2022 Washington Commanders Team Outlook
With high-stakes fantasy football legend Shawn Childs anchoring Sports Illustrated's fantasy coverage, we decided to give our take on Shawn's Team Outlooks. While we won't always agree, Shawn's pedigree speaks for itself. Shawn has been a high-stakes Fantasy Football legend since 2004 when he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). Childs has competed and won six-figures in all different formats – auctions, draft championships, main events, and high-dollar leagues. We dare you to find an expert who knows the NFL player pool better than Shawn Childs -- it can't be done!
The Washington Commanders lost the "Football Team" surname over the winter. Over the past two seasons, they went 14-19, extending their streak with a losing record to five years (31-50). Carson Wentz takes over the quarterback job after a lackluster end to 2021 with the Colts. RB Antonio Gibson and WR Terry McLaurin have bright futures, and Washington added some offensive depth (RB Brian Robinson and WR Jahan Dotson) in this season's draft. The development of WR Dyami Brown and healthy season from WR Curtis Samuel and TE Logan Thomas. For Washington to have a competitive season, their defense must return to the 2020 status (top-five ranking).
With injuries and below-par options at quarterbacks, Washington tried to run the ball as much as possible. They threw the ball 53.6% of the time with a top 10 team in rushing attempts (477). Carson Wentz should work as a winning game manager while running a balanced offense.
Washington's running backs gained 2,549 combined yards last season with 17 touchdowns and 103 catches. Their backs have been heavily involved in the passing game in 2020 (120/848/2) and 2021 (103/814/5).
The Commanders rewarded their wideouts with their highest opportunity in all areas in 2021 despite playing with a backup quarterback for most of the season. The injury to TE Logan Thomas also helped their chances. In 2022, Washington upgraded their starting quarterback and the wide receiving corps looks better.
The Commanders gave their tight ends about 19% of their completions over the past two years. They finished with a step back in catches (68) and targets (98) while finishing with a higher catch rate (69.4).
Washington brought Ron Rivera to run the franchise in 2020 after a solid run over eight seasons with the Panthers (76-63-1), including four playoff appearances. His highlight year came in 2015 (15-1 with a loss to Denver in the Super Bowl). Washington won the NFC East in his first season despite a 7-9 record while improving both sides of the ball. The Commanders slipped to 7-10 last season. Rivera worked as a defensive coordinator for the Bears and the Chargers over six seasons while having 25 years of coaching experience in the NFL.
Scott Turner returns for a third season as Washington's offensive coordinator, a position he held for five seasons with the Panthers and Vikings. His offense finished 23rd in points scored (335). In addition, the Commanders climbed to 21st in yards allowed.
After sitting out two years after losing the head coaching job for the Raiders, Jack Del Rio took over Washington's defense in 2020. They moved from the bottom of the league rankings to second in yards allowed and fourth in points given up, but he failed to repeat last season – 434 points allowed (25th) and 22nd in yards allowed.
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. Del Rio has 22 years of experience coaching in the NFL.
Washington lost G Brandon Scherff to the Jaguars. He played well in both run and pass blocking last season while missing six games. Their top addition to their offensive line was G Andrew Norwell and G Trai Turner. Norwell projects to start. DT Tim Settle signed with the Bills.
The Commanders added five offensive players in the 2022 NFL Draft – WR Jahan Dotson (1.16), RB Brian Robinson (3.34), QB Sam Howell (5.1), TE Cole Turner (5.6), and G Chris Paul (7.9). They invested in DT Phidarian Mathis (2.15), S Percy Butler (4.8), and CB Christian Holmes (7.19) for their defense.
Washington jumped to 12th in rushing yards (2,061), but they scored 13 times on the ground. Their runners delivered 20 yards or more on eight plays while gaining 4.3 yards per rush.
The Commanders inched to 22nd in passing yards (3,746) with 21 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Their offensive line allowed 43 sacks.
