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On plays that the opposing defense blitzed, Chris Thompson's target share dropped more than any other receiving running back (50 or more targets) in 2016.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins: OK, OK. I hear you. Keep your voice down. The guy in the next stall thinks you're weird. I know you think this is a homer pick. Just like you did last year when he was on this list (ADP of QB13 last year, finished as QB5) or just like you did the year before that when I talked him up all preseason and he finished in the top 10 as well. Just because I'm a homer doesn't mean I'm wrong, and while I have questions about Washington's defense and win total this season, the offense is going to put up points. A lot of them. The past two years, Cousins is third in completion percentage, fourth in passing yards, seventh in pass attempts and third in QB rushing touchdowns. That's right, Cousins has nine rushing touchdowns the past two years. Some are scrambles, but many of them were designed plays. He's much more mobile than he gets credit for. The other thing that's great is he's not a guy who goes up and down with big games and then disappears. Per Tristan H. Cockcroft's consistency ratings, only Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan had a higher "start percentage" -- meaning weeks they finished in the top 10 at the position -- than Cousins last season. The one area he and the 'Skins struggled in last season? The red zone, where Cousins was 24th in the NFL in completion percentage. So what did they do? Went out and got 6-foot-4 Terrelle Pryor Sr., plus they get 6-foot-2 Josh Doctson back from injury (hopefully, he said, fingers crossed). Cousins is betting on himself this year for a contract, and at the end of it, it'll be a bet he wins. I'm along for the ride.
Terrelle Pryor Sr., Washington Redskins: Podcast fans know how much of a fan I am of this guy. Field Yates ate like a champ last year so I could enjoy my buddy Pryor on all teams (drafted, by the way, not picked up). Anyway, like I said with Cousins, this has more to do with my wanting to win fantasy leagues than it does my Redskins fandom. Last season, Cousins led the NFL with 37 completions that traveled 20-plus yards in the air, completing 48.1 percent of his attempts in the process (fifth best). The only QB in the past decade to achieve both of those thresholds in a single season was Peyton Manning in 2013. The 6-foot-4 Pryor now joins the team to not only help those red zone issues, but help stretch the field. Pryor tied for the fourth-most targets on 20-plus-yard passes last season and ranked 10th in air yards per target while on the Browns. After spending a summer working out with Randy Moss and Antonio Brown, Pryor gets a great QB, fantasy-friendly offense and 216 targets available with the departure of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.
Gruden wants to throw less - Upon taking over play-calling duties for the first time since 2014, the first thing Gruden told (formerly) Fat Rob Kelley was: "we're going to be running the ball more, you gotta drop some weight." Washington ranked 29th in rushing attempts last season with 379 despite a sixth-ranked run blocking unit (4.57 adjusted line yards) and a ninth-ranked 4.47 yards per carry. Washington's 607 pass attempts far exceeded the 551 they averaged in Gruden's first two years. With DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon's combined 18 years of experience giving way to the talented but unseasoned Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson, a less pass-happy approach can't be ruled out.
Better red zone receivers increase Cousins' TD upside - Garcon and Jackson accounted for one-third of Washington's 73 red zone targets last season, but they caught a combined 2-of-24 for TDs. Even if Washington attempts fewer passes, Kirk Cousins could see his TD total climb with the bigger-bodied Pryor and Doctson on the outside. "I do like to have bigger receivers in the red zone ... to be able to throw some fades," Gruden told the Washington Post in early August. Cousins connected for a TD on just 25 of 606 attempts (4.1%) last season after going 29-of-546 (5.3%) two seasons ago.
Gruden's past tendencies indicate a backfield committee is imminent even if Kelley starts - Whether Kelley or rookie fourth-rounder Samaje Perine wins the starting running back job may be irrelevant. Washington's depth chart this year is reminiscent of the team's 2015 edition, when Gruden used a committee approach featuring incumbent Alfred Morris (12.6 carries per game) and rookie Matt Jones (11.1). For what it's worth, Kelley has been firmly ahead of Perine throughout camp.
A very interesting and informative look at the Cousins to Pryor connection from NFL Next Gen Stats.
How each team distributed targets by position in 2016: pic.twitter.com/LuD6iu3D6J— TJ Hernandez (@TJHernandez) August 18, 2017
Washington targeted their tight ends more often than all but about five teams. On the flip side, they targeted their running backs less frequently than all but about five teams.
