Friday, September 21, 2012

Fantasy Analysis: RGIII Could Be Your 'Royal Flush'


When Robert Griffin III became a Heisman trophy winner at Baylor, a numerically proven hype machine in the NFL scouting combine, and a 2nd overall draft selection by the Redskins in 2012, he came into training camp and the preseason as a cautiously optimistic commodity in the eyes of fantasy football team owners.  Being drafted in the seventh to ninth round in most fantasy football drafts, team owners put the kind of stock in RGIII you might put into being dealt a Ten-Queen, suited hand in a poker game; a moderate hand but with loads of potential.

After the first week, when RGIII shocked us all with his veteran like poise and sharp accuracy under the full-speed duress of an NFL pass-rush, the poker game we fantasy football owners play with rising and falling player stocks got very intriguing in RGIII’s case.  As if the Ten-Queen suited hand of cards he was coming into the game with wasn’t enough marked potential, the ante went up significantly with his breakout game against New Orleans.  We all speculated at least a modest come back to earth for RGIII against a St. Louis Rams team that had just intercepted star quarterback, Matthew Stafford, three times in a tight loss on the road and they were going to be hosting against Washington.

RGIII responded to the Week 2 road matchup versus the Rams like a vetted pro.  He finished with a crisp 69% passing on 29 attempts for over 200 yards and a respectable 1 TD and 1 INT passing the ball.  It was his two huge rushing TD’s and 82 rushing yards though, that propelled him to the second most fantasy points in the league at any position for Week 2, a hair behind Reggie Bush’s 197 total yard, 2 TD performance for Miami.

And with that impressive showing in Week 2, the RGIII poker hand that started as a Ten-Queen, suited, just saw another Queen off-suited, and a King-Jack of matching suit strike on the flop.

In other words, he has shown that he is our fantasy football equivalent to being about as safe a bet as playing a poker hand with a pair of Queens, a hand very often won within a poker game, but with his Week 2 success versus the Rams he’s left us with a matching suited King-Jack, to potentially become the most unbeatable hand in poker and fantasy football, the ‘Royal Flush’.

The ‘Royal Flush’ is that fantasy player that scores in the Top 3 in total fantasy points almost every week and propels even an average fantasy team into a championship hopeful.  Last year, it was Aaron Rodgers as the league’s ‘Royal Flush’ with Cam Newton and Arian Foster closely considered if Foster hadn’t missed games and Newton hadn’t had his come back to earth from the fantasy stratosphere over the second half in 2011.  It’s been guys who never give you a bad week and always give you a chance to win even if you don’t get good stats from your other starters.  The ‘Royal Flush’ is an ultimate fantasy game-changer; a weekly statistical powerhouse.

There are a number of reasons one could speculate why RGIII will become the ‘Royal Flush’ of fantasy football in 2012.  Many of those reasons you know: He has a rocket arm, pinpoint accuracy, a keen awareness in the pocket, a 4.41 – 40 yard dash and an astute football IQ.  He’s everything you want in a young, perennial superstar quarterback.  It’s a player’s environment that can often dictate his fantasy ceiling, but when you look at the scenarios revolving around RGIII, it appears everything could be in place for the sky to be the limit for his future fantasy value in 2012.

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Mike Shanahan, QB Extraordinaire – We tend to forget that the Head Coach of the Washington Redskins is one of the all-time great QB gurus in NFL history.  Once upon a time, before many of us remember, Shanahan was making a living as an assistant coach for the 49ers, winning Super Bowl XXIX as the 49ers Offensive Coordinator with QB Steve Young and later becoming a Head Coach for the Broncos and winning back-to-back Super Bowls(XXII, XXIII) with QB John Elway.  This guy knows how to produce elite QB’s and it will advance RGIII’s progress three-fold more than if he had been drafted to a team with a defensive minded HC.  Shanahan is a major reason why you are seeing such an immediately polished QB product in RGIII.

Shanahan’s West Coast Offense – Mike Shanahan has been running the West Coast Offense since 1992, working as an assistant to its creator, Bill Walsh.  The system is predicated on using timing and high-percentage short yard passing plays that work as “extended handoffs”.  It’s this offense that produced RGIII’s clean, 69% completion rate in Week 2 versus one of the top DB’s in Cortland Finnegan and the Rams.  These high-percentage passes result in more easy yards and big run-after-catch potential.  RGIII’s first TD pass that went for 80 yards to Pierre Garcon was a five-step drop, ten-yard in, with perfect timing; a staple of the West Coast Offense.  The even scarier part for RGIII’s fantasy value is that Shanahan has modified his West Coast playbook with some designed runs for RGIII straight out of his Baylor playbook from college, making him a dual passing and rushing TD threat like Cam Newton was a year ago.

