QB John Beck
At this point, all indications are that Beck is head coach Mike Shanahan’s preferred option as the team’s starting quarterback entering training camp. The former second-round pick’s entire body of work consists of five games with the Dolphins during his rookie season in 2007. In his four starts, he struggled with accuracy and failed to throw a touchdown pass. That means two things: Beck performed well in practices, and Shanahan is dead set against going with Donovan McNabb or Rex Grossman, the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart from a year ago. Since Beck hasn’t played much, it’s hard to predict how well he will perform, assuming he starts in Week 1. However, since he hasn’t thrown a pass over the past three seasons and has already been dumped by two teams (the Ravens also gave up on him), his prognosis for 2011 isn’t good. He’s strictly an option for 14-team leagues. And even then, it’s difficult to recommend him. You can do better.
RB Ryan Torain
Last year, the Redskins were expected to use a combination of veterans to man the running back position, with Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, and Willie Parker in the mix. Sitting at the back of the depth chart was the largely overlooked, former Bronco (and Mike Shanahan) draft pick in Torain. Sure enough, he became Shanahan’s new pet project and emerged as the Redskins’ top running back. Despite playing in just ten games and only starting eight, Torain finished the year with 742 rushing yards, 125 receiving yards, and six touchdowns. However, with a lengthy injury history (including four missed games last season due to hamstring problems), Shanahan chose to supplement the backfield depth chart through the draft, selecting Roy Helu in the fourth round and Evan Royster in the sixth. That means Torain will have to fight to retain his starting spot in 2011. Look for him to hold off the rookies at least for the early part of the season. Because of Helu’s presence, Torain will likely be drafted lower than he should be, but he will offer solid value if he can hold off the rookie.
RB Roy Helu
With an injury-prone starter in Ryan Torain and a top backup better suited to third-down duties in Keiland Williams, the Redskins drafted Helu in the fourth round. Look for the Nebraska rookie to challenge for playing time out of the gate, provided he picks up the blitz protection schemes. However, Torain played well in 2010 and figures to hold off the rookie early in the season. Helu possesses better-than-average size at 6’0”, 220 pounds and has good speed, timing out at 4.42 seconds over 40 yards. He is a one-cut runner whose style fits well in Shanahan’s rushing attack. But the knock on him coming out of college is that he lacks lateral agility. Helu is worthy of a late-round flier in redraft leagues and as a low-end first-round pick in dynasty rookie drafts.
WR Santana Moss
After struggling in 2009, Moss had a productive campaign last season as he was once again the Redskins’ leading receiver. With the team lacking depth at the position and playing from behind regularly, Moss was targeted a career-high 145 times, catching 93 passes (also a career high) for 1,115 yards and six touchdowns. Even at 31 years old, Moss still possesses nice deep speed. He was also remarkably consistent in 2010, which has been a knock against him for much of his career. He hit double-digit fantasy points six times and had a reasonable four games with five or fewer points. With Anthony Armstrong emerging last season and the team high on rookie third-round pick Leonard Hankerson, there is a strong possibility that Moss will see his target count reduced. He produced as a mid-tier WR2 last season, but that isn’t likely to happen again in 2011. Draft him as a WR3 and hope the target count stays high.
WR Anthony Armstrong
An afterthought entering the season, Armstrong quickly emerged as the Redskins’ best option starting opposite Santana Moss and established himself as the team’s big-play threat. Despite being 27 and never having caught a pass in the league, Armstrong finished the season with 44 receptions for 871 yards and three touchdowns. His 19.8 yards-per-reception average was good enough to finish third in the league in that category, behind only DeSean Jackson of the Eagles and the Steelers’ Mike Wallace—not bad company to keep. Armstrong will have to battle rookie third-round pick Leonard Hankerson to retain his spot in the starting lineup, but he seems like a safe bet when considering the shortened offseason, which will affect rookies more than veterans. Draft Armstrong as a WR4 with upside for 2011.
WR Leonard Hankerson
The Redskins used a third-round pick to acquire Hankerson in the hopes that he can shore up the team’s depth chart at wide receiver. Hankerson was productive in college at Miami and has solid size at 6’2” and 209 pounds to go along with his excellent speed. He should get a decent opportunity as a rookie as he fits in as well with the diminutive Santana Moss and deep threat Anthony Armstrong. However, the shortened offseason will hurt his chances of producing early. The best-case scenario for Hankerson is that he emerges by midseason, pushing Armstrong to the bench and showing enough for Redskins management to envision him as their top receiver in the coming seasons. Monitor his preseason progress, but at this point he ranks as a late-round flier in most leagues and waiver wire material in leagues with small rosters. He is a great option in dynasty leagues, however.
TE Chris Cooley
After suffering an ankle injury midway through the 2009 season, Cooley bounced back strong last year. The Redskins passing attack didn’t reach the heights many expected with Donovan McNabb at quarterback, but Cooley was his typically productive self, catching 77 passes for 849 yards (third most at tight end and matching his career-high) and three touchdowns. The only thing holding Cooley back from being mentioned with the elite fantasy tight ends is his touchdown count, and it doesn’t appear much will change in that regard in 2011. The Redskins continue to have problems at quarterback, and until that changes, Cooley will remain a solid albeit unspectacular fantasy performer. He remains a lower-tier TE1 for the coming season.
TE Fred Davis
Davis came on strong subbing in for an injured Chris Cooley midway through 2009, finishing that season with 48 receptions for 509 yards and six touchdowns despite starting just ten games. Heading into 2010, Davis seemed a decent bet to continue to produce even in a backup role, given the Redskins poor depth chart at wide receiver. However, that never happened and he finished the year with just 21 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns. The Redskins have upgraded at wide receiver for 2011, so look for Davis to be even more of an afterthought this coming season.