Roster cutdowns are underway heading into Week 1 and we already had one surprise. Washington waived veteran RB Adrian Peterson, clearing the way for their younger talents Antonio Gibson and Bryce Love to play big roles all year long. After leading the team in carries last year (211), Peterson was the favorite to take the bulk of the early-down work for Washington again. The team is clearly confident in not only where Gibson and Love are at with their development and are wisely committing to them as opposed to a veteran.
J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber will also have roles here, but make no mistake: Gibson is officially the 1A option. After getting released, Peterson called Gibson “one hell of a talent” and added that Washington drafted him to eventually be the “main guy”. After just a few weeks of practice, that is extremely high praise from a future Hall-of-Famer and the best pure runner of the modern era.
Gibson’s talents were never fully unleashed in college because he competed for touches in 2018 and 2019 with Tony Pollard, Darrel Henderson, and Kenny Gainwell after transferring to Memphis from community college his junior year. That said, Gibson was explosive on his 71 touches last season, averaging a ridiculous 19.3 yards per reception and 11.2 yards per rush. Gibson’s running style reminded me of Joe Mixon and our own Greg Cosell was excited about his tape, too.
Now with Peterson gone, Gibson will be unlocked by OC Scott Turner. Remember, Turner worked on the Panthers staff with his dad Norv over the last two years and that offense was predicated around getting the ball to Christian McCaffrey in space as a receiver. Now, I’m by no means saying Gibson will be the next CMC. But the usage will be exciting for fantasy. Carolina targeted their backs on 25% of their pass attempts when Turner was there in 2018-19, which was the fifth-highest rate in the league in this span.
With no clear-cut No. 2 receiver behind Terry McLaurin, I’m betting that Gibson ends up second on the team in targets this season. If Scott Turner has learned anything from his dad, it’s that an explosive pass-catching back is essential. And Norv Turner’s history is littered with high-volume pass-catching running backs between CMC, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Darren Sproles. Turner even gave Chris Ogbonnaya had 74 targets in his one year in Cleveland as OC in 2013 and loaded up Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata with a combined 104 targets on the 2014 Vikings when Peterson got suspended.
HC Ron Rivera has said all camp that they’re throwing a lot on Gibson’s plate and he’s clearly proven he’s ready for it. We’ve moved Gibson all the way up to RB29 in our projections and he’s in the same tier as David Johnson. For drafts over the next week, I’d look to target Gibson starting around the 5th/6th round turn in PPR leagues. I couldn’t take Gibson ahead of Marquise Brown or Tyler Boyd, but he has more upside than someone like Devin Singletary in that ADP range.
Peterson’s release is also great news for Bryce Love, who has vaulted up to RB48 in our ranks.
Before tearing his ACL in his senior year in 2018, Love was one of college football’s most prolific backs at Stanford. In his junior year, Love rushed for 263/2,118/19 in 13 games and his 162.9 yards per game on the ground that season ranks 17th-best ahead of Leonard Fournette (162.8), DeAngelo Williams (162.3), and Chubba Howard (161.1) since 2000. Love also fared well in my Yards Created process, ranking second-best in the 2019 rookie class in YC/A (4.90) ahead of Josh Jacobs (4.61) and Miles Sanders (4.51).
Rivera and Washington’s staff has loved what he’s seen from Love in camp. They gave Love some work ahead of veteran Peyton Barber in their first few practices and Rivera sounded adamant that Love is going to be a big part of their offense. On August 20th, Riviera said, “[Love] is a guy that's multi-dimensional. At Stanford, he didn't have to do a lot of routes and pass catching, but he's very capable and we're getting to see that. This is a guy that could be an every-down back for you. He's an explosive, dynamic player."
If you’re looking for upside in the double-digit rounds, Love has it. I’m going to try and stash him in every league over the next week.