The 2018 NFL regular season has concluded, so it’s time to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards next season and/or beyond. I will be reviewing each team in the reverse order of the final standings. Next up … Washington.
A year ago last January, Washington shook up the NFL by opting to end its frosty relationship with pending free agent Kirk Cousins by allowing him to walk in free agency, and instead swung a trade with Kansas City in exchange for Alex Smith, who was then promptly signed to a four-year, $94 million extension. Washington’s solution to its Cousins dilemma was short-lived, however, as Smith suffered a gut-wrenching compound leg fracture in Week 11 of the 2018 season, leaving his chances of returning to the field in 2019 as slim-to-none. Once Smith went down, coach Jay Gruden favorite Colt McCoy lasted all of three games before suffering a leg injury of his own in Week 13, which unfortunately left Washington in the less-than-capable hands of Mark Sanchez, who had only been with the team a few weeks.
When I said earlier during this series that Buffalo was the only team to start four different quarterbacks during 2018, it must’ve been because I subconsciously blocked Sanchez’s Week 14 appearance against the New York Giants from memory. Sanchez was so awful in that contest that he was quickly replaced with street free agent Josh Johnson, who hadn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2013, and ended up finishing out the season for Washington. Following the end of the season, neither Sanchez nor Johnson were retained, while the team went out and acquired Denver’s failed free agent find from a year ago in Case Keenum, who was to be considered the odds on favorite to be Washington’s starter this coming season right up until the team chose Dwayne Haskins with their 15th overall pick in the 2019 Draft. From a fantasy perspective, Haskins takes Washington’s passing offense from borderline un-usable to mildly intriguing, though they still need another weapon or two in the receiving game.
When former LSU running back Derrius Guice (a projected late first/early second round 2018 draft pick) began to tumble last April, Washington pounced by selecting him 59th overall, and in the process found the potential three-down workhorse it has been lacking since the days of Clinton Portis (no offense to Alfred Morris). However, since Washington just isn’t allowed to have nice things, Guice suffered a torn ACL in Washington’s first 2018 preseason game, thus putting his backfield takeover on hold. With the free agent running back landscape picked bone dry, Washington brought in veteran Adrian Peterson, whose NFL career was essentially on its last legs after he had barely gotten a whiff of interest during free agency. After putting up 601 rushing yards combined across the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Peterson stormed back onto the fantasy scene with 1,042 (eighth-most in the NFL last season) despite running behind an offensive line that rarely featured all five healthy starters, and was ranked seventh-worst in terms of Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards.
With 100 rushing yards and 26 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown on 31 targets through Washington’s first four games, Thompson appeared to pick right back up where he left off in 2017, that is until he suffered his annual injury (ribs/knee) during the Washington’s Week 4 loss to New Orleans. From that point forward, Thompson missed six games, while failing to eclipse seven touches in the six games in which he did participate. Reserves Bibbs and Perine (Washington’s leading rusher in 2017) were barely used with Peterson dominating touches all season. Bibbs was released last December, while Perine’s standing with the team appears tenuous considering he was only active for five games all year.
With the 2019 training camp coming nearly a year after Guice suffered his initial ACL injury, the red-shirt rookie is reportedly expected to be fully healthy, however, it’s not safe to assume the job that was originally envisioned for him will be handed right back. While recovering from the initial ACL injury, Guice was forced to undergo several follow-up procedures due to an infection in his surgically repaired knee, which may indicate a greater risk for re-aggravation. Furthermore, Peterson’s out-of-nowhere comeback last season led to him being re-signed by Washington (two years, $5 million). Peterson doesn’t play on special teams, so if he’s on an NFL roster, it’s to carry the ball. As it stands, the Washington backfield appears headed toward a committee, and a potentially unproductive one at that since the offense doesn’t figure to have an easy time moving the ball.