Camp Battles Washington No. 1 WR

By Mike Beacom
Mike Beacom Suddenly the Redskins look deep at wide receiver, but who will emerge as Kirk Cousins’ favorite?

Think back only a year and imagine your level of excitement for a passing attack operated by Kirk Cousins. Can you see yourself? Are you smiling, or are you wearing a puzzled look on your face, as if to say ‘Why the (insert) is Kirk Cousins on the field?’

Things change fast in the NFL, and this offseason Cousins was named the starter (no more Robert Griffin III to contend with) and fantasy owners are suddenly giddy. He passed for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns last season, and everyone is willing to believe his line is still going up. Maybe. Maybe not.

But belief in Cousins leads to an obvious follow up question: who benefits? The Redskins’ top weapon is tight end Jordan Reed, but beyond that the team has a mixed bag at wide receiver. Someone will emerge, but who?

Why Pierre Garcon is your best bet

He was Washington’s top receiver a year ago. Beyond that, he’s steady. In the first of half of last season, Garcon was targeted exactly eight times in five of eight games – very predictable, and sometimes predictability is a comfort to fantasy owners. And while he does turn out the big games (no 100-yard games since Week 3 of the 2014 season) Garcon did catch a respectable six touchdowns a season ago. Cousins seems comfortable throwing to the veteran, and fantasy owners might feel most comfortable picking him from a crowded corps.

Why it’s DeSean Jackson

Proof of just how full the wide receiver corps is, Jackson – once a top-tier fantasy wide receiver – is not part of the mix. He’ll turn 30 by season’s end, and while that wouldn’t scare fantasy owners off most receivers it might this one – his speed is his weapon of choice. Still, when healthy, no player on this roster has as much potential to have a fantasy impact. Case in point: his 153-yard (25.5 yards per catch) effort against Buffalo last December. Jackson only caught 30 balls last season in limited action, but he had four catches of 50-plus yards and he is only one year removed from a season (2014) in which he averaged 20.9 yards per catch.

Why it’s Josh Doctson

The Redskins top draft choice has fans buzzing. He’s dynamic, he’s bigger (6-foot-3) than most of Washington’s red zone targets, and he goes up to get the football to make plays. Doctson averaged 16.8 yards per catch last year for TCU and caught 14 touchdowns. No one expects that kind of production in year one, but the fact that Redskins beat reporters are throwing around projections of five or six-touchdowns suggest people are taking him seriously.

Don’t forget about: Jamison Crowder

For many, Crowder is “the other guy” in this race. He caught 59 passes last season as a rookie, but it was quiet production (just 10.2 yards per catch, just two touchdowns). Still, he is only entering his second season and is on the upswing yet. He is the smallest of the contenders for catches (5-foot-8) but he fights for balls and will have a prominent role in this offense, no matter how things shake out. For that, he may be the safest of the options. And rumors out of DC suggest the team is happy with his work this offseason. Plus, consider that his last regular season game was his best (109 yards, touchdown against Dallas) and you have to feel good about where Crowder is heading into year two.

Who fantasy owners should pull for: Doctson

When the depth chart is crowded, upside becomes more appealing. Doctson has upside, and of all these options he has the best hope of becoming elite.

Follow Mike Beacom on Twitter @mikebeacom