Robert Griffin III set the NFL afire with his play electric play as a rookie. In NFL history, only Cam Newton's monstrous 2011 ranks higher than Griffin among rookie quarterbacks.
|2||Robert Griffin III||2012||3,211||20||5||833||7||360.9|
Griffin wasn't just a fantasy phenom, he led the Redskins to a division title, 10-6 finish, and their first playoff appearance since 2007. He ranked 3rd (behind Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning) in passer rating -- he and Russell Wilson became the only two rookies in league history to start at least 10 games and finish with a 100+ passer rating. Needless to say, Griffin has instantly become one of the league's most valuable players. It's rare for any team in the league to lose their quarterback -- much less someone as potent as Griffin -- and thrive, and that would almost certainly be the case for the Redskins. Although this article asks "What If..." we can't ignore the fact that we've already had a brief glimpse of what Washington would look like without Griffin. After all, Griffin hurt his knee late in the season and backup (and fellow rookie) Kirk Cousins stepped into the huddle. Then in the playoff game against Seattle, Griffin suffered further damage (requiring major surgery in the offseason) to his knee and Cousins finished off the game (a 14-24 loss).
WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, HERE IS A LOOK AT THE REDSKINS IF RGIII WAS SERIOUSLY RE-INJURED...
"As a receiver, I want to say [Cousins and Griffin III] pretty much have the same type of ball. Strong arms get it there when they need it to go,” he said. “Of course the foot speed is a little bit different, so if the decision is a little iffy for Rob, he knows he can make some positive yards with his legs. Rob can really break the play down and create more time."
“Kirk [Cousins] has more confidence in his arm, so he’s going to put it in there. Kirk’s more like a computer; he’s going to get through all four of his reads before he throws it away. Robert [Griffin III] gets through one or two of his reads and then says, ‘I’m just going to make a play myself.’"
- QB Kirk Cousins -- Kirk Cousins appeared in four games as a rookie, including one starter against Cleveland, and acquitted himself well. He completed 33-of-48 passes (69%) for 466 yards, 4 touchdowns and three interceptions. He averaged an impressive 9.7 yards per attempt and nearly matched Griffin's passer rating (101.6). Cousins has also handled much of the preseason action this year, including starting the first preseason game. It's clear Cousins has the mental acuity, quick release and mechanics to be an effective steward of the Shanahan offense. Cousin's lack of running ability precludes him from being as productive as Griffin in fantasy circles, but he could be a serviceable QB2.
- RB Roy Helu -- Helu is healthy again and took command of the backup RB spot this preseason, which would make him an intriguing add. Helu is an adept receiver and will be the team's 3rd down back with or without Griffin, but if he could be in line for 40-50 receptions PLUS another 125-150 rushes, in Griffin's absence, Helu becomes a flex/bye week play of import.
- RB Alfred Morris -- Morris is already a key cog in fantasy circles and was drafted as an RB1. Expect Morris to remain the centerpiece of the Redskins offense. It's difficult to project an increased role for Morris since he is already in line for 300+ carries if healthy. The Redskins would try to increase the focus on the rushing attack, but that would come from more work for the backups.
- WR Pierre Garcon -- Garcon hasn't played much since becoming a Redskin, but he's been a fantasy WR1 when his foot has cooperated. Assuming Garcon can stay healthy, Cousins has a strong enough arm to utilize Garcon as a down field threat. No reason to worry that Garcon won't retain value with a quarterback switch.
- WR Santana Moss -- Moss is an itch the Redskins just can't stop scratching. It seems that fans are ready to turn the page on Moss every season, but the young receivers on the roster can never outplay the wily veteran. Last year was much of the same as Moss finished 2nd on the team in receiving yards (573) and led the team in touchdowns (8). It stands to reason that a change in quarterback might upset the balance of Moss' targets, but Moss has been so consistent throughout his career, regardless of quarterback, that it seems a moot concern.
- TE Fred Davis -- Davis and Cousins have no history together, and for that matter we hardly saw Davis on the field with Griffin last year, either. Davis is a late round TE2 this year but has upside if he can re-capture his pre-injury explosiveness. There are too many unknowns right now to recommend upgrading or downgrading Davis if Cousins takes over the huddle.
- QB Robert Griffin III -- This is more for dynasty owners, but suffice to say another season-ending injury to Griffin would signal dire things for his long-term career. Two season-ending injuries in two seasons would give fuel to his critics that argue a dual-threat QB with such propensity for running is not someone to build a franchise around.
- WR Leonard Hankerson -- Hankerson has been a colossal disappointment through two seasons with 51 receptions for 706 yards and 3 TDs (in 32 possible games). His one bright spot was a game against the Browns last year when he grabbed two receptions for 56 yards and two touchdowns. Kirk Cousins started that game. Sometimes a player just have a rapport with another, and Hankerson would be worth a flier as a high upside end-of-roster addition with Cousins at the helm.
- PK Kai Forbath -- Forbath is a fringe fantasy worthy PK under current circumstances, but the loss of Griffin's ability to keep plays alive probably means a few more stalled drives in the red zone over the course of the season. That means additional FG attempts for Forbath, and could push him comfortably into an every week fantasy starter tier.
- TE Logan Paulsen -- Paulsen stepped into the lineup after Fred Davis was hurt but failed to acquit himself. He and Griffin didn't seem to have much of a connection, and Paulsen had a forgettable month long stretch where he tallied just 5 receptions for 47 yards. In Week 14, with Cousins starting, Paulsen came back to life and grabbed four receptions for 47 yards. He might be worth a speculative add in deep leagues with Cousins under center, particularly if Fred Davis can't return to pre-injury form.
- WR Josh Morgan -- Morgan has never been a top 50 fantasy receiver in five seasons. At this point he has a long resume of mediocrity and shouldn't be on any 10- or 12-team redraft roster. But a change in quarterback always presents another opportunity for an underachieving player, and Morgan is someone to keep an eye on. Do NOT pick him up without seeing evidence of increased targets and production from the 6th year pro.
- None -- Washington's offense would remain productive with Cousins at the helm. It wouldn't be AS productive, but those players who were fantasy worthy under RGIII would likely retain enough value to maintain a roster spot, at least initially.
More from Jason Wood:
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What If Robert Griffin III Is Lost for the Season? - August 19
What If Cecil Shorts Is Lost for the Season? - August 19
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Player Spotlight: Jordan Cameron - August 7
Player Spotlight: LeSean McCoy - August 7
Player Spotlight: Peyton Manning - August 6
Player Spotlight: Marshawn Lynch - August 6
Preseason Watch List - July 22
Preseason Watch List: AFC North - July 22