Fantasy Football Team Preview 2011: Washington Redskins
The NFL season is quickly approaching and TheSportsCannon.com has been working furiously to give you the best fantasy football rankings 2011. Part of determining fantasy football sleepers, busts and projections is analyzing each NFL team. In our 2011 NFL Predictions, we analyze the pending NFL trade rumors, NFL free agent signings, coaching schemes and strength of schedules.
In each team preview, we will try and give you the best fantasy football draft strategy for picking up your favorite player, as well as which player you should avoid.
In our eighth installment of the Fantasy Football Team Previews, we will analyze the 2011 season for the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins were an enigma to fantasy football owners last year.
Despite having thrown for the eighth-most passing yards, their quarterback situation was just awful and accounted for 19 interceptions. Despite having a coach that can make even Reuben Droughns a household name, the team still ended the year ranked 30th in rushing yards. Despite the low numbers, some players stepped up and became very valuable fantasy football waiver wire pickups.
The Redskins addressed every offseason need except one…the quarterback. Some think that the Redskins are going to throw the season in the hopes of getting “Luck-y” in the 2012 NFL Draft. Nothing is out of the realm of possibility, but we're only here to make your fantasy football team better, not predict the future.
Mike Shanahan enters his second season as the Redskins head coach and will look to improve on the team’s 6-10 season. Shannahan, like legendary coach Joe Gibbs, proved that even the biggest names in coaching can’t walk in to Washington and change things overnight.
The 2010 season was full of controversies concerning Shannahan and player personnel decisions. There was the Donovan McNabb benching and the whole Albert Haynesworth ongoing drama. Both of those players are gone, and Shannahan is again in control of well, everything.
The first thing Shannahan has to overcome in Washington is the culture. The culture of losing has been ongoing for decades and it’s hard to turn that around in one year. Shannahan has done a good job of establishing consistency in the organization, or as much as you can in one year. The easiest way to do that is to take control of everything, which he has done. You can even see it in the offseason; the Redskins focused on building through the draft and didn’t sign any big-name free agents.
Even one of the most hands-on owners in football, Dan Snyder, can’t say no to a polarizing figure like Mike Shannahan.
Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan may be on the team largely thanks to his father, but the youngest coordinator in football has a decent track record of leading some high-octane passing offenses. As the quarterbacks coach for the Texans in 2007, Shannahan was able to turn Matt Schaub in to a strong fantasy option.
Jim Haslett is the team’s Defensive Coordinator and has had some relative successes and failures. He will be in charge of the Redskins 3-4 defense this year. You may remember the struggle the team had on defense last year, ending equally awful against the run and the pass. In Haslett’s defense, the Redskins were in a transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme and faced the inevitable bumps and bruises.
The team focused their draft on helping out the defense, so there is some reason for optimism.
I mean, really, if you are interested in a Redskins quarterback as a potential fantasy football pick-up, you are either in a deep, deep league or someone has been feeding you all the wrong information.
Despite earlier predictions that it was John Beck’s job to lose, it appears now that Rex Grossman has as good of a chance to keep his starting gig this year. It is well-known that Kyle Shanahan is a fan of Beck, and his father even made comments in the offseason indicating Beck would be the primary quarterback this season.
Needless to say, the options at quarterback are limited, and neither will make any splash in fantasy football this season.
Maybe one of the best conspiracy theories going this year is that the Redskins will start the worst quarterback on the roster in order to throw the season and have the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft.
There is no doubt that any team in football would love to be able to draft Andrew Luck from Stanford, but the only chance they’ll have of that is if they have the first overall selection. The Redskins are most definitely in the running for that pick.
We’re not sure if these theories hold water, especially considering the NFL is a win-now league. We will say this though: It is far more likely the Redskins have the first pick in the draft than any Redskins QB being a worthwhile fantasy option.
Last year, the Redskins had a breakout star at running back named Ryan Torain. This wasn’t the first time Torain was working with a Mike Shanahan offense, and it’s likely that familiarity with the coach which paid dividends in his 10 games last season.
Torain couldn’t stay healthy last season, however, and unfortunately couldn’t stay healthy this offseason either. He fractured his wrist in practice and likely will be sidelined for only a week or two, but his injury-riddled past and Shannahan’s penchant for shuffling backs are scaring us off.
Lately, it has been rookie Roy Helu and newly acquired Tim Hightower sharing first-team reps in practice.
