Paul Richardson Fantasy
In one of the more shocking moves of the NFL’s Free Agency period, was the Redskins front office deciding to hand Seahawks WR Paul Richardson a five-year contract worth $40 million with nearly $16 million in guarantees. Richardson had an impressive year on an otherwise tepid Seahawks offense, but given Richardson’s injury history and the fact he really only had one year of good work under his belt, this deal is a huge risk.
However, for the Redskins, the fit of Richardson does make some sense. Since DeSean Jackson left for the Buccaneers, the Redskins lacked a deep threat and speed over the top. Jay Gruden is a coach who runs a quick snap west coast style system, but ironically, that type of system does not work without a deep target to pull safeties back and create the space underneath.
Paul Richardson was no doubt fantasy relevant last year, he finished as the WR39 in PPR formats, and like most deep threats, his fantasy point totals fluctuated rather than remaining consistently in the middle. His peak was a 28 point outing versus the Houston Texans in week seven, and in honesty, his up and down nature might have been a reflection of the Seahawks offense, rather than a reflection of his own level of play.
Using a mix of statistics, X’s and O’s knowledge and opportunity analysis, I will attempt to give a balanced view of Paul Richardson, and his fantasy prospects in the 2018 season.
Redskins’ Offense 2018
The Redskins offense has been pass heavy in the past few seasons, but this was largely due to the fact they were often playing from behind. Ideally, Jay Gruden wants a balanced offense with the usage of a power back, and his passing plays are generally based on quick passes. This is not to say that Gruden’s scheme is a check-down or a vanilla scheme, he has been creative with how he has mixed his deep shots in with Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins, but ideally, this is a screen-heavy, quick snap scheme.
The Redskins had two major issues offensively in the 2017 season, one was the absence of a run game, and the other was the absence of a deep threat. Richardson obviously isn’t going to help with the run game, but he is a fantastic fit in what Jay Gruden wants to do on that side of the ball.
In terms of competition, the Redskins receiving corps is quite unpredictable. Josh Doctson does look as if he can develop into a 50-50 ball kind of guy, but Jay Gruden reportedly grew frustrated with how Kirk Cousins refused to target Doctson in tight windows. If he grew annoyed with Cousins refusal to make use of a big, sideline receiver who relies on 50-50 balls, then he is going to lose his mind with Alex Smith, who is notorious for being a checkdown machine.
On paper, Richardson does have a fair bit of opportunity, and he seems to be the best fit with Alex Smith as he can create his own space.
Paul Richardson’s History
Drafted in the second round out of Colorado, Paul Richardson’s time in Seattle was marred by injuries, and the fact the Seahawks were a run-heavy team who preferred blocking wideouts such as Jermaine Kearse. Since John Schneider was named the Seahawks GM, Seattle’s philosophy when selecting wideouts has been to draft athletes, and Richardson’s excellent times in the speed and agility drills made this selection an obvious one in hindsight.
Richardson’s mini-breakout was one that had been brewing for a while, and although his stats do not exactly blow you away, he was a pivotal part of the Seahawks pass game. Richardson ranked 8th in the NFL in yards per catch, and he was mainly used by Seattle as an outside threat. His most common route was the go route, an effective if slightly predictable route, and in honesty, he probably should have been used more widely by Darrell Bevell.
Many speed receivers get characterized as one dimensional, but Richardson is as good at route running and spectacular catches as he is at running a 40-yard dash. The play below might be the best of his career, and like most of Seattle’s big plays last year, it came in the scramble drill.
Richardson’s readjustment is excellent, and in honesty, this is a guy who can do more than make plays over the top
Richardson’s injury’s mean it is hard to really use the past, or advanced metrics, to try and project his success this year, but his opportunity in Washington is much better than it was in Seattle, and he should be used as more than a simple deep threat.
Why Paul Richardson Could Succeed:
Richardson has a real opportunity in Washington as the rest of the receiving corps have some major red flags. Jordan Reed is often injured and as I mentioned before, Josh Doctson’s fit with Alex Smith isn’t a good one. Richardson is also technically the most important player in Gruden’s scheme: a deep threat who will also spend some time in the slot to create mismatch problems.
I wrote recently that I believe Alex Smith’s league-leading deep passer rating was inflated by the personnel he had at his disposal in Kansas City, but if I am wrong, then there is no reason that Richardson cannot have that Tyreek Hill-lite type impact on the Washington Redskins offense.
Richardson also has the ability to make spectacular catches, and if the Redskins do find themselves in a late game situation where they need points, I feel Richardson is going to get fed, especially if Jordan Reed is healthy and drawing double teams over the middle. Leaving Richardson one on one with most corners is going to be a bad idea.
Why Paul Richardson Could Fail:
I have spoken of how I think one of Richardson’s most positive attributes was his ability to make spectacular catches, but there are some who would argue this is actually a negative. Many Seahawks fans felt that Richardson was inconsistent and relied on those spectacular catches to bail himself out and correct some of his early route running mistakes. A lot are also worried that for a guy who played the majority of snaps in every game, he was simply not productive enough.
In reality, though, the buck always stops with the quarterback in the National Football League, and Alex Smith’s growth, or lack thereof, is what could be standing in Paul Richardson’s way. To his credit, Smith was more aggressive in 2017 than he had been previously, but it’s hard not to be aggressive when you have Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce over the middle. If Smith reverts to his old ways, then Richardson will likely be frozen out in favor of a more possession-based receiver such as Jamison Crowder.
As a Seahawks fan, I was really sad to see Paul Richardson leave, and I think his mini-breakout from 2017 will turn into a huge breakout this year. I do think he is going to do more for the Redskins as a decoy than he is going to do for people’s fantasy teams, but I could easily see him becoming a reliable flex option in both standard and PPR formats.
Richardson has the ability to take the ball to the house in any situation, and people seeing him as a one or two route type of receiver are kidding themselves. One thing Jay Gruden loves to do is move his deep threat into the slot and have them run a post route, and I think Richardson could get three or four touchdowns on this play-type alone.
Darrell Bevell’s era as the offensive coordinator of the Seahawks was a fun one and a successful one, but at times he was too basic with his route combinations, and Richardson was really just being used in one way. Jay Gruden is much more creative, and it would not surprise me to see him become a screen guy, which just heightens his ceiling in PPR formats.
According to Fantasy Pros, Richardson is the 58th wideout coming off the board, which is absolutely mind-boggling. I expect him to finish a lot higher than that, and I would consider taking him a lot earlier than this.
Photo Credit: Redskins.com