watch the match-ups with better corners as Jackson’s presence could make him easy to ignore. Think of Garcon more like Jeremy Maclin playing alongside Jackson when he was healthy and less like AJ Green playing opposite Marvin Jones last year in Cincinnati.
DeSean Jackson comes out no worse for the wear. He was a beast in Chip Kelly’s offense last year, but even if he stayed in Philly he was never going to repeat his 2013 numbers. Like Garcon, Jackson benefitted from a higher than usual volume of targets in this case caused by an injury to Jeremy Maclin that would end his 2013 season before it began. Expect Jackson to go back to catching around 60 passes per year (instead of the 80 he caught in 2013) but he’ll make the most of those 60, and could reach the 1,000 yard plateau…just don’t expect another 9 touchdowns.
Andre Roberts is probably the only guy I would say is affected negatively by this trade. Before Jackson’s addition I was eyeing Roberts as a sleeper candidate with defenses giving all their attention to Pierre Garcon, but now barring an injury to either Jackson or Garcon it seems Roberts’ fantasy value will be limited. Don’t underestimate his team value though, especially if he ends up as the primary punt/kick returner (a position he held his first two seasons with the Cardinals before being replaced by Patrick Peterson.) Assuming the rest of the special teams unit actually decides to show up this year, that facet of the game should be much improved.
What about Alfred Morris you ask? Well, for him it’s a bit too soon to tell. Jackson’ addition is definitely good for the running game, (more defenders in coverage means fewer in the box) but just how good for Morris in particular? That will depend on how Gruden chooses to use Morris. The good news is, Jay Gruden’s offense runs the ball more than you think: BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried it 220 times last season, the bad news is that’s 50 fewer attempts than Morris had. But back to the good news, Morris averages a yard more per carry than Green-Ellis, and while Roy Helu could fill a Giovanni Bernard-type 3rd down/change of pace back role, Morris’ play could earn him more snaps, and he will get the majority of goal line and clock kill work. Keep an eye on what the Redskins do in the draft at the position and how reps are split in OTA’s, but Morris should be a strong RB2 with RB1 upside if he can crack double digit touchdowns like he did in his rookie season.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that any offensive success the Redskins could have this year, will have to be dependent on improved play from the offensive line. Jay Gruden is bringing in a lot of new guys as he switches from Mike Shanahan’s favored zone blocking scheme, to a power blocking scheme. They’ve brought it some decent talent, but I’m hoping they use at least a couple draft picks continuing to solidify what was a porous overall unit in 2013.
I’ll toss in one last disclaimer, since I’m predicting two 1,000 yard pass catchers to a team that finished 3-13 last season. I’m making my predictions based on everyone staying healthy and playing all 16 games at a level consistent with their past production, but the NFL makes no guarantees. If you’re still feeling unsure that the offensive line will hold up or that RG3 will make the necessary strides as a pocket passer might I suggest one week fantasy football leagues? It’s all of the fun without the commitment. Pick up a player when he’s hot and drop him when he’s not.