Robert Griffin III Fantasy 2014
Less touchdowns, a worse completion percentage, more interceptions, less wins — it was an ugly and disappointing sophomore season for Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III last year.
But with new direction in Washington under the guide of Jay Gruden, and a statistically low-level floor to build upon, Griffin is poised for a strong fantasy rebound in 2014.
Jay Gruden landed in Washington with mixed reviews last January when he signed a five-year contract to become the next head coach of the Redskins. While some believed Jay to be riding his brother’s coattails to land solid NFL gigs, others came away impressed with how he was able to develop and succeed with a pedestrian quarterback during his previous three years as offensive coordinator in Cincinnati.
Before reading on — whether it be biased or not — consider me a supporter of the latter.
But regardless of your preference, there’s no denying Gruden’s love for the pass. A former college and arena quarterback himself, Gruden threw a second-round rookie in Andy Dalton into the fire in 2011 and had him throw 516 passes. The next season, 528 passes. Last year, 586 passes. And while that output may not lead the league with Stafford-esque totals, it does place Dalton in the top-half of the NFL in pass attempts in each of his first three seasons.
Despite not having an elite quarterback in Cincy, Gruden didn’t waver from his pass-happy ways. And now with Griffin — a more talented passer — there’s no reason to think he’ll suddenly flip script in Washington.
To make the volume worthwhile, RG3 will have a better arsenal in front of him in 2014 thanks to successful free agency shopping by the Redskins this offseason.
Pierre Garcon returns after hauling in a career-high 113 catches for more than 1,300 yards last season. But as a guy once asked to shoulder the entire load, Garcon is now complemented with the likes of Andre Roberts and DeSean Jackson — both of whom serve as a quick playmakers.
What was easily described last season as a receiving corps consisting of Garcon and a handful of other guys, has suddenly turned into a lethal combination of Garcon, Jackson, Roberts and tight end Jordan Reed, who we saw good things from during limited action as a rookie last season.
We often talk about the importance of surrounding a young franchise quarterback with good pieces to help him mold, develop and win — and that’s exactly what the Redskins have done for Griffin heading into next season.
In addition to heavy volume, Gruden is also a coach who prefers his quarterback to work at a rapid pace.
Last season in Cincinnati, no quarterback was quicker to attempt a pass than Andy Dalton, according to Pro Football Focus. His average of 2.24 seconds in the pocket from snap to throw was quicker than the powerful arm of Matt Stafford, and the decision making of Peyton Manning.
And last season wasn’t unique. For his three-year career under Gruden, Dalton averaged just over 2.3 seconds in the pocket with more than 1,600 pass attempts.
What’s great about Gruden’s emphasis on pace and rate of play is that he’s now operating with a quarterback in Griffin who brings an elite skill set to the table in terms of arm strength, velocity and release. Considering what Gruden was able to get out of average talent in Cincinnati, there’s a strong assurance in what he’ll be able to accomplish with an athlete of Griffin’s caliber.
Additionally, Gruden’s desire for fast offense can directly improve the efficiency of the blockers upfront. A quicker throw from the quarterback means the less time he spends in the pocket, in turn creating less demand for the offensive line to maintain blocks. Not only does this make the offensive line’s job easier, but it also helps neutralize the attack of opposing edge-rushers and blitzers looking to crush your quarterback.
So, as the (very) imperfect fantasy equation goes: less pressure, less hurries, less hits and less sacks, equals an upright, more healthy, more effective and more successful quarterback. And that almost kinda rhymes.
A key ingredient to Griffin’s 2014 campaign that was missing from last season’s kettle is a full offseason of work.
In the months leading up to the start of last season, Griffin’s recovery from knee surgery kept him out of what some would label the most crucial offseason of any young quarterback — the offseason following your rookie year.
This year, with two good knees intact, Griffin gets an opportunity to catch up on what he missed.
According to John Keim of ESPN, Griffin has already hosted some of his teammates in Arizona to not only workout, but to bond and build their off-field relationships. He’s also working out with quarterbacks coach Terry Shea again, which Keim says the two will focus on Griffin’s footwork, the speed of his release and other areas that will help him succeed from the pocket.
Regardless of whether we’re talking about fake football, or strictly X’s and O’s, an offseason for a quarterback is critical, and this will make a huge difference in the type of passer we see in Griffin come September.
The Other Stuff
Psychologist I am not, but the “other stuff” in this case has to do with Griffin between the ears.
After an up and down roller coaster in his first two seasons — from electrifying Rookie of the Year, to inaccurate with a bum knee — the 24-year-old quarterback is starting anew with a new head coach, new targets, a changed offense and lots to prove.
If people want to bash Griffin for his mega-marketing campaigns and unnecessary documentaries during last offseason, that’s fine. But one thing the guy doesn’t lack is competitive edge. After the fallout in Washington and the non-stop drama that surrounded it, it’s safe to assume Griffin is fueled by the doubters, and driven to prove himself as a legitimate quarterback.
Speaking of marketing and contingent corny pitches, I leave you with this:
RG3 is full steam ahead in 2014 — and it’s a train well worth boarding as a fantasy owner. *cue close-up of mean-faced Griffin with sweat-drenched headband*