James Washington's Fantasy Draft Stock After Steelers' Preseason Debut

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorAugust 10, 2019

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington (13) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Tevin Jones (14) during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington made a strong case to be the team's No. 2 wideout opposite JuJu Smith-Schuster on Friday as he caught four passes for 84 yards and a touchdown in the first half of his team's preseason tilt against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

From a fantasy football perspective, the natural question is how the night may impact Washington's average draft position, which Fantasy Football Calculator lists at No. 127 in full point-per-reception leagues.

The 5'11", 213-pound Washington did himself a favor Friday, but more work is needed to overtake the presumed favorite Donte Moncrief for the starting spot opposite JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The 26-year-old, who signed as a free agent this offseason, is currently listed as a starter on the team's unofficial depth chart. Washington is a backup behind Smith-Schuster.

ESPN's Dan Graziano tweeted Wednesday that Moncrief "sounds like a front-runner" for the No. 2 spot. Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also mentioned Aug. 1 that teammates were giving Moncrief rave reviews in camp, with backup quarterback Josh Dobbs, cornerback Steven Nelson and safety Terrell Edmunds all offering compliments.

However, Washington gave the Steelers coaching staff something to ponder during a dominant first half in which he went deep for a 44-yard reception from Dobbs:

NFL Network @nflnetwork

.@josh_dobbs1 from his own end zone DEEP to @JamesWashington! 📺: #TBvsPIT on NFL Network (or check local listings) https://t.co/kTCIJrZCOK

The second-year pro also connected with Oklahoma State teammate Mason Rudolph on a nine-yard touchdown:

NFL Network @nflnetwork

Just like college! @Rudolph2Mason finds @JamesWashington for the TD! 📺: #TBvsPIT on NFL Network (or check local listings) https://t.co/b1OfjQfTaz

Mike Gallagher of Rotoworld expects Washington's stock to rise:

Michael Gallagher @MikeSGallagher

James Washington's ADP might be going up a bit after today. The preseason effect.

And ESPN's Mike Clay called him a "breakout candidate."

Mike Clay @MikeClayNFL

My dude James Washington crushing it with the B team. Just scored and missed an earlier TD by an inch. #BreakoutCandidate

Former NFL wide receiver Dez Bryant also likes what he sees:

Dez Bryant @DezBryant

@JamesWashington will have a break out year.. just wait on it

Although Washington opened eyes, expectations must be tempered a bit. The wide receiver also dominated last year's preseason with seven catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns over three games.

That didn't translate to regular-season success, as he caught just 16 passes for 217 yards and a score.

However, Washington should have more opportunities to excel with former Steelers No. 1 wideout Antonio Brown now an Oakland Raider. Regardless of whether Washington gets the No. 2 spot, he figures to absorb a chunk of the targets left by the ex-Steeler star, who saw a team-leading 168 of them last year.

In sum, Washington will be worth stashing on fantasy football benches even if he doesn't get a starting spot given his expected volume uptick.

However, taking the former OSU Cowboy much earlier than his current No. 127 ADP may not be the best move until we see how the rest of training camp and the preseason develops.