Every year we give our premium content members a team-by-team, player-by-player look at the NFL season that was. The coverage will be in-depth, but because the Dynasty Capsule series begins immediately after the regular season, we won’t use it to discuss free agency or the draft. Come see us in early May once Mr. Irrelevant is off the board for another 32-article series giving you the same detailed discussion you’ll see below.
Buckle up dynasty fans, because you’re about to be reminded why our motto is, “There is no off-season.”
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Aside from a 31-yard completion on a fake punt by Tress Way, every pass attempt by the Redskins in 2016 was thrown by Kirk Cousins. Durability is the first trait necessary for an NFL quarterback to have success and Cousins has been as durable as any passer in the game since the beginning of 2015, logging all 32 starts in that span. Winning is the next most important trait of a starting quarterback wishing to keep his job and with a 17-14-1 record over the last two seasons, Cousins has been good enough in that department to keep the dogs at bay.
Statistically, Cousins posted 4,917 passing yards, falling just 83 short of the 5,000 yard plateau. That’s a 751 yard increase from his 2015 output. His touchdown to interception ratio was just a tick over 2:1, with 25 scores and 12 picks. He also completed 406 (67%) of his 606 pass attempts. Kirk Cousins was a top ten quarterback in almost every statistical category, and finished as the QB5 in fantasy scoring. The question dynasty owners need to ask themselves is, “Did Kirk Cousins hit his ceiling in 2016, or does he have the capacity to improve on these totals?”
From a yardage standpoint, we’ve probably seen Cousins’ maximum output, however, he can still improve in the efficiency department, and we can safely expect him to do so. 2016 was the QB’s third season in Jay Gruden’s offense, which he has all of the tools to operate. 2016 also marked Cousins’ second straight ‘contract year,’ as he played out the Redskins’ franchise designation, and proved he deserves such a label.
There’s been speculation that Kyle Shanahan, (who coached Cousins during his final two seasons as the Redskins’ offensive coordinator, in 2012-13,) may take the 49ers’ head coaching job, and in turn, the Niners might try to trade for Cousins. These rumors, however, fail to account for why Washington would choose to hit the reset button by trading the best quarterback they’ve had since Mark Rypien in the early nineties. The Skins can control Kirk Cousins’ rights for one more season with the franchise tag, and barring a complete breakdown in negotiations, Cousins is likely to receive a long-term contract which makes him one of the league’s highest paid players in the very near future.
Where a shake up is likely to occur is in the Redskins receiving corps, with both Pierre Garçon and Desean Jackson slated to become free agents in March. Cousins may enter 2017 without one, or both of these veterans targets, leaving Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder as the clear-cut first and second options, with a host of young players – headlined by Josh Doctson – looking to establish their own roles.
With just 53 preseason attempts under his belt, Nate Sudfeld remains a virtual unknown. Physically, he looks the part of an NFL QB, but in the limited action he’s seen, there’s little reason for optimism at this moment. In the Redskins’ final preseason game, the team was more interested in getting their backup running back position squared away, (force feeding alternating carries to Mack Brown and eventual front runner Rob Kelley,) then they were worried about getting a look at the rookie QB. Look for Sudfeld to take the backup job from Colt McCoy, but it might be a while before you see him get his first start.
The fact that Washington ran for 130 yards more than they gained the previous season is impressive, but the fact that they did it on 50 fewer carries than they attempted in 2015 is the real story. The running game also accounted for eight more TDs than it scored in 2015, when Kirk Cousins actually led the Skins with five rushing touchdowns. Without Alfred Morris, who left town for what looked like a potential timeshare with Darren McFadden in Dallas, (which never materialized thanks to some kid named Zeke,) the Skins turned to Matt Jones and cast of relative unknowns to hold down the backfield.
