Expectations in DC were high coming off a 2020 season that saw their Football Team win the NFC East. However, injuries and mistakes early in the season put Washington at 2-6 at their bye. A week one injury to starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick thrust Taylor Heinicke into a year-long starting role. Despite providing entertaining moments, Heinicke led Washington to a bottom-10 scoring offense and threw 15 interceptions. Washington finished the 2021 season with a 7-10 record and out of the playoffs.
Formerly highly valued dynasty and redraft assets like Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, Curtis Samuel, and Logan Thomas all saw a decline in value over the past season. With the additions of sure-handed receiver Jahan Dotson and bulldozing runner Brian Robinson via the most recent draft, Washington has the playmakers to command league-wide respect. Whether or not Washington can have this offensive rebound will depend on the play of the new starting quarterback Carson Wentz. Many of these Washington assets will look like bargains in eight months if he can. If injuries and poor play lead to a repeat of 2021, some may be sell candidates before it all crumbles. Let’s dive into how we should treat these assets on a team with a wide range of outcomes.
With another offseason of retooling, the newly christened Commanders have brought in Wentz to lead an offense loaded with playmakers. Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner will be charged with getting the most out of the former Bison second-overall selection. Wentz is on his third team in as many years. However, in my eyes still offers an upgrade on either former Washington starter. While Wentz failed to live up to the expectations set in Indianapolis, he finished last season as the QB14, throwing for 27 touchdowns to only seven interceptions.
For single-QB leagues, that is enough to tell a story of trust in many of his weapons. Limited as a runner, he offers little upside in single-QB but has weekly streaming viability. Wentz plays Jacksonville and Detroit in weeks one and two. If late-QB is your plan in redraft leagues, Wentz is an early season option coming at an extreme discount. He also offers reliable QB2 production for Superflex managers relative to cost.
For dynasty leaguers, the biggest concern is job security. Washington drafted North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell to groom behind Wentz, and of course, Taylor Heinicke is still around, offering starting experience. Consider me willing to bet on Wentz remaining the Washington starter going into 2023. If QB2/3 is a need, whether contending or rebuilding, I’d confidently offer a 2023 second-round pick for Wentz.
Howell was highly proficient as a true freshman but struggled to replicate what made him a devy darling in consecutive follow-up seasons. In his final season, lacking playmakers and consistently under duress, Howell was a one-read and run passer and slipped to the fifth round of the NFL Draft. Lacking polish but still only 21 years old, the development upside is there. Howell has starter size, athleticism, and arm talent.
A competent 9-for-16 for a 145-yard appearance in the first preseason game gives me hope that he can contend for a backup spot next year and a starting spot in years to come. However, Howell is operating as the third QB in training camp, and the most likely outcome is that he does not see any game action in 2022. Stash him on your taxi squad, and be prepared to be patient.
Two things are simultaneously true of Gibson. First, he has had the most troubling offseason of any highly valued dynasty running back. JD McKissic was resigned to fill his former pass-catching role, and Brian Robinson was selected from Alabama in the third round of the most recent draft. In the opening game of the preseason, Gibson fumbled and worked into the second quarter with the backups. This week, he was spotted working on special teams with the punt unit at camp. These are all loud and concerning red flags for a runner who has shown talent and toughness over his two NFL seasons.
However, it’s also true that few 24-year-old runners coming off a 1,300-yard and ten touchdown season have had lower dynasty value than Gibson currently carries. He was the RB6 in the final five games of last season after McKissic went down with an injury. All while dealing with his injury, a stress fracture in his leg. In consecutive seasons, Gibson has demonstrated that he is an above-average running back and pass catcher. Still, fumbles, drops, missed assignments, and nagging injuries have never allowed him to ascend to the level of his talent.
I’m always willing to bet on talent. I’m offering 2023 second-round picks with an upside player in most all situations to acquire in dynasty. Gibson is vastly more talented than any other running back on this roster, and I was a proponent of Robinson as the RB3 in the most recent draft. Once a member of the “RB dead-zone” in redraft leagues, there is reason to believe he will slip well beyond that third/fourth round area with the recent news. He is becoming the embodiment of a perfect zero-RB player. Gibson is an excellent risk-reward bet at his more affordable redraft cost in the sixth and beyond.