Hightower is a far better blocker than any other option at the position and is a lock to be the team’s third-down back. He suffered from a case of fumbilitis last season, and word is he hasn’t gotten over it just yet. Hightower should still start the season as the Skins' top back, but knowing Shanahan, that might not be for too long.
An interesting fantasy football sleeper candidate is Roy Helu, who is expected to see a decent amount of playing time this season—though the extent of that time will likely be based on how he picks up as a blocker, as it does with most rookie running backs. Helu’s straight-line speed matches Shanahan’s one-cut-and-go running offense and zone-blocking scheme.
Check back as we continue to analyze training camps and preseason games.
Usually, the Redskins make a big splash in NFL free agency by signing the biggest names on the block. This year the Redskins made a splash by essentially signing every receiver in free agency that didn’t come with a big name or big contract.
It was a priority to re-sign Santana Moss in order to give the offense some sort of veteran leadership at the position and to give the team some sort of consistency in the passing attack. They even went out and traded for Jabar Gaffney as a veteran playmaker who was sure to see a reduction in production under the new regime in Denver.
There isn’t any receiver on the roster besides Moss that will actually make a splash in fantasy football, however. If you play in a deeper league, or even a dynasty league, however, there is one player you should consider picking up.
The Redskins drafted Leonard Hankerson in the third round this year and he represents the only big body in a small group of receivers. Kyle Shanahan was a receiver himself in college and knows a thing or two about coaching the position. Don’t expect Hankerson to get too many reps this season, but both Shanahans expect Hankerson to be a big part of their offense in the future.
Chris Cooley has been a Redskin his entire career and essentially has been a very viable fantasy option for the entirety of his seven-year career. He saw his touchdown count drop significantly after the 2007 season, which could largely be attributed to the fact that the Redskins haven’t had any quarterback consistency since.
Cooley will still figure to be a big part of the Shannahan offense this year, however, as he recorded nearly 80 catches in 2011.
The Redskins drafted USC tight end Fred Davis with big expectations in 2008, and have had marginal success to this point. Davis regressed last season in the new offense but still matched Cooley’s touchdown production. Davis has another year in the offense under his belt and could make big strides this season. He has slimmed down and is in better shape, but it would take an injury to Chris Cooley to give Davis any real chance.
Cooley is a better choice overall, but substantially better in PPR leagues.
Defense & Kicker
The Redskins defense was arguably one of the worst in football, besides ball hawk DeAngelo Hall who seemed to have a resurgence as one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. Everything else, on the other hand, may have gotten worse.
The idea of the 3-4 defense is to stop the run and pressure the quarterback. Last year, the Redskins ranked near the bottom in stopping the run and pass and ended the year with a measly 29 sacks (25th overall).
Now, the general rule of thumb for drafting a defense in fantasy football, if you don’t get to draft one of the obvious contenders, is to take a team that blitzes often. A big part of the 3-4 defense’s success is reliant on the nose tackle. Albert Haynesworth didn’t want that job last year and it severely hurt the Redskins defense.
This year, the Redskins will employ another first-time defensive-lineman-turned-nose-tackle in Barry Cofield, but Cofield is excited to play the position.
One big pickup that is being overlooked this offseason is the addition of O.J. Atogwe at safety. Atogwe excelled under Haslett’s system when the two were together in St. Louis and it will surely help one of the worst-ranked pass defenses.
As much as an improvement as there was made in Washington, the Redskins defense is still not worthy of a fantasy football pickup. They could end up improving as the year progresses however, thanks to the heavy influx of rookies on the roster. Still, the unit likely will only be worth a look based on their matchup.
The Redskins had Graham Gano employed as their kicker last season, and to very marginal success. Gano was very shaky and missed some easy kicks in 2010. This year, the Redskins will turn to newly acquired Shayne Graham as their kicker. Gano is still on the roster, but his value as a powerful kickoff man is now watered down with the new NFL special teams rules.
Look for Graham to take over full control of the kicking duties before the end of the preseason.
Sleeper & Bust Candidate
Roy Helu – Helu is thought to be the ‘Skins back of the future, but could be their back of the present sooner than later. Injuries in training camp have given Helu the chance to take snaps with the first team and he has impressed while Tim Hightower has let down. Helu could end up being a three-down back for Washington if he can learn to pass block effectively.
Ryan Torain – He is one of the most injury-prone backs in a crowded backfield. His head coach has been known for shuffling backs and making the best with the minimum. We wouldn’t go investing anything big in Torain this season.