Matt Jones entered the season as the Redskins’ starting running back, but injured his knee in week seven and never regained the job. Before the injury, Jones was his usual inconsistent self, averaging less than four yards per carry, literally, every other game. He posted two 100-yard efforts in weeks four and six, showcasing the best of his abilities, but backed those up with a 14-carry, 31-yard dud, (2.21 ypc,) in week five and a ten-carry, 27-yard effort, (2.7 ypc,) in week seven. Inefficiency remains the achilles heel for a player who, at his best, appears well suited for a “LeGarrette Blount-type” role in a committee. Jones is destined to ride the waiver wire, and frustrate his owners until he gives a more consistent effort. And depending on how Washington addresses the backend of their roster, Jones could even be in danger of not making the team in 2017.
The one they call “Fat Rob” took over for Jones in week seven, and got off to a tremendous start. Through weeks eight, ten, and 11, (the Redskins had a week nine bye,) Rob Kelley rumbled for 321 yards, on 67 carries, scoring four touchdowns on the ground. The problems began in week 12, were over the final six games of the season, Kelley managed just 280 yards on 84 carries, (3.3 ypc,) and scored just two TDs, shattering much of the optimism that followed him into the year after a strong preseason. Kelley, like Matt Jones, is no lock to make the Redskins’ 2017 roster, and it should surprise no one if the team makes a substantial mid-to-late-round investment in a running back.
If there’s one player who does have a job locked up for next season, it’s Thompson. He gives Cousins a relief valve under pressure, and has the ability to turn mundane checkdowns into long gains. Of his 68 carries in 2016, 30 went for five, or more yards. His development in the Washington offense is worth watching next season, as he turns 28 in October, and is nearing the prime years of his career. The Redskins would be wise to max out his production and see exactly what he can do given extended playing time. It should be noted that Thompson will be a restricted free agent this off-season, making him unlikely to leave the team.
Keith Marshall was injured in the preseason, and never got a crack at meaningful playing time. Throughout his collegiate career, he was overshadowed by backs like Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb at the University of Georgia, and he consequently slid to the draft’s seventh round. Marshall is a player to watch in training camp, as a lack of physical ability has never been his issue.
The strength of the Redskins’ offense, this position group featured three balanced weapons, whose skillsets complemented each other well. Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, and Jamison Crowder each finished in the top 36 among WRs in fantasy scoring, separated by just 20 points in PPR formats. Along with Kirk Cousins, and Chris Thompson, both Garçon and Jackson will become free agents this March, leaving the trio’s future in doubt.
Pierre Garçon’s ninth pro season was also the second in which he eclipsed the 1,000 yard plateau. Garçon led the Skins’ receiving corps in targets, catches, and yardage, while playing all 16 games for just the fourth time in his career, and the third time out of the last four seasons. He finished as the 22nd ranked wideout in one-point per reception formats.
As a 30-year-old, potential free agent, who’ll turn 31 in August, the ageist will begin to discredit his future outlook. Yet, Garçon’s value to a contender, or a team with an inexperienced receiving corps would be immense in the open market. The Redskins may be apt to keep Garçon in town to mentor Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson, while allowing the next receiver on our list to seek out greener pastures.
The third year of DeSean Jackson’s stay in Washington saw the wideout post his fifth 1,000 yard season, and continue his run as one the NFL’s most dangerous deep threats. From a fantasy perspective, Jackson’s output was a tale of two seasons. The receiver caught 27 balls, for just 368 yards and one score over the year’s first seven games. Then, on an identical 27 receptions, Jackson exploded for 603 yards and three TDs in the final seven contests of the season . His receiving average jumped from a respectable 13.6 yards per reception in the season’s first half, to a staggering 22.3 ypr in the second stanza. He would ultimately finish as a WR3/4 (depending on your league’s scoring rules).
Pinpointing a reason for this discrepancy in production is difficult. Jackson actually received three more targets during that lower-output first half of the year than he did in the second half. There also isn’t a strong correlation between Jackson’s bump in production and that of Kirk Cousins, as only two of Jackson’s strong second half games were also big games for the QB.
