Welcome to the 2022 Fantasy Football Washington Commanders Preview and Happy Father's Day! This article was submitted by a friend of Fantasy Six Pack and Washington Commanders superfan, Austin C.
In an offseason with massive change around the league, the Washington franchise was no different. Starting with a rebrand in February to the Washington Commanders, the franchise set out on a new path in hopes of regaining its former glory of the late 80’s/early 90’s Joe Gibbs era – something of which has been absent since Daniel Snyder bought the team in 1999.
Coach Ron Rivera enters his third season as the head football decision-maker with the team, which is the amount of time he believes it takes to transition a losing franchise into a winning one. With this self-added pressure, Riverboat Ron met with former coach, Joe Gibbs, early in the offseason at Gibbs’s home in North Carolina to discuss several football items, but most notably, a plan for what to do at quarterback.
The quarterback position for this franchise has been a turnstile for the last several decades and if the third year is going to be the year Rivera takes the next step into consistent contention as he did with the Carolina Panthers, he knows he needs a difference-maker at the most important position on the field.
The football decision-makers in Washington believe the rest of their roster is ready to win with a talented defense, touting a defensive line believed to be one of the best in the business, a solid offensive line, and an arsenal of offensive weapons equipped with enough speed to stretch defenses and diversely skilled running backs to attack the opposition in a variety of ways.
What they felt they needed was a quarterback capable of maximizing the ability of the offensive skill players and providing the defense with early leads so their pass rushers can go to work. Gibbs and Rivera discussed what their ideal quarterback looks like (focusing on guys who can throw a decent deep ball) and the realistic options available, coming up with a shortlist to target.
The first option Rivera went after was Russell Wilson and although Washington’s offer was better than Denver’s, Russell’s preference to go to Denver and Seattle’s preference to send Russ to the AFC resulted in a second straight offseason QB swing and miss for Ron (after last year’s miss on Matthew Stafford).
Missing on two straight star quarterbacks set the stage for the most notable move of Ron’s tenure in Washington: obtaining Carson Wentz for two third-round picks (one of which will likely become a 2nd next year based on playing time). Keith broke down that trade back in early March.
A lot has been made of the draft capital compensation and Washington’s willingness to take on all of Wentz’s salary, however, you can understand Ron Rivera doing everything in his power to procure someone he views as a starting-caliber quarterback and not missing on another trade for the one he wants. Rivera’s message to Gibbs shortly thereafter, “we got him,” tells you all you need to know about how Ron felt about the investment and what that investment could mean for finally seeing the offense achieve its potential.
Now complete, for better or worse, Rivera and Wentz are tied to that decision and it's incumbent on them both to prove why the deal made sense.
2022 Fantasy Football Washington Commanders Preview
Carson has the ability to open up the offense in ways no quarterback has for Rivera (and, yes, that includes Cam Newton and his limited accuracy). With Scott Turner calling plays last year in his second year as full-time Offensive Coordinator, Washington had a 1,000+ yard receiver in Terry McLaurin and a 1,000+ yard running back in Antonio Gibson with undersized and accurate, but below-average armed, Taylor Heinicke behind center.
When defenses have to gameplan for a guy like Wentz, along with the weapons he has at his disposal, there is a ton of potential for this team to score a lot of points.
Because of the plethora of options, his last chance at proving he’s a reliable difference-making starting NFL quarterback, and what the offense accomplished with a backup under center last year, I expect Wentz to have a strong Fantasy season statistically. One could argue possibly even cracking the top 12!
He finished as QB14 with 27 passing touchdowns last year throwing to Michael Pittman and, well that was about it. Fantasy Six Pack's consensus rankings has Wentz in the mid to late 20’s. If you’re into streaming quarterbacks, I get the feeling you will be starting Carson Wentz quite often.
I think Washington would rather Wentz be the Franchise QB for years to come and Howell be a Heinicke replacement as a reliable backup on a rookie deal.
From a pure successful football strategy perspective, this unit has the potential to be one of the best on the team with the ability to attack the defense in multiple ways.
Antonio Gibson is the dynamic slasher that can hit home runs at any time, equipped with underutilized receiving skills from his time as a WR in college, but struggles with fumbles and staying healthy.
J.D. McKissic is an excellent 3rd down back who can pass block and catch passes as well as almost any back in the NFL, but the team doesn’t want to wear him down coming off of a neck injury from last year.
