The Commanders defense took a step back in 2021, finishing 25th in points against (25.5/g). The team was fourth (20.6/g) in 2020. The Commanders defense dealt with many injuries, but that’s hardly an excuse. The team gave up the most passing touchdowns (34) in the league last season. They also surrendered the fourth most passing yards (4,333). Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will return for his third season. The defense is led by Chase Young, Cole Holcomb, and Kamren Curl. The Commanders’ defense finished 17th in sacks (38) last season. Washington had the sixth highest blitz percentage (31.0%) according to pro-football-reference.
Washington finished 7-10 last season, third in the NFC East division. The team was not aggressive in the off-season, and it appears they have a long way to go to keep pace with the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles to compete for the division crown.
2021 IDP Review
The Washington defensive line played over 800 snaps; 76% of those were with four down linemen, exceeding the league average of 59%. This seems right as the Commanders have four first-round NFL draft picks along their front.
The LB usage of the Commanders is as you would expect. The team finished just under league average with two linebackers on the field at 68%. Holcomb and second-year LB Jamin Davis are in line for most of those snaps heading into this season.
The secondary for the Commanders are likely going to see a change from last season to this season. They lined up in ‘Big Nickel” 41% of their snaps, well above the league average of 12%. The loss of Landon Collins will limit the team’s versatility last season. It may be for the best, seeing as how the team could not stop opposing QBs from throwing touchdowns against them last season.
Chase Young, DE
Young saw his second NFL season cut short after nine games when a torn ACL cost him the remainder of the season. Young finished with 7.5 sacks on his way to AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020. The Commander’s pass rusher finished as the DL21 among all EDGE eligible players as a rookie. An unproductive and injury-shortened 2021 saw him finish the season as the DL169. He finished with a 75.1 PFF grade last season, including an 84.5 run defense grade. Pro Football Focus has Young as the seventh best defensive player under 25 entering the 2022 season.
Young is an elite talent who can change a game with a sudden impact play. Through his first 24 games, he has nine impact plays (6 FF,3 FR), a defensive touchdown, and nine sacks. Over his first two seasons, the former Ohio State Buckeye has averaged 9.91 fantasy points per game. IDP managers expected more when he was selected in the first round of many dynasty rookie drafts. Young remains the consensus DL3 among the Dynasty Nerds’ IDP team, so despite a slower than expected start to his career, his dynasty value has not taken much of a hit.
Montez Sweat, DE
When healthy, the Commanders have two of the best EDGE rushers in the NFL. Sweat has been a consistent fantasy producer over his first three seasons. Sweat has at least five sacks in each of those seasons. He missed six games last season but managed to score 12 fantasy points or more in 50% of his games played. Sweat has averaged nearly three tackles per game over his career, and a 1.09 quarterback hits a game. His health has never been in question. He’s played 16 games in his first two seasons and finished as the DL8 in 2020.
There’s no doubt the Commanders are looking to keep Sweat as long as possible. The team exercised the fifth-year option keeping him under contract until 2024. The former Mississippi State Bulldog is currently the dynasty DL12; IDP managers will be looking for a bounce back in 2022. The defensive line can be a victim of position scarcity; savvy dynasty owners should use a down season from Sweat to acquire him. As rookie fever is on everyone’s mind this time of year, use those upside rookies, or future mid-round rookie picks to acquire a proven fantasy stud.
Jonathan Allen, DT
Allen was the standout of an overall disappointing Washington front last season. He finished as the DL19 in 2021 and completed his fourth consecutive season of at least 60 tackles. The former Alabama defensive tackle is the consensus dynasty nerds DL33 and continues to get better.
Allen has been consistent; his value in DT premium leagues is underrated. The Commanders interior defensive lineman has averaged 3.96 tackles per game and 0.39 sacks per game over his last four seasons. He collected ten tackles for loss and 30 quarterback hits last season. In non-DT-required leagues, Allen gives you enough production to earn weekly starts.
Da’Ron Payne, DT
The fourth and final first-round pick amongst the Commander’s defensive front is Payne. He is another University of Alabama product which has consistently put up solid numbers for IDP managers. Payne has averaged 56.75 tackles per season while adding 35 quarterback hits, including a season-high 15 last season.
Payne will be a free agent after this season. IDP managers would be wise to take advantage of him playing for a new contract in 2022. The Commander DT was the DL51 last season. Adding Young and Sweat back in the lineup should allow him more opportunities to create some impact plays and increase his fantasy production this season.