LT Charles Leno excelled in pass blocking while drifting below the league average in the run game. He has been about the same player since 2016. RT Samuel Cosmi missed eight games in his rookie season. His best play came in run blocking. The rest of their offensive line ranks below the league average. I don't see a high ceiling with this group with questionable depth.
Washington moved up to 8th in rushing yards allowed (1,755). Ball carriers gained 4.1 yards per rush with 14 touchdowns plus eight runs over 20 yards.
The Commanders plummeted to 29th in passing yards allowed (4,333) with 34 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Quarterbacks beat them for 51 plays of 20 yards or more while their defense picked up 38 sacks.
DE Chase Young finished with only 1.5 sacks last year. He missed the final eight games with a torn ACL in his right knee. Washington needs him to develop into an impact pass rusher to rebound from a down defensive year. Their defensive line is loaded with talent, and LB Jamin Davis should only improve. Despite delivering 142 tackles in 2021, LB Cole Holcomb didn't excel in any area. CB Kendall Fuller plays well in coverage with minimal damage in touchdowns allowed. The rest of their secondary lacks playmakers while expecting to be about league average.
I respect the overall structure of the Commanders' defense to roster them as my second fantasy option if possible. The passing window will be much shorter if Washington gets after the quarterback, leading to sacks and turnovers.
QB Carson Wentz, LAR - Quality Backup
Over six seasons in the league, Wentz went 44-40-1, with his best season coming in 2017 (11-2). He struggled to make big plays over the past three years (6.6 yards per pass attempt) and weakness in his completion rate (61.1). Wentz tends to minimize the damage in turnovers with some help in the run game (171/734/7 from 2019 to 2021).
Last year he passed for over 300 yards in two matchups (402/2 and 306/3) in run-favoring offense in Indianapolis. Wentz finished the year with 13 games with two touchdowns or fewer and less than 200 yards passing in eight games.
Fantasy outlook: Based on overall pass-catching options, Wentz should throw the ball better than in 2021. His dink and dunk style moves chains and helps the team's scoring ability. He ranks 27th at quarterback in the National Fantasy Football Championship in mid-June. I expect a minimum of 4,000 combined yards with a chance at 30 scores. Wentz should outperform his price point while being challenging to time.
Other Options: Taylor Heinicke, Sam Howell, Cole Kelley
RB Brian Robinson, WAS - Bye Week Fill-in
Robinson worked his way into a high-volume role in his fifth season at Alabama. He finished with 306 touches, leading to 1,639 combined yards with 16 touchdowns and 35 catches. Over his first four years, Robinson gained a combined 1,511 yards with 15 touchdowns and 17 catches. Last season, he didn't score a touchdown over his final five games while struggling in three matchups (16/71, 16/55, and 22/68) in the run game.
There is something to be said for a running back gaining experience in touches. Robinson is a power back with the ability to make yards after contact. He runs with patience while having the drive to cut fast into daylight at the line of scrimmage. When asked to pass block, Robinson understands his role plus stays in tune with his quarterback to become a late passing option out of the backfield. His improved opportunity last year should only make him better in the NFL.
Fantasy outlook: After landing in Washington, his price point moved to pick 188 in the NFFC as the 59th ranked running back. I expect him to be the handcuff to Antonio Gibson on early downs with a minimal role without an injury
Other Options: Jaret Patterson, Jonathan Williams, Reggie Bonnafon
RB Antonio Gibson, WAS - Bust (overvalued)
In his sophomore year with the Commanders, Gibson gained 1,331 combined yards with 10 scores and 42 catches on 300 touches in his 16 games. However, he missed Week 17 with Covid-19. On the downside, Gibson gained only 4.0 yards per carry, with four of his 258 rushes gaining 20 yards or more. Washington gave him a high-volume opportunity (23.4 touches per game) in seven of his final eight starts, leading to 687 yards with five touchdowns and 23 catches. His only two games with over 100 yards rushing came in Week 12 (29/111 with seven catches for 35 yards) and Week 18 (21/146/1 with one catch for five yards).
