Washington has had a tumultuous offseason so far, headlined by the surprise firing of their general manger on the first day of free agency and the continued questions surrounding the future of their franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins. Sprinkled in around all the turmoil, however, is one bright spot: signing wide receiver Terrelle Pryor to a one-year, $6 million dollar deal. The move may just prove to be the steal of free agency. The former Ohio State quarterback transitioned to wide receiver after three seasons with the Raiders and played his first full season at the new position with Cleveland in 2016.
While it’s not uncommon for former collegiate quarterbacks to transition into a role as a wide receiver or even tight end in the NFL, few have enjoyed the success Pryor saw this past season. Catching passes from six different quarterbacks, Pryor still saw 140 targets, good for 14th in the league and an incredibly high number for someone in their first season at a new position. While some may say it speaks more towards the Browns lack of options on one of the leagues worst rosters, I think it speaks volumes towards Pryor’s already advanced skills at the position. Especially considering he was largely playing with below league average passers, his 77 receptions for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns seem like a great baseline for his future in Washington and beyond.
Terrelle Pryor Bolsters Washington’s Offense
But, this is a quarterback-centric website, so let’s talk about quarterbacks. Kirk Cousins once again exceeded expectations in 2016, finishing as the fifth-highest scoring quarterback in fantasy and throwing for nearly 5,000 yards. He has cemented himself as a legitimate starter in this league, which makes the trade rumors flying around him even more questionable. Unable to secure a long-term deal with Washington for the second year in a row, Cousins signed the franchise tag and team president Bruce Allen has reportedly been shopping him around with the hopes to get a trade done before the draft since then. However, for the sake of this article and the understanding that these trades rarely, if ever, come into fruition, let’s assume Cousins plays out his franchise tag with Washington in 2017.
Cousins will certainly feel the losses of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in 2017. The pair accounted for 214 of his 606 pass attempts or roughly 35 percent of Washington’s passing offense. The addition of Pryor, however, should help offset their absences. If he can maintain a target rate of above 100, which should be feasible considering his 140 in ’16, Washington has other skill players around Cousins that seem ready and able to eat up the rest of the attempts left by Garcon and Jackson. Jordan Reed is an incredibly productive tight end on a per game basis, but may have the biggest health concerns in the entire league. Jamison Crowder has had steady improvement since entering the league and seems ready to run with a larger role come 2017. Last year’s first round pick Josh Doctson only saw the field twice this past season, but showed extreme potential in college and can become a force to be reckoned with if he can stay healthy.
Despite all the inner-turmoil within the franchise, Washington has placed a legitimate core of skill players around Cousins and the addition of Pryor on such a cheap contract is a major plus. Jay Gruden remains one of the brightest offensive minds in the league and one would think he will find a way to incorporate everyone around Cousins to allow the quarterback to enjoy the most success. His touchdown numbers slightly dipped in 2016, but the uptick in yards allowed him to still ascend the fantasy rankings into the high-end QB1 range. Crowder exploded for seven touchdowns as the primary Red Zone target with Reed sidelined, and if 2017 brings a healthy trio of Reed, Crowder, and Pryor, Cousins will have no problem finding long, athletic pass catchers in the end zone. And that’s not even mentioning Doctson, who had some of the most incredible end zone catches at TCU of any wide receiver I’ve watched.
What Can Terrelle Pryor Do For Kirk Cousins?
While some fantasy players may be weary of Cousins in 2017 due to the losses of Jackson and Garcon and the drama surrounding his future, it presents an opportunity to get a high caliber player at a discount. Pryor is an extremely viable replacement and if Crowder and/or Doctson takes advantage of the increased playing time and becomes a legitimate WR2 in the offense, there is no reason to view the losses of Garcon and Jackson as negatives to Cousins. He has proved for two consecutive seasons that he deserves to be a QB1 in superflex leagues and there is no reason to think he can’t do it again in 2017. Especially with the amount of legitimate Red Zone targets he possesses and his ability to keep his interceptions relatively low, he possesses all the tools you want for a high scoring fantasy QB.
Captain Kirk is accurate, throws the ball a ton, throws for yards in bunches, keeps his interceptions down, and can be counted on for at-least 25 touchdowns. Not to mention that his de-facto number one target is entering his second full season at the position, a year after hauling 1,000+ yards. Pryor’s improvement is almost inevitable when you factor in the fact that Cousins will be exponentially better than any of the six quarterbacks he played with last season in Cleveland. His 2016 catch rate of 55 percent would have ranked almost dead last on Washington, a fact that injects even more hope into both Pryor’s prospects for 2017 and Cousins’ ability to maintain a QB1 scoring clip.
Cousins Could Be a Draft Day Bargain
Cousins’ current MFL10 ADP of QB12 (ADP data courtesy of Two QBs’ own Josh Hornsby) seems like a very reasonable, if not below market value, price. As the top-seven quarterbacks seem to be consensus, the four ahead of Cousins from 8-11 seem to be in an equal or worse situation for fantasy production in 2017.
Cousins has a better surrounding core than the QB8 (Derek Carr), QB9 (Jameis Winston), and QB11 (Marcus Mariota). Furthermore, he is the only one within that group, plus QB10 Dak Prescott, to be in the top-10 of pass attempts and passing yards, and ranked second behind Prescott in Approximate Value, a Pro-Football-Reference statistic that judges overall player performance.
All-in-all, free agency had little-to-no impact on Cousins’ fantasy potential for 2017, despite the losses of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. Terrelle Pryor has all the tools to be a legitimate WR1 option and is already looking like the favorite to be the steal of free agency. Whether in an MFL10, dynasty startup, or redraft league, be on the lookout for Cousins to be your QB1 in scoring that you can secure at the price of a fringe QB2. Pryor will also be an intriguing pick with high upside and a nice target floor for 2017.
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