Enter Brian Robinson. A tough-nosed, run-you-over Alabama rookie that doesn’t fumble. He will come in for short-yardage and clock-killing situations early on in the year and lessen the wear and tear on the other two so they are available during a potential playoff push.
All of this sounds great for fans that want the team to be successful, but for Fantasy managers, the dreaded ‘C’ word will hurt your chances of seeing any one of them be reliable enough to start every week. The running back by committee approach is sure to frustrate the Fantasy community.
If you want to know how Washington will handle their running backs in 2022, look no further than the 2011-2014 Ron Rivera-led Carolina Panthers as a blueprint. All you have to do is swap out DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert for Antonio Gibson, Brian Robinson, and JD McKissic.
I expect some weeks for Antonio Gibson to look like a surefire RB1, only to disappoint the next week as Brian Robinson and J.D. McKissic vulture his touchdowns, carries, and targets. Unless injuries strike, I wouldn’t count on any of them as weekly starters outside of the FLEX position.
I think Brian Robinson has some intrigue as a Dynasty stash because I’m not convinced the team views Gibson as a long-term RB1 due to his fumbling and injury history. Similar to DeAngelo Williams, I could see the team letting Gibson walk when his contract runs up and then pivoting to Robinson as Rivera did with Stewart.
The only other player on this roster that I think will live up to his hype is Terry McLaurin. I think Terry will sign a huge extension somewhere in the neighborhood of A.J. Brown’s recent deal and (unlike other diva receivers) go on to have his first Pro Bowl season.
Terry runs some of the best routes in the league, has 4.3 speed and makes more contested deep ball catches than just about anyone else (usually because he always had to come back to underthrown balls from Taylor Heinicke and Alex Smith). With Wentz under center, the speedy trio of Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson, and Dyami Brown to pull coverage, I think Terry has a WR1 type year, despite being currently ranked in the mid to late teens for WR.
I think there will be weeks where streaming Curtis Samuel will make sense, but I don’t think he’ll be featured enough to be a consistent starter in Fantasy.
Jahan Dotson will be someone to keep an eye on as the season progresses and I think by the end of the season he will be WR2 on the team. However, it always takes a few games for rookie receivers to get their feet under them (see Jaylen Waddle). Dotson will be a solid guy to look at for Dynasty as the future WR2 behind McLaurin.
I wouldn’t touch a Washington tight end in redraft leagues. Logan Thomas is a stud when healthy and I think will eventually build a good rapport with Wentz, but while recovering from a torn ACL, I think playing Week 1 is a stretch. It may take him some time to get healthy, up to speed, and back to his TE1 potential. I would let someone else draft Thomas, get frustrated with his lack of production early on and cut him, and then pick him up on waivers mid-season.
The other tight ends on the roster include draft picks John Bates and Cole Turner. Bates is in his 2nd year and the likely starter until Thomas is healthy but known more for his blocking than his receiving ability (although the coaches have been impressed when given more receiving opportunities late last season and early in OTA’s this year).
The guy here that may be interesting, especially in Dynasty, is Cole Turner. Turner is a former towering (6’6’’) WR out of Nevada, who converted to TE. I would expect Turner to be the second tight in 2-TE sets early on while Thomas recovers and even when Thomas comes back. Turner should see red zone opportunities as the season progresses.
They love his ball skills and size as a red zone threat and Carson Wentz loves to throw to big targets (Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Alshon Jeffery, Michael Pittman, etc). Outside of WR5, Cam Sims, Washington doesn’t have another sizable wide receiver to throw jump balls to.
Similar to Jahan Dotson, I think Turner will likely take a little time to ramp up, but by the end of the season, it wouldn’t surprise me if Turner is viewed as a fantasy-relevant tight end to draft in 2023 along with Logan Thomas, similar to Ertz and Goedert in Philly.
With this being a self-assigned “put up or shut up” year for Ron Rivera, I think we’ll see a team desperate for success, especially on the offensive side of the ball. There will be extra pressure to prove doubters wrong about trading for Carson Wentz and a (potential) big Terry McLaurin deal. In redraft, those are the only two I would take at or above their current ADP.
I’ll be looking for Logan Thomas mid-season as a nice free agent addition in a weak Fantasy position group. I’ll also be keeping an eye on Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson as mid-season streamers.
I likely won’t touch the running backs this year - let someone else try to solve that Rubik’s cube.
In Dynasty leagues, I would love to have some shares of Jahan Dotson, Cole Turner, and Brian Robinson.
Check out the rest of our 2022 Fantasy Football Team Previews!