Is There a Washington Wide Receiver Worth Drafting in Fantasy Football This Season?
As a whole, Washington's receivers are an unproven and underachieving group.
Josh Doctson has fallen well short of the expectations that accompanied him as the 22nd pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and pricey free-agent addition from last offseason, Paul Richardson, flopped in his first season -- an injury-shortened seven-game campaign -- with the club. Both are currently expected to start, but Washington also spent a third-round pick in this year's draft on Terry McLaurin and a sixth-round selection on Kelvin Harmon to bolster the position and provide competition.
I'm not particularly interested in any member of the aforementioned quartet. But sophomore slot wideout Trey Quinn looks the part of a worthwhile dart throw late in drafts, especially in PPR formats.
Quinn is the unquestioned slot receiver for Washington. Head coach Jay Gruden said the second-year receiver "has the slot spot locked down," per John Keim of ESPN NFL Nation.
Gruden said Trey Quinn has the slot spot locked down. Zero surprise considering uncertainty over who would be next. A few guys will get reps there, including UDFA Steven Sims. Cam Sims said he's worked there too; he's learning all 3 spots. Kidzy working inside too.
— John Keim (@john_keim) July 28, 2019
Is it possible Gruden has a change of heart before the start of the regular season? Sure. But an endorsement from the head coach certainly isn't a bad thing. Furthermore, the slot has been a semi fantasy-friendly gig in Washington's offense in recent years.
In 2016, former Washington slot receiver Jamison Crowder tied for 40th in points per game at receiver in PPR formats, according to FantasyPros. His overall production slipped the following year, but, interestingly, Crowder finished 40th in points per game in the same scoring format in 2017.
Quinn will likely have to share some of his slot work with oft-injured tight end Jordan Reed. Graham Barfield of NFL.com recently tweeted out how often various tight ends were detached from the formation as wideouts or slot receivers in 2018, and, as you can see below, Reed topped the list.
Here is how often top fantasy TEs were detached from formation as wideouts or slot receivers last season:
- Reed (67%)
- Ebron (65%)
- Cook (58%)
- Ertz (56%)
- Kelce (54%)
- Engram (49%)
- Howard (46%)
- Njoku (42%)
- Rudolph (40%)
- Kittle (39%)
- Henry (37%)
- McDonald (36%)
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) July 31, 2019
Of course, Reed can only cut into Quinn's slot usage when he's healthy, and good health has often eluded the 29-year-old tight end. Reed's single-season high for games played in his six-year career is 14 in 2015. He's played in only 31 of a possible 48 games over the last three years, although he's coming off of a 13-game campaign last year.
It's also possible Reed won't command as much usage in the passing game if injuries have diminished his abilities. To that point, 49 tight ends were targeted a minimum of 25 times last year, and Reed's 0.01 Target Net Expected Points (NEP) per Target ranked 43rd. He was better in 2017, but he wasn't a world-beater that season, either. Out of 50 tight ends with a minimum of 25 targets in 2017, he ranked tied for 25th with 0.19 Target NEP per Target. To add more context to that mark, fellow tight end Vernon Davis bested Reed's mark by posting 0.23 Target NEP per Target for Washington in 2017. Even if Reed stays healthier than he has in past seasons in 2019, he might not be much of an impediment to Quinn's fantasy value.
Who Quinn will catch passes from this season is a question that's not answered yet. Washington spent the 15th pick in this year's draft on quarterback Dwayne Haskins and also made a trade for potential stopgap option Case Keenum in March. Colt McCoy is in the mix, too, and is the most familiar of the trio with Gruden's offense, having spent the last five years in Washington's organization.
Washington's team over/under total for wins is just six, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Haskins could win the job out of the gate, but even if he doesn't, if Washington plays to sub-.500 expectations, the club will likely want to evaluate their rookie signal-caller at some point.
Haskins posted monster numbers en route to finishing third in Heisman Trophy Award voting last year in his only season as a starter for Ohio State. As just a one-year starter in college, he might not be rushed into action if he proves to be raw. NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein noted Haskins' arm talent and mobility limitations in his pre-draft scouting report.
The mobility limitations are of note in large part because Washington's Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams wants out of town. Washington Post columnist Jerry Brewer thoroughly analyzed the situation, and Williams' discontent with Washington is more than a squabble over compensation and involves distrust of the organization and its medical staff. Perhaps the two sides can hash things out, but if Williams holds out or is traded, the immobile rookie Haskins could, in theory, be forced to lean heavily on quick-hitting plays to safety-blanket options such as Quinn instead of demonstrating his cannon arm on deep balls on slow-developing plays to the outside receivers.
McCoy's a career backup and seems like a long shot to hold down the starting job for long even if he wins it initially. Although, he and Quinn did start a game together last year, and McCoy completed five of six targets to the then-rookie receiver for 26 receiving yards and a touchdown. In relief of an injured Alex Smith the week before, McCoy attempted 12 passes and completed his only target to Quinn for an 11-yard gain. According to the play-by-play data at Pro-Football-Reference, though, the two also connected earlier on an eight-yard pass that was wiped away by Washington accepting a defensive offside penalty. The sample is tiny, but McCoy has shown some degree of chemistry with Quinn and wouldn't necessarily cripple the sophomore receiver's fantasy value if he's the team's passer.
