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Fantasy football impact: Have the Redskins cured their stars-and-scrubs ways?

Rob Carr

As far as fantasy goes, the Washington team in 2013 was a couple big names followed by a mass of nothing. They've tried to fix that this year. We break down the fantasy implications.

When constructing your fantasy roster -- particularly in an auction league -- "stars and scrubs" is a totally viable strategy. Spend big on your top few guys, fill in with cheap flyers at the bottom. Assuming the big names come through, you can get a lot of value that way.

It is not however, a viable strategy for real football. And yet, in some ways, it is more or less the exact strategy the Washington Redskins employed in 2013.

As far as fantasy production goes, the Redskins last season were led by Robert Griffin III, Pierre Garcon, and Alfred Morris. Griffin, with 200 fantasy points, finished 18th among quarterbacks. Morris, 160, was the No. 14 running back. And Garcon had 154 points, good for 14th among wide receivers.

After that? I mean, Roy Helu had that three-touchdown game in Week 7. Darrel Young had one for himself in Week 9. Jordan Reed, Leonard Hankerson, and Aldrick Robinson all had occasional moments. But all told, the No. 4 fantasy "player" on the Redskins in 2013 was their defense, which put up a paltry 89 and could only manage 21st place among D/STs.

In fact, no team in the NFL got fewer fantasy points out of its No. 4 producer in 2013, and only the New York Jets -- whose 2013 fantasy troubles have already been documented in this space -- scored the same amount.

Team Fourth-highest-scoring fantasy player Points
Denver Broncos Matt Prater, K 169
Chicago Bears Jay Cutler, QB 160
Seattle Seahawks Steven Hauschka, K 158
San Francisco 49ers Phil Dawson, K 154
Green Bay Packers Mason Crosby, K 153
Dallas Cowboys Dan Bailey, K 151
Detroit Lions Joique Bell, RB 151
Cincinnati Bengals Giovani Bernard, RB 149
San Diego Chargers Keenan Allen, WR 141
Arizona Cardinals Jay Feely, K 138
Pittsburgh Steelers Shaun Suisham, K 135
Carolina Panthers Graham Gano, K 128
Philadelphia Eagles Riley Cooper, WR 128
Buffalo Bills Defense/Special Teams 123
Kansas City Chiefs Ryan Succop, K 120
New Orleans Saints Pierre Thomas, RB 118
Miami Dolphins Caleb Sturgis, K 117
Indianapolis Colts Donald Brown, RB 114
New England Patriots Defense/Special Teams 114
St. Louis Rams Sam Bradford, QB 114
Tennessee Titans Kendall Wright, WR 113
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rian Lindell, K 110
Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice, RB 107
Atlanta Falcons Harry Douglas, WR 106
New York Giants Defense/Special Teams 104
Oakland Raiders Rod Streater, WR 104
Cleveland Browns Billy Cundiff, WR 101
Minnesota Vikings Christian Ponder, QB 100
Houston Texans Case Keenum/Matt Schaub, QB (tie) 97
Jacksonville Jaguars Cecil Shorts, WR 93
New York Jets Bilal Powell, RB 89
Washington Redskins Defense/Special Teams 89

Look at the teams at the bottom of that list. The Jets were bad; the Jaguars, Texans, and Redskins were worse. The Raiders, Giants, Falcons, and Vikings all ranked low. Twelve teams made the playoffs in 2013, and the clubs who got the worst production out of their fourth-best fantasy performers were the Patriots and Colts, who tallied 114 points out of their own defense/special teams and Donald Brown, respectively.

It was pretty clear after last season that, while Griffin has a bright future, and Garcon and Morris are studs, there needed to be more talent in Washington. So the Redskins went out and added the best offensive skill player to change teams in the offseason, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, and signed Andre Roberts as well. Washington also drafted receiver Ryan Grant and running back Lache Seastrunk, and, while it's unlikely they'll be big performers in 2014, both provide depth that Washington does need. You know, unless you're all in on the Darrel Young bandwagon.

To the positions:

Quarterback

First things first, can we drop the notion of the Redskins getting any kind of meaningful return in a trade for Kirk Cousins? Or that he might be a good starter if Griffin gets hurt? He had one reasonable game in 2012 and another reasonable one last year -- 381 passing yards and three scores against a crappy Atlanta defense, but also two picks and a fumble. But both came in situations where teams weren't really prepared for him, and he wasn't that good. By the time he was actually being used regularly, the shine was off.

Okay, so. Robert Griffin III. As mentioned above, he finished 18th among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring last year. By games played, he was 13th, just ahead of Tom Brady. This was only a handful of months removed from a torn ACL; he didn't really get his rushing legs under him until Week 5 or 6, and didn't run for any touchdowns one season after rushing for seven as a rookie.

Assuming health, then, there is every reason to believe the Griffin we'll see going forward is more the 2012 Griffin than the 2013 version. Or, at least, the real Griffin is better than the 2013. He's still the guy who was the No. 2 overall draft pick, who Washington gave up all sorts of future value to acquire.

But then, of course, there's that "assuming health" caveat. Redskins fans haven't been able to assume health out of Griffin for more than a day or so at a time. Running quarterbacks are always at more risk; ones who aren't built like Cam Newton are even more so.

I believe in Robert Griffin III's talent. No quarterback taken in his range in fantasy drafts will have as much upside. Unfortunately, I also believe in his brittleness, meaning not many quarterbacks in his range will have as low a floor. Before free agency, back in February, I had him in the mid-teens among quarterbacks, and about 100th overall. Of course, that was before he had Jackson and Roberts as potential receivers (more on that later). Those benefits have to help Griffin's value. I still wouldn't be comfortable with him in my top tier, but near the top 10? In a group with Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, maybe Philip Rivers? Feels right to me.

Running back

Among the top 40 running backs in 2013 in yards from scrimmage, Alfred Morris had the fourth-highest percentage of yards gained rushing. He gained 1,275 (94.24 percent) of his 1,353 yards on the ground. Only the stone-handed triumvirate of Chris Ivory (98.81 percent), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (97.17), and LeGarrette Blount (95.31) had higher percentages. Of course, Morris went for those 1,353 yards, while none of the other three reached even 900. In his rookie year of 2012, that percentage was even higher. Dude has only 20 receptions in his two seasons combined.

In short, no, you aren't going to go crazy for Morris in a point-per-reception league, but as a pure running back, he is crazy valuable. Morris saw his numbers fall off from his rookie season (338 fewer rushing yards, six fewer touchdowns), but easily did enough to prove he was no fluke. And Morris has as strong a hold on his job as any running back -- his backup, Roy Helu, has been in the league for three years, hasn't reached 1,000 rushing yards yet, and has only 276 since 2011.

The more likely primary backup for Morris in 2014 will be Lache Seastrunk, the team's sixth-round draft pick out of Baylor. Seastrunk has explosiveness, but he isn't really seen as a candidate for a starting role yet.

I'm comfortable with Morris as a top-10 running back, and top-15 or so overall, in standard leagues. In PPR, he drops at least a round or so. Behind him, Seastrunk is probably the running back to target as a handcuff, but neither he nor Helu is much beyond super-deep depth.

Wide receiver

Here's where it gets interesting in Washington. Garcon, at 1,346 yards, was the only Redskins pass-catcher to get even to 500 yards in 2013. The team's No. 2 wide receiver, Santana Moss, turns 35 on Sunday and hasn't reached 600 yards since 2010. Aldrick Robinson and Leonard Hankerson have both had their moments, but neither strikes particular fear in opposing defenses.

Enter DeSean Jackson. Jackson has gone for at least 700 yards in all six years of his career, and 900 or more in five of those six. He has 32 career touchdowns, and he set a new career-best with 82 receptions, 126 targets, and 1,332 receiving yards in 2013. When Philadelphia cut Jackson in March, Washington swept in and signed him to a three-year deal.

Jackson's arrival has to bump Garcon's own value down a bit. It's hard to picture Jackson/Garcon managing to be as productive as the league's other greatest duos

Before free agency, I slotted Jackson in as my No. 12 wide receiver, 32nd overall. The move to Washington won't change that much; while he'll battle Garcon for targets on occasion, he's still crazy valuable.

On the other hand, Jackson's arrival has to bump Garcon's own value down a bit. It's hard to picture Jackson/Garcon managing to be as productive as the league's other greatest duos -- Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker. They could maybe be on the level of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, but we've yet to see a season in which those two have been top-10 options at the same time. Garcon should be a good low-end No. 2 fantasy receiver, but that's about it.

And then there's Andre Roberts. Roberts was seen as the Redskins' big offseason coup before Jackson fell into their laps, but he's been a disappointment so far in his career and had only 471 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 2013 in Arizona. Had it been just he and the holdovers in Washington, it wouldn't be hard to envision a scenario in which he was a decent WR3 or flex play. With Jackson in the fold, though, Roberts is only a depth play, and probably not a great one at that.

Tight end

Jordan Reed started his rookie 2013 season very slow, with only 164 yards and one score through his first four games. In Week 6, though, he finally came through, catching nine passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. He followed that up with a 90-yard game and scored another touchdown in Week 10 before a concussion ended his season after Week 11.

There's a lot of buzz about Reed entering 2014, but I have to wonder whether there would be so much buzz without that one big game in Week 6. Nonetheless, the buzz is there, and Reed will be the team's primary tight end to start the season. If you don't bother with one of the top few tight ends -- Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas, etc. -- Reed would be a fine later-round pick as a starting tight end. He has the upside that went along with his third-round placement in the 2013 draft.

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