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AP Photo/Al Drago

2023 Fantasy Football Preview: Washington Commanders


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Player Outlooks (2023)

 

QB Sam Howell: The Commanders are a very difficult team to predict regarding their offensive philosophy in 2023, as new offensive corodinaotr Eric Bieniemy comes over from Kansas City (where he helped run one of the most prolific passing games in league history), and Washington has two dynamite wide receivers in Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. On the other hand, head coach Ron Rivera may prefer to be more conservative to play to their strengths as a defensive team, and it’ll be interesting to see how long of a leash Howell has with a very tough stretch following the opener (@ DEN, v BUF, @ PHI). Rushing production and Bieniemy living up to the hype as a play-caller is Howell’s best chance at being more than a low-end QB2 option.

 

QB Jacoby Brissett: Brissett was solid as the starter in Cleveland, and while all the “QB1” momentum has swung heavily towards Howell, there is a decent chance the veteran makes starts this year. In three seasons where Brissett has started more than five games, he’s recorded touchdown-interception ratios of 13:7, 18:6, and 12:6—which is evidence that he profiles as the type of quarterback Rivera and the Commanders might trust to take care of the ball if Howell struggles with turnovers or the offense is flat early in the year.

 

QB Jake Fromm: Washington has been down to their third-string quarterback in each of the past five seasons, and we think Fromm can lead an offense if given the opportunity. Some might say he got a chance with the Giants, but the circumstances weren’t exactly conducive to success—just look at how Mac Jones “regressed” in a less-than-ideal scenario with the Patriots. So, if there is a No. 3 quarterback we believe can have 2023 value, it’d be Fromm.

 

RB Brian Robinson Jr.: Robinson returning from gunshot wounds to handle 200+ carries last year was an unbelievable story of perseverance, and we will certainly see a better version of him in Year 2 after he understandably wasn’t quite himself having been shot on August 28 (and debuting in Week 5). The important traits of vision and natural feel were on display for Robinson as a rookie, and getting his burst back will allow for more production on the ground—which we started to see glimpses of with 87+ rushing yards in four of his final five games last season. Don’t overlook him as a low-end RB2/FLEX target.

 

RB Antonio Gibson: Gibson recently said he’ll be taking the role vacated by J.D. McKissic with a lot of work on passing downs and in two-minute situations, and that’s a great sign for his 2023 outlook. Ideally, we’ll see Gibson’s potential as a pass-catcher fully unlocked (perhaps similar to what Jerick McKinnon did last year with the Chiefs), and remember, he began his career with touchdown totals of 11 and ten in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

 

RB Chris Rodriguez Jr.: We don’t think Robinson will be threatened for early-down work, but Rodriguez was reportedly a prospect that Eric Bieniemy “really liked” coming out of Kentucky, which is notable. If the Commanders lean on the running game at a high enough level, Rodriguez could have a quality role behind Robinson and Antonio Gibson.

 

WR Terry McLaurin: The hiring of Bieniemy creates plenty of added excitement around the Washington pass-catchers, and McLaurin has been awesome throughout his career despite playing with various quarterbacks (and under three different team names). He’s also been a guy that can overcome most difficult matchups—for example, he cleared 100 yards in both games versus the Eagles last season—and may benefit from second-year wideout Jahan Dotson becoming a star in his own right to take draw attention from opponents. Sam Howell is an unknown, though, and McLaurin has settled in as a low-end WR2 since entering the league with finishes of WR24, WR19, WR25, and WR18 to begin his career; he should probably be taken around that range in fantasy drafts.

 

WR Jahan Dotson: Dotson started his career with four touchdowns across his first three-and-a-half games before a hamstring injury kept him out until the middle of November, and the 2022 first-round pick didn’t have a huge role upon his return. However, Ron Rivera kept his word about putting more of a focus on him down the stretch, and Dotson took advantage with a season-long pace of 71/1,170/10 over the final five games—including a few highlight plays that seemed to alert fantasy owners (and “experts” that didn’t quite realize it) just how good the Penn State product is. He’s a player to highlight in your rankings this summer.

 

WR Curtis Samuel: Samuel fell off after a hot start last year, but like McLaurin and Dotson, he should benefit from the Kansas City system coming over to Washington. The concern is how consistent he can be, as the Commanders project to rank towards the bottom of the league in terms of volume through the air, and Samuel will be the clear No. 3—making him a better real-life weapon than fantasy option.

 

WR Dyami Brown: Brown was a third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and he has the benefit of his college quarterback (Howell) starting for Washington this season. Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel are locked in as the top pass-catchers, but Brown might be able to make an impact as a situational deep threat and would have increased value with an injury.

 

WRs Dax Milne, Byron Pringle, and Kazmeir Allen: All three of Milne (last year’s primary punt returner), Pringle (just signed this week), and Allen (a speedy player out of UCLA) will compete for a roster spot and role in camp, but the Commanders might be in trouble from an injury perspective if they are forced into extended action.

 

TE Logan Thomas: Washington not targeting a tight end this offseason considering the options available in the draft and free agency was a surprise, but they seem confident in Thomas being a stable option or one of the younger options (primarily Cole Turner and John Bates) stepping up behind him. Since an overall TE6 finish in 2020, the former college quarterback has combined to catch 57 passes for 519 yards and four touchdowns over his past 20 games, and he is now entering his age-32 season.

 

TE John Bates: Bates can be classified as a blocking tight end, but that gets you on the field, and he’s been around 45% of the team’s offensive snaps played in two seasons to begin his career. A new scheme opening up play-action opportunities in scoring territory can make Bates a sneaky contributor.

 

TE Cole Turner: Again, Washington didn’t do much at tight end this offseason, and Turner profiles as more of the “move” option compared to John Bates as more of a blocker. If Logan Thomas starts slow or misses time, Turner could be a factor on a young offense as a very deep “sleeper” at the position.

 

Other Notes

 

Best IDP value: CB Emmanuel Forbes

The career FBS record holder for interceptions returned for a touchdown (six), Forbes was taken in the first round to be a playmaker at cornerback, and the combination of instincts and ball skills is extremely rare. Because of his ability to turn defense into offense, Forbes should be viewed as one of the top preseason candidates for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and production should be there for IDP drafters.

 

Stat to know (via draft guide)

Brian Robinson Jr. didn’t play more than 52% of the team’s offensive snaps in any of his 12 appearances last season.