Cole Holcomb, MLB
Holcomb led the Commanders in tackles (142) last season and finished as the LB11. He averaged 15.18 fantasy points per game. Holcomb scored double-digit points in twelve of his fifteen games and never had less than seven fantasy points in a game last season. The Washington LB played over 1,000 snaps last season and accounted for 99% of the team’s defensive snaps.
The former North Carolina LB has collected 202 solo tackles in his young career, an average of 67.3 solo tackles per season. In default, Dynasty Nerds IDP scoring that’s 134.6 fantasy points per season just on solo tackles.
The sky’s the limit for Holcomb from a dynasty perspective. He’s not getting the respect as some of the best linebackers in the game. He can be extremely reliable, as he proved last season. The Commanders signal caller should be a top 12 dynasty LB in most leagues; if he can stay on the field, he will make IDP managers extremely happy moving forward.
Jamin Davis, WLB
Davis was selected 19th overall by the Washington Commanders in the 2021 NFL draft. Davis did not have the year IDP managers expected, but he’s young and trying to find his role on the defense. Playing for Jack Del Rio and Ron Rivera as a rookie is a tough ask; Davis sometimes looked lost. As a rookie, Davis finished with a 46.8 overall grade from PFF and a 57.5 pass rush grade on his 48 blitzes in 2021.
The former Kentucky Wildcat is an impressive athlete and could be looking at a big boost in snaps in his second season. Davis only played 56% of defensive snaps last season. With little competition on the depth chart, he looks to be locked into the LB spot opposite of Holcomb to start the season. The young Commanders’ LB managed 76 stops in just eight starts last season, and his play will have to improve this season. IDP managers are at a wait-and-see approach with Davis, hoping he can increase his dynasty value this season.
Kamren Curl, SS
Curl was a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft and has been a stud for the Commander’s defense. Curl has finished as the DB21 and DB46 in his first two seasons despite only starting 25 games. Curl was used in various ways last season, including a combination of slot snaps and box snaps. He posted a 69.4 overall PFF grade while playing in 85% of the defensive snaps last season.
The Commander young DB was just one tackle shy of a 100 tackle season. He was more of a consistent player in 2020, but he did finish with nine fantasy points or more in his last nine games of the 2021 season. Curl made huge coverage strides and cleaned up his missed tackles from 2020 to 2021. He will be relied on as the secondary leader now with Landon Collins’s departure.
Curl is a 23-year-old safety with back-to-back 88+ tackle seasons. He’s currently the DB16 on the DynastyGM tool. I would expect a boost in box snaps for him this season; dynasty managers should be thrilled with the former Arkansas Razorback safety heading into his third NFL season.
Bobby McCain, FS
McCain is your typical NFL deep safety. He posted career highs in tackles (63) and interceptions (4). His 143.15 fantasy points were also a career-high as he logged his most snaps (1,031) and highest defensive snap percentage (93%) of his career.
The veteran-free safety will continue to be featured in the deep safety role. It’s not often these players are very valuable from a fantasy perspective. These players are typically more of waiver wire add during the season to help you stream DB from week to week. McCain is a 28-year-old safety who doesn’t carry much dynasty value at all going forward.
Jeremy Reaves, S
Reaves stepped up during the final four games of the 2021 season. Reaves played in 56% of the Commander’s defensive snaps last season. The South Alabama product only collected 29 stops last season, but 23 of those came in his only two season starts.
The Commanders play a large amount of ‘Big Nickel’ compared to league average, as I mentioned in the opening. There’s a chance that Reaves slides into that third safety role and can carry some value this season. As of now, he’s more of a player to watch than a sleeper for dynasty managers. Indeed, if you have deep roster space, there’s no harm in carrying him on your roster for the first few games to monitor his usage on defense.
Kendall Fuller, CB
NFL cornerbacks deserve some dynasty love sometimes too. Fuller had a solid season for the Washington Commanders. He collected 77 stops, one interception, and a career-high 15 passes defended. Fuller finished as the DB26 last season despite playing on one of the worst pass defenses in the league.
Very few cornerbacks carry any dynasty value, and Fuller is not one of them. He has earned bye week fill-in starting potential if he can have another season like last year. If you’re playing in CB-required leagues, he’s absolutely a player you should have on your radar. His tackling numbers alone are all the reason you need to have him in your starting lineups.
The Washington Commanders football team is still a dark horse in the NFC East division. They are a talented team getting close to finding their true identity. Washington will play the sixth most manageable schedule this season. The defense will be looking to get back to its 2020 form, which shouldn’t be a significant issue if they can get Young and Sweat back in the lineup. The Commander’s offense will need to do their part and score more than 19.7 points per game as they did last season to help the defense. IDP managers should be excited about the 2022 season and to see how the Commander’s defensive players perform for their dynasty rosters.
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