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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
Patterson, McKinnon held out of Vikings' practice Wednesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:48 pm ET) Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) and running back Jerick McKinnon (lower back) were held out of practice Wednesday. The Vikings are preparing to play the Panthers in Week 13.

Bucs looking for 'the answer' for lackluster running game
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:44 pm ET) The Buccaneers have struggled to run the football in 2014, and coach Lovie Smith knows it too well. The Bucs have rushed for fewer than 100 yards in eight of their last nine games and rank second to last in the NFL in rushing yards per game (84.0 ypg).

"A defense can just tee off on you if you can’t run the football," Smith said, per The Tampa Tribune. "When you can’t run the ball consistently in this league, it hurts."

The Bucs did rush for more than 100 yards in each of their first two games. Since then, they are averaging 73.8 rushing yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry.

The Bucs are averaging 21.7 run plays per game, which is the second-fewest in the NFL. Only one time this year has a Bucs' running back carried the ball more than 20 times. Offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo admits it might be time to change that, and get running backs Doug Martin, Charles Sims and Bobby Rainey more carries.

"We haven’t tried that yet," Arroyo said when asked if the solution might be as simple as calling 30 or more rushing plays per game. "Maybe that is the answer."


Broncos TE Thomas inching toward return from ankle sprain
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:40 pm ET) Broncos tight end Julius Thomas did not practice Wednesday, but was working on the field with strength and conditioning coaches, per the team website. He missed the Week 13 game with a sprained ankle that prevented him from practicing all week.

Thomas has made the most of his 40 catches this season, turning 12 into touchdowns.


Browns LB Karlos Dansby 'real close' to game action
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:35 pm ET) Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby has backed the statement made earlier Wednesday by Mike Pettine, who offered that the veteran could play Sunday in Buffalo. Dansby told the Akron Beacon Journal that he's "real close" to returning from a spained MCL that has only caused him to miss one game so far.

Dansby, who added that he's been running and cutting and needs to just pass a few more tests, has been one of the premier players on a surprising contender. He has contributed to 73 tackles and has three sacks.


Redskins add Chase Minnifield back to roster
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:34 pm ET) The Redskins elevated cornerback Chase Minnifield from the practice squad to the active roster Thursday. Minnifield has appeared in six games this season, totaling two tackles.

Seahawks' Carroll: Lynch 'had a really good week' of practice
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:22 pm ET) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the team bounced back well physically from Sunday's game against the Cardinals, particularly running back Marshawn Lynch, according to The Seattle Times

Carroll said Lynch "had a really good week" of practice and is ready to face the 49ers on Thursday.

"The tempo really helped him get through and he came out of last week feeling pretty good," Carroll said. "So he’s in good shape this week."

The 49ers are yielding 92.9 rushing yards per game, which is the fifth-lowest average in the NFL. San Francisco has allowed just six rushing touchdowns in 11 games.


Raiders RB Latavius Murray back at practice Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:16 pm ET) Week 12 breakout back Latavius Murray returned to practice Wednesday for the Raiders after being sidelined several days with a concussion.

Murray rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries last Thursday against Kansas City. It remains to be seen if he's cleared to play Sunday against St. Louis.


Reggie Bush is listed as questionable again on Lions' injury report
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:14 pm ET) The Lions released their Week 13 injury report Wednesday, and announced they will play Thursday against the Bears without defensive tackle Nick Fairley (knee) and guard Larry Warford.

Running back Reggie Bush (ankle, back) is listed as questionable for a third straight week. However, he told reporters he expects to play, according to MLive.com. Bush also said the same thing leading up to Week 12 before sitting out.

Tackle Riley Reiff (knee) is also listed as questionable, while Ezekiel Ansah (elbow), safety James Ihedigbo (knee), wide receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle), defensive end George Johnson (foot), cornerback Rashean Mathis (ankle) and safety Glover Quin (back) are all listed as probable.


O'Brien: Texans CB Jackson definitely out Sunday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:09 pm ET) Bill O'Brien said that Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson, who has missed the last three weeks with a knee injury, is set to sit Sunday against Tennessee, but could return for the Week 14 game at Jacksonville.

Jackson recorded 42 tackles and an interception before being sidelined.


Texans QBs Thad Lewis, Tom Savage battle for backup role
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:02 pm ET) Bill O'Brien has announced that the Texans will have a competition between just-signed veteran Thad Lewis and rookie Tom Savage for the backup quarterback role behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The winner will be determined in practice this week.


 
 
 
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