Keenum starting would likely be the best scenario for Quinn's fantasy value this season. The journeyman quarterback played in 10 games (starting nine) for the Rams in 2016, played in 15 regular season games (starting 14) for the Vikings in 2017, and started all 16 games for the Broncos last year.
Over that three-year stretch, he frequently dialed up passes to his slot receivers. The following table doesn't specifically feature stats accumulated by the included receivers exclusively out of the slot, but all three receivers routinely lined up in the slot for their respective teams during the seasons they played with Keenum and produced the displayed results in the table on Keenum's pass attempts. Even though the numbers aren't slot specific, you can see the high volume of work each of these regular slot options got when they were playing with Keenum each of the last three years.
The numbers below were amassed on only passes from Keenum. The ranks in the various statistical categories among pass-catchers (running backs, wideouts and tight ends) for that team in that season are in parenthesis, and the ranks for Target NEP per Target were out of five pass-catchers who were targeted a minimum of 20 times in 2016, six who hit that threshold in 2017, and out of seven who reached the minimum of 20 targets from Keenum in 2018.
|Year||Player||Team||Targets||Receptions||Receiving Yards||Receiving Touchdowns||Target NEP per Target|
|2016||Tavon Austin||Rams||76 (1st)||40 (2nd)||336 (3rd)||2 (3rd)||-0.41 (5th)|
|2017||Adam Thielen||Vikings||128 (1st)||79 (1st)||1,099 (1st)||4 (3rd)||0.32 (3rd)|
|2018||Emmanuel Sanders||Broncos||98 (1st)||71 (1st)||868 (1st)||4 (1st)||0.37 (1st)|
Studs Adam Thielen and Emmanuel Sanders (in only 12 games) parlayed the hefty volume into big numbers thanks to also being efficient. Sort-of wide receiver now running back and gadget player Tavon Austin was not efficient, as his Target NEP per Target mark in the table illustrates. That doesn't tell the whole story, though, as there were 123 receivers targeted a minimum of 25 times in 2016, and Austin's -0.27 Target NEP per Target ranked 122nd. His -0.41 Target NEP per Target with Keenum throwing him passes ranked behind basement dweller Braxton Miller's -0.30 Target NEP per Target that season.
Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders analyzed 2016 slot versus wide data for wide receivers and quarterbacks as charted by Sports Info Solutions, and the table in the linked piece credited Austin with 77 targets from the slot compared to 22 from outside. Kacsmar also discussed the slot versus wide data for wide receivers from the 2017 season, and Thielen was targeted 83 times from the slot and 59 times outside while teammate Stefon Diggs received 35 targets from the slot and 59 from outside. The target numbers from the linked pieces for Austin in 2016 and Thielen and Diggs in 2017 aren't just from Keenum, but they do further illustrate that Keenum threw to his slot receivers frequently in those two seasons.
Let me begin this section by tossing some cold water on Quinn. Despite the fact I discussed Thielen and Sanders above, I'm not putting Quinn in their class of receiver. Having said that, I also expect him to be much better than the aforementioned Austin.
Quinn was selected with the last pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, making him Mr. Irrelevant for that draft class. Former NFL Network draft analyst and current Oakland Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock lauded Quinn's ability to "get in and out of breaks" and catch "everything." Lance Zierlein projected Quinn to be selected in the range of the fifth-round to sixth-round and used Adam Humphries as an NFL player comparison in his pre-draft scouting report, perhaps suggesting his skills belied where he was actually selected.
Unfortunately for Quinn, he didn't have much of an opportunity last year to showcase he's an NFL-caliber talent due to injuries limiting him to only three games played. Thus, we're left to speculate on how good he can be at the NFL level. What is clear is that he was wildly productive in his final -- and only -- collegiate season for SMU after sitting out the 2016 season following transferring from the LSU after two largely unproductive seasons there.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) gave him the third-highest receiving grade in the nation in 2017. He hauled in 114 of 154 targets for 1,236 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, and his drop grade was first out of 448 qualifying wide receivers, according to PFF, thanks to dropping only two of 116 catchable targets in 2017. Calling him a sure-handed receiver is probably grossly understating his sticky mitts. You can see him put his excellent hands to use on this eye-catching, one-handed grab.
This is the catch https://t.co/DncTpunY1J
— Craig Hoffman (@CraigHoffman) August 1, 2019
In the linked PFF piece by Daniel Rymer, Rymer highlighted how lethal Quinn was when operating out of the slot. Rymer notes Quinn lined up mostly at outside receiver, but Quinn's 4.36 yards per route run from the slot was first out of 217 qualifying receivers.
Our projections for Quinn aren't exciting at only 35 receptions, 374 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Nevertheless, his high degree of success in his final collegiate season and a locked-in slot role make him one of my favorite late-round targets in PPR formats.
Quinn's ADP in that format is currently 437th overall, per FantasyPros. However, that is skewed significantly by an ADP at ESPN of 1,000. After removing ESPN from the sources, Quinn's ADP settles in at 249th.
He's a low-cost lottery ticket who could offer nice value at his current price, and if you're in a PPR format, he's the lone Washington wideout worth having on your radar for 2019.