Is Terry McLaurin the only player worth trusting on this Washington team?

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The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the eventual start of the 2020 draft season. Here, we’ll tackle pressing fantasy questions, #FantasyHotTaeks, and team win totals. Next up, the Washington Redskins.

Derrius Guice is clearly an injury risk. Do you still see enough upside to consider taking the plunge at his current Yahoo ADP of 95.1?

Dalton: With Chris Thompson gone and 35-year-old Adrian Peterson (and his 3,000+ career carries) his main competition for backfield touches, Guice is worth the gamble. He no doubt seems like a long shot to stay healthy, but Sports Injury Predictor projects Dalvin Cook to miss more games in 2020 (and projects Peterson to miss the most among all RBs), and Guice has looked special at times when actually on the field. Guice is still just 22 years old (same age as Josh Jacobs), so I’m buying the talent and frankly think Washington’s backfield is being misidentified as crowded when in fact it’s thin (Bryce Love has undergone multiple knee surgeries, while Peyton Barber just finished last in rush DVOA by a mile).

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Matt: A likely committee back playing on an offense that is unlikely to be a top-20 unit is not what I’d call a good bet for upside. Derrius Guice may well be a good back; he’s given us evidence in small glimpses that’s the case. However, unless Adrian Peterson exits the picture, Guice is unlikely to own the early down work. Antonio Gibson seems to be the first in line for passing game duties based on his college profile. Middling veteran Peyton Barber is also in the mix. And again, this split is all going to take place while tethered to a passing offense that’s still trying to find itself. Guice is going so low in drafts he’s hardly someone I absolutely must talk you out of selecting. Me personally, I usually wait for the folks who draft these players to lose patience with them early in the year before trying to acquire them via trades or waivers, rather than taking them in August when the picture isn’t clear.

Liz: Coach Rivera has been open about his plans to implement a shared backfield. That doesn’t mean, however, that Guice can’t lead Washington’s cadre of RBs. His main competition is a 35-year-old vet, a second-year player who’s similarly endured numerous knee surgeries — but has yet to see a single snap in the pros — and a rookie.

After returning from injury in 2019, and over the last four games of the season, the LSU standout scored 3 TDs and posted two top-twenty finishes. Most of that production came in Week 13 against Carolina’s generous run defense (which allowed the fourth-most rushing yards on the season), but it’s also worth noting that Guice evaded an average of 3.4 tackles per game while on the field.

The talent is there. Assuming health throughout the summer and preseason, the opportunity will also be there. At least at the top of the season. It is entirely possible that he won’t stay healthy or that Antonio Gibson will eat into his volume as the year wears on, but given his RB3 draft value and ability to produce out of the gate ... the risk remains minimal.

Terry McLaurin was impressive as a rookie, finishing as WR27 in just 14 games. What is his ceiling in Year 2?

Liz: In a recent press conference, McLaurin said he wanted to focus on “big plays and getting the ball downfield” more in 2020. If he can do that, then his ceiling exists inside of the top-20 fantasy producers at the position. Coming off of a rookie campaign in which he averaged close to 10 yards per target (WR12) and posted the highest contested catch rate in the league (68.4%) it’s no wonder he was PFF’s highest-graded rookie since 2014.

Given his obvious talent, in tandem with his opportunity, McLaurin could draw upwards of 120 targets this year. For reference, just 17 WRs were looked to more than 119 times in 2020 … and only Jamison Crowder (who’s obviously a very different kind of player) finished outside the top-25 fantasy receivers. He’s the Yahoo consensus WR19.

Matt: I think a low-end WR1 finish is within his range of outcomes. That seems like a hot take and perhaps it would be ... if McLaurin didn’t clearly have the ability to get it done. When reviewing wide receivers for Reception Perception, McLaurin was the best 2019 rookie on film. Considering how often he got open against man and press coverage across the entire route tree, he looks like a future superstar in the league. Just from a pure individual player perspective, he may have had the best rookie campaign I’ve tracked since Odell Beckham in 2014. Here in 2020, McLaurin should have easy access to at least 25 percent of Washington’s team targets. There just isn’t much to compete with here. 

His outlook reminds me of Allen Robinson’s in 2015. Despite a real quarterback question, the skill of the receiver and the path to alpha WR1 volume makes him a perfect breakout bet. Take him with enthusiasm in Round 5.

Dalton: He's a freak athlete who somehow finished top-12 as a rookie in WOPR, yards per target and Passer Rating despite ranking #85 in Target Accuracy (and there’s reason to expect QB improvement in 2020). Moreover, McLaurin ranked #1 in Contested Catch Rate and #2 in Dominator Rating, and just as importantly, he’s the only game in town in Washington, the team’s clear alpha unlike many other WR/TE situations in the league. He’s star material. I have McLaurin ranked aggressively as my WR12, and there’s upside for even more.

Is there a sleeper on this team you’re keeping an eye on late in drafts?

Matt: We should all be tracking the reports out of Washington as to who is shining beyond McLaurin in the receiver room. Steven Sims showed juice as a slot/gadget receiver. Kelvin Harmon started getting solid No. 2 snaps as 2019 wore on. Even in the backfield, Antonio Gibson could be interesting if Guice gets hurt again, Adrian Peterson succumbs to his age, or both. As things stand right now, none of these players are worth a draft pick in a standard 12-team draft, outside of maybe Gibson.

[2020 Draft Rankings: Overall | QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DST | Kickers]

Dalton: Steven Sims saw 29 targets and scored three touchdowns over the final three games last season, Washington took just one receiver (and not until Round Four) in the draft, and he remains super cheap even in PPR leagues. Antonio Gibson is another intriguing sleeper in Washington.

Liz: ANTONIO GIBSON. While he primarily lined up as a receiver in college, it’s expected that Gibson will contribute largely as a running back in Washington. In fact, Ron Rivera recently compared Gibson’s skill set to Christian McCaffrey’s, citing both players’ versatility. There’s no denying that Gibson is an electric player with big-play ability (14 TDs on only 77 offensive touches in college). He has homerun potential and a coach that believes in him … and that usually amounts to something. Eventually.

Washington Redskins projected 2020 lineup
Washington Redskins projected 2020 lineup

#FantasyHotTaek

Matt: My “Terry McLaurin can be a Top-12 finisher at wide receiver” take probably counts as a hot one. He has everything in his outlook to facilitate that ceiling. Of course, if this is going to come to fruition, Dwayne Haskins has to at least be passable. Maybe that’s the hot take?

Haskins definitely looked non-functional early in his time as Washington’s starter during his rookie year. But maybe he just wasn’t ready — that’s fine. He did finish relatively strong, sporting a 5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, 67.1 percent completion rate, and 8.8 adjusted yards per attempt over his last three games. That’s enough of a spark to hope for a moderate fire in his second season. To come back to that McLaurin/Robinson analogy, I think Haskins can get to 2015 Bortles-level.

OVER/UNDER on 5 Win Total from BetMGM

Dalton: Dwayne Haskins finished last among 33 QBs who qualified in CPOE (-5) last season, but he encouragingly improved to league average (0) over his final three games. New coach Ron Rivera will likely provide a boost in Year One in Washington, while McLaurin, Guice, and Haskins provide upside at the skill positions (Haskins had a strong CPOE in college, so it’s too soon to write him off, and he projects to have one of the most favorable 2020 schedules). Moreover, the addition of Chase Young gives the defense potential to make a sudden leap, so I don’t see this team winning just four games this year — give me the OVER (-125).

Follow Matt: @MattHarmon_BYB

Follow Dalton: @daltondeldon

Follow Liz: @LizLoza_FF

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