Fantasy Fallout: Fitzpatrick in Washington


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Fantasy Fallout: Fitzpatrick in Washington

Fitzmagic is back!

There were rumors over the last few weeks that suggested Ryan Fitzpatrick was considering retirement. But let’s face it. Mercenaries never truly retire.

Washington has brought in Fitzpatrick on a one-year deal worth $10 million (and could reach $12M with incentives). Considering that Philip Rivers got $25 million for his one year of mercenary duty last year in Indianapolis, I think it’s a tremendous value for Washington.

The deal obviously doesn’t hold Washington back from making a move in the draft for a quarterback, too. They’re in that sort of weird, purgatory spot at 19 overall — but they’d be foolish to not explore all of their options to take a chance on one of the rookies in this incredible QB class.

This will be Fitzpatrick’s ninth career stop, which is just awesome in and of itself. Think about that for a second. Most quarterbacks play on 1-3 teams at most during the career. Not only is Fitzpatrick playing better now at 38 years old than at any point in his career, he’s doing it while on his fourth team in six years.

Taylor Heinicke played out of his mind in Washington’s playoff loss against Tampa, but it was clear all season long that their QB play between Dwayne Haskins and Alex Smith was holding them back from really making a run. Fitzpatrick gives them that chance to do some serious damage in the weak NFC East as Washington hopes to have an offense to compliment their elite defense that held opponents to just 4.9 yards per play (second-best) and 1.7 points scored per drive (third-best). Over the last three seasons, Fitzpatrick has started in 28 games where he’s played at least 70% of the snaps. In those games, he’s put up 20.2 fantasy points per game, completed 64.4% of his throws, and averaged a sturdy 7.7 yards per attempt. For reference, Fitzpatrick’s 20.2 FPG would have made him the QB12 last season — just ahead of Kirk Cousins (18.5 FPG).

From an overall efficiency level, Fitzpatrick ranks 13th-best in expected points added per attempt (0.094) since 2018 — which is slightly better than Ryan Tannehill (0.089) and Matthew Stafford (0.085).

Fitzpatrick will offer a massive upgrade over Alex Smith mainly because he isn’t scared to push the ball downfield or into tight windows. Washington was clearly missing a vertical element to their offense last year, and it wasn’t like they didn't have the talent on their offense to do it. Terry McLaurin might be the most underrated receiver in the league at contested catches.

Per SIS, just 18% of Smith’s throws traveled at least 10 yards in the air last season. Not only was this dead last out of 38 qualifying quarterbacks, it was 38th by a significant margin. Jared Goff ranked second-from-last, but he at least threw a pass of 10+ air yards on 25% of his attempts.

By comparison, 33% of Fitzpatrick’s attempts went 10+ yards which was tied with Patrick Mahomes for the 11th-highest rate.

Taking it one step further, Next Gen Stats tracks just how aggressive quarterbacks are by measuring how often they throw into tight windows. That’s where a defender is within 1 yard or less of the pass catcher regardless if the pass was caught or not. Fitzpatrick ranked as the most-aggressive QB in the league last year, throwing into a tight window on 21.7% of his attempts. Alex Smith threw into a tight window just 13.5% of the time (10th-lowest rate).

Of course, being overly aggressive leads to turnovers. And Next Gen’s tight window stat doesn’t take into account scheme (is the play designed to get the receiver open?) or game script (are you playing from behind and need to throw to catch up?), but there is no denying Fitzpatrick will give Washington’s offense a much-needed jolt.

I’m most excited to draft Terry McLaurin on all of my teams again.

Despite seeing abysmal QB play between Smith and Haskins, McLaurin’s 2020 season was a massive success. He was remarkably consistent, finishing as a WR2 or better (top-24) in 7-of-15 games and he had 10+ PPR points in 12 games. In fact, McLaurin’s three games where he was held to single-digit points came against the Rams, Steelers, and 49ers. And all three of those secondaries were bottom-3 in passing yards allowed per game.

McLaurin is on a superstar level to start his career and adding Fitzpatrick, at least for 2021, will accelerate that. Since 2000, only 16 receivers have started their careers with 900 or more receiving yards in each of their first two seasons and McLaurin just became one of them. This list is incredibly impressive:

Wide receivers with at least 900 yards in each of their first two seasons since 2000
WRRookie SeasonSecond Season
Andre Johnson20032004
Marques Colston20062007
Dwayne Bowe20072008
DeSean Jackson20082009
A.J. Green20112012
Julio Jones20112012
Odell Beckham Jr.20142015
Mike Evans20142015
Sammy Watkins20142015
Kelvin Benjamin20142016
Amari Cooper20152016
Michael Thomas20162017
JuJu Smith-Schuster20172018
A.J. Brown20192020
Terry McLaurin20192020
D.K. Metcalf20192020

Fitzpatrick is such a great fit with how McLaurin wins. He’s a true X receiver and Fitzpatrick won’t be afraid to force-feed him. Washington still needs to add a complementary receiver to McLaurin, but this offense has all of the pieces to really take off if Logan Thomas continues to progress as a Darren Waller-esque move tight end.

As our guy Scott Barrett pointed out below, each of Fitzpatrick’s No. 1 receivers over the last nine years have averaged at least 8 targets per game with the exception of 2014 in Houston when he was throwing to both DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson:

Prediction: Terry McLaurin going to get FED

— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) March 16, 2021

McLaurin’s early ADP in best ball is WR13 (early fourth round), which is a fair price point and one I’ll be targeting in every draft this summer. Stacking McLaurin with Fitzpatrick will be an easy duo to pair in best-ball, too.

Fitzpatrick’s addition raises the tide of the offense and also helps Antonio Gibson. Better quarterback play will only lead to more scoring opportunities. It’ll be interesting to see if Washington expands Gibson’s role in the passing game in 2021, particularly on third-downs. Per PFF, McKissic out-snapped Gibson on third downs by a massive 197 to 22 margin last season. Even if that split continues, Gibson has double-digit TD potential as your RB2 in drafts on what should be a much-improved attack.

Graham Barfield blends data and film together to create some of the most unique content in the fantasy football industry. Barfield is FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and formerly worked for the NFL Network, Fantasy Guru, and Rotoworld.