There is always dread in the fantasy football world when it comes to a Mike Shanahan backfield. Clearly 2012 is no exception yet in fairness to the Redskins head coach, the setup is not his doing. Sure, there mightwill be random changes made seemingly on a whim three plays into a game, three games into the season, three-quarters of the way down the road. Right now, we dont even have a viable depth chart not from a fantasy perspective anyway to work with. For those still gearing up for their drafts or are debating future trade or free agent pickups, heres one mans best attempt to decipher the mind field known as the Redskins backfield.Roy Helu The upside option you dont need for now guyLast season the Nebraska rookie outran expectations with a dazzling second half stretch including three straight 100-yard rushing games plus a team-record 14 receptions for 105 yards in another. Helus campaign ended early with injuries and perhaps overuse; his body and playing style speak of a change-of-pace guy, which figures to be his role this season. That is once he recovers from his Achilles tendon woes. The main question is when Helu starts playing again will he return as the starter. The ancillary query is will someone else have emerged as the Bell Cow back by then. Best drafted as a fantasy reserve, as his plummeting average draft position (96) indicates, and by an owner not looking for immediate help.Alfred Morris Fill in the early missing lineup gap and see what happens guyThere was some early love out of OTAs for the Florida Atlantic rookie, but not sure anyone could have imagined the sixth-round pick as a possible if not likely opening game starter. Not an elite talent, but Morris runs with power and a hint of shiftiness. It would be unfair to suggest he has a chance to run away with the job, but if Morris turns in a credible if not stellar performance against the Saints (should he get the starting nod), whos to say he heads back to the bench when the others return. Dont overdraft based on the potential start, but at this moment in time Morris should be the second Redskin back coming off the board and in a double digit round.Tim Hightower His aggressive running style makes him fun to own for as long as it lasts guyNot a bad showing last week from the veteran back recovering from a major knee injury suffered last season. Does that make me trust Hightower going forward? Um, no. If this truly turns into some undecipherable running back by committee, imagining No. 25 being the leader of the pack isnt a stretch, but the role only works if the Redskins dont overuse him. If we start talking about 15-20 touches a game, the wear down factor rises dramatically. Shanahan wants Hightower around for his veteran presence and pass blocking prowess more than his yard gaining ability. Draftable in 12-14 team leagues, but as a flyer. In my opinion, if youre taking a sleeper, go with the younger legs on with whatever team they exist.Evan Royster The former sleeper whos now the guy behind the guy behind that other guy, guyPerhaps the true wildcard in the mix as recent injuries to last years other rookie surprise derailed Roysters rising status as possible starter and fantasy darling. Now he may have been passed by Morris as the Flavor of the Month, though the former Penn State rusher hopes to crack the field in tonights preseason finale against the Bucs. Is he worth drafting? Yes, but in the late round and in a lottery ticket sort of way.Of course, if Royster or Hightower or Morris or Helu stand out against Tampa Bay, then another revision of the RB depth chart is in order. Get used to it.
It seems likely the Redskins stand to lose one or both of receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon in free agency. That could mean more than 2,000 yards receiving exiting the offense, a significant blow.
Could Bears wideout Alshon Jeffery come to Washington and cushion the blow?
Multiple reports say that Chicago will not put the franchise tag on Jeffery, which means the 6-foot-4 receiver will hit the open market when free agency opens in a little more than a week. Coming off consectuive injury-marred seasons, still expect the market to be ripe for the former South Carolina star.
A five-year veteran that will turn 28 in August, Jeffery posted more than 2,500 receiving yards in the 2013 and 2014 seasons to go with 17 touchdowns. An extremely gifted red zone receiver, Jeffery is one of the best in the league at high-pointing the football and coming down with circus catches. His last two seasons, however, the Bears wideout only played in 21 of 32 games and his numbers dipped dramatically: just over 1,600 yards and six TDs combined.
Though Washington will likely lose at least one of Garçon or Jackson, and very possibly both, that does not necessarily make Jeffery a prime target.
Expect cost to be a major factor as the Chicago receiver will likely command the top free agent payout at the position. And his recent injury history could be a factor as well.
Further, the Redskins must believe they have a No. 1 receiver already in house in Josh Doctson. The No. 22 overall pick in 2016, Doctson hardly played as a rookie due to an Achilles injury but appears to be progressing well in his rehab. At 6-foot-2 and extremely athletic, Doctson was drafted to be a prime red zone target with the ability to go up and get TDs.
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Many Redskins fans have been keeping a close eye on the Chiefs all offseason. Kansas City has two pending free agents in positions that are of great need to Washington. Fans have been watching since January to see what the Chiefs would do with safety Eric Berry and defensive lineman Dontari Poe. They may have their answer.
The organization’s hope was that they could sign one and use the franchise tag on the other. But with the deadline for the tag two days from now and with free agency starting in 10 days, it appears that plan is not going to happen. They are forced to decide and per Ed Werder of ESPN they are going to tag Berry and let Poe test free agency.
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Poe is a load at 6-3, 348. His impact is hard to measure in numbers; he has just 13 sacks in his five NFL seasons including two in the last two years. The Chiefs first-round pick out of Memphis in the 2012 draft has forced two fumbles and recovered one. But he is exactly what a defense like the Redskins’ 4-3 scheme needs in the middle to eat up double teams and keep blockers off the linebackers. They would go from having had no credible nose tackle in the seven seasons they have been in the 3-4 base defense to having one who at age 26 is of the very best in the league.
The problem with acquiring the best in the business is that you must pay top dollar. The contracts signed by Marcell Dareus of the Bills, a six-year deal with an average annual value of $15.8 million and Fletcher Cox of the Eagles, who signed a six-year extension with an AAV of $17.1, will be used as guidelines for a Poe free agent deal.
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The Redskins possibly could make that work but it would be a stretch. They already have a top-heavy salary structure with their top three players taking up 35 percent of the salary cap. Another cap hit in the $15 million range would put them in a precarious spot.
It seems unlikely that the Redskins will be real players in the Poe sweepstakes but given that he would be a perfect solution to a long-standing problem area it’s worth keeping an eye on the situation.