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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Washington Redskins

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Redskins are oozing with optimism this offseason, and there are plenty of reasons to be excited heading into 2014.

There's a new coach in Jay Gruden, a new weapon in DeSean Jackson and a healthy quarterback in Robert Griffin III.

The latter is easily the best news of all -- for Redskins fans and Fantasy owners. When last season ended, Griffin was on the bench because former coach Mike Shanahan wanted to protect his surgically repaired knee. Kirk Cousins was given a three-game audition, and he failed, not that there was any doubt Griffin would be the starter this year.

After last year's offseason where Griffin couldn't work out and was limited with a knee brace following his injury in the 2012 playoffs, he's 100 percent and ready to go. He's apparently picked up Gruden's offense already, and his receiving corps is loaded with the addition of Jackson and Andre Roberts to go with Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed.

On defense, the Redskins added defensive end Jason Hatcher to improve their pass rush and safety Ryan Clark to help the secondary, but replacing retired middle linebacker London Fletcher will be tough. Keenan Robinson has the inside track to start, but he will be challenged by Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan.

The winner of that battle is someone to monitor heading into Draft Day for IDP leagues this season.

Bounce-back candidate ... Robert Griffin III

Griffin went from the No. 6 quarterback in standard Fantasy leagues in 2012 to No. 19 last year when he struggled to return from the knee injury in the 2012 playoffs. He passed for 3,203 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and had 86 carries for 489 yards, but he never looked comfortable despite six games with 20-plus Fantasy points in 13 starts.

We're expecting the Griffin from his rookie year to show up, and there's a lot to like about him this season. He has plenty of weapons with Garcon, Jackson, Reed and Roberts, and Gruden should allow him to make plays. He's also without restrictions on his injured knee.

Gruden has already said he wants Griffin to run more, which is a great sign, and Gruden also helped Andy Dalton finish as a Top 12 Fantasy quarterback the past two seasons. It won't take much for Griffin to return as a Top 10 quarterback this year, and he's worth drafting as a No. 1 option.

Health is always going to be a concern for Griffin, but you can wait on him with a late-round pick on Draft Day. He has the chance to rebound with a big year after last season's disappointment.

Still a stud ... Alfred Morris

Morris was viewed as a disappointment in 2013 because he scored six less touchdowns from the previous year, but that's unfair criticism. Yes, his touchdown total was nearly cut in half from 13 to seven, but he still had 276 carries for 1,275 yards. He had 335 carries for 1,613 yards in 2012, and his yards per carry were basically the same (4.8 in 2012 and 4.6 in 2013).

What you should like about Morris this season is the addition of Jackson and all the weapons in the passing game should open up plenty of open lanes at the line of scrimmage. Gruden still plans to use a similar scheme running the ball that Shanahan implored, which helped Morris finish as a Top 15 Fantasy running back the past two seasons.

The negative is Gruden could get pass happy, and Morris has struggled in that area with 20 combined catches for 155 yards in his career. He did catch four passes for 68 yards at the Pro Bowl, and Gruden said he could see Morris catching 20-25 passes a year.

We consider Morris a No. 1 Fantasy running back, and he's worth drafting in Round 2 in standard leagues and Round 3 in PPR formats. Even if he "struggles" again like he supposedly did in 2013, you're still looking at 1,300 total yards with the chance for double digits in touchdowns. I'll take that upside in what should be an explosive offense.

Tight end to target ... Jordan Reed

2013 Touches Leaders
808 total touches
Alfred Morris 285 (276 car., 9 rec.) 35.3%
Pierre Garcon 115 (2 car., 113 rec.) 14.2%
Roy Helu 93 (62 car., 31 rec.) 11.5%
Jordan Reed 46 (1 car., 45 rec.) 5.7%
Santana Moss 45 (3 car., 42 rec.) 5.6%
All Others 224 27.2%

We're all searching for the next Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. Some will tell you it could be Dennis Pitta or Jordan Cameron. Others will look at Zach Ertz or Eric Ebron.

Reed is definitely in that discussion, and if he can stay healthy he could be a star. He might not be as good as Graham or Gronkowski, but the potential is there.

Reed finished his rookie season in 2013 with 45 catches for 499 yards and three touchdowns in only nine games. He missed the final six games with concussion issues, but he's expected to be fine heading into this year.

He averaged 7.5 Fantasy points a game when he was healthy last year, and if you project that over 16 games he would have finished as the No. 7 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues with 121 points. We think he's capable of being in that range, and he's a No. 1 Fantasy tight end coming into the season.

