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2023 Fantasy Football Rankings: Preview for Every Player on the Washington Commanders

👆 Destroy your friends with a draft cheat sheet that they don't even know exists! 👆

What to expect from this article

Below we will dive deep into what we can expect from the Washington Commanders offense in 2023, including thorough fantasy football previews for Sam Howell, Brian Robinson, Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel and Logan Thomas.

All of these—and every other team's—previews combine inside of the 2023 fantasy football Draft Rankings to help you dominate your draft!

2022 Washington Commanders: Looking Back

Last year was a transition year for the Commanders, one that they somehow managed an even .500 record (8-8-1) despite having zero consistent play on offense. Of course, 8-8-1 still only managed last place in the super competitive NFC East.

This team was led by its defense - 7th in points allowed - which kept them competitive in most games. But the offense failed to take advantage of these close games:

🔴 They finished 24th in scoring

🔴 They finished 20th in total yards - much better as a running team (🟡 12th) than a passing team (🟠 21st)

Ironically, most of their offensive touchdowns came from the air (24) compared to the ground game (9), one of the largest disparities in all of the NFL last season.

They were tied for 8th in total turnovers (23).

This team trotted out three different quarterbacks, starting the season with now-journeyman (always journeyman?) Carson Wentz, who was benched for another journeyman in Taylor Heinicke, who was replaced by Sam Howell for the final game of the season.

Neither Wentz nor Heinicke are on the Commanders roster in 2023.

Their running back core was in disarray for most of the early part of the season due to the unfortunate incident surrounding Brian Robinson.

There was only one player on the team that had amassed over 1,000 yards from scrimmage (Terry McLaurin).

Needless to say, the defense will likely carry this team again in 2023 (fun fact, Washington's defense is our favorite week 1 streamer that can be found in the Start/Sit Heat Map!), but if the offense takes a leap under their new, young QB - more on him in a bit - this team could compete for a wild card spot despite the tough division they’re in.

2023 Fantasy Football Preview: Looking Ahead

There’s a new deputy sheriff in town, and his name is Eric Bienemy.

The former offensive coordinator of the Chiefs, Bienemy is going to be in charge of a new-look Commanders offense, hoping to bring some of the magic that the Chiefs were able to muster into this young offensive core, with the goal of turning them from a below-average offense into one that defenses need to prepare for week after week.

And despite bringing in veteran QB Jacoby Brissett to compete for the starting job, they have announced they’re turning the reins over to second-year QB Sam Howell, who Bienemy will be tasked with developing into the next long-term franchise QB for the Commanders.

Sportsbooks aren’t giving the Commanders a good chance of taking the leap, however. FanDuel Sportsbook has the Commanders taking last in the NFC East (+1300 to win the division), winning 6.5 games, with most bettors taking the under on that total.

That is, they’ve overperformed expectations last year and they don’t believe they’ll do it two years in a row, especially with what is expected to be a harder schedule than last season.

👇 With that all being said, let's do a thorough 2023 fantasy football preview of each and every fantasy-relevant player on the Washington Commanders! 👇

Washington Commanders Quarterbacks

Fantasy Football Rankings and Preview

🟡 QB Sam Howell

What type of league are you in? That should tell you whether you should draft Sam Howell or not.

Here’s the thing about Sam Howell: Prior to his junior season at North Carolina, he was lining himself up to be a sure-fire early first round pick. On a team that featured two current NFL running backs (Javonte Williams and Michael Carter) and two current NFL wide receivers (Dyami Brown and Josh Downs), Howell completed over 68% of his passes, threw for over 3500 yards in 12 games, with a 30-7 TD to interception ratio.

But then, with playmakers around him leaving (Williams/Carter/Brown all entered the NFL Draft), and an offensive line that took a massive step back, Howell’s numbers as a passer took a pretty big hit, and with it, his draft stock, too. North Carolina stumbled to a 6-7 record, scoring 42 fewer points despite playing one extra game from the season prior.

What did shine through, however, was Howell’s ability as a rusher - running for over 800 yards (!) and 11 rushing touchdowns (!!!!!!!!!!).

Howell ended up being drafted in the fifth round.

Wait, am I drafting Cam Akers as a QB? Is he the next Justin Fields? You’re telling me that I can get a quarterback who, in his last full season in college, ran for that many yards and scored that many rushing touchdowns, in like the 13th round of drafts or later?

Yes. Oh, and that one game he started for the Commanders? 11-19 for 168 yards, one passing touchdown, one interception - and five rushes for 35 yards and a touchdown. 19 fantasy points.

