Kirk Cousins has Top-5 Upside: Signs for Continued Improvement

Kirk Cousins has Top-5 Upside: Signs for Continued Improvement
Editor’s Note:  The guest post below you’re about to read was written by Ben Cummins.  Follow him on Twitter @BenCumminsFF. …

We’ve all been there before. Trying to get by those first few months at a new job or in a new position while we ask tons of questions out of necessity, using the trial-and-error method as much as possible. Mistakes are made, sure, but we learn from them and after a while, we finally take the training wheels off and start crushing the job. Kirk Cousins is no different, despite his job being in the limelight more than most. Cousins started nine games over the course of his first three years in the league, but he was never “the guy,” as RGIII had not yet flamed out in Washington. Those nine games were essentially on-the-job training for Cousins. The real work hadn’t started yet.

That all changed last preseason when head coach Jay Gruden gave Cousins the seal of approval and named him the starter heading into 2015. Naturally, Cousins had to adjust to his new starting job. Mistakes were made early on, but those became a distant memory later in the season.

Kirk Cousins’ Splits By Month

Month (2015)GPCompAttComp %Pass YdsYds/AttTDINTQB Rating

Cousins increased his passing yards, passing TDs, passer rating and TD-to-INT ratio every month of the season. It didn’t hurt that Cousins had Jordan Reed available for all of November and December after the stud tight end missed two games early in the season with a concussion.

The D-Jax Effect

Cousins’ improvement also correlated with the return of DeSean Jackson, who essentially missed the first seven games of the season due to injury. This is not surprising.  Per the Rotoviz Game Splits App, Cousins’ numbers are significantly better across the board when D-Jax is involved.

Kirk Cousins DJax Split 2QB superflex

Other Weapons in Washington

Washington surprised many when they drafted talented wide receiver Josh Doctson in the first round of this past April’s NFL draft. He joins the already solid wideout trio of Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Jamison Crowder. Tight ends Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen, who missed all of 2015 with injuries, return this year to team up with the beastly Jordan Reed. Out of the backfield, Chris Thompson is a very capable pass catcher. And in hopes of a late-career resurgence, Washington also signed Vernon Davis this off-season.

D.C.’s team has plenty of pass catching weapons, clearly, but their running game isn’t nearly as established. With Alfred Morris gone, Matt Jones projects as the team’s starting running back in 2016. Jones is an unproven second-year rusher who averaged a mediocre 3.4 yards per carry last year. The only competition Washington brought in is 7th-round pick Keith Marshall. When you break down Washington’s offense, it remains clear this team will revolve around the arm of Kirk Cousins for a second straight season.

Jordan Reed Insurance

Cousins had five rushing TDs last year. While he likely regresses in that department, Cousins should improve on his 29 passing TDs from a year ago. Josh Doctson is a big reason why. He instantly became Washington’s second best red zone threat the moment he was drafted.

josh doctson prospect heat map

Doctson compares favorably to AJ Green, Odell Beckham, and Deandre Hopkins according to the Rotoviz Box Score Scout App. He posted the best vertical, broad, and explosion scores of this group and his college production, especially in his final year at TCU, speaks for itself. The creator of Reception Perception, Matt Harmon, had this to say about Doctson before the draft:

Watch the highlight reels and you’ll see he’s a tremendous player in the contested catch game. Not many collegiate receivers track the ball and contort in perfect fashion to play the pass in the air like Doctson.

I agree and expect Doctson to make an immediate impact in year one. Jordan Reed has been injury-prone in the past and while losing Reed for any amount of time wouldn’t be favorable for Cousins, Doctson should be able to minimize that loss. If they both stay healthy, watch out.

The Jay Gruden Precedent

Under Jay Gruden last year, Kirk Cousins finished as the QB8 according to his QB Card. That’s a feat very few saw coming. A very similar result occurred in 2013 — Gruden’s last year as the Bengals’ Offensive Coordinator — when Andy Dalton finished as the QB6 according to his QB Card. Very few predicted that accomplishment as well. Thus, in the last two years where Gruden has had a 16-game starter, he has helped produce the QB6 and QB8 in fantasy. That’s extremely impressive when you again consider those quarterbacks were Cousins and Dalton.

kirk cousins jay gruden

While Dalton has a higher draft pedigree than Cousins and is likely the better player at this point in their careers, they both are average talents at the position. Yet, both know how to get the football to their pass catchers, a job made easier when surrounded by multiple weapons. Just as Cousins was surrounded by talented teammates last year, Dalton’s 2013 campaign was aided by AJ Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham, and Giovani Bernard.


With Kirk Cousins more comfortable in his role, having his first full off-season knowing and preparing as the team’s unquestioned starting QB, he could very well continue to climb up the QB ranks. He already finished as the QB8 last year in his first full year as the starter. So why was he going off the board as QB17 according to May ADP? That might make sense if Washington’s pass catchers got worse during the off-season. They didn’t. They only got better with better health and the addition of Josh Doctson.

Cousins’ ADP has started to climb in June, as he currently is being taken as QB12 according to most recent redraft ADP. Still, his ADP overall is 65.2, meaning you could start your draft with six studs at other positions and then grab Cousins as your QB1 in the seventh round of a 10-team 2QB league. In fact, Salvatore Stefanile did exactly that in our recent TwoQBs Staff 10-Team 2QB Mock Draft. I like that strategy. The question is, “Do you like that?”

Ben Cummins

Ben Cummins is very passionate about fantasy football. He combines film watching and statistical research to formulate his opinions on a number of different fantasy football topics. He is dedicated to supporting his beliefs with important and necessary data. In addition to contributing to, Ben is also a contributor for both The Fantasy Footballers and Rotoviz. You can find him on Twitter @BenCumminsFF

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