So if you're the owner who won't draft Graham, Gronkowski, Julius Thomas or Vernon Davis in the first four rounds, then look for Reed beginning in Round 6 or 7. I like him at No. 7 overall at his position after the aforementioned four guys along with Pitta and Jason Witten. Reed has the ability to be that good.

Schedule analysis

The first thing that jumps out on the Redskins schedule is four road games in a six-week period starting in Week 8. They play at Dallas and at Minnesota before a bye in Week 10. Then they face Tampa Bay at home in Week 11 before road games at San Francisco and at Indianapolis. Having the NFC West on the docket won't be easy, but the Redskins do avoid a trip to Seattle, which is a positive. And this offense should benefit with five games indoors, which will help based on their speed at receiver.

Training camp battles

Who's the No. 4 receiver? The Redskins are locked in with their Top 3 guys with Garcon, Jackson and Roberts. But the No. 4 spot could come down to Santana Moss and Leonard Hankerson, who is coming off last year's torn ACL. If Hankerson is healthy he could bump Moss down the depth chart, so keep an eye on his status during training camp. But no matter who wins this job, neither should be drafted in the majority of Fantasy leagues this year.

Bold prediction

Jackson was awesome last year in Chip Kelly's offense with career highs in catches (82) and yards (1,332), and he tied his career high in touchdowns (nine). But he's not going to duplicate those stats with the Redskins, and I don't expect him to finish as a Top 24 Fantasy receiver this year.

He accomplished that feat last season with Jeremy Maclin out, and Jackson struggled the previous three seasons when he wasn't the clear-cut No. 1 option. Garcon has that role with the Redskins, and he led the NFL in targets last year.

Jackson will still have his moments -- his two games against the Eagles in Week 3 and Week 16 should be dominant -- which make him a solid mid-round selection. But if you draft Jackson as a starter you will probably be left disappointed. I would only consider him a No. 3 receiver in 2014.

Injury report

Leonard Hankerson (knee), questionable for start of training camp.

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Player News
Chiefs have no plans to cut ties with ILB Derrick Johnson
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:18 pm ET) The Chiefs have just $2.8 million of cap space with the NFL draft less than one month away, and while the team needs to find a way to make more room beneath the camp, the Chiefs will not part ways with inside linebacker Derrick Johnson, the Kansas City Star reports.

"Derrick is obviously one of the greatest inside linebackers to ever play for the club and there are some pretty good ones, if you go back in time," team chairman Clark Hunt said. "In terms of the modern era of the Chiefs, it’s hard to think about the club without thinking about Derrick at inside linebacker. He’s a great leader, he’s a tremendous person, represents the club well on and off the field. We’re looking forward to having him back this year, hopefully good as new. You mentioned that his contract is up this year. There will be a point in time where we address that. But it just hasn’t been germane to this point."

Johnson missed last season due to a torn Achilles tendon and has a cap number of $5.2 million this season.


Report: 49ers to sign LB Desmond Bishop
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:12 pm ET) The 49ers will sign inside linebacker Desmond Bishop, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Bishop joined the 49ers last December and recorded two tackles in two games. He emerged as a starter with the Packers in 2010 and racked up more than 100 tackles for two straight seasons before missing the 2012 season and becoming a free agent. He could win significant playing time in the 49ers' base set after the retirements of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland.


Eagles announce one-year deal with WR Miles Austin
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:08 pm ET) The Eagles announced Tuesday that they have signed wide receiver Miles Austin to a one-year contract. The deal was reported Monday and became official Tuesday after Austin, who caught 47 passes for 568 yards with two touchdowns in 2014, passed his physical.

Report: Ravens sign QB Matt Schaub
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(2:01 pm ET) The Ravens have signed quarterback Matt Schaub, Sports Illustrated reports.

Schaub threw just 10 passes after joining the Raiders before last season but has extensive experience as an NFL starter, having made 90 starts, mostly with the Texans. He's completed 63.9 percent of his passes in his career while racking up 130 touchdowns and 86 interceptions. Schaub will serve as a backup to starter Joe Flacco next season.


Report: Seahawks' Russell Wilson won't land fully-guaranteed deal
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(1:40 pm ET) Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been in talks to land a contract extension this offseason, and while a large portion of the deal will be guaranteed, the quarterback will not receive a fully-guaranteed contract, NFL.com reports.

CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported on March 21 that Wilson and the Seahawks were not close to an agreement. La Canfora also said during the NFL combine that it's possible Wilson plays out his rookie deal with the team. He has a cap hit a little less than $1.7 million in the last year of his rookie contract.


