QB Robert Griffin III
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan spent big in order to move up in the draft to select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III and provide Washington with a franchise quarterback to match up against the other talented signal callers in the division. RGIII’s unique talents match up well with Shanahan’s version of the west coast offense, which requires quarterbacks to spend plenty of time outside of the pocket, throwing on the run and scrambling for yards on the ground. At Baylor, Griffin was a monster operating out of the shotgun, throwing for 77 touchdowns and rushing for 32 more, but he will need to adapt his game in the NFL. He possesses an outstanding arm and blazing speed but the odds of him duplicating the season Carolina’s Cam Newton put together as a rookie seem slim. Griffin doesn’t have Newton’s size and strength meaning he won’t be his team’s goal line back like Newton. The Redskins also don’t have a true number one wideout like Newton had in Steve Smith but they do have a deep rotation of receivers that could be productive. If only the team had that type of depth along the offensive line, which has been a major concern and remains so heading into 2012. RGIII is an outstanding dynasty league prospect with a huge upside but fantasy owners are likely best served having him as a bench option in 2012.
RB Roy Helu
Helu got Shannied in his rookie season, forced to start the season behind veteran journeyman Tim Hightower and then splitting carries with Ryan Torain after Hightower was lost for the season in Week 7. Helu had a nice game in Week 9 against the 49ers, gaining 41 yards on the ground and accumulating 105 receiving yards, but saw minimal use for the next two games before having a nice three game stretch against the Seahawks, Jets and Patriots where he topped 100 yards rushing in every game and averaging 18.5 FPts. That’s nice production against a pair of solid defenses but Helu came out of it nicked up and saw his touches decrease for the season’s final three games. Entering 2012, Helu’s fantasy value is hard to nail down as the Redskins re-signed Hightower and there are whispers that head coach Mike Shanahan prefers him as the team’s starter due to his belief that Helu cannot stay healthy for an entire season. Odd thinking given that Hightower is coming off a torn ACL. Evan Royster is also in the mix and he had a pair of nice games last season. While Helu has more upside and talent than any back on the roster, he can’t be trusted because Shanahan can’t be trusted. Helu’s talent and opportunity suggest a 1,000 rushing yard season with 300-400 receiving yards and five to eight touchdowns is likely. But when do you start him? Draft Helu as a high-upside RB3 but really, this guy is best used as a flex option in leagues that use that position.
RB Tim Hightower
Despite coming off a torn ACL suffered in Week 7 of last season and his marginal productivity as a starter in 2011, the Redskins re-signed Hightower late in free agency and the plan is apparently to have him atop the depth chart entering training camp. Hey, welcome to the world of Mike Shanahan. The veteran journeyman who scored one touchdown in 84 carries in five games and averaged 3.8 yards per carry gets the starting nod over the hotshot second-year player with 4.40 speed and solid size and receiving ability in Roy Helu – hard to believe. Hightower has no upside, folks, unless he is playing in a powerhouse offense operating as a short yardage runner. That won’t be the description of the Washington offense in 2012. When Hightower is forced to run on early downs, his yards per carry suffers and you saw that last season. He will likely put together a few solid performances in 2012 but who knows when that will happen. Draft him as no better than an RB4 or RB5.
RB Evan Royster
Not fast, not shifty, but in the mix to be Washington’s starting running back in 2012. Royster, the Redskins 6th round pick in 2011, was nailed to the bench for most of his rookie year before starting a pair of games late in the season after Tim Hightower was lost for the season and Roy Helu couldn’t stay healthy. To his credit, Royster produced when given the opportunity, topping 100 rushing yards in each game and accumulating 314 total yards. However, he doesn’t possess Helu’s upside due to his lack of speed and agility. Who knows though? Rather than spending higher picks on Helu and Hightower, throwing a late round lottery ticket on Royster may yield more fantasy value than any of Washington’s three backs.
WR Pierre Garcon
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the Redskins see some beauty in Garcon because they paid him to be a number one wide receiver although he has never fulfilled that role. In Garcon, the Redskins add a player to their roster with enough talent in terms of size, speed and ability to adjust to poorly throw passes but one who has frustrated his coaches and quarterbacks with his frequent drops and questionable route running. If Garcon can learn the nuances of the position and avoid mental lapses, he could emerge as one of the league’s top receivers. Of course, he will need rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III to be an accurate passer early in his rookie season for Garcon to top 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. It is also worth noting that despite being on the receiving end of passes from perhaps the most accurate quarterback in the history of the league (Peyton Manning), Garcon caught just 55.1% of his passes during his first three years. On the plus side, he had a career year in 2011 catching passes from the likes of Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. That provides some comfort and indicates that even with Griffin under center, Garcon’s downside (barring injury) figures to be his 2011 production where he finished as the 22nd ranked fantasy wide receiver. Although, that ranking was burnished by a number of injuries and poor performances to receivers across the league. Garcon should be considered a low-end WR3 with upside entering 2012.