A cynic might say Jackson was motivated by his impending free agency and the desire to sign one last big contract past the age of 30, while a believer could attribute his higher second half yield to Jackson stepping up to help the team fight for a playoff spot. In either event, we’ll watch what happens with both Jackson and Garçon as the off-season unfolds. Jackson will remain a high risk, high reward dynasty asset who stands to lose much of his effectiveness if, and when his trademark speed betrays him. He’ll turn 31 at the end of next season, and likely has another year or two of effective football left in his legs, before even his most devoted owners will want to divest completely.
The most intriguing Redskins’ receiver is 23-year-old Jamison Crowder. His preseason buzz never materialized into the breakout season some had predicted for the second-year pro. This was partly due to an inconsistent target share, and partly due to the Skins utilizing their two tight end package more than anyone could have perceived this preseason. Crowder still finished as a WR3 on a 67/847/7 stat line.
The reason so many fantasy pundits expected a great a year from Crowder is because he has an extremely well rounded skillset. He’s a receiver with great hands, speed, and quickness, and each of those skills translate well to the field. Working primarily out of the slot, Crowder flashed an ability to turn short passes into long gainers. These plays are an extension of his skills in the return game, where the wideout finished fourth in average yards per punt return, and was one of only seven players to score a punt return touchdown in 2016.
Moving forward, the best thing(s) that could happen for Crowder would be the relocation of both Garçon and Jackson. Although such a development would earn Crowder more attention from opposing defenses in coverage, he would still have Jordan Reed working the middle of the field, drawing some of that coverage away. If he can become the team’s first or second option in the passing game, Crowder could easily find a home in the WR12-24 range, and be as consistent a dynasty asset as you’ll find, especially when you account for the amount of time Reed misses to injury.
As the 22nd overall pick of the 2016 draft, Josh Doctson’s rookie campaign was an utter disaster for the Redskins. A player many viewed as a sure-fire redzone threat, Doctson would have the most disappointing rookie campaign for any of last year’s highly touted prospects if not for the equally non-existent year had by Laquon Treadwell, who was taken immediately after Doctson, in the 23rd slot.
The Redskins will need Doctson to get it together quickly should Jackson and, or Garçon skip town this offseason. Dynasty owners who can find a “buy-low” option on the second-year wideout should roll the dice, so long as they avoid overpaying.
Washington’s offense developed a new facet in 2016, thanks to the unexpected rebirth of Vernon Davis. As usual, nagging injuries limited Jordan Reed’s output, yet he still finished as the team’s leading pass catcher. The overall success of both their tight end group and rushing game could go a long way toward shaping the identity of Jay Gruden’s offense in the future.
With a 66/686/6 stat line, Jordan Reed ended the year as a top ten tight end, but did not live up to his billing as the second tight end off the board in most fantasy drafts. Injuries remain his major malfunction, as Reed played in just 12 games, failing to log a complete season for the fourth consecutive year. He’s been the Redskins’ starting tight end since taking the job from Fred Davis in 2013, (speaking of players who never maxed out their potential), but has yet to actually start more than nine games in any season.
Like Crowder, the departure of Jackson and Garçon would instantly raise expectations for Reed’s production, if it’s possible to increase the amount of hype surrounding the tight end already. His talent is undeniable, yet dynasty owners have to be leary of his track record moving forward. Reed joins Rob Gronkowski as a cautionary tale of why fantasy owners should think twice before committing valuable assets to the tight end position. With a strong rookie class of tight ends entering the league this spring, expect this trend to level off somewhat in your upcoming drafts and auctions.
Nearly surpassing his production from the 2014 and 2015 seasons combined, Vernon Davis found a viable role with the Redskins in 2016. Not only was he a decent replacement for Reed over the four games the starter missed to injury, but Davis also managed a few worthwhile games while Reed was in the lineup.
Davis posted four TE1 weeks in the middle of the season, and two others where he finished as TE13, and TE14. Whether the veteran can duplicate this success in 2017 is doubtful. He may wind up as a midseason waiver wire grab, but should not be relied upon to produce, even at this mediocre pace, unless he lands in an unbelievable situation as some team’s best option at the position.