With J.D. McKissic injured over the final seven weeks, Gibson had three games with more pass-catching chances (7/35, 5/23/1, and 6/39). He had three catches or fewer from Week 2 to Week 11.
Fantasy outlook: Last year, the Commanders' coaching staff suggested that they wanted to give Gibson a high-volume opportunity somewhat in line with Christian McCaffrey. Unfortunately, he only had two games with more than 68% of the team's running back snaps. His ADP (43) in the NFFC in the early draft season ranks him as the 21st running back selected.
Jody Smith UPDATE: So far, Gibson is losing a significant portion of his receiving opportunities to J.D. McKissic and his short-yardage carries to rookie Brian Robinson. This isn't what you want to hear developing for a guy you draft as a solid RB2. I view Gibson as a risky and volatile pick where his current ADP sits, so he's another guy I'm fading in 2022.
RB J.D. McKissic, --- - Bye Week Fill-in
Washington gave McKissic a high-volume pass-catching opportunity (110 targets) in 2020, leading to 80 catches for 589 yards and two scores. He had five catches or more in nine games. McKissic gained only 7.4 yards per catch, with three contests resulting in more than 60 yards receiving. When given two starts with Antonio Gibson injured, he produced two steady games on early downs (11/68 and 13/51). McKissic only has two career rushing touchdowns on his 173 carries.
Last year he missed the final six games with a concussion issue. McKissic finished with 43 catches for 397 yards and two scores on 53 targets over 11 weeks, highlighted by five games (5/83, 5/44/1, 8/65, 8/83, and 5/26/1). He rushed for 212 yards and two touchdowns on 48 carries.
Fantasy outlook: When Washington falls behind early, McKissic is at his best. Last year he was on the field for about 40% of the time while finishing 37th in running back scoring (128.00) in PPR leagues. However, McKissic should see a drop off in his chances in the run game with Brian Robinson added to the team, and Antonio Gibson should see more targets. At best, 50 catches with 600 combined yards and short scores.
WR Terry McLaurin, WAS - Solid/Safe Pick
Over three seasons with Washington, McLaurin caught 222 of his 357 targets for 3,132 yards and 16 touchdowns. His success per game comes to 4.8 catches for 68 yards and 0.35 touchdowns (13.7 fantasy points per game). Last year he had a regression of 10 catches for 65 yards with four fewer targets from 2020 (87/1,118/4). McLaurin gained over 100 yards in four matchups (11/107/1, 6/1123/2, 7/122/1, and 5/103/1). However, he failed to score over his final seven starts with weaker production (23/318).
Fantasy outlook: Despite finishing 25th in fantasy scoring (213.50) in PPR leagues, he ranks 16th at wide receiver in the early draft season in the NFFC. McLaurin is on a path to catch 85 balls for 1,200 yards with five to seven scores.
WR Jahan Dotson, WAS - Bye Week Fill-in
Dotson showed a progression in each of his four seasons (13/203, 27/488/5, 52/884/8, and 91/1,182/12) at Penn State. Last year he worked more as a possession-type receiver (13.0 yards per catch) than in his first three years (15.6, 18.1, and 17.0). Dotson had two dominating games (11/242/3 and 8/137/2) with success as well against Ohio State (11/127).
Dotson should transition into a complete player with more bulk and strength. He runs good routes with the speed and quickness to beat a defense over the top or in the open field. Dotson takes a hit when facing press coverage while needing to prove he can win heavily contested passes. Dotson comes into the league at 5'11" and 185 lbs., which invites some durability concerns and questions about his value over the middle of the field.
Fantasy Outlook: His success last year and foundation skill set gives Dotson a chance to be a productive WR2 or WR3 in the NFL this season. His ADP (163) in the early draft season in the NFFC priced him as the 65th wide receiver off the table. Dotson has a chance to catch 50 passes for 750 yards with a handful of scores.