Red-zone advice for the Redskins from Warren Sharp: run the ball in the red zone, especially inside the 5-yard line.
Kirk Cousins gaudy 2015 and 2016 statistics were not built on the strength of garbage-time production. In fact, he finds himself in the minority of starting quarterbacks who have a better passer rating outside of garbage time situations than they do in them.
However, Cousins' rating is definitely on the low side in the first half of one-score contests, when the outcomes of games is most uncertain.
Kirk Cousins' current contract (2017 franchise tag) ranks fourth in terms of unadjusted APY/AAV. Only Derek Carr, Andrew Luck and Drew Brees are above him in this regard. When you adjust for salary cap inflation (% of cap) and likely-to-be-earned money (first 3 year APY/AAV), Cousins' drops to 8th. Luck, Brees and Carr's numbers fall to 3rd, 9th and 10th respectively.
So what about quarterbacks? "Touchdown rate is big when projecting quarterbacks," said Pro Football Focus's Pat Thorman. Silva agreed. "J.J. Zachariason of numberFire has done really good work on regression and touchdown rates and looked at how quarterbacks typically bounce back toward — or often even above or below — their career averages after having especially low or high touchdown rates the year prior.
"Matt Ryan was a great example last year," said Silva. "He posted a career-worst 3.4 percent touchdown rate in 2015, and then he exploded for a career- and league-high 7.1 percent touchdown rate last year. Now, he becomes a guy to [avoid] with his higher draft cost this year."
Another quarterback to target? "Kirk Cousins's touchdown rate — 4.1 percent in 2016 — was down compared to his previous two years [5.3 percent and 4.9 percent]," said Thorman. A bounce back could be coming.
Cousins played all but one of the Redskins 1061 offensive snaps in 2016, and ended the season as the ninth highest graded quarterback in the league, with a PFF overall grade of 85.4.
Cousins was especially effective going deep last season, and gained a total of 1,359 yards on passes that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, the highest mark among the league's quarterbacks. His passer rating of 118.1 on such passes ranked fourth.
Heading into a pivotal contract year, Cousins will look to improve his performance in the red zone. Outside of the Red zone, Cousins posted an adjusted completion percentage of 77.4%, which ranked sixth among 30 quarterbacks with at least 300 pass attempts. However, that figure dropped to 54.3% in the red zone, which ranked 26th of 29 quarterbacks with at least 40 attempts. The drop off of 23.1% was the second highest among quarterbacks in the league.
After becoming the starter in Week 8, he was top 10 in the NFL in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards after contact per rush and 15th in PPR fantasy points (RB13 in non-PPR). Samaie Perine has a long way to go on his pass protection, and while Kelley won't play third downs, he'll get goal-line work for a team that will score a lot. Going as RB38, in the 12th round, Kelley is a low-end RB2 in PPR and higher in non-PPR, who you can get dirt cheap. -- Berry
In 2014, Perine was one of the most elusive running backs in college football. He forced 74 missed tackles on 262 rushing attempts and earned an elusive rating (the PFF metric that uses missed tackle rate and yards gained after contact to measure a runner's success beyond the point of being helped by his blockers) of 100.4, the sixth highest in the nation. However, his elusive rating has fallen every year since, to 79.2 (11th ranked) in 2015, to 55.4 in 2016 (36th ranked).
Perine logged 6 rushing attempts in his team's preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens. He failed to force a missed tackle and managed just 0.83 yards after contact per attempt, the lowest mark among Washington running backs.
Keim also notes that Perine needs to "work on becoming more consistent in protection." Perine logged six pass blocking snaps in his debut, and surrendered one pressure. His pass blocking efficiency of 87.5 ranked sixth of eight running backs with at least six pass blocking snaps.
Most to Least Efficient OCs in Yards per Carry Average (2000-2016, min. 2,000 rushing attempts) pic.twitter.com/vziO6bRqDM— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) August 15, 2017
Check out new OC Matt Cavanaugh just inside the top ten. Perhaps he can help to boost the running game.
Terrelle Pryor Will Finish as a Top-8 Wide Receiver
Why This Will Happen: We know the Redskins lost Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson this offseason, which vacates 214 targets in the offense. That alone allows for instant opportunity for Pryor, but there's more to like than just volume.
