Washington Commanders Depth Chart and Fantasy Preview: Terry McLaurin, Austin Ekeler, Jayden Daniels, and More

How will a new coaching staff and new QB impact this offense for fantasy? Here is our Washington Commanders fantasy preview.

In fantasy football, we want good players on good offenses. Last season, Washington was very pass-heavy but wasn’t exactly a great offense. Will a new coaching staff and quarterback make them more appealing? Let’s check out our Washington Commanders fantasy preview.

Washington Commanders Fantasy Depth Chart

QB
Jayden Daniels, Marcus Mariota, Jeff Driskel

RB
Austin Ekeler, Brian Robinson Jr., Chris Rodriguez, Jeremy McNichols

WR1
Terry McLaurin, Olamide Zaccheaus

WR2
Jahan Dotson, Dyami Brown

WR3
Luke McCaffrey, Dax Milne

TE
Zach Ertz, Ben Sinnott, John Bates

Jayden Daniels’ Fantasy Outlook

The Commanders selected Jayden Daniels with the No. 2 overall pick. He is going to start Week 1 and immediately be fantasy-relevant. The question is how relevant. Can Daniels be a QB1 as a rookie? History suggests the answer is a resounding yes.

Daniels played five years at college. In those seasons, he averaged 11.2 rush attempts per game. Even if we only project him for 8-10 carries per game at the NFL level, that still puts him at 136-170 for a season.

The only quarterback to ever run the ball this much and not finish as a QB1 was a very over-the-hill, 2020 Cam Newton — 14 others finished as a top-eight fantasy quarterback.

Anyone drafting Daniels in fantasy isn’t doing so for his arm. We want the rushing upside. We can safely assume it will be there.

The only thing that can stop Daniels from being a mid-QB1, at worst, is his health. Daniels is undersized and plays a bit recklessly. However, it didn’t cost him much at college. If his coaches can instill in him to get down and protect himself, there’s no reason he can’t make it through around 14 games this season. That would be enough to justify him in fantasy drafts.

Austin Ekeler’s Fantasy Outlook

What do we do with a 29-year-old running back who showed clear signs of decline before switching teams? This question may seem like it’s primed for an obvious answer, but it’s never that simple.

There’s no denying Austin Ekeler’s efficiency cratered last season. He averaged 3.5 yards per carry, a career-worst mark. Merely 2.2% of his carries went for 15+ yards. Ekeler’s 14.5% target share was also quite low considering what he usually sees.

On a more positive note, Ekeler averaged a respectable 4.6 yards per touch last season, and his 4.02 yards created per touch was inside the top 10.

It very well may be the case that Ekeler is old and declining. But allow me to posit another theory for Ekeler’s disappointing 2023 season: his ankle.

Ekeler suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1 last season. It only cost him three games, but anyone who has played fantasy long enough knows that high ankle sprains may not fully heal for 4-6 months. The typical 4-6 week timeline (which players often return early from) is for a return to play, which NFL fans often confuse with a return to 100%.

A fully healthy Ekeler may be able to return to his previous form. Plus, Ekeler is not going to be asked to carry the ball 12+ times a game anymore.

For years, the Los Angeles Chargers searched for the right guy to complement Ekeler and take the punishing work away from him. Well, instead of that guy joining Ekeler, the former Chargers back went and found that guy.

MORE: Consensus Dynasty Rankings

Brian Robinson Jr. is the perfect thunder to Ekeler’s lightning. Robinson can handle most of the inside carries and goal-line work, while Ekeler moves into his more natural satellite back-plus role.

This may lower Ekeler’s fantasy ceiling but should prolong his career. Ekeler no longer possesses elite upside. However, he could see a rebound in his efficiency and be a viable fantasy RB1 with the occasional big game when he scores.

Brian Robinson Jr.’s Fantasy Outlook

Ekeler is far more problematic for Robinson than the reverse. Last season, Robinson was a great mid-round value for fantasy managers. Drafted as a throwaway RB3, Robinson averaged 13.2 fantasy points per game, finishing as the overall RB22.

Here’s the concern, though. Robinson saw an 8% target share. Not only that, he had a couple of massive plays as a receiver that are unlikely to repeat. Robinson led all running backs in yards per reception. His 4.11 yards created per touch, seventh in the league, was due in no small part to a couple of long receiving touchdowns.

As a reminder, Robinson saw a 3.5% target share as a rookie. If Ekeler stays healthy, we’re probably looking at around a 5% target share this season. That means Robinson will have to rely heavily on touchdowns.

Here’s the other concern. Daniels is invariably going to take a couple of those away. It took nine scores for Robinson to reach a low-RB2 value. Even if he repeats that and only loses 25% of his receiving work, we’re still looking at a high RB3, at best.

There remains injury contingent upside. Plus, there’s a chance Ekeler is just done, which would naturally push more work Robinson’s way. However, the most likely scenario is this is a quality backfield that is better in real life than fantasy.

Terry McLaurin’s Fantasy Outlook

We are entering Year 6 of Terry McLaurin as the Commanders’ WR1. So far, we’ve seen nothing to suggest McLaurin is anything other than “fine.” In fact, he epitomizes “fine.” McLaurin has never finished higher than WR20 or lower than WR34.

While McLaurin has been consistent, there’s no way to spin last year as anything other than a disappointment. His 12.3 points per game was the lowest mark of his career. He saw a career-low 21.6% target share. His 1.57 yards per route run ranked 57th in the league, and he only commanded a target on 20.3% of his routes run, 46th in the league.

The Commanders didn’t exactly make any moves at wide receiver that would threaten McLaurin’s volume. However, it would be foolish to discount Ekeler having a slight negative impact completely.

Ultimately, McLaurin is an unexciting fantasy option that won’t fail you. Daniels should end up being the best quarterback McLaurin has ever played with. It’s unlikely there’s a lot of excitement surrounding McLaurin. If Daniels is a better passer than expected, we could see a sneaky WR2 season from Scary Terry.

Commanders Fantasy Sleepers

With only one fantasy-relevant pass-catcher, that’s the area of this team we are looking at for sleepers. Sorry, but I’m not doing the Jahan Dotson thing again.

Preseason hype turned Dotson into a popular late-round breakout candidate last season. Despite playing in five more games as a sophomore, Dotson somehow managed five fewer receiving yards than his 17-game rookie season, catching a total of 49 balls for 518 yards and four touchdowns. I’m out.

The Commanders drafted Luke McCaffrey at the end of the third round. With Curtis Samuel gone, there’s an opening for a second option. Given the McCaffrey family pedigree, he’s a name to monitor. But at this point, I would stop short of calling him draft-worthy.

KEEP READING: Dynasty Rookie Rankings

Perhaps the most appealing sleeper is rookie TE Ben Sinnott. With the Commanders signing Zach Ertz, the rookie likely opens the season as the backup. But Ertz is old, constantly hurt, and probably not good anymore.

Sinnott is 22 years old and an incredible athlete. He comes with second-round draft capital. If Ertz doesn’t work out, it could easily be the Sinnott show within the first month of the season.

Unless we get word Sinnott is opening the season as the starter, he’s also not worth drafting. But he could be a hot pickup early in the season.

As we look ahead to the 2024 fantasy football season, why not start preparing for your rookie drafts with our dynasty rookie rankings? Additionally, as you look to improve your team heading into 2024, our dynasty trade calculator can help you find the perfect deal to boost your championship chances.

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