The Fight Card: The Washington Football Team
Before I start getting into what this segment is all about let me outline a few things. Every off-season you have numerous camp battles, most of which revolve around quarterback or runningback. This off-season has introduced a tremendous opportunity in fantasy value, but also one of the murkiest backfields in recent memory.
Bryce Love: first to enter the ring, walk up song: Back From The Dead – House of Pain
Bryce Love was a hot commodity during college in 2017. He had 2,118 scrimmage yards off 263 carries and was a Heisman Finalist along with Saquon Barkley, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Rashaad Penny, and Jonathan Taylor, to mention a few. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL his senior year on his last college game, a year in which he was far less productive on a much worse team than the year prior. Due to his injury, he was unable to do any athletic testing. It doesn’t seem farfetched to assume he would have tested well given the fact that he rushed for over 2,000 yards in college. In fact, he was just one of 34 college rushers to rush for at least 2,000 yards since 1988. That puts him in some elite company; Barry Sanders, Matt Forte, LaDainian Tomlinson, Christian McCaffery, Jonathan Taylor. It also puts him in some not so great company, but the good outweighs the bad out of the sample. So, what does this mean for Bryce Love’s 2020 season? His injury has fully healed from all reports at camp and according to the coaches he is looking good. Bryce has shown the ability to be a workhorse back in college and being fully healed, he has a ripe opportunity in front of him to secure a similar role in the NFL. The biggest question for Love is, what version of him are you getting? The 2,000-yard rusher? Or the sub-1,000 yard senior year? His FFPC ADP pick 187 is too good to ignore the upside he will offer your football team.
Antonio Gibson: second to enter the ring, walk up song: Ante Up – M.O.P.
What started off as a late-second early third-round rookie pick has now vaulted himself into a quite contentious FFPC ADP of 89. I want to make this article as neutral as possible but my love for Gibson is well documented and may at times get me carried away. To help counteract this, we can start with his concerns, of which there are plenty. The first area of concern is his lack of experience at the runningback position. He has only logged 33 rushing attempts, in his entire collegiate career. Put into perspective Jonathan Taylor received 33 carries by his second game his freshman year. While this is something you hope can be taught and coached up, it needs to be addressed in redraft leagues. Expecting a player who hardly has any experience to burst onto the scene and run against NFL defenses is borderline delusional. The next concern of his was his inability to carve out more of the offense his junior year. He was out snapped and produced by sophomore Kenneth Gainwell. Traditionally you’d want to see the inverse of that scenario. Now Gibson not getting any opportunity his junior year isn’t as concerning given the fact that Tony Pollard and Darrell Henderson were owning the backfield. It also can be explained away why Gainwell out-snapped Gibson his senior year; He actually had experience
running the ball. Memphis likes to use a dual back offense so while Gibson wasn’t able to carve out a giant role, he was incredibly productive with his limited touches. He was so effective he averaged 11.2 yards per carry. This translates to his athletic testing profile, where Gibson ranked 6th out of the entire 2020 class based on my model. Now this model weighs raw athleticism and draft capital very heavily and does not factor in college production. I’ll explain my methodology in a different article, but in short, college production is not particularly predictive or representative of a runningback’s talent. Gibson factors to be a bit of a hybrid this year and given his ability as a wide receiver and a runningback, the coaching staff can be creative with his role. Camp reports have him attending both wide receiver and runningback meetings. Creativity doesn’t always translate into productivity, however. The ceiling for Gibson is massive, but to expect him to reach his ‘realized potential’ this year is not worth his current redraft ADP. Gibson seems like a great best ball roster builder this year since he has the athleticism and explosiveness to break off a giant play. The future is bright for Gibson, but this year seems like a good year to fade him in your lineups. In dynasty he is an absolute hold, his hype is too out of control to buy, but if you can sell him as a potential RB1, pull the trigger (and then get him back when he falters this year). At the very least let some other sod draft him and trade for him later.
Cornermen: J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber
Both McKissic and Barber seem to be on the outside looking in, and chances are one is going to be cut. To me the answer is clear here but let me paint a picture first. Prior to the Guice release, prior to the Gibson draft selection, Washington was wandering into free agency with Love, Guice and Peterson on their roster. The very first offensive acquisition they made was to secure McKissic for a 2 year, 3.3 million dollar contract, on March 26. It took them less than a day to add Peyton Barber to the mix. To rub salt into the wound I am opening, Washington can walk away from Barber with only a 600 thousand dead cap hit. When you look at the macro of the backfield you have three through the numbers backs and hybrid backs. Assuming no injury until the start of the season, I think Barber is the one on the outside looking.
For the first half of the season, I believe Peterson will grasp the lead role with Love coming in to offer fresh legs, which for Peterson is bound to be more often that it would in another backfield. I believe J.D. Mckissic will assume the third down back role as they invested in him early and his career to date shows he is more than capable. Antonio Gibson will run as a hybrid in this offense. His role will grow as he grows into the position and the offense. It feels wrong to end this article without a little Gibson hype. I genuinely believe Gibson has an RB1 potential in his career, but he needs a few things to line up, most notably grasping the position more and continually increasing opportunity. His potential is untapped, but will he get an opportunity to ever show it?