The Washington Redskins receiving corps is getting no love from the fantasy football community. According to the ECR (expert consensus rankings), Jamison Crowder is the highest ranked receiver on the team and he’s 30th overall. 24 teams have a receiver ranked higher than any Redskin and three teams have two receivers ranked higher than Crowder. Josh Doctson is ranked as WR51 and Paul Richardson is sitting at WR64. Why aren’t they getting any love?
Here are a few reasons: Under head coach Jay Gruden, the Washington offense failed to produce a 1,000 receiver in two of his four seasons, and the closest one of the aforementioned receivers have come to a 1,000 yard season was Crowder with 847 yards in 2016. The most touchdowns a receiver has scored under Gruden was also Crowder with seven in 2016. Another big deterrent is Alex Smith. Before his explosive season last year with Tyreek Hill, Smith had never eclipsed 4,000 yards or 24 touchdowns in a single season. Even after last season, he only averages 18 touchdown passes a year, and let’s not forget that in 2014 he didn’t throw a single touchdown to a wide receiver. In fact, only 41% of the touchdowns he’s thrown in his career have gone to wide receivers.
That being said, the Redskins have been a top 16 scoring team over the past three seasons, and Alex Smith is coming off of the best seasons of his career. He was eighth in passing yards, ninth in touchdowns thrown, and his five interceptions were the second lowest mark of any quarterback who played more than six games. One of the Washington receivers should find his way to fantasy relevance, but the trick is to figure out which one of them it will be.
Crowder wasn’t being targeted by Kirk Cousins as frequently as we thought he would to start 2017. He only grabbed 17 balls on 23 targets through the first six weeks of the season, and was the WR86 overall in that span. Both Chris Thompson and Terrelle Pryor drew more looks. His six total fumbles, most of which came on punt returns, also had fantasy owners kicking themselves for keeping him in their starting lineups. In the second half of the season however, he was able to turn things around and finished as the WR12 (in total scoring) over the last seven weeks.
There has been much speculation in the fantasy community that Crowder is going to be a perfect fit for Alex Smith, and the two have already confirmed as much in minicamp. Smith said about Crowder, “He’s easy to read as a quarterback”... “Those are things you know as a quarterback come crunch time that here’s a guy who will constantly work his tail off to get open. He wants the ball. You love that as a quarterback.” Crowder returned the praise saying that Smith “knows how to see defenses, see different coverages.” According to NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats, Crowder created 3.2 yards of separation on his routes which was 16th best in the league, and almost a full yard more than Paul Richardson (2.4) and Josh Doctson (2.2). Crowder should be the possession receiver for the Redskins out of the slot, and is the frontrunner to be the most fantasy relevant.
Josh Doctson was a first round pick in 2016, and some are already starting to label him a bust. In his rookie season he only played in two games due to injury, and last year he performed adequately, turning only 35 catches into 502 yards and a team leading six touchdowns. At 6”2, 202 pounds, Doctson is the size of an ideal X receiver and end zone target. Last year he also flashed the athletic ability to to go up and get contested catches (check that out here). If we consider last year his “real” rookie season, his stats become more impressive as only 22 receivers since 2010 have had more than 500 yards and six touchdowns as rookies, per Pro Football Reference. Doctson is still developing, but he easily took over Terrelle Pryor’s starting job midway through last season, and has now developed confidence in the NFL saying, "It's kind of surreal when you first get here, then last year was my first year playing. Just kind of calmed it down and now I'm just back like I was at TCU." Doctson had 2,334 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns in his final two seasons at TCU, clearly the Redskins think that his first round talent and potential is still in there.
Paul Richardson is a sneaky upside play. Part of the reason that Alex Smith was so successful last year was because of how well he threw the deep ball. According to Pro Football Focus, Smith had a 131.4 passer rating on deep balls which was a full 20 points higher than the next best passer, Matthew Stafford. He was the most accurate deep ball passer, completing 56% of his passes, and his 12/1 touchdown to interception ratio on those passes was also the best in the league. Now, Richardson isn’t quite Tyreek Hill in terms of speed, but with a 4.40 40-yard dash time, he’s the fastest receiver on the Redskins. He will likely fill the role of “burner”. Richardson ran a ton of go routes in Seattle, and 30% of his catches went for at least 20 yards. He has the speed to take the top off of defenses and Alex Smith proved last year that he has elite capability to deliver in that area.
At the onset of training camp, the Redskins have three players who fit distinctive roles as an X (Doctson), Z (Richardson), and slot receiver (Crowder). Each one of them has significant upside and a possible path to fantasy relevance, but you’ll have to guess correctly because it’s only going to be one of them. Since 2000, the Redskins have only had seven receivers hit 175 fantasy points, and never two in the same season. The lowest fantasy point total for any receiver who has cracked the top 24 receivers in the last 10 years was 187. My advice would be to go after Crowder. He’s the longest tenured Redskin receiver, He’s already developed a great rapport with Alex Smith and should become the target leader on the team, and his ADP of WR37, and 87th overall (8th round pick) is low enough that you’re not risking much.