The Fantasy Football Impact of Jacoby Brissett to the Washington Commanders
On Wednesday, March 15, the Washington Commanders signed quarterback Jacoby Brissett to a one-year deal worth $8M. This came in the wake of former starter/gap-filler Taylor Heinicke scoring a two-year, $20M deal with the Atlanta Falcons.
It's not a bad way to save a few million dollars on the books, and after Brissett’s 11-game performance with the Cleveland Browns last season, we can’t be sure that it’s a drop in talent, either.
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Jacoby Brissett’s Quarterback Profile
The 2022 Cleveland Browns situation afforded Jacoby Brissett his most playing time since the 2019 season, and he offered up some of the best quarterback play of his career. He has never been known as the most accurate quarterback in the league, but he finished his 11-game starting stretch with a very respectable 64% completion rate.
His underlying stats also tell the story of a league-average or better game manager. Through his span of starts (Weeks 1-12), he ranked 15th in catchable% (85.7%), 11th in interception rate (1.6%), and 17th in expected points added out of 38 qualifying quarterbacks.
Though we may consider Brissett more of a game-manager type, he was really not coddled in the Browns' offense. He attempted a throw that traveled 20+ air yards on 12.4% of his passes, which ranked 15th, and he ranked just about the same on balls that traveled 0-9 air yards (45.3%). For comparison’s sake, Carson Wentz threw the ball 0-9 yards on 50% of his attempts (fourth-highest rate), while Taylor Heinicke attempted a pass that traveled 20+ air yards on 7.6% of his throws (third-lowest rate).
If Brissett is able to wrangle the starting job heading into the 2023 season, we may see a little more balance in terms of mixing up throw depth to keep the defense guessing. In addition to using more of the field, the veteran is also more likely to avoid drive-ending sacks. During his tenure as the Browns' starting quarterback, Brissett took a sack on 5.8% of his dropbacks. Compare that to teammate Deshaun Watson (10%) or the options that Washington rolled out last year; Carson Wentz (8.3%), Taylor Heinicke (6.6%), or Sam Howell (12%).
Jacoby Brissett as a Fantasy Asset
The most important aspect when considering Jacoby Brissett’s fantasy value in 2023 goes beyond his physical or mental attributes and has much more to do with how much playing time he is truly going to get. That can sometimes be a murky proposition this early in the offseason, with (some) teams looking to keep their cards close to the chest ahead of the NFL Draft.
Brissett will be competing with second-year fifth-rounder Sam Howell, and head coach Ron Rivera has recently described it as an open competition. There’s a distinct possibility he was going to say that regardless of who the team added this spring, it’s definitely worth mentioning that the new offensive coordinator had nothing to do with selecting Howell last year. Even if he did, the quarterback was selected after 143 other players in the 2022 NFL Draft.
New OC Eric Bieniemy left Kansas City to prove his offensive chops without being tethered to Andy Reid. There’s a good chance he pushed for a veteran option so he didn’t have to spend his first year “away” from the Chiefs developing someone else’s fifth-round pick. Howell was considered a project quarterback coming out of college and was only allotted 25 dropbacks in his first season, as opposed to Brissett, who is heading into his eighth NFL season and is coming off a 2022 that looked a lot better than anyone expected.
We will learn more in the coming months, but for my money, I believe Brissett will be Washington’s Week 1 quarterback. With the group of Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, and whoever they add in the draft, Brissett can be a top-20-to-25 fantasy QB while operating as a high-floor, low-ceiling SuperFlex option.
How Does This Affect Washington’s Pass-Catchers?
We don’t have a lot to work with in terms of Sam Howell performing in an NFL regular season game, but what we do have available to us isn’t blowing anybody away. Howell’s first NFL pass attempt was a five-yard drag route by Terry McLaurin, and the wide receiver used the ample separation he earned at the line of scrimmage to turn upfield and walk into the end zone. Howell would also drop a deep ball down the sideline to McLaurin later in the game to make his only completion on a ball that traveled more than nine yards through the air.
Though the rookie only had one regular season game to base his play on, he did have 88 dropbacks during the preseason, the third-most in the NFL. Against vanilla defenses and roster bubble options, Howell would complete 25% of his passes that traveled 20+ air yards (3-of-12 for 78 yards) and only attempted 21.7% of his passes to the intermediate (10-19 air yards) area of the field. Either due to conservative play calling in all four of his appearances or an unwillingness on Howell’s behalf to test the deep ball, we may give a slight bump to the Commanders’ deep threats if or when Jacoby Brissett earns the job.
The team didn’t push the ball down the field very often in 2022, but four different receiving options finished with positive EPA on deep attempts, proving very efficient when the team decided to uncork it. For all of his faults, Carson Wentz attempted the deep ball at a high enough clip that we got some ceiling games from this group of receivers; through the first five games of the season, Curtis Samuel, Terry McLaurin, and Jahan Dotson were all top-36 options in fantasy.
Wentz would eventually melt down and lose the starting job, as he is prone to do, but the receiving group has proven that it has the talent if a quarterback can help to elevate them. As a game manager with new OC Eric Bieniemy by his side, Jacoby Brissett should be perfectly capable of keeping all of Washington’s receivers involved, with a slightly higher ceiling than the 2022 quarterback options offered. Look no further than Amari Cooper, who had a bounceback year with Brissett, sliding into a WR8 season from Weeks 1-12 before Deshaun Watson took over.
- Jacoby Brissett surprisingly performed better than Deshaun Watson with the Browns last season and parlayed that into another stop-gap contract with the possibility of earning a starting gig.
- Brissett’s ceiling is likely in the QB20 range and should be ignored in typical redraft leagues, especially before we have full confirmation that he has won the job. His current Underdog ADP is QB37.
- The Commanders’ receivers likely have a brighter outlook with Brissett at the helm, as opposed to Sam Howell. Terry McLaurin should be the main beneficiary and would have the upside to sneak into fringe WR1/2 status.
- Though Brissett doesn’t target the running back position at a particularly high rate, a consistent, controlled offense, should help the floor output of both Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson.