Tons of fantasy implications for the trade that sent Alex Smith to Washington. The first obvious takeaway is that the Redskins will not be tagging or re-signing Kirk Cousins, leaving him to sign with any team on the open market. We haven’t had a good QB hit the market like this in a long time. Wherever he lands, we have to consider the skill players on that offense more closely, and we’ll do that when that happens. For now, we can take a look at the new Alex Smith-led Redskins and the beginning of the Pat Mahomes era in Kansas City and see how this affects the fantasy landscape.
Am I excited for this offense under Alex Smith from a fantasy perspective? Not really. I thought Cousins didn’t have much to work with this past season with the failed Terrelle Pryor experiment and Josh Doctson being forced onto the field as someone who was supposed to be able to perform with opportunity. They lost their playmakers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon prior to the 2017 season, and it showed. Chris Thompson was who kept this offense alive and who gave them any chance of moving the ball consistently, and once he got hurt and was out for the season, the offense fell apart.
Alex Smith hasn’t really made more than two players fantasy relevant in the passing game on a yearly basis. In 2017, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill were the guys. In 2016, it was Kelce and Jeremy Maclin (barely), and then when Maclin got hurt it became Kelce and Hill. In 2015, Kelce and Maclin were the guys. There were a lot of passes to RBs as well on all downs, but that was more of a product of Andy Reid’s offense than anything else. The Redskins like to pass to RBs, but they haven’t really done a ton of it on early downs without Chris Thompson on the field. I don’t expect Thompson’s role to change much. Jay Gruden has expressed his belief in limiting Thompson’s role, and it seems like he was right. Too bad RBs were dropping like flies in that backfield to injury, and he had no choice but to expand Thompson’s role.
Jordan Reed should be a target hog for Alex Smith, as Kelce led the Chiefs in targets over the last two years, and trailed Maclin by a small amount in 2015. I don’t see Reed getting much of an upgrade, since the love between him and Cousins was real. This past season was Kelce’s first year with more than 5 TDs, so we shouldn’t expect the ceiling that Reed had with Cousins. And as far as depending on Reed, can we even do that right now? He’s hurt every year, so I can’t even recommend drafting him as your primary tight end. Vernon Davis can be his handcuff, but we’ve seen him disappear at times later this season as well. Keep in mind that Davis played with Smith in San Francisco in Davis’ prime, so that connection might be something to keep in mind when drafting Reed.
Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson are the two wideouts that fantasy owners will have to choose from. Who will be his guy? Can Alex Smith lead Jordan Reed, Chris Thompson, Crowder and Doctson to being legit fantasy options in 2018? Probably not. It’ll most likely narrow down to two, maybe three of these guys. Doctson has a great 9 route and is able to separate himself once the ball in his area, and can go up and get it with the best of them. But does Smith throw those type of passes? Smith is all about the safe throws, and if he doesn’t have it, he’ll dump it down or scramble. When was the last time he was able to make a true #1 WR relevant? Was Maclin or Crabtree ever a true #1? Dwayne Bowe sure wasn’t. I don’t know if Doctson is going to get those jump balls that he needs and have Smith take those chances on him. With Doctson not doing enough last season with his opportunity, he would be a hopeful fantasy draft pick this year at best, and might even get over-drafted. My bet would be on Crowder, as he’s been someone Gruden has tried to feature and become more involved in the offense, and it showed for a good 9-game stretch towards the end of the season. He can get the ball via safer throws and Smith has experience getting the ball to those quicker receivers like Maclin and Hill.
It’s the Pat Mahomes show in Kansas City. He had an impressive 2017 preseason, and showed some great athleticism and playmaking ability in his start in Week 17. He also made some mistakes and looked lost on some plays, which is expected. The obvious thing that jumps out is that Mahomes has a cannon for an arm, and will no doubt be looking for Tyreek Hill a ton. Hill’s separation ability in second to none in the league right now, and Mahomes has a shot to let plays develop a bit more than Alex Smith would have been able to because of his range. Hill should still get the ball a ton around the line of scrimmage, as that is more a product of the offense Andy Reid runs than one of Alex Smith. Reid likes to get his playmakers the ball quickly multiple times per game.
Travis Kelce should still have a huge target share, and probably lead the receivers in that category, but can he be the fantasy asset he was in 2017 without Smith? Smith had the opportunity to create that rapport over four seasons, and for Mahomes to catch on to all the nuances and provide Kelce with the stat line he had over the last two years seems to be expecting too much out of the redshirt second year player. He’ll probably be a top-5 or top-7 tight end, but my concern is whether his draft price will be too high. A third round pick for a tight end who has some questions is not a price I’m willing to pay; if I’m paying a third round price tag for someone, their fantasy situation needs to be mostly clear of possible risk. But who knows? If Mahomes is targeting the crap out of Kelce and is able to connect in the preseason, that will obviously reduce the risk in my eyes.
Can there be a third receiving option in the WR3/4 category? In Mahomes’ sole start in Week 17, two receivers had 10 targets each: Albert Wilson and Demarcus Robinson. Wilson did a lot more with his opportunity, grabbing all 10 of them 147 yards. Wow. Too bad Wilson is an unrestricted free agent this year, and we have no idea whether he’s going to return to the team, but the word is that he’s looking to leave town for a bigger role. If that happens, the obvious next guy to step up is Demarcus Robinson, who is a talented prospect. He stepped up big time in the Chiefs’ Wild Card Playoff game after Kelce left the game with a concussion, catching a few passes and a TD on their final first half drive. He is a perfect complement to Tyreek Hill as a taller, possession style receiver, but he plays the X in the offense, which historically hasn’t been a position that has provided much production in Andy Reid’s system. Remember, Smith never made too many receivers relevant with his style of play which resulted in a relatively sub-par stat line for himself. With a new gunslinger QB though, that can change, and Robinson should be on our radar in the late rounds as a flier.