Our current rankings have Sam Howell around pick 182, a whopping 20+ spots ahead of his current ADP.

So, back to where we started. What type of league are you in?

Redraft: Look, Sam Howell has the upside of being a QB1 in a 12-team league. There’s no doubt about it. But we don’t have full certainty that this team will stick with Howell all year long, especially if they’re competing, and the sample size is small. He’s the only home run swing back here, though, so if you want the risk - he’s there for the taking.

Best Ball: Hey, look! A QB with upside going around a lot of QB’s with no upside? You mean to tell me you want to take the statue that is Mac Jones over this guy? Sam Howell is the definition of a best ball QB. If you’re stacking players and Mac Jones is the QB that goes with your stack, fine. But outside of that…take the upside guy. Sam Howell is my most owned QB in best ball - always as my QB2 or even QB3.

Dynasty: Young QB with rushing upside and theoretical security - at least for this season - should make him an appealing “buy” option right now. But the risk that Washington upgrades next season in a deep QB class is there, especially if they end up with an early pick and Howell doesn’t take a step in the right direction.

Washington Commanders Running Backs

Fantasy Football Rankings and Preview

🟡 RB Brian Robinson and 🟢 Antonio Gibson

What makes the Bienemy hiring even more interesting is his reliance on a two-back system, with an early down back and the pass-catching specialist role. That’s exactly what already exists here, so maximizing these two players is probably one of the most important dials that will be turned up in year one of this young, rebuilding offense.

Let’s start with Brian Robinson, their early down back. After coming back from his horrific off-the-field injury (sparing the details, Google exists if you want more), Robinson handled the large bulk of the carries, averaging 17 per game for over 66 yards per game.

Where he stumbled was near the goal line, only converting two touchdowns on the season. That area of his game has to improve in 2023 if he’s going to improve on his RB40 in PPR points per game scoring.

Brian Robinson is currently going as RB 36 on Underdog (106 overall, half PPR scoring) and RB32 on Draftkings (99 overall, full PPR), which makes no sense to me but sure!

We currently have Robinson ranked as RB43 in our rankings, which feels appropriate given his lack of ability to find the end zone and rushing competition from others on the team.

Antonio Gibson, on the other hand, will play the pass-catching role on this team - one that’s been relatively lucrative for this team and in a Bienemy offense historically. And as a former collegiate wide receiver, it’s the ideal role for him to land in.

Last season, Gibson handled an 11% target share out of the backfield, finishing with 899 total scrimmage yards and five total touchdowns. He finished as the RB30 in PPR points per game.

That pass-catching ability has been a staple of Gibson in his career so far and has increased every season so far, having a 9.7% target share in 2021 (where he was also a 1,000 yard rusher and competed with JD McKissic) and a 7.7% target share as a rookie in 2020 (in a season where JD McKissic saw 80 targets).

Antonio Gibson is currently going as RB32 on Underdog (100 overall, half PPR) and RB34 on DraftKings (104 overall, full PPR), which seems to be a bit of a value spot to take a guy who has a clear, defined role that carries a higher floor with some upside.

Washington Commanders Wide Receivers

Fantasy Football Rankings and Preview

🟢 WR Terry McLaurin

Scary Terry is #good at football - and he’s QB-proof, too. Despite having three straight seasons of below average quarterback play, McLaurin managed over 1,000 yards receiving and over a 22.5% target share in all three of them.

So what holds him back? Well, like most receivers who don’t end up in the “WR1” conversation, it’s touchdowns. Five or fewer touchdowns in all of those three seasons has him lagging behind other top wideouts, which has limited his ability to carry upside as well. Last season, Terry McLaurin finished as WR22 in PPR points per game among wideouts that scored at least 100 points.

The question for Terry McLaurin isn’t whether Terry McLaurin will continue to put up similar numbers to what he’s done in the past few seasons - barring injury, he will. Rather, it’s whether you believe Sam Howell will do enough passing the football to increase those touchdown numbers.

UPDATE: Terry McLaurin injured his toe in the team’s second preseason game. It’s being described as a “turf toe” injury by many; however, an X-ray and an MRI came back relatively clean, with coach Ron Rivera calling it “mild” and suggesting he should be ready for Week 1. There’s risk, of course, but if it’s truly “mild”, then you may see a draft discount on McLaurin without any change to his workload. Justin Jefferson had a “mild” case of “turf toe” in the middle of last season too, and how did that turn out?