WR Josh Morgan
The Redskins showered Morgan with a lucrative two-year deal worth a reported $12-million in the offseason as part of an effort to overhaul a passing offense that struggled in 2011. The contract raised some eyebrows around the league especially considering the team already had Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson and Jabar Gaffney (since released) on the roster. As a 49er in 2011, Morgan missed all but five games of the season after suffering a broken leg, finishing the year with 15 receptions for 220 yards and one touchdown. The 2008 sixth-round pick burst onto the scene with an impressive training camp performance as a rookie but largely failed to assert himself as a consistent receiving option during his four years in San Francisco. In Washington, he will battle for a spot in the starting lineup but as a possession receiver with little upside in a crowded receiving corps, he has little fantasy appeal. He is clearly a lower-tier fantasy backup in all leagues but a player with more value in PPR leagues. A breakout 2012 campaign is very unlikely.
WR Santana Moss
With the free agent signings of Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, Moss’ career as a Redskin appeared to be over. Those predictions were premature and reports from the Redskins OTA’s indicate that he appears rejuvenated and could begin the season in the starting lineup. With Morgan better known for his blocking ability and 2nd year player Leonard Hankerson having struggled for most of his rookie season before suffering a season-ending hip injury in Week 10, Moss enters training camp as the odds on favorite to start opposite Garcon. What can we expect? At 33 years of age and coming off an injury-plagued 2011 season in which he produced his worst statistical year since 2002, we can’t expect much. While Moss may open the season in the starting lineup, he offers little upside since he no longer warrants a major role in the team’s offense.
WR Leonard Hankerson
Here’s a little secret. Hankerson is the Redskins receiver who makes the most sense taking your fantasy draft this summer and here is why. Some owner is going to overpay for Pierre Garcon’s upside. Another owner is going to overpay for Santana Moss’ past production given the reports that he was rejuvenated in this spring’s OTA’s. Another owner might think Josh Morgan is worth taking a late round flier on. And in the latter stages of your draft, Hankerson is going to be sitting there with most owners looking at his subpar rookie numbers of 13 receptions for 163 yards and no touchdowns and move to another player on their cheatsheet, leaving Hankerson for you. And you’re going to take him. He was productive at Miami, has solid size at 6’2” and 209 pounds to go along with excellent speed. In two starts in his rookie season, he caught 12 of 14 targets for 140 yards, including an eight-reception, 106-yard performance against Miami in which he suffered a season-ending hip injury. Monitor his pre-season 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 solid option in dynasty leagues.
WR Anthony Armstrong
After emerging in 2010 as the Redskins best option starting opposite Santana Moss and establishing himself as the team’s big play threat by catching 44 passes for 871 yards and three touchdowns, Armstrong seemed likely to build on that momentum in 2011. That never happened and in 2012, he has dropped on the depth chart and could be a roster casualty in the preseason. For deeper leagues, it is worth noting that Armstrong’s 19.8 yards per reception average in 2010 was good enough to finish third in the league in that category behind DeSean Jackson of the Eagles and the Steelers Mike Wallace.
TE Fred Davis
Entering 2011, expectations were low for the talented Davis – the Redskins 2008 2nd round pick. Despite playing well for an injured Chris Cooley at the conclusion of the 2009 season, Davis was a forgotten man in the Redskins offense in 2010 and with Cooley still in the picture, not much was expected to change in 2011. However, with Cooley suffering through knee and hand injuries, Davis started all 12 of the games he played before a four-game suspension for drug-related issues ended his season. He emerged as the team’s top receiving threat, reaching career-highs in receptions (59) and yards (796) while also catching three touchdown passes. His 8.1 FPts per game average ranked 5th at tight end and he should finish near that ranking in 2012 provided he plays 16 games. Of course, his next suspension will result in a 16-game absence so he brings enormous risk.
TE Chris Cooley
Cooley suffered through an injury plagued 2011 campaign where he produced career lows in every offensive category, finishing the season with just eight receptions for 65 yards and no touchdowns. Lingering knee issues caused him to miss the entire preseason and hampered him through the first five games of the season before a broken left index finger ended his campaign. At that point, Fred Davis has secured a stranglehold on the starting role at tight end before a drug-related suspension ended his season after 12 games. At 30 years of age, Cooley’s days as a solid fantasy option have come to an end.