For one shining moment, Robert Griffin III seemed like the future of fantasy football. In his rookie campaign of 2012 he threw for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns, then added 815 rushing yards and seven more scores. Those are top-five fantasy numbers—RG3 ranked fifth in fantasy points per game that year—and in typical scoring systems equate to a 34-touchdown season.
Since then, of course, Griffin’s game has fallen off. While his yardage per game climbed in his sophomore season, so did his interceptions; meanwhile, his touchdown passes declined, his rushing yards were cut in half and his rushing scores vanished entirely while he missed three games due to injury. The drop-off continued the following year and culminated with him losing the starting job to Kirk Cousins and not even seeing the field last season.
But RG3 must have flashed something in his workout for Hue Jackson that made the Browns eschew a top-two pick and sign him to be the team’s latest attempt to answer their long-standing quarterback question. And now Jackson will be charged with restoring Griffin’s game to its past glory—as if his job depends on it.
Because it does.
Fortunately for Jackson—and unfortunately for fantasy owners dreaming of a top-five redux for RG3—the standards he’s set in the past are not particularly high. Jackson’s reputation is as a run-game rebuilder, and the fantasy numbers posted by quarterbacks on his watch have been largely pedestrian. Through his first five seasons as an NFL head coach or offensive coordinator, none of his quarterback collectives topped 17.5 fantasy points per game.
Those numbers may be a bit deceiving, as the list of what Hue had to work with is not particularly impressive: Patrick Ramsey and Tim Hasselbeck in Washington; Joey Harrington and Chris Redman in Washington; a young Joe Flacco in Baltimore; and Jason Campbell, Bruce Gradkowski and a post-holdout Carson Palmer in Oakland. It was the latter group, in a half-season split between Campbell and Palmer, that saw Jackson’s QBs finally approach fantasy relevancy as they averaged 19.4 fantasy points per game behind 25 touchdown passes.
More recently, Jackson has been instrumental in the development of Andy Dalton, culminating with a solid 22.7 fantasy points per game last year. However, Dalton posted seasons of 20.5 and 23.6 fantasy points per game before Hue took over the offense, so Dalton’s success can’t be entirely credited to Jackson.
Curiously, Dalton’s career per-game averages aren’t dramatically different from Griffin’s, with Dalton getting an edge in passing yards and scores and RG3 carrying the rushing yardage category. It’s also worth noting that Dalton has multiple rushing touchdowns in each of the past four seasons, including four and three rushing scores in the two seasons Jackson called the plays. So while RG3 is being strongly encouraged to slide and throw the ball away when plays break down, as opposed to scrambling and putting himself in harm’s way, history suggests his athleticism will be called upon at least occasionally at the stripe.
Dalton has also enjoyed a significantly better receiving corps than Griffin will see this year; even if Corey Coleman emerges as an AJ Green-level success story and Gary Barnidge repeats last year’s breakout the rest of the Browns’ receivers lack the depth the Bengals’ roster provided.
Given Griffin’s supporting cast and Hue’s track record of run-first offenses and quarterback fantasy futility, a top-five redux seems unlikely. Set your expectations at a low-end Dalton type of season, and hope that RG3 still runs enough to clear that bar.