Terry McLaurin is going as WR25 on Underdog (46 overall) and WR26 on DraftKings (51 overall). We are currently slightly ahead of those ADP’s at WR23. One of the most consistent players who will do great for you in any format.

🟢 WR Jahan Dotson

You want to know where those passing touchdowns went? Last year’s first round pick, Jahan Dotson, had them - bursting onto the scene to score 7 touchdowns in only 12 games played, tying for third on the team in targets.

It’s clear what the case is here: He’s got big-play upside (averaging nearly 15 yards per catch), he can command a high target share, and he’s already shown a knack for scoring touchdowns.

From a volume perspective, Terry will still remain the alpha, but Jahan Dotson is just as efficient of a player as the clear WR2 in this offense. If Terry McLaurin does miss time, Dotson has the skill set to take over a WR1 workload, which is starting to vault him up draft boards.

Jahan Dotson is going as WR 39 on both Underdog (74 overall) and DraftKings (81 overall) - but I fully anticipate that Dotson will rise up draft boards in the coming weeks. Our current ranking is in line with current ADP as WR 38, with the assumption that McLaurin does not miss time.

🟢 WR Curtis Samuel

Curtis Samuel might be one of the most underrated third wide receivers in the NFL. All he did last season was finish as WR 33 in PPR scoring, and even on a points-per-game basis, his 10.4 PPG finished 42nd among all players who played 10 or more games - ahead of Tyler Boyd, Nico Collins, Darnell Mooney, DJ Chark, Treylon Burks, Romeo Doubs, Michael Gallup and many others.

So why is he going as WR 76 (177 overall) on Underdog and WR 73 (174 overall) on DraftKings?

Honestly, I’m not really sure. Maybe it’s that people don’t believe in Sam Howell. Maybe people believe he’s going to lose more of the rushing work he had last season, which would cut out about 24 fantasy points from his total. Maybe people believe Antonio Gibson will end up taking some snaps at receiver this year as well (which would be pretty fun actually!)

Yes, Curtis Samuel comes with some health risk, but are we really going to nitpick that on a pick that falls in the 170’s that comes with WR3 upside?

Washington Commanders Tight Ends

Fantasy Football Rankings and Preview

🟡 TE Logan Thomas

Logan Thomas has the potential to be a TE1 on a weekly basis when he’s on the field. There’s no question - we’ve seen his PPG numbers flash top 7-10 scores. But he’s never on the field. There’s no way around this.

This kind of brings me back to the Curtis Samuel thing, but there’s really nobody to fully replace Logan Thomas on this roster when he’s out. His backup is second year player Cole Turner, a former fifth round draft pick who is a converted WR, but he’s not playing in-line like Logan Thomas did, and at that point, why not just run three wide with Samuel?

I just can’t get behind relying on Logan Thomas on a weekly basis. He’s already been injured this preseason, he’s only played two full seasons his entire career, he’s on the wrong side of 30, and there are more dynamic pass catchers that will be prioritized. Take a chance if you want - and I have in a few best ball drafts, because I believe in the talent - but you better have someone else in front of him on the depth chart.

Logan Thomas is basically free on Underdog and on DraftKings, going beyond TE30 in the last two rounds of drafts (if drafted at all). We have him ranked as TE30, so in a standard league where you’re at most drafting two tight ends, he shouldn’t be on your radar.

Other names to know for deep leaguers, dynasty leaguers and superflexers !

For those of you playing in deeper leagues, either with a bunch of players or a bunch of roster spots (or both!), here are the next players to consider:

  • QB Jacoby Brissett will step in if Howell fails. The coaching staff and new ownership seem to want to give Howell as much time to fail as possible (and if he fails, wouldn’t they just want him to keep failing for a QB upgrade in 2024?), so I don’t think we’ll see much of Brissett barring an injury, but he’s shown that he is more than capable of being a good enough QB2 in previous stints.

  • RB Chris Rodriguez Jr is a rookie who probably had a better college resume than Brian Robinson did coming out of college - and they’re relatively similar players in style, too. He won’t overtake Robinson in his first year, but he could earn some short-yardage or early down spell work, especially later in the season.

  • WR Dyami Brown is one of my favorite deep sleepers in the NFL. Fun fact! He was Sam Howell’s WR1 in college at North Carolina. He’s an instant riser if any of those three WRs ahead of him on the depth chart go down with an injury, and his 4.4 speed makes him a deep threat on occasional plays even if the first three are still playing. The clear WR4 on this team with upside.

  • I mentioned TE Cole Turner above, but he’s next in line at tight end. I don’t see a major role for him in a replacement scenario, but someone’s gotta be out there.

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