January 6, 2013.
It’s a date that many Washington Redskins fans may not forget. After leading his team to the playoffs, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III entered the locker room at halftime with a lead over the Seattle Seahawks in the vaunted Seattle environment. Then, after the Seahawks took the lead in the fourth quarter, something happened.
Griffin chased down a poor snap, and during his attempts to obtain the escaping ball, his knee buckled, resulting in pain so bad it immediately sent him to the ground. The rookie sensation tore his ACL and during his sophomore season, simply wasn’t the same. As a result, the Redskins took a major step back in 2013, finishing with just three wins. Though, their lowly defense surely had a lot to do with that, too. Washington’s 2013 campaign was the equivalent of watching the Washington Sentinels in the beginning of The Replacements.
You know, minus the vomit.
So, it’s now 2014. The Redskins have made moves, RG3 is (hopefully) at 100 percent and redemption is on the agenda. Fantasy football owners probably won’t want to touch Griffin again, seeing as he is coming off a season in which he threw 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. However, if you are one of those folks that say you will never touch player x again, you are going about it wrong. It’s a new season for RG3 and the Redskins, and because the quarterback position is so insanely deep, he serves as a nice draft day bargain.
The Redskins Offense
In Griffin’s inaugural season with Washington, the Redskins’ offense was as explosive as any, as they finished 5th in yards and 4th in points per game (27.3). However, 2013 was a completely different year, as RG3 looked shaky, inconsistent and because of it, the Washington offense faltered at times. 2014 features a remodeling in D.C., starting with the headsets.
Washington goes from run-oriented head coach Mike Shanahan to pass-happy Jay Gruden. Since being hired as the Bengals offensive coordinator, Cincinnati’s offense has improved from 22nd in scoring to 12th in 2012, finishing 6th in scoring a season ago. He hasn’t received a ton of attention and credit for the job he’s done, seeing as the Bengals have failed to get over that first round exit, but Gruden truly has been good for Cincinnati’s offense. Now he joins a Redskins offense with just as good, if not, better weapons than in Cincinnati. You many not see Griffin rush for 800 yards and six touchdowns again, but his passing numbers may improve.
Gruden’s track record
Andy Dalton’s pass attempts improved in each season under Gruden, but the thing is, he finished top-10 in passes a season ago, despite having two capable running backs to use. Meanwhile, RG3 has ranked 25th and 18th in pass attempts during the first two seasons of his career, and despite that relatively low volume, he still finished as the number seven fantasy quarterback in 2012. Gruden has already stated that he was never a huge fan of the read-option, so it wouldn’t surprise me if that curtailed quite a bit. Still, he is a coach that has plenty of plans for his franchise quarterback, including being there for the franchise.
“We want to give him some chances to see the field a little bit more with some drop-back passes, and we’ll see how he handles it moving forward,” Gruden said. “I don’t think it was a total wash last year. I still think he did some good things, and the more you play, the better you’re gonna get. You learn from experience, both good and bad.”
Minimizing injury risk for a mobile quarterback? Sign me up.
It’s funny. When I started to sit down and write this, the Redskins were in serious negotiations with newly released wideout, DeSean Jackson. I figured he couldn’t go to the Eagles rival, could he?
But of course.
Jackson agreed to a three-year deal with the Redskins late Tuesday night, angering Eagles fans everywhere. The Redskins have already signed Andre Roberts, who will now be a capable third wide receiver for Washington. And, of course, they already have a stud in Pierre Garcon, who set a franchise record for receptions in a single season (113). Oh, and tight end Jordan Reed showed flashes last year, too, and if he stays healthy, he is yet another athletic, big target for RG3. Combined all of that with a very good running game led by workhorse Alfred Morris, and Griffin has no excuse this season.
Jackson is going to stretch the field and could make Griffin’s job a lot easier. The ability of taking a screen or short pass to the house will result in easy fantasy points for the signal caller. And although Griffin doesn’t take a ton of shots downfield, he is very capable and effective when doing so. In 2012, Griffin attempted just 36 attempts of 20 yards or more. However, seven of those passes went for touchdowns and he sported a deep ball accuracy of about 50 percent, which was top-five in the league. Hat tip to the statistical geniuses at Pro Football Focus for that info. With Gruden and now Jackson in Washington, I expect more than nine percent of his passes to travel 20 yards.
He can still run
Don’t be mistaken.
Just because RG3 is coming off an ACL injury and has a pass-happy head coach does not mean he will suddenly just stop running. He will take off and run and try to make plays. It’s just one of those things that is going to happen. The guy is a winner and wants to do whatever it takes to help his team.
Not to mention he is pretty darn fast, so that helps.
In 2012, Griffin obviously made the most noise with his legs, rushing for an insane 815 yards and seven touchdowns. Sure, the arrival of the read-option helped, but that didn’t quite tell the whole story.
Type of run
RG3 was lethal when a play broke down and he took off, more effective than when a running play is set up for him. And for all the hype the read-option received, Griffin still posted just 25 fewer attempts on non-designed plays. So, with the expected regression in pistol formation and read-option, I am not going to automatically assume that Griffin is suddenly going to just stop running. The knee brace is off and simply put, he wants to run.
And we all know about the massive upside mobile quarterbacks have in fantasy land.
You are going to hear this a million times, by quarterback is so dang deep once again this season, which keeps Griffin among the second or third tier among the position. You can get him as your starting quarterback around the 10th round, potentially. Find me another quarterback in that range with Griffin’s upside.
I dare you.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.