Of all the NFL Free Agency day one headlines, the one with the greatest beard broke just before midnight- Ryan Fitzpatrick to Washington, but what’s the fantasy impact? Should you be trying to sell your Washington pieces? Or trying to buy them now? We dive into it
That’s right, Ryan “Fitzmagic” Fitzpatrick is back again at age 38, and he lands a probable starting job no less. Washington Football Team won the NFC East behind a quarterback combination of Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen and Comeback Player of the Year Alex Smith (playing on a leg that should be nowhere near a football field) last year. So Fitz is actually an upgrade based on his performance with the Miami Dolphins in 2020 (4-3, 68.5 completion percentage, 232.3 yards per game).
The main competition is of course postseason standout Taylor Heinicke, another positive story. For now, it appears to be Fitzpatrick’s job to lose however.
Fantasy Impact of Fitzmagic
This is a move that pretty much all NFL parties can get behind. Fitz has been fun to watch his entire career. Known as a gunslinger, who knows no fear inside or outside the pocket. He’s just as likely to throw a toss-up to a wide receiver as he is to barrel through a linebacker. The former Harvard grad is also one of the more intelligent signal-callers when it comes to reading defenses and captaining a unit (plus he uses that big head in more ways than one).
Washington fans should also be content with a bridge-season behind Fitz. After their quarterback play largely hindered their stacked defense and talented playmakers in 2020. And then there are the fantasy owners. With a number of people licking their chops as they target these assets.
Terry McLaurin, WR
“Scary Terry” has been downright filthy since getting drafted in 2019, and he’s done it all without a decent quarterback. Terry McLaurin caught 58 passes for 919 yards his rookie campaign (14 games), and then 87 for 1,118 year two (15 games), with 63.9 career catch percentage.
Washington’s WR1 was eighth in targets per game in 2020 (8.9), but early expectations are that this number should rise in 2021. Not only is WFT likely to throw the ball more with Fitzpatrick, he is famous for giving his most talented receivers an opportunity to make plays as often as possible. DeVante Parker skyrocketed in fantasy down the stretch in 2019 with Fitz as his QB, but the numbers prove that he wasn’t the only WR1 that felt the Fitzmagic effect.
As the tweet suggests, McLaurin’s stock is immediately on the rise following this signing. One statistic I could see changing dramatically is his average target distance, which ranked 61st in 2020 with mainly Allen and Smith throwing the ball.
Logan Thomas, TE
Rather than Antonio Gibson or J.D. McKissic (who I don’t expect to change much from 2020), let’s talk about Logan Thomas. The recent fantasy breakout gets more hype headed into 2021 based on Fitzpatrick’s history targeting the tight end position. In 2019, Mike Gesicki was second on the Dolphins in both targets and receptions (13 games started by Fitz), behind Parker.
Thomas already carved out a major role in this offensive unit (97.8 snap share last season was first in the NFL for TE), but his target share could improve in 2021 as well. The tight end saw only a 19.2 target share considering his 95.8 percent route participation. If Thomas’ experience with Fitz is anything like Gesicki’s, he may take a major jump in production in 2021.
Cam Sims, WR
To a lesser extent, the recently tendered deep-ball threat Cam Sims could get a bump in production. This is more of a deep dive sleeper, but Sims skill-set matches up with Fitzpatrick’s strengths. Fitz was actually the number two ranked deep ball quarterback in 2020, completing 56.5 percent of deep passes. The veteran quarterback has been quoted on saying (paraphrasing) he doesn’t mind risking an interception on a jump ball play.
Personal stats aren’t important to Fitz at this stage of his career. He’ll air it out, and make no apologies in doing so. The 6’4″ Sims will probably like the sound of that (only 58th in deep targets last season).
Washington Football Team D/ST
Yes, Fitz throws a lot of interceptions, but I do believe he’ll have more of a positive effect on this defense than a negative one. Washington Football Team is currently the 12th ranked D/ST on Fantasy Pros. But there is definitely some early sleeper potential for this unit so long as their offense becomes more efficient. Their 20.29 first down percentage ranked 27th in the NFL, while Miami’s ranked 17th, and no doubt was worse when Tua Tagovailoa took over at quarterback. Longer drives help defenses thrive, and this sack-hungry group of pass rushers may have a big year alongside Fitzpatrick.
Final Thoughts & Fades
The last notable fantasy sleeper from this roster is Fitzpatrick himself. The motivated and grizzled vet has become a viable fantasy option in recent years when he’s gotten the opportunity to play (19.88 fantasy points per games started in 2020, ESPN six-point passing TD league). I love him as a matchup streamer, or a spell option in deeper leagues. McLaurin is also his best wide receiver weapon since Mike Evans.
Fading the Dolphins weapons. Tua hasn’t yet proved that he can be a legitimate fantasy performer in the NFL, and Parker’s numbers have been much worse when he’s under center. Preston Williams fever has also pretty much been extinguished at this point, and even Gesicki takes a dip without Fitzmagic.
The beard is back for one final playoff run, prep the popcorn and enjoy it while it lasts.
So it’s clear the Fantasy Impact of Ryan Fitzpatrick to Washington should be great for the surrounding cast (generally). Track the major offseason moves with our 2021 Offseason Tracker. Remember you can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram if you want to connect with us. Feel free to slide into those DMs if you need help!
Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove – USA TODAY Sports