Can Washington Offer Any Fantasy Football Value in 2019?

Derrius Guice and Case Keenum project as two new key starters for Washington. Is this enough to elevate their offense?

After a middling season with the Denver Broncos, journeyman quarterback Case Keenum was traded to Washington, with the two teams swapping late-round picks.

The Broncos had acquired Joe Flacco to replace Keenum, and Washington is expected to be sans Alex Smith for the 2019 season. With Colt McCoy as the only healthy quarterback on the team, Washington had a clear need for a passer, and they filled it with Keenum.

While Keenum may look like a stopgap quarterback, it's likely that he'll spend at least part of the season as the starter. Washington has the 15th pick in the NFL Draft, which all but guarantees that they'll miss out on Dwayne Haskins -- barring a trade up. And while the Josh Rosen-to-Washington rumors are hot and heavy right now, it's no guarantee Rosen starts all year even if that trade happens since Rosen is coming off a historically terrible rookie campaign.

In six games without Smith last year, Washington had a miserable offense, averaging 19.7 points per game, which would have ranked 27th for the entire season. Their 210 passing yards per game would've ranked 24th. Even before Smith's injury, Washington's offense was pretty bland. Is the signing of Keenum enough to make this offense respectable, or is this a situation we're going to want to avoid in 2019?

Is Keenum Any Better?

Smith and Keenum generated similar efficiency marks in 2018. Using our in-house Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, Keenum averaged 0.04 Passing NEP per drop back, compared to Smith's clip of 0.02. The league average was 0.11, putting both well off the pace.

Both Smith and Keenum had much better years in 2017. Smith was coming off a campaign in Kansas City in which he excelled, posting a Passing NEP per drop back of 0.20, which ranked seventh among passers with at least 500 drop backs that season. Keenum was surrounded by talent in Minnesota Vikings in 17, recording a Passing NEP per drop back of 0.19, slotting in one spot behind Smith.

These two have shown that they can thrive in the right environment.

Unfortunately, Washington didn't prove to be that kind of place for Smith, and it's not likely to be much different for Keenum.

Washington's Pass-Game Options

Amazingly, Washington didn't have a single wideout finish in the top 50 at the position in PPR fantasy points in 2018. That's hard to do.

And because Keenum isn't much of an upgrade over Smith, it's tough to place any faith in their fantasy outputs going forward. Plus, Washington's receiver depth chart took a hit this offseason with Jamison Crowder going to the Jets. Crowder, typically a slot receiver, actually paced the team in yards per grab (13.4) last year and led Washington in Reception NEP per target.

That leaves Jordan Reed, Josh Doctson and Chris Thompson as the only returning players with 50 or more targets, though Washington could try to find some pass-catchers in the NFL Draft.

With depleted pass-game options, targets may be concentrated more heavily to a few players in 2019, but in Jay Gruden's tenure as Washington's coach, they have not had a single wide receiver register a target share of even 20%, though that could be a result of the team lacking a true stud wideout in Gruden's time.

In 2015, Reed played 14 games and had a 24% target share in those games, the closest thing to a dominant playmaker Washington has had in recent years. He also led the squad with 558 receiving yards on a team-high 84 targets last season.

While more of the same from under center may not inspire any hope in Washington's receivers, Reed's sporadic success in 2018 -- which was a fairly healthy year for him -- coupled with the lack of many good options at tight end make him the pass-game asset most likely to be useable in fantasy from this offense.

The Ground Game

With Washington's passing game set up for mediocrity, could the backfield can offer some fantasy value? Even that is tough to count on.

Gruden's offenses in Washington peaked with the 19th-most plays per game in 2015 and have been at 20th or worse in every other year. They were also the 11th most run-heavy team in their first season without Kirk Cousins.

Washington wants to limit turnovers on offense and play good defense -- which could lead to a very run-heavy approach. Their offseason moves so far point in this direction. They dropped a ton of cash on Landon Collins, and they brought back Adrian Peterson despite the expectation that Derrius Guice should be back after last season's torn ACL.

That could make Washington's running backs appealing in fantasy, but the re-signing of Peterson muddies that up a bit.

Peterson, who offers very little in the passing game, was heavily reliant on game script last year, but he did finish as the PPR RB19. Thompson, who blew up in the early part of 2017 with Cousins, was the RB54, playing just 10 games and failing to do much after a good showing in Week 1.

Despite Peterson's 1,000-yard campaign, he's a 34-year-old back competing with Guice -- on whom the team invested a second-round pick -- for the top spot on the depth chart. It's a safe bet that Guice will operate as the team's top early-down back in 2019 as long as he's healthy, though Peterson could steal goal-line looks.

A slower, ground-based approach may allow Guice to make a splash in his first season of action in the NFL as long as he sees enough volume. But if he cedes passing-game work to Thompson, Guice will also be a pretty inconsistent fantasy producer.

In Conclusion

Washington was an offense to -- for the most part -- avoid in fantasy football last season, especially after Smith went down. While their offense isn't likely to make a huge jump with Keenum at the helm -- and the same can be said if it's Rosen who ends up running the show -- Guice and Reed offer some appeal.

Any running back who sees good volume is a guy we need to have on our radar in fantasy, so if Guice is atop the depth chart, he'll be on the RB2 (top-24) map. And with tight end being what it is, Reed is at least worth monitoring as one of the few guys outside the elite options at the position who has shown big upside before in his career.

Still, this is likely to be one of the worst offenses in the league barring something crazy, so even Guice and Reed are shaping up as low-ceiling plays who may be tough to rely on each week.