Friday, August 19, 2022

2022 Commanders Fantasy Football Preview: Does Carson Wentz answer the long-running QB question?

Washington didn’t take the step forward many expected, and now the Commanders are pinning their hopes on Carson Wentz, who two other teams have given up on in the past two seasons. There are some pretty solid playmakers around him on offense, but Wentz is no guarantee to be a big upgrade.       

2021 Review

Record: 7 – 10 (22)

PPG: 19.7 (23)

YPG: 323.6 (21)

Pass YPG: 202.4 (21)

Rush YPG: 121.2 (12)

PAPG: 32.4 (21)

RAPG: 28.1 (10)

2020 Fantasy finishes

QB: Taylor Heinicke QB19

RB: Antonio Gibson RB8, J.D. McKissic RB38

WR: Terry McLaurin WR25

TE: Ricky Seals-Jones* TE35, Logan Thomas TE45

*No longer with team

Number to know: 6.8

Across Scott Turner’s two seasons as offensive coordinator, the Commanders have ranked dead last in average depth of target at 6.8 yards — they were 21st in 2021 at 7.5, so at least some of that has to do with the incredibly conservative approach they had with Alex Smith and co. in 2020. Still, given that their No. 1 wide receiver is a guy who thrives making plays down the field, it’s clear they’ve been too passive, largely thanks to QB play. 

The hope is that the addition of Wentz can change that. There’s no real question that Wentz has the arm to make this team more effective down the field, and he ranked 10th in passer rating on attempts that traveled at least 15 yards down the field last season — Taylor Heinicke was 25th. Of course, the talent around a QB matters, too, as Wentz struggled mightily on deeper passes in 2020, ranking 30th by that metric. 

The good news is, this should be a pretty talented receiving group, led by McLaurin but also featuring first-rounder Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel, who was ninth in the league in air yards in 2019, the last time he played with Ron Rivera. Wentz has lost a lot of shine in a lot of folks’ eyes over the past two seasons, but the Commanders are making a bet that they can get the most out of him. At the very least, he should be an upgrade over what they’ve gotten the past few seasons. 

2021 Offseason

Draft Picks 

1. (16) Jahan Dotson, WR

2. (47) Phidarian Mathis, DT

3. (98) Brian Robinson, RB

4. (113) Percy Butler, SAF

5. (144) Sam Howell, QB

5. (149) Cole Turner, TE

7. (230) Chris Paul, OL

7. (240) Christian Holmes, CB

Additions

QB Carson Wentz, OL Andrew Norwell, OL Trai Turner

Key Departures

S Landon Collins, OL Brandon Scherff, OL Ereck Flowers, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, DL Matt Ioannidis, DL Tim Settle, QB Kyle Allen

Available Opportunity 

5 carries, 5 RB targets, 129 WR targets, 49 TE targets 

2022 Preview

Rankings

Chris Towers’ projections

QB Carson Wentz PA: 562, YD: 3931, TD: 22, INT: 11; RUSH — ATT: 61, YD: 244, TD: 2
RB Antonio Gibson CAR: 249, YD: 1044, TD: 7, TAR: 45, REC: 36, YD: 249, TD: 1
RB J.D. McKissic CAR: 61, YD: 244, TD: 2, TAR: 73, REC: 59, YD: 547, TD: 2
WR Terry McLaurin TAR: 120, REC: 84, YD: 914, TD: 7
WR Curtis Samuel TAR: 88, REC: 66, YD: 696, TD: 4, CAR: 33, YD: 164.2, TD: 1
WR Jahan Dotson TAR: 92, REC: 55, YD: 552, TD: 4
TE Logan Thomas TAR: 90, REC: 65, YD: 705, TD: 4

Biggest Question

Is there still a leap left for Antonio Gibson to make?

Gibson was less efficient as a runner than in his rookie season and he didn’t improve as a pass-catching option, leading to a somewhat disappointing second season despite finishing as RB8 — he was RB17 in points per game. Gibson still has the skill set that made him so intriguing the past two seasons, but with J.D. McKissic ultimately returning after a free agency flirtation with Buffalo, it’s probably best to view him as an RB2 for Fantasy at this point.

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One sleeper, one breakout and one bust

Samuel is the forgotten man in this offense, but I remain excited about what he potentially brings to the table. I think there’s room for a poor man’s Deebo Samuel-esque breakout here from Samuel, who has shown the ability to be a playmaker down the field or out of the backfield before. It’s a long shot, especially after the Commanders added Dotson, but the team is still talking about him like a core piece despite the fact that he missed much of last season with a groin injury from camp that just never got right. If he’s healthy, Samuel is a multi-purpose weapon who could surprise you with his production.

Gibson let a lot of Fantasy players down last season because he didn’t take the step forward in the passing game that many expected, but I’m not sure there’s all that much less to like about him now than there was a year ago. I’ve got him ranked in just about the same spot, at the very least. We know he’s got the two-down role locked up in Washington – Brian Robinson was brought in as a third-rounder to provide some depth and upside in case something happens to Gibson, but I don’t expect much to change with his role in the early downs. So, the question is, does the path to RB1 upside still exist if something happens to J.D. McKissic? We saw it last season, as he averaged 16.9 PPR points and 4.6 targets per game in the five McKissic missed compared to 14.1 with 3.0 targets with McKissic active. There’s still room for a 1,200-rushing yard, 60-catch season from Gibson, even if it’s not the certainty many were hoping for a year ago. 

McLaurin seems pretty safe, what with the expected quarterback upgrade, but the Commanders unquestionably have more competition for targets than they’ve had at any point in McLaurin’s career. At least, they do right now, as of the start of training camp; injuries could always change that calculus. There’s little to complain about with McLaurin’s WR17 price (43.7 ADP overall), but he was pretty fringe-y as a WR2 last season, so if his efficiency doesn’t improve and his target share goes down, he could be a disappointment, albeit one with a pretty high floor. 

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