His name is kind of boring, and he doesn’t have a glossy first-round pick cap to flaunt. But Redskins running back Chris Thompson was, very stealthily, one of the league’s most dangerous weapons in 2017.
Chris Thompson only played 10 full games before a broken fibula suffered against the New Orleans Saints ended his season. But in that time, Thompson was electric, amassing almost 300 rushing yards and over 500 receiving yards. An unsung hero of Kirk Cousins’ tenure with the Redskins, Thompson’s devastating combination of speed, quickness, and vision makes him a versatile weapon. It’s these skills that made him difficult to account for, even in an undermanned 2017 Redskins offense.
Thompson was uber-productive in his fifth season as an NFL running back, and his third as the Washington Redskins‘ full-time receiving back. Now, heading into 2018, there is but one question surrounding the Florida State product: Can he replicate his 2017 success?
Thompson won’t be returning to the same offense, nor will he be returning as the same player. When discussing his production in 2018, Thompson’s health is the foremost concern. He’s well on his way to recovering physically, but mentally, Thompson’s confidence isn’t fully restored yet. Per ESPN’s John Keim, Thompson should be in the game plan by Week 1 of the regular season, but the lingering effects of his injury may still be apparent.
The Redskins addressed both Thompson’s uncertainty and the lack of a two-down starter at the position by drafting Derrius Guice out of LSU. Guice possesses an enticing combination of power, speed, and balance through contact, a mold of talent that the Redskins haven’t had at running back for a very long time. He’ll be the team’s workhorse, and his athleticism suggests he could have potential as a receiver as well (LSU’s offense was predicated on the running game; Guice wasn’t asked to be a pass catcher. His production is not necessarily indicative of his ability there).
For all of Guice’s talent, however, he won’t be the only back to see the field. At first, Derrius Guice may take some of the load off of Thompson’s shoulders as a three-down back, but he won’t keep that increased role as long as Thompson’s recovery goes as planned. Thompson is an asset as a screen receiver, with the vision and burst to shoot through lanes and always find the best path forward.
Despite all of Thompson’s talents, he still may be due for a slight statistical regression. Due to the influx of weapons in Washington this offseason, the ball will get spread around more than it did last year, when Chris Thompson was the Redskins’ best and most consistent offensive playmaker by a wide margin.
Thompson won’t be in a situation where the ball is funneled to him. Derrius Guice can catch the ball. Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson will take targets away on the sides. Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed will work wonders in the middle. And there are other fringe contributors who will siphon opportunities away from players like Thompson, slowly but surely.
From an efficiency standpoint, Thompson should be able to get back up to speed in 2018. Alex Smith loves having the open target, and Thompson will always be available as a dump-off threat if Smith’s initial reads aren’t there. Jay Gruden also loves screens; his offensive line executes them well. Thompson will get those opportunities. He’s not just the best on the team at screens; He’s one of the best in the business.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking to draft the Chris Army Knife for your fantasy football team, do so with a fair amount of caution. The Redskins have more viable weapons than they did last year. But at the same time, Chris Thompson is still Chris Thompson. He’s a deadly receiving threat out of the backfield, and he can gash his way through defenses with ease. A lot is contingent on Thompson’s health, but physically, he’s close to ready. And once he’s ready, defenses won’t be.
Chris Thompson 2018 Stat Prediction: 61 carries, 340 yards, 3 TDs, 60 receptions, 688 yards, 5 TDs