2020 Washington Football Team Outlook
Washington gave Jay Gruden six seasons to bring the team back to prominence. Unfortunately, four years of mediocrity (31-32-1) sandwiched around two poor seasons (4-12 and 3-13) led to a search for a new head coach.
Washington brought in Ron Rivera to run the franchise after a solid run over eight seasons with the Carolina Panthers (76-63-1), which included four playoff appearances. His highlight year came in 2015 (15-1 with a loss to Denver in the Super Bowl). Rivera worked as a defensive coordinator over six seasons for the Bears and the Chargers while having 23 years of coaching experience.
Scott Turner worked as the quarterbacks coach for the Panthers in 2018 and 2019. He held the same position for three seasons for the Vikings from 2014 to 2016. Turner has eight years of experience in the NFL.
After sitting out two years after losing the head coaching job for the Raiders, Jack Del Rio takes over Washington's defense. Over 12 seasons as a head coach, Del Rio went 93-94 with three playoff appearances. His best success came in 2005 (12-4), 2007 (11-5), and 2016 (12-4). In 2000, he helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl as the linebacker coach for the Ravens. Del Rio has 20 years of coaching experience.
Washington focused on improving their secondary in free agency by signing CB Kendall Fuller, CB Ronald Darby, and S Sean Davis.
Fuller graded well in coverage in his two seasons with the Chiefs. He missed five games last year due to a broken thumb. Fuller failed to intercept a pass in 2019 with a decline in his defended passes (2).
Darby played well in coverage in 2017 and 2018, but he lost his way last year. Over the previous three seasons, he missed 20 games.
Davis missed 15 games last year with a torn labrum in his shoulder. Over his first three years after getting drafted in the second round by the Steelers, he made plenty of tackles (70, 92, and 80) with five interceptions and 20 defended passes.
Washington added Kevin Pierre-Louis and Thomas Davis for depth at linebacker.
They moved on from QB Case Keenum, WR Paul Richardson, RB Chris Thompson, CB Kayvon Webster, RB Wendell Smallwood, and CB Coty Sensabaugh.
The offensive line lost G Ereck Flowers. He struggled to make an impact at left tackle before moving to left guard last year. His game improved in pass protection while still showing downside as a run blocker.
Washington signed T Cornelius Lucas and G Wes Schweitzer for depth on the offensive line while also releasing C Tony Bergstrom and T Donald Penn.
The upgrades in depth at tight end came from the additions of Richard Rodgers and Logan Thomas. Washington added Peyton Barber for insurance at running back.
With the second overall pick, Washington drafted DE Chase Young. He projects as an impact pass rusher with a devastating combination of speed, quickness, and athletic ability. Even with a limited foundation in his pass-rushing moves, Young piled up numerous sacks (27) over his last two seasons. His game is built on attacking, but he needs to develop more awareness to improve his play in run support. A franchise-type player who should have a long successful career.
In the third and fourth rounds, Washington went the developmental play-maker route at the wide receiver position (Antonio Gibson and Antonio Gandy-Golden).
Gibson checks in at 6'0" and 228 lbs with an impressive showing in the 40-yard dash (4.39) at the NFL combine. His vision grades well while showing the ability to break tackles. Circle player meaning a fantasy owner needs to pay attention to where he goes in drafts.
From a size (6'4" and 225 lbs.) and strength (22 reps in the bench press at the NFL combine) perspective, Gandy-Golden looks ready for the NFL. His change of direction quickness hurts him when asked to work the short areas of the field or on comeback routes. Gandy-Golden does show a better release than expected with the ability to create after the snap when moving forward. He'll threaten to score in the red zone with the talent to high ball contested catches.
Before 2019, drops were a problem, which may work back into the equation by playing with a quarterback with more zip on his passes.
Washington invested in T Saahdiq Charles and C Keith Ismael in the fourth and fifth rounds.
Charles is another upside swing, thanks to his quickness and athletic ability. His strength and base aren't where they need to be. Charles should improve with better technique and the development of his hands. His first step is better balance and timing off the snap.
Ismael projects well as a run blocker while having experience at guard and center. He gets off the ball quickly with the ability to gain leverage at the point of attack. Ismael can be hit or miss vs. power, and his vision isn't ideal.
Washington focused on their defense with their final three selections – LB Khaleke Hudson, S Kameron Curl, and LB James Smith-Williams.
Hudson is a powerful man with the quickness to win off the snap in the pass rush. His cover skills are lacking while being too big to be a true safety and too small to be a difference-maker at linebacker in run support. Hudson has a disrupter mindset while lacking the 30 to 40 lbs needed to win versus big bodies inside.
Curl is a second player added to this defense who plays with strength and speed (4.6 forth). His feel for pass routes looks to be an asset, Curl does have risk vs. deep speed, and his change of direction feel isn't great. He should play well when moving forward in run support. Curl can't match the quickness of top slot wide receivers.
Smith-Williams worked hard to add strength (28 reps in the bench press) and bulk to his body over his NC State career. His speed (4.6) looks to be an edge, but his quickness and explosiveness are trailing. Smith-Williams has a long history of injuries while lacking impact production. His game has a chance to be a factor in the pass rush with the fight to help against the run.
Washington ranked 22nd in rushing yards (1,774) in 2018 with nine TDs. Their runners gained over 20 yards on 11 plays while gaining 4.4 yards per rush.
Washington fell to last in the NFL in passing yards (3,205) with 18 TDs and 13 Ints. Their offensive line allowed 50 sacks and 97 QB hits.
LT Geron Christian
Over his first two years in the NFL, Christian only made two starts while only seeing 189 snaps in his career. He missed most of his rookie season with a torn MCL in his right knee. In his limited playing time in 2019, he allowed only one sack while struggling as a run blocker.
