Can Kirk Cousins Be Relevant in Fantasy Football This Year?

With RGIII fading fast, Kirk Cousins will get his chance to start for Washington. Will he be fantasy relevant?

The Washington Redskins quarterback carousel continues to turn.

News out of the nation's Capitol today indicates that Kirk Cousins will be the Redskins starting quarterback for Week 1 of the regular season. 

After  Robert Griffin III was sidelined due to concerns over a concussion, Cousins got the start in Saturday's preseason game against Baltimore. After a rough start, he finished 20-27 for 190 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

It appears that the clock has struck midnight for RGIII in Washington. 

The back and forth debate over parting ways with Griffin will likely continue in the Redskins front office, but Cousins now has the opportunity to become a fantasy producer. Can he cash in?

Cousins' History in Washington

Looking back at Kirk Cousins' performances in Washington over his first three seasons doesn't exactly give me that warm and fuzzy feeling as a potential fantasy owner. 

His performances have been a roller coaster ride, to be honest. However, in fairness to him, he has seen action in only 14 games, starting nine of those games over three seasons.

Looking at Cousins according to our  Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which indicates how a player performs compared to expectation level, we can gauge just how productive he’s been in his limited action as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Take a look at how Cousins has fared compared to his counterparts in Washington since entering the league in 2012.

Because Cousins has seen limited action compared to RGIII, his per-drop back numbers are more important than the cumulativenumbers will look at how he has produced on a per drop back basis. 

YearFull NameDrop BacksPassing NEPPassing NEP/PPass SuccessesPass Success Rate
2012Kirk Cousins5113.110.262447.06%
2012Robert Griffin III42773.630.1720648.24%
2013Robert Griffin III49320.860.0422846.25%
2013Kirk Cousins160-40.71-0.255836.25%
2014Kirk Cousins21219.580.0910147.64%
2014Colt McCoy14511.490.087350.34%
2014Robert Griffin III247-36.84-0.1510743.32%

In 2012, Cousins had the more impressive Passing NEP per drop back number (0.26) of the two, but he maintained that on just 51 drop backs. While Griffin's per-drop back Passing NEP wasn't as high, it did rank ninth among 38 quarterbacks who attempted at least 200 drop backs that year.

In 2013, the performance as a whole was substantially worse for the team, and in terms of our schedule-adjusted Passing NEP per play metric, they dropped from the ninth-ranked passing attack (0.16) to the 25th-best passing game (-0.05). That means Washington drop backs were expected to take points off the board on average over the full season.

Perhaps the most concerning number in the table above is Cousins' Passing Success Rate, the percentage of drop backs that led to positive NEP gains for his team, in 2013. His rate of 36.25% ranked 43rd among 44 quarterbacks who attempted at least 150 drop backs in 2013.

Surprisingly, though, Cousins turned that around and was, according to our metrics, the most efficient Washington passer last year on a per-drop back basis and from a cumulative perspective. However, his 0.09 Passing NEP per drop back did rank him just 17th among 37 passers with at least 200 drop backs last year. He was the best on the team, but he wasn't necessarily a sure thing, especially considering his past performances.

In his career, Cousins owns a Passing NEP of -8.02 on 423 drop backs (-0.02 per play). That career Passing NEP would have ranked him 33rd among 38 200-plus drop back quarterbacks last year.

But none of this is to say that Cousins can't be a useful fantasy quarterback in the right matchups.

Fantasy Outlook in 2015

What Kirk Cousins will become in 2015 is yet to be determined, but his up and down performances in 2014 are a cause for concern. 

Last year in Week 3 against the Eagles, Cousins passed for 427 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.The very next week against the Giants, he passed for 257 yards, 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions. 

While there are red flags over his 10:9 touchdown to interception ratio in his five starts last season, with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon at wide receiver and Jordan Reed at tight end, Cousins will have the weapons to produce numbers that fantasy owners are looking for.

Garcon had a rough season in 2014, according to our Reception NEP, he finished 50th among wide receivers who had at least 50 receptions. But he has shown in recent years that he can be an extremely productive fantasy asset. In 2013, he was 13th in the same metric on his league leading 113 receptions.

DeSean Jackson is still a game breaking play-maker, who finished fourth among 87 receivers with at least 50 targets last season in Reception NEP per target (0.94). 

As for Reed, if he can stay healthy, the 2013 season showed us a glimpse of what he can do. His 55.85 Reception NEP was seventh among all tight ends, right behind the great Rob Gronkowski, and among 30 tight ends with at least 50 targets, his Reception NEP per target (0.95) was best. He scored only three touchdowns, so he wasn't just depending on touchdowns, as some tight ends tend to do.

At season's end -- if he plays every game for the team -- his metrics might not be flashy. Nothing in his past suggests they will be. Still, last year, Cousins averaged 285 passing yards and 2 touchdowns per game however ultimately average the performances may have been.

As a quarterback streamer, that is music to my ears.