We use the term “NFL ready” far too often. However, Robinson is ready to contribute in areas of the NFL game most rookies aren’t trusted to handle. An excellent pass protector in his years at Alabama, Robinson’s preparedness to play in goal-line and third-down situations right away offers a real threat to Gibson. Lacking game-breaking speed and explosion would limit the eventual upside of Robinson if he were to win the starting gig. Still, he possesses a well-rounded film profile and has already demonstrated some of these pro-ready skills in preseason action.
I expect Washington is a backfield with two running backs carrying weekly stand-alone value. I am still acquiring and supporting Gibson. However, I am more confident that Robinson is sure to solidify one of those stand-alone roles. The upside may be capped. However, those who spent a mid-late second-rounder on Robinson in early rookie drafts should be excited. Combined with his immediate high floor, few rookies beyond Breece Hall and Ken Walker will likely produce an RB2 season over the next several years.
I still believe Plan A for the Commanders is to have a backfield led by Gibson and supported mainly by Robinson. However, at this point, there is no doubting McKissic’s talent on passing downs. He is an excellent change-of-pace back. With how well-suited Robinson is for an eventual lead and early down role, the upside for McKissic to perform well for PPR managers still exists. For Gibson managers looking to hedge, the significantly cheaper hand-cuff target to lock in some production for 2022 is McKissic.
Few players get me more excited for what could be than McLaurin. He is amongst the best route-runners and most explosive athletes we have at wide receiver today. I have few doubts about his talent and believe he will ultimately produce elite fantasy numbers. While McLaurin was an older prospect entering the league, still only 26, he is entering his prime age. Wentz, in my opinion, is the most talented and dependable passer McLaurin has had.
Going outside the top-50 in FFPC dynasty ADP, I think few players give fantasy managers a chance at an immediate WR1 for a more affordable price. Buzzy training camp and preseason names like Gabe Davis, George Pickens, or Darnell Mooney are enough to grab another manager’s attention in trade discussions. I’d happily combine one of those names with a 2023 second-rounder to acquire McLaurin.
Without question, the most disrespected player in early dynasty rookie drafts, it appears the dynasty community is coming around to Dotson’s obvious talent and upside. Too often, the 16th overall pick in the most recent NFL draft fell into the early-mid second round of rookie drafts. McLaurin has since signed a contract extension, but I think Dotson can provide the secondary option needed to unlock this offense.
Dotson is a proficient route runner and exceptionally talented receiver at the catch point, especially relative to his size. I had some concerns about how that may translate to the next level. However, early camp reports already have referenced his extraordinary skills in this area, dismissing at least some of this fear. Dotson deserves to be valued similarly to the other rookie WRs selected in the first round of this NFL Draft. Despite some gained value, that still isn’t the case, and I’ve acquired Dotson in startups as late as the tenth round.
Coming off an injury-plagued season, Samuel will look to make good on the contract he signed just a year ago. Dotson’s drafting signifies that Washington sees Samuel as a gadget player, a role he excelled at in Carolina. Samuel will offer some weekly flex upside in redraft leagues and daily formats if given a chance to maximize this role. However, he isn’t someone I see a value spike coming for in dynasty and therefore isn’t someone I’m targeting, even at his severely depressed cost. Let someone else have Samuel.
The final wide receiver worth mentioning, Brown, a 2021 third-round pick, offers an intriguing skillset if he can surpass Samuel on the depth chart. An excellent deep-ball tracker and all-around vertical threat, Dyami can stretch defenses. He is an attractive post-hype sleeper who is an afterthought in dynasty after a disappointing rookie season.
Despite suffering several injuries that cost Thomas most of the 2021 season, he still showed the touchdown upside that made him TE3 the year prior. Scoring three times in five healthy games, Thomas is still a safe bet to occupy this red-zone role. However, at 31 years old and coming off an ACL that still has him sidelined, Thomas’ best years are likely behind him. With very little competition for playing time once healthy, Thomas will have weekly streaming upside in redraft leagues. He can be a bridge TE1 in dynasty leagues. However, if he is your starter, the time is now to attack a long-term backup and eventual starter.
Few teams have as much playmaking talent as the Commanders. Receivers McLaurin and Dotson make up one of the league’s more well-rounded and dynamic receiver duos. Gibson has the talent to be a bell-cow back and will be well supported by Robinson and McKissic. Wentz is an upgrade, albeit a modest upgrade, at quarterback. However, if he can return to the form of years previous, Wentz provides the upside to make the ADPs of Commanders skill players laughable a year from now. I expect this offense to perform significantly better than 2021, and fantasy points and dynasty value are coming to those intelligent enough to invest at these reduced prices.
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