Washington took a chance with OT Geron Christian in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He needs to add more strength in his upper body to improve his success in run blocking on quick-hitting plays. His foot speed grades well in pass protection while showing the ability to be a move blocker. Christian comes with useful base techniques except for his hands, which may improve with more fire in his guns. His next step in his development comes from deciding when to attack or let the defender come to him.
LG Wes Schweitzer
In mid-March, Washington signed Schweitzer to a three-year deal for $13.5 million. Last year he battled a shoulder injury while also missing some time with a concussion. His game doesn't create an edge in either run or pass blocking, but he did minimize the damage in sacks over the last two seasons.
C Chase Roullier
Despite a sixth-round draft value in 2017, Roullier played well in pass blocking each year in the league. He has experience at left guard as well. Last year he improved as a league-average player in run blocking.
RG Brandon Scherff
Scherff has been an asset after getting drafted in the first round in 2015. Last year he missed five games with ankle, elbow, and shoulder injuries. In December, Scherff had surgery to repair a torn labrum. He continues to improve in pass protection with success in run blocking in most seasons.
RT Morgan Moses
Moses played at a high level in 2016 and 2017 after struggling in his rookie year. Over the past three seasons, he settled into only a steady option while allowing plenty of sacks early in his career. Washington rewarded him with a five-year extension in April of 2017. Moses is a former third-round pick.
Offensive Line Outlook
This offensive line has two steady players with Brandon Scherff being the top option. The left side of the line does have risk while hinging the development of Geron Christian. I expect more success in run blocking than upside in pass protection. Washington will rank below the league average on the offensive line.
QB Dwayne Haskins, --- - Gamble (high risk)
(Update: Alex Smith has been activated from injured reserve. The QB competition is alive and well in Washington!)
Washington didn't give Haskins his first start until Week 9. Over seven games as their top QB, he passed for 1,225 yards (175 YPG) with seven TDs and three Ints.
His game was trending forward over his final one and half contests (394/4) with strength in his completion rate (72.1).
Haskins suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 16, which ended his season.
Washington has a weakness at TE (44/467/3) and underwhelming options at WR (178/2069/13) other than Terry McLaurin (59/919/7). Both Antonio Gibson and Antonio Gandy-Golden offer upside, but they will take time to develop.
Haskins has talent, but he needs more weapons to push his way up the QB rankings. Look for growth this year, while still lacking a front line WRs and a viable option at TE.
As a sophomore for Ohio State with a starting job, Haskins passed for 4,831 yards with 50 TDs and eight Ints. His completion rate (70.0) edged out Kyler Murray while offering no upside as a runner (79/108/4).
He came to the NFL with a big arm and with prototypical size (6'3" and 220 lbs.). Most of his snaps came out of the shotgun in college while receiving a big passing window on a high-volume of plays. His game gives me a Philip Rivers feel while looking stronger with more rip on his throws.
Haskins can extend plays with subtle movements in the pocket, but his lack of trust in his speed kills his chances of breaking many runs over three yards. He will be a threat to beat defenses in the deep passing game while needing to improve his decision making when forced to settle for mid-level throws.
Fantasy owners priced him as the 31st quarterback with an ADP of 204. I have Haskins projected for 3,329 combined yards with 19 TDs and 12 Ints.
RB Antonio Gibson, WAS - Sleeper (undervalued)
(Update: Gibson has become a popular sleeper since Washington released RB Derrius Guice. He looks like the favorite to take on the third down role.)
In his only season with starting snaps for Memphis, Gibson worked in a split role at running back (33/369/4) and wide receiver (38/735/8). He scored a TD on 16.9 percent of his touches (plus two TDs on kick and fumble return) while gaining massive yards per rush (11.2) and yards per catch (19.3).
I'm looking at him as a running back option in 2020 due to the injury risk of Derrius Guice. Right kind of target, and I expect him to gain momentum in fantasy drafts (ADP of 195 in early June) over the summer.
RB Derrius Guice, --- - Not Draft Worthy
(Update: Washington released Guice after he turned himself in to the police over domestic violence charges.)
RB Bryce Love, --- - Deep-league Only
(Update: Love has a much easier path to the field after Washington released RB Derrius Guice.)
After Christian McCaffrey left Stanford for the Panthers, Love rushed for 2,118 yards with 19 TDs while offering minimal value in catches (6/33). The next season he battled injuries during the year before his season ended with a torn ACL in his right knee. Bryce finished with 838 combined yards with six TDs and 20 catches in his senior year in 2018.
RB Adrian Peterson, --- - Over the Hill (decreased production)
(Update: Peterson is the new RB1 in Washington after the team released RB Derrius Guice.)
As Peterson enters his 15th season in the NFL, he ranks fifth all-time in rushing yards (14,216) with a longshot chance of climbing to third (needs 1,132 yards). Over the past two seasons, Peterson gave Washington multiple good games as an injury cover to RB Derrius Guice. Washington picked up his option for 2020, but his role will be lower this year. Peterson is only an insurance card at this point in his career with minimal value in the passing game.
WR Terry McLaurin, WAS - Solid/Safe Pick
McLaurin hit the ground running in his rookie season after getting drafted in the third round.
Over his first five games, he caught 23 of his 38 targets for 408 yards, and five TDs highlighted two impact games (5/125/1 and 4/100/2).
When his college teammate took over at quarterback, McLaurin only played well in Week 15 (5/130/1) and Week 16 (7/86).
Washington took a pair of fliers on big WRs (Antonio Gibson and Antonio Gandy-Golden), which almost ensures that McLaurin will be their top target again in 2020.
His early projections came to 72 passes for 1,071 yards and seven TDs with an ADP of 27.