With the NFL Draft and free agency having come and gone, we’ll break down all sorts of fantasy-relevant questions entering the 2018 season. Next up is a look at the aftermath of the derailment of the hype train for Redskins running back Derrius Guice, who suffered a torn ACL in Week 1 of the preseason on August 10.
Who Starts at Running Back for the Redskins Now?
It’s complicated. Last season’s offense featured a fairly-even three-back committee featuring Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson, and Samaje Perine. Each held major roles at some point during the season, but they are far from interchangeable.
- Kelley started seven games while battling through ankle and rib injuries during the first half of the season, but a high-ankle sprain and sprained MCL ultimately landed him on the IR in Week 10. He offers no pass-game upside, and his career average of 3.9 yards per carry ranks 28th out of 38 backs with at least 200 carries since 2016.
- Thompson was arguably the offense’s best player before breaking his leg in Week 11. He averaged a league-high 7.8 yards per touch and was the overall PPR RB10 from Weeks 1-11. There’s no doubt Thompson is electric in the passing game, but he isn’t built to handle a full workload at 5-foot-7 and 192 pounds.
- Perine handled an average of 20.5 touches per game in Weeks 11-16 after the depth chart dried out. While he was the PPR RB21 during this stretch, he finished well outside the league’s top-30 backs in yards per carry, success rate, and a variety of broken tackle metrics. Still, Perine’s combination of size and receiving ability theoretically makes him the team’s only three-down option.
Kelley and Perine could each see enhanced roles to start the season while Thompson continues to get back to 100 percent. It’s also not out of the question for the team to sign a free agent back such as Adrian Peterson or Alfred Morris.
Thompson is again set up well as the offense’s space back and should have a fantasy-friendly role once healthy. Ultimately, Perine seems like the best bet to replace Guice as the offense’s early-down and goal-line back. He at least offers some ability on pass downs (unlike Kelley), and the former fourth-round pick is a highly-skilled athlete (88th-percentile SPARQ-x score) who was good enough to keep Joe Mixon off the field for large stretches of time at Oklahoma.
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Should We Be Concerned About Alex Smith or Jamison Crowder?
The absence of the team’s best pure running back certainly doesn’t help Alex Smith. An argument could be made that defenses will now feel more comfortable sending fewer defenders near the line of scrimmage.
Still, there’s also an argument that a worse rushing attack would result in more pass attempts – and even more rush attempts – for the Redskins’ dual-threat quarterback. Smith’s breakout campaign in 2017 coincided with Andy Reid’s most pass-heavy offense yet in Kansas City, and Jay Gruden has ranked outside the top-20 offenses in total rush attempts in three of his four seasons as the Washington head coach.
The Redskins don’t presently have a clearly-defined pecking order at receiver, although Jamison Crowder has been a popular choice to lead the team in targets for the second consecutive season. More Thompson could be bad news for Crowder considering the slot receiver has averaged 2.5 more fantasy PPG in six games without the space back in the lineup over the past two seasons.
More concerning for Crowder’s target share is a reportedly healthy Jordan Reed. One of the league’s few truly game-changing talents at tight end, Reed is more than capable of fulfilling the same role that made Vernon Davis and Travis Kelce so successful with Smith under center.
Jordan Reed is currently the TE10 in PPR ADP
Alex Smith has been at his best targeting big/athletic tight ends throughout his career pic.twitter.com/gTKCHeCr0H
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) June 1, 2018
Ultimately, Smith’s No. 1 tight end has finished among his top-two most-targeted players in eight of his past nine seasons as a starter.
Pictured above: Chris Thompson
Photo credit: Geoff Burke – USA TODAY Sports