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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
Texans' O'Brien: WR DeAndre Hopkins can 'be one of the best'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is very encouraged by the performance of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last season, per ESPN. O'Brien went as far as to say that Hopkins can be one of the best.

"He had a really productive year," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "The thing that we really like about Hop and that we want him to continue to do is his work ethic. He’s a hungry player. He works every single day. He came into the spring a year ago and he was learning the offense and thinking out there, then all of a sudden you could see all the work he put in and learning, he just took off."

Due to the departure of wide receiver Andre Johnson, the progression of Hopkins will be under the microscope as he is now the focal point of the passing offense.

"We just want to see him continue and progress," O'Brien said. "We think he can be one of the best, we think he is one of the best. We have a lot of confidence in him and we’re looking forward to seeing him progress when the offseason program starts."

In two years with the Texans, Hopkins has reeled in 128 receptions for 2012 yards and eight touchdowns.


Giants won't rush WR Victor Cruz back to the field
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Although Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is hopeful that wide receiver Victor Cruz will be ready by training camp, the team will not rush him back, reports ESPN.

"I shouldn't say this, because medically I really don't have a definite answer, but by training camp hopefully, even if it's just to bring him," Coughlin said. "We're not going to just throw him to the wind. He'll work his way through. But I hope that would be the target."

Cruz tore his patellar tendon in week six of the 2014 season, causing him to miss the rest of the year. Coughlin is hopeful that he'll return to be the player that he was before the injury.

"I think he'll be the player that he was, and hopefully better," Coughlin said of Cruz. "But as far as when, I would be careful of what I would say there. Hopefully it's the first game. But if it isn't, you know we've done that one before. We just went through it. But I'm hoping it would be."

The former undrafted free agent has tallied 264 receptions for 3,963 yards and 24 touchdowns.


Lions QB Matthew Stafford to take more chances through the air
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's system for the first time last season. The team plans on taking more chances down the field in Stafford's second season in the new offense, Lombardi said, according to the team's official website.

“In his second year (in the offense) he’s going to be that much more comfortable,” Lombardi said.

“We’ll be able to tailor the offense a little bit more to what he likes and what he’s good at. I thought he played smart football and sometimes to a fault. We’ll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football.”

Although Stafford didn't take many shots down the field, he did throw a career-low 12 interceptions in 2014. 

The former first overall draft pick has thrown for 21,714 yards with 131 touchdowns and 85 interceptions during his six-year career.


Colts OLB Robert Mathis plans to be ready for training camp
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is not ready to run yet, he told Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL. Mathis added that he plans to be ready for the start of training camp.

“It’s not going as fast as I would like to, but we are getting well and we should be clicking in camp,” Mathis told Sirius.

Mathis was suspended for the first four games of last season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. He then suffered a torn achilles, forcing him to miss all 16 games of the 2014 season.

During his 11-year career with the Colts, Mathis has collected 487 total tackles, 111.0 sacks, 15 passes defensed and 48 forced fumbles.


Lions TE Eric Ebron has been working out with Matthew Stafford
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said that tight end Eric Ebron has been working out with quarterback Matthew Stafford in Atlanta this offseason, reports the Detroit News. Lombardi also said that the plan is to have Ebron be the No. 3 weapon in the passing game this year.

Ebron, 21, finished his rookie season with 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. 


Cowboys' Tony Romo: DeMarco Murray asked me to take a pay cut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Eagles running back DeMarco Murray was really hoping to remain with the Cowboys this offseason. So much so, he asked quarterback Tony Romo to take a pay cut to remain with the team, Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, per the Dallas Morning News.

"DeMarco ended up asking me, 'Why don't you take a pay cut?' I said, 'I will. I would take a pay cut to go do this,'" Romo said. "I was like, 'They're going to restructure me.' That's the same thing in some ways, just for the salary cap purposes. He was like, 'OK, now we're back to being friends again.' I would take $5 million less if meant getting him back.

"He knew that. It was just funny how he was literally worried about that part of it for a week. I'm like, 'That's not the reason.' I'm like, 'Obviously I'll restructure. I would even take a pay cut.' He was like, 'OK, we can be friends again.' It's amazing what you think about in those moments."