Last season, Kirk Cousins topped the league (again, this is among relevant quarterbacks) with a 4.85 air yards per attempt rate. Sure, it doesn't hurt that one of the best deep ball catchers in league history was on his team (DeSean Jackson), but it's noteworthy nonetheless.
Pryor, meanwhile, ranked 20th out of the 93 wide receivers with 50 or more targets last year in air yards per reception. That happened despite the fact that Cleveland quarterbacks -- Pryor's team last year -- ranked outside the top-20 in air yards per attempt.
If Pryor takes some of those deeper routes from Jackson and then is able to capture a larger market share on top of that (Jackson only saw 16.47% of Washington's targets last year), then you can start to see a path to a top season. There's obviously a bust portion to this boom, but when talking bold, we've got to focus on the boom.
Easiest slates for primary left WRs: New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins
Washington has a new offensive coordinator and a pair of new perimeter wide receivers, so it's hard to pinpoint one primary benefactor here. The team does, however, face a tough slot schedule (bad news for Jamison Crowder) and a much easier slate against the perimeter. Josh Doctson and Terrelle Pryor Sr. will generally line up outside.
Terrelle Pryor, a quarterback-turned-receiver who resisted making the positional change for as long as possible, caught 77 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns while playing on a Browns offense that ranked 30th in the league in yards and 31st in scoring. That should be near impossible for Antonio Brown or Julio Jones, let alone someone still learning the position. Pryor was the 21st-ranked receiver in both standard and PPR formats, despite playing for a team that averaged 311 yards and 16.5 points per game. The guy deserved a medal for his performance in 2016.
Pryor flashed an ability to do everything a team asks of a No. 1 receiver. He had 11 receptions of at least 20 yards, even though he played for one of the worst deep-ball offenses in the league. He had just 13 red-zone targets, yet another function of the terrible Browns offense, but managed to turn four of them into touchdowns, including three of the four he had on plays that started inside the 10-yard line. Now 28 years old and entering his second full season as a receiver, there's good reason to believe Pryor can make the leap from great story to truly great receiver.
Terrelle Pryor, WR, Washington Redskins (29.5 ADP, WR13)
Ranked as my WR13, I'm all sorts of bullish on Pryor. After all, he's been the definition of resilience and adaptability. Not only did he switch positions, but he dominated at his new gig, successfully converting nearly 82 percent of contested catches (9th best among NFL WRs). And that was with a turnstyle of subpar talent under center. Now he's entering a situation with a solid QB and 200 targets up for grabs. There's little doubt he'll improve on his 1,000+ yard and 5 TD effort from 2016.
Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins (72.6 ADP, WR31)
The pass-catching weapon who scored the most TDs in DC, Crowder proved to be much more than a "PPR" guy in 2016. Posting a 67-847-7 stat line, the Duke product was third in total team targets (99) behind Pierre Garcon (114) and DeSean Jackson (100). With both Garcon and DJax off the squad, and Jordan Reed dealing with a lingering toe issue, Crowder could commandeer a 100+ catch season.
After spending nearly 56 percent of his snaps in the slot last season, Crowder is expected to move outside and line up opposite Pryor in two-wide sets come the fall. That means more opportunities for the long-armed receiver. And with Josh Doctson missing out on reps due to a hamstring pull, Crowder should continue to exist as one of Kirk Cousin's favorite targets. All signs point to a break-out campaign for the "undersized" dynamo, who figures to put up WR2 fantasy numbers in 2017.
In 2016, Crowder was one of the most productive slot receivers in the NFL. He ran 76.1 percent of his routes from the slot, and averaged55 yards per route run, the ninth highest mark among the league's slot receivers.
Crowder was one of Washington's most reliable targets in 2016, and when targeting Crowder, Kirk Cousins posted a passer rating of 112.9, the highest mark among all second-year wide receivers with at least 45 targets.
He was especially effective going deep last season, and posted the league's third highest catch rate (63.6 percent) on deep passes (passes that travel 20+ yards in the air). When targeting Crowder on deep routes (corner routes, post rotes and go routes) Kirk Cousins posted a passer rating of 139.2.
100 WRs have seen at least 100 targets since 2014. WRs with lowest percentage of targets in red zone: pic.twitter.com/Q0mcQQdb4Q— TJ Hernandez (@TJHernandez) April 11, 2017
Big-bodied Brian Quick got no love in the red zone during his last three years with the Rams.