The Emergence of Alfred Morris, Depth at RB – If fantasy players know anything about Mike Shanahan, they know not to trust running backs in his system for fantasy points because he has been historically a believer in a RB by committee since coaching in Washington, which is a direct contrast of his rushing philosophy with Denver, where he always had a work-horse back(Terrell Davis, Clinton Portis, Mike Anderson, etc…).  No one knew who would emerge as the lead back in his offense even going into the kickoff of the first game this year, but we quickly learned that Alfred Morris, the biggest bruiser back they have will get a bulk of the load(for now).  He has done a fine job being the team’s horse through two weeks and that will keep defenses honest against RGIII’s passing game.  What’s additionally nice about having a stable of good running backs, like the Redskins do with Evan Royster and Roy Helu in the mix with Morris, you never have to fear that RGIII’s fantasy stock will die with the injury of the team’s lead running back.  If Alfred Morris were to go down, there is little to no drop off in talent behind him, especially in Mike Shanahan’s fabled zone blocking scheme that turns late-round talents into thousand yard rushers.

Pedestrian Redskins Defense, High Scoring Affairs – The Redskins return a defense that gave up the 12th most points in the NFL(22.9ppg) last year and they have looked even worse this season giving up 31.5ppg in their first two games of 2012.  This defense is going to put the Redskins in a lot of holes and potentially a couple of blowouts that will require more than 40 or 50 pass attempts from RGIII just to keep them in contention.  His value will rise on sheer volume in these games and he can pick up loads of yards in “garbage time” when the opposing team’s defense is more interested in burning clock than stopping yardage when up big in the 4th quarter.

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So here lies RGIII’s current stock, today, as a hand at poker:  A Ten-Queen suited, dealt, another Queen off-suited, and King-Jack of matching suit, on the table after Week 2.  The stakes are high awaiting that 4th turn card which will reveal itself after this weekend’s matchup at home versus the Cincinnati Bengals.  With an explosive fantasy performance, which he will be more than capable of against a Bengal defense that has allowed 308.5 passing yards per game(29th in NFL) and 35.5ppg(28th in NFL) thus far, that 4th turn card could very easily produce a 3rd Queen, a very difficult hand to beat, lifting him into the projected top 5 QB tier.  With more strong performances in the games thereafter, he could just land that Ace, suited, on the river, to complete the RGIII Royal Flush and carry your fantasy football team to a title to go with it.

His ‘Royal’ potential and minimal fantasy floor going forward, based on the consistency he’s already achieved in his first two starts, makes him the ultimate trade wire deal right now.  If you can get him for a mid-tier RB2 or mid WR1 talent and you don’t have an elite passer, don’t wait!  I’m buying in and I’m buying in now while his stock is at this point because it will never be as low as it is now the rest of the 2012 season.

If you have an elite passer like a Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers as your starter and RGIII on your bench, look at getting an elite player deal in exchange for your elite QB.  Make the blockbuster deal for a player in an area where you’ve sustained narrowed depth due to injury or is just a real problem area on your team.  Turn those points on your bench into points you can use at other areas of your starting lineup.

It’ll be beneficial to your team if you look into a multi-player deal for Calvin Johnson or Arian Foster in exchange for your elite QB.  Anything you can work out to acquire an elite player, at another position, in the area your team needs the biggest boost will upgrade your team and give room for RGIII to lead the way.  If you can’t get the deal you’re looking for now, move your elite QB in favor of RGIII when someone in your league gets desperate because of an injury at QB or is panicked over a losing streak.  You’ll upgrade your team’s point production significantly with RGIII and Johnson or Foster in your lineup rather than Brees and a mid-tier WR1 with RGIII exploding for points on your bench.

Of course, you can always wait him out and trade RGIII when his stock gets even higher, but if you’re going to deal him now, make sure the players you are getting in return appropriately display your trade partner’s shared enthusiasm for his value.  If you don’t have RGIII, you need to at least look into acquiring him.  If you have an elite passer ahead of him on your depth chart, look into making a bold trade move to make space for him to be your starter.  Either way, you won’t regret making the move to RGIII.  He’s got ‘Royal Flush’ potential and my chips are all-in on his hand.

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