2017 Fantasy Football: Projecting a breakout season for Jamison Crowder
Jamison Crowder took a step forward in 2016, but an increased role should lead to career-highs for the Redskins' third-year receiver.
Terrelle Pryor will go down as the Redskins' most attractive Fantasy receiver, but Jamison Crowder isn't too far behind. Coach Jay Gruden touted Crowder as an every-down receiver who will play opposite Pryor in two-receiver formations, then work the slot in three-receiver sets. That's where Crowder lined up for 72.6 percent of his snaps in 2016, when he was ninth in the NFL in receiving yards out of the slot according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Obviously, it's good news anytime someone gets more playing time. But after checking out Crowder's 2016 season, Gruden's decision should lead to a career-best campaign from the third-year receiver.
Crowder defied the knocks against slot receivers by delivering several big plays and scoring more than a handful of times. Most of his 2016 yardage (666 yards) and all seven of his touchdowns came when he lined up in the slot. He also grabbed 69.6 percent of his 69 targets near the formation. He wasn't quite as prolific when he lined up out wide (9.5 yards per catch) but did grab an astounding 19 of 23 passes, because all but two of those receptions were on throws 10 yards or shorter.
Expect those outside stats to improve -- his targets are a cinch to rise and he'll be tasked with running the kind of deeper routes outside receivers are generally assigned. Crowder hauled in 12 passes and five scores from 15 yards or deeper downfield in 2016, per PFF. He ran excellent routes and sped downfield behind defenders for large gains.
Quite frankly, he flashed and moved a lot like DeSean Jackson. That begs the question: Could Washington's answer for losing Jackson simply be expanding Crowder's role?
It seems obvious. It also seems like a recipe for great success for Crowder.
This isn't to say he'll sport the 14.7 receiving average D-Jax has met or exceeded in each of his nine NFL campaigns. Crowder will probably play to the 12.6 yard per catch average he had in 2016. But Crowder should catch more passes than Jackson, who has never caught more than 65.1 percent of his passes in a season and has been above a 60 percent catch rate just twice in nine years. Crowder has topped 67.7 percent in each of two seasons.
View Crowder as a slot receiver with bonus duties. He's proven that small size (5-foot-8) isn't a detriment. Really, the only worry is someone like Terrelle Pryor or Jordan Reed (or both) taking too many targets away.
Then again, there should be enough to go around. Washington threw the ball 62.4 percent of the time last year and has chucked it at least 547 times in each of Gruden's three seasons. Let's go ahead and assume Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley won't dominate on the ground. That could mean roughly 575 pass attempts for Cousins over the course of the season.
Last year Cousins threw to the slot 148 times, nearly 25 percent of his total pass attempts. That's actually a three-year low for Cousins, who went to the slot 33.5 percent of the time in 2015 and 27 percent of the time in 2014. If we assume he'll reach that 25 percent mark again in 2017, then the slot will see 144 overall targets. Crowder should dominate those -- let's give him 80 of them.
Add that to what Crowder would get lining up wide -- maybe another 35 targets there (a little more than two per week) -- and we're looking at 115 targets for Crowder in 2017.
That almost seems conservative given the role we're expecting him to have, but no Redskins receiver has had more than 114 targets from Cousins in three years.
Nonetheless, Crowder's good hands and quality routes should give him a shot at reeling in at least 65 percent of his targets. Again, that's conservative since he's been above that percentage in each of his first two seasons. But if he catches nearly two-thirds of his 115 targets, he'll get 76 receptions, which would be a career-high.
I would also expect Crowder to keep up his 12.6 receiving yard average from last year, which isn't exactly Jackson-esque. That number was beaten down because of all the short-range targets he had, but he also came through with those 12 downfield grabs (nearly 20 percent of his total receptions).
If Crowder indeed averages 12.6 yards per catch over 76 hauls, that puts him at 958 yards.
Crowder scored in seven games last year. Getting granular, he's scored once every 9.6 catches, as well as once every 111 snaps. We're already predicting a rise in catches for Crowder because his playing time is going up. Eight scores is a reasonable expectation, especially since he showed he can score on short red-zone darts, on deep balls, and on screen plays where he gets into the open field. He did all of that last year.
That gives him a projected stat line of...
That's pretty good. It would put him just shy of 140 Fantasy points in non-PPR leagues and under 220 points in full-PPR. That would be good enough have put him inside the top-15 among receivers in 2016, and top-20 in 2015. For comparison's sake, Heath Cummings recently(201 in PPR).
Crowder is currently being drafted at 74th overall as the 31st receiver off the board, according to FantasyPros.com. That's criminally low. After this study I moved Crowder into the low-end No. 2/high-end No. 3 Fantasy receiver range. He's good enough to draft with a late pick in Round 5. If you snag him after that, you're winning.
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