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Washington Commanders Fantasy Football Preview

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

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👆 if you set fantasy football lineups (or make player prop bets), then you need to see this 👆

Ron Rivera's first two seasons in Washington featured a different QB in each year, and year 3 will be no different after Washington gave Indianapolis a 2nd round pick and two 3rd round picks in exchange for Carson Wentz and a 2nd round pick. Unfortunately, Rivera's first two seasons statistically provide us very little to go off of when forecasting Washington in 20232.

In his first year in Washington (2020), the Washington Football Team was one of the worst in football. They ranked:

  • 25th in scoring (20.9 points per game)

  • 30th in yards (317.3 per game)

  • 27th in first downs (20.1 per game)

  • 25th in passing yards (216.6 per game) despite finishing 9th in passing attempts (37.6 per game)

  • 30th in passing TDs (16) despite finishing 9th in passing attempts

  • 25th in rushing attempts (25 per game)

  • 26th in rushing yards (100.7 per game)

  • 27th in scoring percentage (just 33.3% of their drives)

  • 29th in turnovers (27)

The lone bright spots were that they finished 8th in plays executed (65.7 per game) and finished 13th in rushing TDs with 18 on the season.

They heavy passing volume and lightened rushing volume could have started a trend, but it didn't stick in 2021. In fact, it flip flopped as Washington became decidedly run-heavy in Rivera's second season.

There was some improvement across the board in Ron's second campaign, especially in the running game as they finished 10th in rushing attempts (28.1 per game), 12th in rushing yards (121.2 per game) and 9th in rushing first downs (7.6 per game). Their passing volume dipped to 21st in passing attempts (32.4 per game) but they improved their ranking in passing yards, climbing to 21st despite less raw passing yards than the previous season (202.4). All in all, in 2021, they finished:

  • 24th in scoring (19.7 points per game)

  • 21st in yards (323.6 per game)

  • 17th in plays executed (62.9 per game)

  • 16th in first downs (20.3 per game)

  • 21st in passing attempts (32.4 per game)

  • 21st in passing yards (202.4 per game)

  • 22nd in passing TDs (21)

  • 21st in passing first downs (10.6 per game)

  • 10th in rushing attempts (28.1 per game)

  • 12th in rushing yards (121.2 per game)

  • 21st in rushing TDs (13)

  • 9th in rushing first downs (7.6 per game)

  • 21st in scoring percentage (34.6%)

  • 22nd in turnovers (24)

So Rivera's first two campaigns in Washington didn't really provide much data to go off of. He flipped from pass-heavy to run-heavy/balanced, his team got slower, but also more efficient.

Ultimately, no matter which way you slice it, there's very little to get excited about when looking at Rivera's first two seasons in Washington.

That said, say what you will about Carson Wentz, but Rivera (and Terry McLaurin) now has the best QB he's had during his Washington Commanders era. The arrow is pointing up on this offense.

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Besides bringing in the best QB they've had since Kirk Cousins in 2017, Washington also added Penn State's Jahan Dotson (WR) with the 16th overall pick in the first round of this year's NFL draft, plus Alabama's Brian Robinson (RB) with their 3rd round pick. They resigned receiving specialist JD McKissic after he narrowly escaped to Buffalo, and Curtis Samuel is believed to finally be healthy after an injury-ruined 2021.

Adam Humphries (62), DeAndre Carter (44) and Ricky Seals-Jones (49) have all left town, vacating 155 targets that need to be redistributed, which is great news for Terry McLaurin and rookie Dotson (and perhaps even 2nd year WR Dyami Brown).

Ultimately, I'm anticipating 2022's Washington unit to be a relatively balanced team after bolstering both their running and their passing attacks.

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Carson Wentz 😐

2018 (Eagles) fantasy points: 193.66 (QB 23) - points per game: 17.6 (QB 17)

2019 (Eagles) fantasy points: 275.86 (QB 10) - points per game: 17.2 (QB 15)

2020 (Eagles) fantasy points: 198.4 (QB 22) - points per game: 16.5 (QB 22)

2021 (Colts) fantasy points: 246.9 (QB 12) - points per game: 15.4 (QB 17)

You already know the story with Carson Wentz. Dude went hard in 2017—just his 2nd season in the NFL—looking like an MVP and franchise QB before a torn ACL ended his historic season.

It was all down hill from there as injuries, mediocre play, locker room controversy and QB competition inevitably ended his days in Philly before he was shipped off to be reunited with Frank Reich in Indianapolis last year.

Turns out, mediocre play and more locker room issues quickly ended his short stint in Indiana as well, as he was sent to the Commanders to be their new savior this season.

And the funny part is, it's the best QB Washington has had since they let Kirk Cousins walk in 2018. His arrival is good news for Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and the Commanders' offense as a whole, but what about he himself as a fantasy football option?

In 55 fantasy football games over the last 4 seasons, Carson Wentz has reached 20 fantasy points just 32.7% of the time. Funny enough, that's less frequently than Kirk Cousins has been able to do the same (46.88%).

He's landed under 10 fantasy points—tough to do as a QB—16.4% of the time during he same stretch, including 21% of the time in the last 2 seasons alone.

And as for the ceiling, he hasn't hit 30 points one time in the last 4 seasons (he hit 25 5% of the time).

And all of that despite the fact that his Eagles teams in 2018-2020 finished the year 7th, 8th and 10th in passing attempts (Frank Reich's Colts were much less pass-heavy, finishing 27th in attempts).

Again, Wentz's arrival is a good thing for his receiving core. But he himself is nothing more than a mid-low end QB 2 that's better treated as a QB 3.

Fantasy Drafts 👎: Assuming you're in a "normal" 1 QB league that isn't especially deep, Carson Wentz is not worth a draft pick for you. He could come into play as a streaming option during the season, but he's not someone you should consider in fantasy drafts. He currently goes undrafted and there's a reason for that.

If you're in a 2QB league, Wentz is better treated as your 3rd QB than your second. In 2 QB leagues, Wentz is usually drafted around pick 13.09 (13th round, 9th pick). He's surrounded by guys like Alexander Mattison, Tyler Boyd, Jakobi Meyers, the Bills DEF, Darrell Henderson, Zach Wilson, Dawson Knox, Isaiah Spiller, Ronald Jones, JD McKissic, Kenneth Gainwell, Raheem Mostert, Pat Freiermuth, DJ Chark, Buccaners DEF, Michael Gallup and Baker Mayfield.

Draft Kits: I have Wentz in Tier 2C of my fantasy football Draft Kits with Daniel Jones, Zach Wilson and Jared Goff.

Dynasty Leagues: Not much to see here. Wentz is hanging on by a thread to dynasty relevance.

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Antonio Gibson 📉, JD McKissic ↔️, and Brian Robinson 📈

2021 PPR points per game: 9.8 (RB 41)

Things got really ugly in the Washington backfield during the offseason and especially in the last few weeks.

The rollercoaster started at an all-time high when it was reported that JD McKissic was signing with Buffalo, leading us Antonio Gibson truthers to rejoice at the thought of him finally becoming that every-down workhorse we've envisioned since he came into the league.

But then McKissic changed his mind and re-upped with Washington, raining on our parade as we realized McKissic would remain involved as a passing-down specialist at Gibson's expense.

And then Washington used their 3rd round draft pick on Alabama's Brian Robinson, creating speculation that even Gibson's work as an early-down runner could be in question.

And theeeeeen Antonio Gibson fumbled (again) in a preseason game while working with the backups, while Robinson played well and scored a touchdown with the first string offense. Gibson was immediately spotted working with the 3rd team and punt teams the following week in practice.

Not exactly what you're hoping to see in mid-August as you're getting ready to draft Gibson. He's plummeting down draft boards while Robinson's value skyrockets, and it's completely warranted.

Ultimately, the backfield is a complete nightmare where none of the three are particularly exciting options. Robinson is expected to handle short-yardage and goal line situations while McKissic maintains a stranglehold on passing down duties. That essentially leaves Gibson with between-the-20s work which is not at all appealing in fantasy football where we need touchdowns (Robinson) and receptions (McKissic). And that, of course, is if Robinson doesn't pass Gibson entirely.

McKissic's role figures to remain largely the same, one where he posted 127.9 PPR points (RB 35) and 11.6 PPR points per game (RB 30) last season (he was the RB 17 in points and RB 30 in PPG the year before that too). He remains on the radar as a PPR-specific flex play.

Despite back-to-back finishes inside the top 13, Gibson shouldn't be trusted as anything more than a high-risk, high-reward RB 3 until proven otherwise this season.

Robinson figures to enter the season as an RB 4 but could find his way to RB 2 value if he continues to render Gibson irrelevant.

Fantasy Drafts:

Antonio Gibson 👎 - Antonio Gibson is currently drafted as the RB 19 around pick 43 (mid 4th round). Within 6 spots of Gibson in either direction is Michael Pittman, George Kittle, Jaylen Waddle, Terry McLaurin, Diontae Johnson, DJ Moore, Travis Etienne, Josh Jacobs, DK Metcalf, Darren Waller and Lamar Jackson. Simply put, I would take all of those players over Gibson and wouldn't even think about Gibson until the 8th round.

JD McKissic 👍😐 - JD McKissic is currently drafted as the RB 47 around pick 148 (early 13th round). Drafted within 6 spots in either direction of McKissic is the 49ers DEF, Rams DEF, Cowboys DEF, Raheem Mostert, Hunter Henry, Justin Fields, Isaiah Spiller, Jarvis Landry, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Matt Gay and Michael Gallup. Considering his back-to-back finishes as RB 30, RB 47 is a mighty fine value for the pass-catching specialist in an improved offense. That said, I also like the WRs in this range instead of him. And, if you do draft him, understand that his ceiling is capped as a PPR flex. Even in the event of an injury to Gibson or Robinson, McKissic would remain "just" a passing down back and wouldn't suddenly become the RB 1. He's hit 20 PPR points in just 14.81% of his 27 games in the last 2 years and has never hit 30 PPR points. On the bright(ish) side, he's been able to top 15 37.04% of the time. That's perfectly fine, just know he doesn't have RB 1 upside in any scenario.

Brian Robinson 👍 - Brian Robinson is currently free in fantasy football drafts (RB 57 in the 17th round) and absolutely shouldn't be. I wouldn't reach above the double digit rounds in your drafts, but he'd certainly be on my radar come round 11 or so.

Draft Kits:

I have Gibson in Tier 2C (and falling) of my fantasy football Draft Kits with Kareem Hunt, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Melvin Gordon and more.

I have McKissic in Tier 3D with Nyheim Hines.