Old Faces, New Places: Kirk Cousins

Old Faces, New Places: Kirk Cousins

Player Movement

Old Faces, New Places: Kirk Cousins

(Vincent Carchietta, USA TODAY Sports)

Consecutive franchise tags placed on Kirk Cousins by the Washington Redskins contributed to his departure by creating a rift between the two parties. As it became clear Washington wouldn’t be re-signing the veteran once he became a free agent in March, the franchise engineered a trade for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith.

This move immediately made Cousins the most coveted free-agent passer on the open market, leading the Minnesota Vikings to ink him to a massive three-year, $84 million deal. The resultant expectations are enormous for this Super Bowl-caliber team.

Cousins has been remarkably consistent and resilient in his three full years as a starter. His strengths include Pro Bowl-level accuracy, adaptability to major changes, and enough mobility to keep defenders honest (nice bonus in fantasy). He has made his share of boneheaded mistakes, but the good has absolutely outweighed the negative. In 2017, after losing his top two receivers entering the year, Cousins made the most of a sub-par receiving corps and a broken offensive line that allowed 41 sacks (23 in 2016, 26 in ’15).

Year
Team
G
Comp
Att
Pct
Yds
Avg
TD
Int
Sck
Att
Yds
TD
FUM
Lost
2015
Washington Redskins
16
379
543
69.8
4,166
7.7
29
11
26
26
48
5
9
3
2016
Washington Redskins
16
406
606
67.0
4,917
8.1
25
12
23
34
96
4
9
3
2017
Washington Redskins
16
347
540
64.3
4,093
7.6
27
13
41
49
179
4
13
5

The Michigan State product managed to improve his touchdown efficiency in 2017, despite the line problems and receiver changes. He connected for a score every 12.9 completions, the best during his time as a starter. Cousins, however, threw an interception every 41.5 attempts, which was the worst over the three-year window. Being rushed to throw leads to mistakes more often than not, and he also fumbled a career-worst 13 times (only five lost).  Additionally, Washington struggled on the ground and didn’t find a rhythm to keep defenders honest around the line of scrimmage.

In Minnesota, he’ll have a much stronger offensive line and a two of the better young receivers in football. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen make a dynamic one-two punch, combining for 155 receptions, more than 2,100 yards and 12 scores a year ago. Factor in rock-solid tight end Kyle Rudolph, plus any possible gains from former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell and fellow newcomer Kendall Wright … this could be a potent passing game for any defense to stop.

A brief note on Wright: His career has been all over the map, and with low expectations, perhaps he could carve out a role in this offense. Treadwell will be given every chance to be the third guy, though. There are three primary targets ahead of Wright most plays, even if he overtakes Treadwell. Wright simply isn’t draftable.

Back to players who are sure to factor into the game designs: Don’t forget about running back Dalvin Cook. He was off to a marvelous start before a severe knee injury in Week 4, but all signs point to him being ready to go. He’s one of the most versatile backs in football.

Fantasy football outlook

Bluntly, Cousins has no excuses for anything but a fine fantasy season. Following a trio of seasons with 4,000-plus yards in as many attempts, he should be considered a lock for this threshold. His touchdown consistency gives hope, too, but a new offensive coordinator in John DeFilippo and the pressure of expectations could work against him.

DeFilippo comes over after serving as the quarterbacks coach in Philly the past two years, and we all know how well that turned out. Encouraging, no less. His only NFL experience calling plays in an official capacity came with the Cleveland Browns in 2015. It is difficult to hold this against him — instead, view it as a valuable learning experience.

Cousins is going, on average, in the middle of Round 5 of fantasy drafts. This is a reasonable price, even if on the higher end of the spectrum, given how deep the position is in 2018. He will need to be every bit as good as Minnesota expects to return positively on such a fantasy investment.

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