I think Gronkowski and Jordan Reed have the highest upside at the TE position in 2017. Gronkowski's upside is self-evident at this point, while Reed is a glorified wide receiver that splits out wide in a lot of the formations discussed above. He doesn't take the type of hit traditional in-line TEs might in usage, and his elite per-game target and catch rates have allowed him to total 0.5 receptions more per game than any other TE over the past two seasons.
Round 5: Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
Based on ADP data from Fantasy Football Calculator, Reed is the No. 58 player being drafted in standard leagues, but he's No. 42 in the PFF Fantasy staff consensus rankings.
For the past three seasons, Reed has been elite in an important fantasy category: Yards per route run. His 1.97 YPRR ranked fourth among qualifying tight ends last year; 2.45 YPRR was first in 2015; and his 1.89 YPRR was tied for third in 2014. Reed also had the lowest drop rate among tight ends last year (1.49 percent).
Washington finished No. 1 in DVOA (-47.6%). Josh Norman did not have the impact he hoped for last season, but he only allowed a 13-yard completion to Dez Bryant on five post targets. He also came away with an interception while guarding Terrelle Pryor, a new teammate for Norman in 2017.
The 2016 Redskins defense also ranked in the top-8 against slant routes and passes on broken plays. Unfortunately, they didn't fare so well against the majority of the other route types. Joe Barry's defense ranked in the bottom-12 overall and against 5 of the 12 types of routes that were looked at (curls, outs, drags, flys and screens).
17. Jonathan Allen - DI - Redskins - snap count: 21
Playing with both the starters and the second unit, Allen ranked second this week (tied with Bronson Kaufusi) among 116 qualified defensive interior players with a 19.2 PRP; Allen recorded three total pressures (the full variety pack; a sack, hit and hurry) on just 13 pass-rush snaps.
Taylor played 12 snaps in his team's opening game against the Baltimore Ravens, and he performed well. He logged 9 snaps against the run, and produced one stop (a solo tackle that constitutes an offensive failure). He ended the game with a PFF run-defense grade of 81.9, the fourth-highest run-defense grade on his team.
Taylor has struggled with injury over the last three seasons, and hasn't played in the NFL regular season since 2014, but if he can stay healthy, Taylor has proved he can perform at the highest level. The highlight of his career came in 2012, where his run-stop percentage of 10.7 percent ranked fourth among all defensive tackles in the NFL.
Brown enjoyed a career year with the Buffalo Bills in 2016, where his PFF overall grade of 83.1 ranked 17th of 86 qualifying linebackers. On his 977 defensive snaps, he tallied 59 total stops (tackles that constitute an offensive failure), the third-most among inside linebackers in the league.
Brown impressed during his first game in a Redskins uniform. The veteran linebacker finished the game with a PFF overall grade of 83.0 — the second-highest grade of the game — after he logged two stops on just 12 defensive snaps.
The top players in the NFC East this past week pic.twitter.com/jimAFkqHHB— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 15, 2017
This whole article is a must for Skins fans, but here are my favorite parts if you're short on time:
Washington was by far the best passing offense in the NFL that season. The Redskins averaged 8.3 ANY/A that year; by way of comparison, only five teams that year averaged even 6.0 ANY/A. Mark Rypien produced dominant numbers that year, but he didn't do it by spreading the ball around: he did it by force-feeding Clark and to a lesser extent, Art Monk. Clark saw 36% of all Redskins receiving yards and a third of the Washington passing touchdowns. In the last 30 years, the only wide receivers to gain 30% of their team's production on a passing offense that was at least 3.00 ANY/A above average are Moss in '07, Rice in '92, Clark in '91, and Rice in '89.
Clark's raw numbers don't stand out as insane today — 70 catches for 1,340 yards and 10 touchdowns — but that's pretty misleading.
Washington ranked 26th in the 28-team NFL in pass attempts, because Washington played with the lead all the time that year. There just wasn't much opportunity for Clark to produce big numbers.
Unlike Moss or Rice or Harrison, Clark wasn't playing with a Hall of Fame quarterback.
In three playoff games, Clark caught 17 passes for 255 yards and 2 more touchdowns. Which may not sound like alike, but again, it was 37% of the Redskins receiving yards and 50% of the team's receiving touchdowns during the playoffs.
Additional information on Clark's historic 1991 season.