Washington's Wide Receivers Offer Big Value in Best-Ball Drafts
It seems that fantasy football drafters have completely written off the Washington passing game for 2019. After the team failed to produce any fantasy-relevant options at the position in 2018, a quarterback depth chart that includes Case Keenum and rookie Dwayne Haskins doesn't seem to be instilling any renewed confidence.
It doesn't help that their wide receiver corps isn't pretty on the eyes, either. Their top-drafted player, per Draft.com's average draft position (ADP) data for best-ball formats is Trey Quinn, who has 10 targets and three NFL games to his name -- and he's coming in as only the 76th wideout off the board in fantasy football.
That cheap ADP should be enough to have you taking a close look at the group, though, regardless of what you think about the potential quality of the passing game in DC. Let's break it down.
Over the last three seasons, there has been only one instance of a team not having a single wideout finish in the top 76 in PPR scoring. This was when the 2017 Cleveland Browns got only five games out of top receiver Josh Gordon and nine out of an injured Corey Coleman in an 0-16 season. So unless you're confident in projecting injury or suspension (which you shouldn't be), it's tough to relegate an entire passing offense to the "often undrafted" end of ADP rankings.
Admittedly, last year Washington didn't have a receiver finish better than WR67 in fantasy scoring. Coupling in the uncertainty of which Washington wideout is going to be tops in the group this year (Quinn's primary competition is Paul Richardson and Josh Doctson), a slight discount from WR67 to WR76 could make some sense.
Washington's 2018 receiving corps was also hampered by injury, though, with Jamison Crowder getting in just nine games and Richardson playing seven. They didn't have a single player at the position play all 16 games.
Looking again at the last few seasons, injury seems to be just about the only way a team's entire receiving corps can offer so little value. The only other two teams last year that didn't have a single wideout crack even the top 50 in fantasy were also both mired by injury -- with the San Francisco 49ers missing each of Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis for at least five games and the Miami Dolphins not getting 16 games out of any of their wideouts.
The trend holds up over the last few years, too, with only two teams (the Chicago Bears in 2017 and San Francisco 49ers in 2016) failing to place a wide receiver in the top 50 while also getting 16 games out of their most-targeted player at the position.
Unless you're projecting Washington to have one of the worst passing attacks in recent memory (and as -150 favorites to win more than six games, that's not likely), then you can expect to find some value in at least one of their receivers.
Who to Pick?
The question, then, isn't whether to draft a Washington receiver -- it's which Washington wide receiver you want on your team.
The market's favorite so far is Quinn, but he's also a former seventh-round pick who has played a grand total of 107 NFL snaps. Competing with a pair of players who have each been targeted at least 15 times more often than he has as a pro, Quinn is a serious long shot to be fantasy relevant, and, to me, he's the easiest fade of the group.
That narrows it down to two guys, and if you're drafting with any sort of volume this season, there's enough value here that you can afford to hedge by mixing it up between Doctson and Richardson on your teams. As for which one to be more focused on, Doctson is the best bet to be the team's leading wide receiver in 2019.
He certainly hasn't lived up to his first-round draft pick status, but the "bust" label and failing to meet pre-draft expectations seems to be overshadowing what he's actually done in the pros. Doctson was a complete non-factor as a rookie in 2016, but he has since turned in back-to-back seasons with 78 targets, finishing second on the team behind only Jordan Reed in 2018. Doctson accounted for 16.0% of Washington's targets last year, and they didn't have another wideout crack even 50 targets or account for better than 10.0% of their looks.
Admittedly, he benefited from Crowder's injury, getting a bump in volume with Crowder on the shelf, but Crowder (and the next-most targeted wideout, Maurice Harris) are both gone this year, freeing up 19.6% of the team's targets (and 38% of the team's wide receiver targets) from 2018, giving Doctson the potential to see increased volume this year.
There's plenty to like about Richardson, too, though, and that's why I like getting exposure to both.
Richardson made it through just seven games before landing on the injured reserve with a shoulder injury last season, but he had some promising numbers. He tallied 35 targets in that time (5.0 per game) and averaged a reasonable 8.3 fantasy points per game. He was also more efficient than Doctson from a real-world standpoint, averaging 0.64 Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target to Doctson's 0.57. (You can read more about NEP in our glossary.)
That's not enough to push him ahead of Doctson for 2019, though.
Doctson missed one of the games in which Richardson played, but the former TCU star led the team's wideouts in snaps in each of the other six games in which Doctson and Richardson both played. Richardson showed promise, but Doctson got more playing time and averaged slightly more targets per game (5.2) in a sample over twice as long as Richardson's.
With targets per game and market share of a team's targets being two of the most consistent stats year-over-year for wideouts, per 4for4's TJ Hernandez, and no real new threats to his workload, we can expect Doctson to lead the group in volume again in 2019.
His lack of efficiency is certainly a concern, but as we've seen, it's incredibly rare for a team's top wideout to play a full season and not surpass Doctson's current ADP (tied at WR94 -- or essentially undrafted in most leagues). Efficiency is also far more prone to variance than volume, with catch rate and especially yards per target offering far less year-over-year consistency, so there's plenty of room for simple variance to give him a boost on that front, as well.
Even without an uptick in efficiency, Doctson has a decent floor and the potential to return some solid value as a last-round flier. If he stays healthy, he also has a surprisingly high ceiling, and that gives him the potential to absolutely blow away his virtually non-existent ADP.