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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
Rams QB coach is a big fan of Sam Bradford
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:53 am ET) Rams quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke is perfectly happy with starting quarterback Sam Bradford, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"Love him. Love him," Weinke said when asked about Bradford. Weinke, who has evaluated quarterbacks for a couple of seasons now, said Bradford had one of the best pro days he's ever seen. "A few years ago when Andrew Luck came out they said who would you compare him to? And I said the closest I would see is Sam Bradford."

As part of Weinke's interview process with the team, he met with Bradford for roughly three-and-a-half hours. It wasn't really a formal meeting, though, it was more so the two could get to know eachother. 

Bradford has reportedly been granted permission to seek a trade, but it doesn't appear Rams' ownership wants to part with the 27-year-old quarterback. 


RB Steven Jackson, cut by Falcons, isn't planning to retire
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Though he's without a team at the moment, running back Steven Jackson has no plans to retire. 

The Falcons officially released Jackson Thursday night, with immediate questions emerging about his future. On his own website, though, Jackson posted a statement saying he isn't hanging up the cleats just yet.  

"A lot has been written lately about my future," Jackson wrote. "There are questions about my age, and what I have left in the tank. Of that, I will simply say this. For the first nine years of my career, I was used like a battering ram, punishing opposing defense over four quarters of a game. Maybe you stopped me the first five times I got the ball, but by the 15th or 20th time I got it, late in a game -- let's just say you were really feeling me at that point.

"Make no mistake: I can still punish a defense. I still have a warrior's heart. There are 1,000-yard seasons left in these legs. I know what I am still capable of, and I have every intention of proving it."

Jackson also admitted his two seasons with the Falcons were a disappointment as the organization did not reach the postseason in either season. He combined for only 1,250 yards in 2013 and 2014 after posting eight consecutive seasons with over 1,000 yards when he was with the Rams. 


Raiders expected to release safety Tyvon Branch
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Raiders will be parting ways with safety Tyvon Branch, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora

Branch only played in three games during the 2014 season due to a foot injury that placed him on injured reserve. That followed his 2013 season in which Branch was only able to participate in two games. 

However, Branch could be a commodity in what is otherwise considered a weak safety market. 

Branch signed a four-year, $26..6 million contract with the Raiders in 2012, with $17.6 million guaranteed.


Browns working to re-sign CB Buster Skrine
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Browns are hopeful they can re-sign cornerback Buster Skrine but are probably going to have to try to do so after he hits the free agent market, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Skrine had a single-season best four interceptions in 2014 and will be someone that could command a hefty price tag on the open market. The Plain Dealer reports that Skrine is expecting anywhere from $5.5 million to $7 million per season. 

The Browns should be in a good position to match an offer for Skrine. Depending on what the 2015 cap number per team is, the Browns are likely to have well over $30 million to spend in free agency. 


Colts, Matt Hasselbeck agree to one-year contract
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) It looks like Matt Hasselbeck's NFL career will extend at least one more year. 

The Colts reached a one-year deal with backup quarterback Hasselbeck, the team announced on Thursday. 

Hasselbeck, 39, will enter his 17th year in the NFL. After starting out as Brett Favre's backup in Green Bay for his first two seasons in 1999 and 2000, he joined the Seahawks via a trade and quickly established himself as a starting-caliber quarterback. 

In 16 NFL seasons, Hasselbeck has totaled 34,948 yards, 203 touchdowns and 148 interceptions. He'll be the top candidate to back up Andrew Luck next season. 


Report: Vikings, Adrian Peterson can communicate with each other
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Now that Adrian Peterson has been moved back to the Commissioner's Exempt list, the Vikings can reach out and communicate with him, according to a report from Pro Football Talk

Peterson had been suspended by the NFL until April 15 and upheld by an arbitrator. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Doty overturned the arbitrator's decision, sending the case back down to go through the CBA. The NFL has removed the suspension, for now, while moving Peterson back to the Commissioner's Exempt list. 

The NFL announced in a statement that it is appealing Doty's ruling

Since the Vikings want Peterson to remain with them, they can now reach out and hold talks directly. While suspended by the NFL, the Vikings were unable to communicate with him. This is an interesting development because the Vikings have publicly stated they want him to stay in Minnesota. 

However, at least one report as indicated Peterson wants to leave and continue his NFL career elsewhere


Falcons release running back Steven Jackson
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Falcons released running back Steven Jackson on Thursday, the team announced.

Jackson was owed $3.75 million in 2015, but with running back Devonta Freeman on the roster, it appears Jackson is expendable. In 2014, Jackson rushed for 707 yards and six touchdowns on 190 carries.

By cutting Jackson, the Falcons saved $3.7 million against the salary cap, reports the NFL Network.


Redskins sign Ricky Jean Francois to three-year contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Redskins signed defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois to a three-year deal Thursday, reports the NFL Network.

The deal is believed to be worth $9 million with $4 million guaranteed. With incentives, the deal can reach $11.25 million.

Jean Francois was cut by the Colts on Monday. In 2014, Jean Francois totaled 28 tackles and three sacks.


Report: Browns believe they still have a shot at Josh McCown
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Browns remain confident that they can snag quarterback Josh McCown from the free agent ranks, according to a report from ESPN.com

McCown visited the Browns this week and has also received interest from the the Jets, Bills and Bears. The Browns are in the market for a starting-caliber quarterback with Brian Hoyer possibly leaving in free agency and with Johnny Manziel's status up in the air with the off-field issues hes working through. 

McCown threw 13 touchdowns to just one interception with the Bears in 2013, doing this while filling in for an injured Jay Cutler. His performance earned him a contract with the Buccaneers, though injuries and poor play resulted in a season that saw him throw 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. 

McCown was released by the Buccaneers earlier this offseason. 


Report: Cardinals sign cornerback Damond Smith
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Cardinals signed cornerback Damond Smith on Thursday, reports The Baltimore Sun.

Smith did not play during the 2014 season after being cut by the Chiefs. He has never played in an NFL game.


 
 
 
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