Report: Stevan Ridley visiting Dolphins Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:57 pm ET) Free-agent running back Stevan Ridley is visiting the Dolphins Tuesday, the Miami Herald reports.

Ridley spent his first four seasons with the Patriots but struggled in 2014, rushing for just 340 yards and two touchdowns on 94 carries. He did rack up a career-high 1,263 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. The running back underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL in November.


Pagano: Andre Johnson brings a 'big, physical presence' to Colts
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:43 pm ET) Colts coach Chuck Pagano sees wide receiver Andre Johnson as a big presence underneath for the team's offense, adding a complementary piece to the speed of T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief, ESPN.com reports.

"He's a big body guy that can still separate, create separation," Pagano said. "He's got a big catch radius. But again, the contested catches that you see on tape. It's very difficult to match up. There are few corners in the league that have length and size to match up but most are aren't on that size and they get pushed around a little bit. He's going to be able to bring that big, physical presence to us."

Johnson managed just 936 yards and three touchdowns on 85 receptions in 15 games in 2014, marking the first time he's played at least 10 games but not reached 1,000 yards since 2005. However, Pagano doesn't think Johnson has taken a step back.

"You don't see a huge dropoff numbers-wise," Pagano said. "Maybe in touchdowns. But you still see a guy who is more than capable of stretching the defense. Certainly somebody who an opponent can't just line up and say, 'Don't worry about Andre Johnson.' They're still going to have to tend to him if you will. If they choose to double [Hilton] and take him out of the game, you have another guy on the other side, along with the rest of the guys on the roster who can still stretch the defense. He's a big, possession type guy. He makes contested catches in traffic. He's got a big catch radius. A big body. Those guys are hard to defend."


Report: Ravens interested in TE Rob Housler
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:34 pm ET) The Ravens and tight end Rob Housler have mutual interest, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The two sides have held contract discussions and while a deal has yet to be reached, both the Ravens and Housler will continue working toward a compromise. He could serve as an athletic pass-catching tight end in new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman's offense if signed.

Housler posted career lows in 2014, grabbing just nine passes for 129 yards.


Saints to start Jahri Evans, Tim Lelito at guard in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:29 pm ET) Saints coach Sean Payton said at the annual NFL meeting that he doesn't think the moves the team has made this offseason have opened any holes in the starting lineup, indicating specifically that Tim Lelito would join Jahri Evans as the team's starting guards after the departure of Ben Grubbs, Saints.com reports.

"Those aren’t holes," Payton said about losing Grubbs and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton. "We’re not moving a player if we feel like there’s no…we feel like we have a pretty good idea of how everything is lining up. We’ve got a center we know that starts in this NFL, we’ve got a guard, (Tim) Lelito will play left guard, Jahri Evans is the right guard. The same way at receiver. So we weren’t looking to make a move that created another 'must'."

Lelito played 294 snaps on offense last season, per Pro Football Focus, and graded out positively as a run blocker and negatively as a pass blocker.  He was an undrafted free agent out of Grand Valley State in 2013.


Lions' Caldwell expects Theo Riddick to have large role in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:19 pm ET) Lions coach Jim Caldwell expects running back Theo Riddick to help boost a rushing attack that ranked 28th in 2014 and cut Reggie Bush after the season, MLive.com reports.

"We try and give (the ball) to the guys who are going to do something with it, and I think he's going to be one of those guys who's going to force us to give him the ball more," Caldwell said last week at the NFL owners meetings. "I think you're really going to see him come along."

Riddick rushed for 51 yards on 20 carries in 2014 and added 316 yards and four touchdowns on 34 catches.

"I can't tell you he's going to carry the ball 50 more times, or I can't tell you he's going to get the ball thrown to him 30 more times, until we have a chance to work through this gauntlet. Know what I mean?" Caldwell said. "When we get to the end of the gauntlet, then maybe I can give you a little more of a view. But I'm never going to tell you, 'Hey, we expect this guy to do this or that.' What role he plays, how much he's going to get it, kind of depends on how well we move the ball and how many opportunities we get, what kind of game it is, are we playing great defense, that kind of thing.

"But I will say that he's going to improve. He has all the qualities. Here's the thing -- if you're smart, if you're tough, if you're disciplined, if you have a great work ethic, there's improvement ahead. And he has all those things. So I think he's going to improve, and I think he's going to force us to get him the ball a little bit more in some situations."


 
 
 
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