As the Washington Football Team won they NFC East in 2020, they also used four quarterbacks. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin persevered (87 receptions for 1,118 yards), despite skepticism when the first quarterback change came. On the quarterback front Alex Smith is gone, as was Dwayne Haskins before the season was even done. Taylor Heinicke has been re-signed, but there was still a hole to fill.
On Monday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Washington agreed to terms with Ryan Fitzpatrick on a one-year, $10 million (base value) deal. He is expected to enter camp as the starter, but history shows that may be short-lived and “Fitzmagic” is always a roller coaster ride.
Smith was 5-1 as Washington’s starter last year, but he’s notably risk-adverse. It’s not news that Fitzpatrick is on the opposite end of that spectrum, but some advanced data strictly from 2020 backs it up.
Washington would ideally add a solid No. 2 wide receiver to pair with McLaurin in free agency or the draft. But he’ll still be the No. 1 guy. Let’s look at some notable stats, with McLaurin’s ranking among wide receivers last year, via Player Profiler.
Yards After The Catch: 468 (6th-most)
Deep Targets: 20 (23rd-most)
Air Yards Share: 41.2% (4th-most)
Air Yards: 1,318 (17th-most)
Target Quality Rating: 5.2 (69th)
Catchable Target Rate: 73.9% (75th)
Yards Per Target: 8.3 (52nd)
Average Depth of Target: 9.8 (61st)
Target Quality Rating places a premium on deep, catchable targets and discounts short, uncatchable targets.
There’s a fine line between throwing short and being too careful, like Smith does. There’s the same fine line between being aggressive and being reckless, which is a line Fitzpatrick toes. It’s also worth noting McLaurin had eight full games with quarterbacks who were worse than Smith last year, with those obvious missed opportunities. So it wasn’t all about Smith being a check-down guy to lower McLaurin’s ceiling.
Fitzpatrick is an upgrade over any quarterback Washington had last year. The idea he can keep it on the rails for anything close to 16 games raises McLaurin’s upside for 2021.