Giants QB Eli Manning wants to take offense 'to another level'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Giants quarterback Eli Manning is entering the second year in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system. Manning is ready to take the next step now that he is familiar with the system, reports the NY Daily News.

““This year will be a much easier transition, knowing that we have been through so much of it already,” said Manning, who recently had been working out at Ole Miss with some of their receivers and alumni. “It’s definitely a different starting point. I feel good about it. I feel that I have a good understanding of it.

“But there is still room to grow and that is why I try to keep it as fresh in my mind as possible. Looking at old game-plan sheets and calling plays in my head – throwing routes with receivers trying to call out plays to myself, so you don’t let it slip away. It was new last year and it wasn’t something I have been doing for 10 years, so you want to keep it fresh and go through your reminders and all your checks. So when we come back I haven’t taken a step backwards and have to re-learn things. It is still all there. There will be new stuff and we will be taking it to another level.”

Manning has started all 16 games in each season since 2005, throwing for 39,755 yards with 259 touchdowns and 185 interceptions.


Saints TE Josh Hill wants to grow into new role
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) After trading trading Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks, tight end Josh Hill is ready to step into his new role with the Saints, according to the team's offical website.

“I think it might open a few opportunities for me as I continue to grow in my role and just do everything they ask me to do,” Hill said when asked about the trade of Graham to the Seahawks.

Hill recognized that Graham helped him transition from college to the professional level.

“It’s a big difference, especially coming from a smaller school and a smaller city," Hill said. "He was always there for me. We became pretty good friends over the past few years so it will definitely be different without him.”

Head coach Sean Payton believes that Hill is ready to step up.

“Josh Hill is a player that we value a lot," Payton said last week at the NFL annual meeting. "He’s not on anyone’s fantasy first three rounds, I promise you, but he’s a real good tight end. He’s versatile in the running game, in the pass receiving game, a special teams player.”

Hill, heading into his third year in the NFL, has recorded 20 receptions for 220 yards and six touchdowns. 


Cowboys QB Tony Romo excited about this offseason
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is excited about what the offseason holds for him, according to ESPN.

“This is the first offseason where I’ve been able to kind of get after it this early and be able to kind of improve in a lot of different areas that I think you aren’t able to until you get healthy enough to attack it,” Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday. “I’m just excited about that, really.”

Romo, 34, is encouraged by the fact that he is able to do a lot of different things during the offseason process while working out.

“Now I’m able to do that while actually doing functional strength training through different versions of squats,” Romo said. “I’m not putting anything on my back and doing stuff like that but you are doing a lot of single-leg stuff and different things that I started getting into during the season that helped a lot. Now it’s nice to be able to do that in the offseason.”

Romo has thrown for 33,270 yards with 242 touchdowns and 110 interceptions in his 12-year career. 


WR Dwayne Bowe looks to revitalize himself with Browns
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is looking to revitalize his career now that he has joined the Browns, reports ESPN. Bowe was cut by the Chiefs in the middle of March.

"I have a chance to revitalize myself," Bowe, 30, told ESPN.com via telephone Tuesday. "Just sit back and watch."

Browns general manager Ray Farmer has familiarity with Bowe from their time with the Chiefs. The two sat down and watched tape from the 2010 season when he racked up 15 touchdown receptions.

"Him knowing what I can do, seeing me in practice, making crazy plays, splitting the safeties, he knows I still can do that," Bowe said. "I couldn't showcase that last year. He was pulling up old plays, saying, 'We are going to use you just like that.' Moving around, going on motion, trying to hit the deep ball, trying to break plays."

The 30-year-old wideout appreciated his time with the Chiefs and he has no regrets.

"It's been up and down, but it's been fun," Bowe said. "I don't regret nothing. People can talk about the NFL and playing wide receiver -- I feel I still have a good four more years in me."

Over his eight-year career, he has totaled 532 receptions for 7,155 yards and 44 touchdowns.


 
 
 
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