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Key fantasy storyline
I was on a plane on my way back to America after spending the holidays in Germany when it happened, but I turned on my phone to see a flood of texts that read something like this:
"Griffin's knee just exploded."
That moment -- also the moment the Seattle Seahawks locked up a spot in the second round of the playoffs -- ended an electrifying season in which Griffin singlehandedly made the Redskins relevant again. Now, he faced a long rehab process, with Week 1 of the 2013 season already in doubt.
Griffin's recovery will determine whether the Redskins have any chance of defending their NFC East crown, and will also have a major impact on fantasy drafts. And even if he is healthy from the start of the season, we may not see the same player we saw last year.
Griffin did everything for the Redskins last year. Not only did he dominate games with his arm and his legs, he did so very efficiently for any quarterback -- let alone a rookie. He led the NFL with 8.14 yards per attempt, and threw 20 touchdowns against just five interceptions, earning him the third-highest quarterback rating behind just Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. Incredibly, he also ran for the 20th most yards in the league and picked up 6.8 yards per carry. However, that's where things might be different in 2013.
The early word from the Redskins is that Griffin is ahead of schedule in his rehab, and that he could be ready to go on day one of training camp. He is still wearing a brace on his knee when he works out, though. Even if he is ready, he'll likely take it easy the first few days of camp, but it's a good sign that he'll be ready to start the season opener. Whether Griffin is ready for Week 1 or not, he's the future of this franchise.
While his ability to run the ball is part of what makes him great, it also puts him at risk to suffer injuries such as the torn ACL. He had 120 carries last year. Cam Newton has topped 120 carries in each of his two years in the league, but Griffin is not built like Newton. The Redskins would be foolish to ask him to completely change who he is as a player, but they'll likely tell him to not take off running as often as he did last year. While that's great for his long-term health, it will bring down his fantasy value a touch.
This is obviously a situation you'll have to monitor during camp and the Redskins' preseason slate. Assuming Griffin is healthy and ready to go to start the year, I've got him as the eighth quarterback on my board. Just don't expect him to run for 800 yards and seven touchdowns again.
|San Francisco 2013 schedule analysis|
|Including a look at how the Seahawks' foes fared defensively in fantasy last season|
Stats via FFToday.com
The division may not be what it once was in terms of defenses, but the Cowboys are a blank slate with a new coordinator and scheme this season, and one always has to fear the Giants' pass rush. The NFC North is a challenging draw with the Bears at the head of a solid defensive division, and the Redskins get a tough matchup with the 49ers by virtue of both being division champions last year. They get the AFC West for their interconference game, which only had the Broncos' defense rank in the top 10 last year. All things considered, it's an average schedule in terms of the defenses they'll face.
QB: Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Rex Grossman
RB: Alfred Morris, Evan Royster, Roy Helu
WR: Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson, Dezmon Briscoe
TE: Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen, Jordan Reed
|San Francisco 49ers' 2012 defensive rankings|
The Redskins were one of the easiest teams to pass on a season ago, and the gaudy ranking against the run is a mirage. Since they were a sieve against the pass, they faced just 363 rushing attempts, the fewest in the league. They still gave up 4.2 yards per carry, tied with five other teams for 13th. There's still a lot of work to be done here to become a strong defense.
There are two standout players on the unit, both in the linebacker corps. A large part of the reason the Redskins struggled so much last year was because star linebacker Brian Orakpo only played five games before tearing his left pectoral muscle and going on IR. He has a clean bill of health heading into training camp. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has 16 sacks in his two years in the league. Between the two of them, London Fletcher and Perry Riley, the Redskins' defense is strongest in the middle, good news for a team that runs a 3-4.
Without Orakpo last year, the Redskins had a ton of trouble rushing the passer. They had 32 sacks, which ranked 23rd in the league. They got little production out of ends Stephen Bowen and Jarvis Jenkins, and the duo is expected to start again this year. They'll also need more consistent play from the secondary, and got especially spotty play from their safeties, namely Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty. That's a position they addressed in the draft, taking Philip Thomas in the fourth round and Bacarri Rambo in the sixth. DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson remain the starting corners.
In our fantasy world, this is a defense you'll want to avoid.