What happens when the Ryan Fitzpatrick Cycle has no victim? Or did Ryan Fitzpatrick reach through space-time to make Dwayne Haskins be one of the dumbest people in the NFL, paving Fitzpatrick’s way to the nation’s capital? But, he’s there, and there are pass-catching options to worry about with the Washington Football Team, so let’s take a look at their value in fantasy football, shall we?
First and foremost, Fitzpatrick leaving Miami does nothing for Tua Tagovailoa’s value. Before he officially left, the Dolphins already said that Tua (who the Dolphins benched for Fitzpatrick three times last year) would not get that treatment going forward. So, everything you thought you knew about the Dolphins, you still know about the Dolphins. Let’s just get that out of the way.
Now, let’s talk about the Washington FootbalL Team passing game. Last year, it consisted mostly of Terry McLaurin, Logan Thomas, and J.D. McKissic/Antonio Gibson. This year, it will include those guys, but also Curtis Samuel (who signed a three-year, $34.5 million deal with Washington Football Team). Other pieces will fill in around the edges (your Kelvins Harmon and Antonios Gandy-Golden), but for now, we will worry about those guys who actually played snaps and caught catches last year in the Washington offense.
First, Terry McLaurin. Whoa, Nelly, is this great for Terry McLaurin. Only Michael Thomas accounted for a greater percentage of his team’s air yards last year. That tracks, given that the Gibson/McKissic double-tap and Logan Thomas did most of their damage between the line of scrimmage and the sticks. When I tell you that Ryan Fitzpatrick likes to go deep, I mean it. He didn’t throw the ball a lot last year, but his air yards per pass attempt sat between Dak Prescott and the Kyler Murray/Gardner Minshew/Daniel Jones. He doesn’t exactly let it rip, but he likes to go downfield. That fits well with Terry McLaurin as his #1 wide receiver.
Being a #1 receiver works out well for Fitzpatrick’s teammates in the past. Since 2008, Fitzpatrick’s #1 option has turned in startable fantasy football numbers literally every single season. The low points came with T.J. Houshmandzadeh back in 2008, and Quincy Enunwa in 2016. Those guys came in as WR30 and WR28, respectively. Prior to 2020, 9-out-of-10 wide receivers (since 2009) finished as top-20 guys. This won’t be a stepdown for Terry McLaurin and solidifies his position in the pecking order. Scary Terry/F1/McLovin ended up with 134 targets last year. That sounds about right for 2021 in this passing game.
But what about Curtis Samuel? I think much like Brandon Aiyuk added additional options to the 49ers’ passing game when he seemed to have a very similar skillset to Deebo Samuel, Curtis Samuel & Antonio Gibson should work well together. Samuel broke out in the second half of last season, averaging 87 yards per game on eight targets and three carries per contest. The eight targets seem a bit high, though splitting 18 targets per game between McLaurin and Samuel doesn’t seem like an insane proposition.
I like Samuel as a WR3 with some upside for fantasy football purposes. That’s really just tempering expectations since we don’t know how this offense will look in 2021. With Fitzpatrick and all these weapons in tow, I’m excited for the passing game when it comes to the wide receivers.
Unfortunately, someone else has to suffer. For the Washington Football Team, it’s likely the running backs and tight ends. Throughout his career, Fitzpatrick targets RBs about 7.3 times per game, and tight ends a paltry 4.5 times per game. The second number is the one I want to explore first; since that ebbs and flows with the talent around him. For example, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate led to 100 TE targets in 2019, whereas in 2016 Fitzmagic (19 TE targets) threw to Austin Seferian-Jenkins. So, I’m not ready to close the book on Logan Thomas yet, but I am pumping brakes on the guy. Thomas had 110 of his 164 career targets last year, which could be a breakout, but it could also be a fluke. That having been said, I still like him more than any other pass catcher, I’m just… tempering expectations.
Now, to the running backs. I doubt J.D. McKissic gets 110 targets again, and it’s more likely that Antonio Gibson gets those targets in 2021. Here’s the rub, though: Fitzpatrick averages 19.7% of his targets to running backs throughout his career. If you scale that to his 90%+ snap games over the last few years, that’s just 7.3 targets per game to running backs. A far cry from 150 combined targets to McKissic and Gibson. It’s most likely that Gibson takes the role whole-hog, so if he gets six of those targets per game, lookout.
Fitzpatrick, ultimately, will stay what he’s been: a sometimes streamable starter. It’s unlikely they got him to be a steward of the offense while the (very good) defense does work. That’s not Ryan Fitzpatrick’s game. He will have 1QB relevance in a streaming sense, and you’d better make sure he stays on your shortlist if streaming will be your game in 2021.
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