The Redskins are oozing with optimism this offseason, and there are plenty of reasons to be excited heading into 2014.
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
|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%|
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.
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.
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.
Leonard Hankerson (knee), questionable for start of training camp.